Silence, Not Always Golden

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” – Spotlight

“The vocal minority” is a common, troubling saying we have in America. I’d like to explore the other side of the coin: the silent majority. As a society, we’re unable to hold suffering or the reality of atrocities committed within our borders. One has only to mention #MeToo or “Black Lives Matter” to discover this. Most often, this manifests as silence. In moments when we’re not silent, we focus on victim credibility or the heinousness of a perpetrators’ acts, both of which allow us to escape suffering. I’d like to turn the lens around. As a survivor of complex childhood trauma, I write to disrupt our silence.

Will you step into discomfort with me and not turn away from hard truths?

My journey toward healing has revealed deep, ugly truths I didn’t want to know—and society doesn’t either. One of these regards our cultural belief that pedophiles act in isolation. Every fiber of me wanted to believe this because it allowed me to overlook how profoundly family, community, and society had failed and betrayed me. Similarly, if society believes perpetrators act alone, we don’t have to step into how we have failed and betrayed victims. 

As I tease out this myth, quickly and briefly, will you allow yourself to see the little girl I was?

Perpetrators pick children who are relationally hungry, to whom there is easy access, without exception. It’s easy to dismiss a child as needy, but this need stems from their family of origin and community failing to provide the basic love, care, and undivided attention necessary. The second element, easy access, requires that family, community, and society fail to provide protection. For a wolf to carry off a sheep, the sheep must be in the open field, with no shepherd watching, an unrepaired gap in the fence, and no attentive neighbors. 

Perpetrators often hold high respect. This is no accident. They groom children, families, communities, and even society. Without this umbrella of protection, they cannot operate. They require public incredulity and silence to rape children. An illustration of this is USA Gymnastics protecting Larry Nassar, who, over fourteen years, abused countless gymnasts. If they’d acted on first indication, many girls would have been spared. Nassar needed USA Gymnastics to molest gymnasts.

Let’s back it up further. Coach Bélla Károlyi knew about Nassar’s abuse, and he did nothing. And Károlyi’s gym barred parents from visiting. So, parents had to be willing to send their young daughters to a gym where they had no oversight for hours every day—for months or years. 

But it’s more complicated. A child is not abused without there being signs. There is always a trail. Are family and community attuned? Able to gently inquire? If told, will they believe? Act to protect? Create safety and repair? These gymnasts were failed by family, teachers, coaches, trainers, USA Gymnastics, and the investigators who never investigated, not just Nassar. 

I wish I could tell you this is an isolated case, but it isn’t. Many families and communities aren’t attuned or, worse, are complicit or perpetrators, and society hasn’t been any better. 

Children are blamed and dismissed by, “We didn’t know,” or, “If only you’d told…” As protectors of the vulnerable, this is not okay. What if I told you the behaviors, symptoms, and personality changes were a child’s scream for help. Or that many children are silenced by serious threats. Would you see differently? We must humble ourselves to ask: “How did we not know?” What in our relationship wasn’t safe for this child to tell? Or did she try, and we missed it? What did we miss? Why? 

Until we can own our failures, we cannot change as a society. 

It’s easy to point a finger at a victim or a perpetrator but hard to take an honest look at ourselves. But we must. Predators do not act alone. They act within the protection of family, community, and society. One has only to look as far as Jeffrey Epstein, Michael Jackson, Jerry Sandusky, Harvey Weinstein, and the Catholic Church to see this.

The truth is—we don’t want to know because it would shift our worldview and disrupt our sense of safety and equilibrium. We want to believe it won’t happen again, but the truth is one serial pedophile harms as many as 400 children. We don’t want to know because it asks us to know our own stories and see where we’ve been silent and how we’ve harmed, and then, it demands action.

If I sound angry, it’s because I was missed. My community and society chose not to attune, see, or act on all the ways I told them, and silently screamed for help. Please. See the children around you. Listen to their cries for help. Disrupt the silence. In the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Marín has begun a long journey toward healing from complex trauma, and invites you to be a part of her archaeological pilgrimage through the truths she’s only beginning to know herself. Through tears she’s starting to find beauty again in life, writing, artistic expression, adventure, curiosity, community, spirituality, and bringing goodness to her body. More than anything, she treasures her time with her husband and their adored four-footed friend. Marín cherishes being part of the Red Tent community and to free her to share the rawness of her soul with you, she requests anonymity.