Warning right up front – this post has nothing to do with warm and fuzzy things like baking or knitting. It is a hard topic I have been struggling with all day.
Earlier today I overheard a conversation about what an insult and inconvenience it is to have to get a police record check before doing volunteer work with children. The conversation went on to say that if people would just stop making false accusations of sexual abuse a lot of time and money could be saved. They said that all sexual offenders should be locked up forever but it is so hard to believe anyone who cries child abuse.
I get their point to a certain extent. Police checks only do so much good – they only highlight those offenders who have been caught. Those who have been devious enough to avoid detection, those whose victims were too afraid or too confused or too close to the perpetrator to find a way to come forward, have a clean legal record. I can see how it could be uncomfortable to be treated as if you should be assumed guilty until proven innocent and safe to work with children or other vulnerable people.
What I don’t understand is how people who think this way fail to see that when it comes to accusations of abuse, they are presuming the victim is guilty of lying until proven innocent. There are not nearly as many false accusations floating around out there as there are false proclamations of innocence. I can only assume that when people get going on this topic, they know nothing about how our police and legal systems treat victims of sexual assault at any age. Really – who do you think is more motivated to lie: someone who has been hurt, shamed and traumatized in the most personal of ways and by coming forward is going to have to make all of this public? Or how about the individual who has broken the law and has used, hurt and terrified another human being in such a despicable way? No one wants to believe that ugly things happen in secret places. It is more comfortable to be suspicious of victims than to believe that respectable looking people can be monsters in secret.
Rapists lie. Those who would use their power to degrade, injure, shame or use another human being would not hesitate to lie. Child molesters lie.
Do you know who else will lie? Children who are afraid that a parent they rely on for any sort of care and security, dysfunctional as it may be, may lie rather than have that parent taken away leaving them to strangers. People living in group homes or nursing homes who are afraid of the consequences of “telling” will lie rather than risk what little security and dignity they have. Speaking out takes courage and strength, two of the very things that are attacked in abuse. That’s right, I am saying that we should be more suspicious of children or other vulnerable people who deny abuse when there is evidence to the contrary than we should be suspicious of those who accuse someone of abuse.
What amazes and confuses me is how many people are quick to say that child abusers should be locked up and the key thrown away but are also reluctant to believe anyone who says they have been abused. They won’t hesitate to spend thousands of dollars on prison sentences for offenders but they do not really want to believe that their victims are real people. They want more prisons but they don’t want society to help pay the surviving victims for the kind of treatment that will help them recover.
I don’t know how to wrap this post up. This blog is still so new and unknown that I don’t even know if anyone will read it. I just know that the next time I am asked to update my police check I will gladly do so, knowing that somewhere someone is at least trying to protect vulnerable people. I would rather deal with a little discomfort, expense and inconvenience if this process becoming standard means that even a few more children will be spared the (painful) discomfort, expense (do you have any idea how much appropriate therapy for trauma and abuse costs?) and inconvenience (how’s that for a gross understatement) of being targeted by an abuser.