There is a very interesting Ted Talk that I have been thinking about lately. Stella Young, who is physically disabled, talks about her frustration that stems from being held up as an object for what she calls “inspiration porn”.
In a very strange way, I can relate.
I’ve been thinking about “inspiration porn” since I let loose on a friend’s Facebook post last week. She was upset about the way the church has looked the other way when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. She said that it had to be stopped “because it ruins lives”.
It is a fair enough statement. Child abuse, and the social narratives surrounding it, does contribute to the destruction of some lives.
However, sexual abuse of children has to be stopped regardless of the fallout.
It is wrong. Period.
There should be no need to parade out examples of victims who have turned to drugs, or taken their own lives as part of the argument against the sexual abuse of children. Lives should not be moulded into poster slogans.
I see two problems with perpetuating the “ruined for life” stereotype for the cause:
One is the stigma that speaking up brings in its wake. No one wants to be labeled as damaged. I remember all the years when my children were small, and the concern I had that people were looking over my shoulder (because, after all, another thing we so often hear about is the “cycle of abuse”). Any opinion I had on gender, violence, abuse or even sex in general was often disregarded as biased.
If you do speak up, it is important to tow the party line.
The second problem I see is the guilt I know I feel when I say, “You know what? I’m doing as well as anyone else out there.” I feel like I am undermining the cause. An apologist of sorts. I should be screwed up. And, yes, when I say that my problems have little to do with my childhood experiences, I have heard: “You’re in denial.” The claim of having thrived, despite it all, is held up as proof of how essentially messed up I really am.
And then I can’t help but wonder: Maybe I really am more damaged than I think?
The fact is, I have been more damaged by the way society handles victims of child abuse than I ever was by the incidences of abuse themselves. And that is a frightening thing to say out loud. I prepare myself for a barrage of questions and accusations when I do. I struggle with the response to the onslaught of circular reasoning: Sexual abuse causes emotional damage, so if you haven’t been emotionally damaged, there was obviously no sexual abuse. Not real sexual abuse, at any rate.
People who have experienced sexual abuse are pressured to choose a camp: Be fine and have your experiences invalidated, or choose to assume the role of victim or one as damaged-but-surviving.
It isn’t okay to murder a homeless person who is incoherent, who has no family to mourn her; while, say murdering a young mother of two would definitely not be okay. What is morally wrong, isn’t measured by the damage done.
The sexual abuse of children is not okay.
But, you know what? Some of the children will be, if we let them.