Sexual Abuse. It’s a taboo in our society, something most feel as though they cannot talk about, and yet, it’s something that is so common for adolescent women. It’s a fickle thing, you see… We want to report it, we want to be set free from the constraints of our dark secret, we want to punish those who have hurt us. So, why don’t we? Why do the majority of young women who have been sexually abused refrain from reporting it?
Well, up until a couple years ago, it was shameful to admit that someone had gotten so close to you that they were able to do such a thing. And what was worse is that 90% of your thoughts after the fact are that no one will believe you, so why risk humiliation? How do I know this, you may ask? My best friend was one of them.
Recently, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in federal prison on the charges of sexual abuse to young gymnasts. He used his position as a doctor to gain the trust of many girls and convince them that what he was doing was okay. For about twenty to thirty years, Nassar abused his power and molested well over 150 women. He was sentenced after 156 girls testified against him. But, he’s not the only one to sexually abuse someone.
Many people have been wondering, “Why now?” Why indeed did so many women wait years to admit that they had been sexually abused?
For generations society taught women to be submissive and that even when they try to right others wrongs, such as reporting a rape case or sexual abuse incident, that nothing will come of it or that they will be punished. In order to fully demonstrate what I mean by this, below is a real life example.
When my best friend and I were 15, we thought we were the coolest kids in the world. We went to a swanky private school and had boys falling at our feet. We were inseparable and told each other everything. One night we had a sleepover at her house, as we so frequently did, and as we were gossiping about the latest drama, boys got brought up and tears came to her eyes. It was in that moment that she confided in me that a boy she had been seeing from the local public school raped her. I sat there with her in utter shock as it sunk in what she was telling me. I didn’t understand. How could something like that happen? That wasn’t supposed to happen in real life, it was for the movies. I cried with her until I got up the nerve to ask if she had reported it. She cried harder and choked out that it was pointless because his dad was a cop and nothing would happen.
She would have to go through the torture of reliving that day over and over again for months with no avail. I was baffled at the idea of letting him get away with it. I wanted justice for her. I did not understand how she could let him walk freely around our town with the ability to harm more girls. Yet, deep down I understood. I knew why she felt like keeping it in. The risk was not worth the reward because there did not seem to be one. After that day I grew up. I was no longer some naive little girl who thought nothing could hurt her in this world, I was a woman who understood to always be careful and protect yourself as much as you can in order to avoid being sexually abused.
In today’s society, it is becoming less and less taboo to speak out against sexual abuse and to teach boys and girls the rights and wrongs of how to treat each other. We are learning, listening, working to protect those that come forward, in an attempt to right the wrongs. And yet, there still seems to be more cases and more men and women being sexually abused. The fact that a man such as Larry Nassar had 156 women testify to being sexually abused shows just how common an occurrence it is. But, times will get better. Society will accept those who have been a sexual abuse victim and will continue to punish those who pry on others vulnerabilities. The Nassar case is just the tip of the iceberg.