Silence & Shame

     As John Cusack says in the 2001 film, Serendipity, “…the universe keeps revealing her to me.”  That statement can also describe my involvement in changing attitudes, invoking greater awareness of the facts, and encouraging societal action to prevent sexual crimes against children.  The epidemic proportions of these crimes, the legislative issues regarding leniency of penalties, and the continued choice by a large part of society to ignore, deny, and take an apathetic role kept revealing themselves to me.  I did not choose this path of advocacy, it chose me; it kept choosing me until made a choice to listen and take action.  So can you.  It would seem researcher and public speaker, Brene Brown had her path selected for her too.

     In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown says,  “I didn’t set out to be a wild-eyed shame evangelist or a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, but after spending the past decade studying the corrosive effect that shame has on how we live, love, parent, work, and lead, I’ve found myself practically screaming from the top of my lungs, ‘Yes, shame is tough to talk about.  But the conversation isn’t nearly as dangerous as what we’re creating with our silence!” (Brown 62)  She is right.  Silence is a problem.  Silence does not make the issue go away.  Silence empowers the predators.  Silence provides children to these predators.  Until we learn to listen, believe, and support victims or survivors the predators win, and so does Shame. 

     Brown further explains, “Shame thrives on secret keeping, and when it comes to secrets there’s some serious science behind the twelve-step program saying, ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets.’  In a pioneering study, psychologist and University of Texas professor James Pennebaker and his colleagues studied what happened when trauma survivors-specifically rape and incest survivors-kept their experiences secret.  The research team found that the act of not discussing a traumatic event or confiding it to another person could be more damaging than the actual event.  Conversely, when people shared their stories and experiences, their physical health improved, their doctor’s visits decreased, and they showed significant decreases in their stress hormones.  (Brown 82)

     If a minor reveals their abuse to you, if you suspect abuse, if you are uncertain of what to do, go online, or pick up the phone and call information to locate someone who does.  First, Please, Listen…Believe…Support…


Suggested terms to use in your search:

  • sexual crimes against children
  • free counseling services  (your city)
  • child abuse counseling services (your city)
  • child abuse hotline
  • child welfare
  • mandatory reporters
  • how to talk to my child about sexual abuse

Also, this blog has a book review section about abuse.  If you would like a particular book reviewed, please send the information through the comment section.

 Brown, Brene, PhD., LMSW  Daring Greatly 2012


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