The first time I was confronted with the reality of child sexual abuse was during my early teens. A classmate and I found a notebook belonging to one of our peers and started reading. While perusing we learned that her father had sexually abused her. Disbelief gripped me as I read her description of the horror. She returned and found us reading and I saw the distress on her face. Near tears she collected and put the book away and nothing was said. That silence has never been broken.
I had known that she and her father lived alone. Whether her mother had died or was not involved in her life escapes my memory at this time. I had seen him dropping her off and picking her up daily, but never in my young mind did I think that there was such a sickness between them. For a while, I tried to dismiss what I had read by convincing myself that it was fiction. My mind at that time could not comprehend a father violating his child in such a way. But, eventually, I had to accept that, based on her reaction, what I had read was in fact reality. She was carrying her pain silently and probably felt trapped. It is hard to imagine the betrayal and pain when those who are supposed to protect you hurt you in the worst ways possible. I do not think one could ever fully empathize unless they have had such an experience.
For all these years I have carried her story with me. I wondered many times if I should have told an adult. I saw the shame in her eyes when she realised what we had read, but really the shame was not hers to bear. The only person that shame should have been attached to was her father.
And, of course, we should not have invaded her privacy by reading her notebook, although we had no idea what we would stumble upon. It also provided the opportunity for us to say something that could have helped our classmate.
The questions of what I could have done have played over and over in my head as the years rolled by. Since leaving school, I saw her around a few times, exchanged greetings and always wondered if I should broach the subject. But that uncomfortable feeling we are faced with sometimes—that fear of the reaction—let the silence win every time.
In 2010, I wrote a play called ‘Shadows’ that dealt with the issue of child sexual abuse. It was inspired by her story, even though the victim in my play was a male. But even now, every time I see a story in the news about the violation of a child, the memory of what I read that day resurfaces.
We have seen too many cases of child sexual abuse in our society. The sickness of men and women continues to bring suffering to the innocent, from babies to teenagers.
But what I think is also very sickening is when we are aware of what is happening and we choose to remain silent. In many communities, there are known paedophiles. Many appear like the average mentally-stable person. Many are loved. Many have families, which include children of their own. Many appear to care for the wellbeing of others, including the children they target, but really they are parasites; they are degenerates who, in my opinion, do not deserve compassion or forgiveness.
There can be no debate about anything being natural involving adults who sexually abuse children. There is no spin anyone can put on it to make it appear as something that is correct in human relations.
I have learned of the experiences of others who were sexually abused as children. When you read the stories or hear about parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, friends, neighbours and strangers molesting children, it makes you question the nature of mankind. It makes you wonder about the imperfections of our evolution. Why do some people do things that others would never dream of?
When we remain silent about the known paedophiles in our communities, we are contributing to the detriment of our children. Some of us believe that because the issue is not close to us, it is not our business; but once it affects the society, it should be our concern.
We have to think about the long-term effects of child sexual abuse. We have to consider the mental health of such individuals once they become adults. Yes, thankfully, many overcome the trauma and go on to lead normal lives, but we are a society plagued with issues such as suicide and we see rage on a daily basis from human to human in the worst ways possible. We have to wonder as well what part child sexual abuse plays in this. And we also have to wonder if some of those who become paedophiles were also violated as children.
I have also heard some people say that it is the culture in certain sections of our society. It is said often in a nonchalant way, like there is nothing wrong with it. That needs to stop.
The silence and support of paedophiles has to end. We can no longer sit in the comfort of our homes and discuss these issues casually. Friends and relatives who stand by paedophiles are also guilty. Why would anyone support such a human being? Why would you bail them when they are placed in the hands of the law? Why would you try to blame the victims?
The picket lines of those who protest such issues are often sparsely numbered. For too long we have victim shamed. For too long we have moaned about such issues but have made little efforts to do anything. It is time to break the silence. Our children deserve it.