A MUST Read!
We Have It All Wrong. Shunning Offenders is Not Working: A Reaction to the Woody Allen Story
By Kim Cottrell February 5, 2014
I’ve been working on an article about caring for the bad dad, the man who molested my sister and tore my family apart, and what it has been to sift through the wake of my father’s life in photos, scrapbooks, and letters. After he suffered a stroke early in 2013, he couldn’t care for himself and I did something I thought I’d never do — I brought him home to live with me.
I’ve been slow with my writing, but this morning a friend posted an article to Facebook by Lisa Bloom, titled “Six Reasons Why Dylan Farrow is Highly Credible,” about Farrow’s account of her abuse by Woody Allen. Bloom wrote:
“Child molestation is inherently irrational, compulsive behavior. Little girls are commonly molested when family lurks in the next room. Little boys are victimized in homes, hotels, out-of-doors, anywhere and everywhere. The digital sexual assault Dylan alleged can happen in seconds and leave no trace.”
I stared but couldn’t click on the post. Heavy, burning waves hissed up from my gut where they hadn’t been just moments before. I thought I might throw up and then I recognized the feeling as terror. For a fleeting moment I contemplated shoving the feelings aside and ignoring them. This time felt different and I rushed to my computer, adjusted the screen so I couldn’t be distracted by the words, and pounded out my thoughts about telling secrets, supporting humans, and defending actions.
I’ve spent years, waiting for the just-right moment to speak publicly. As a survivor of incest, I’ve wanted a new way of processing the aftermath and a new conversation rather than the old worn-out I’m so sorry for you, you poor dear. I’ve rationalized that I was protecting my sister. I’ve told myself it wasn’t my story to tell which was a lie. I became an expert at dissociating when I was 11 or 12 because there was no other way to survive sharing a room and a bed with my sister. At some point, my father called me into the hallway. We faced one another and I said no. I trembled, and repeated, no. My mother’s voice called from the bedroom asking what was going on. I didn’t answer, instead I rushed back to my completely unsafe bed and shook until I fell asleep.
Lisa Bloom is right. Child molestation isn’t rational. My father wasn’t rational in those years. What is also not rational is that anyone needs to justify a disclosure of child abuse. Sadly, in our haste to find retribution, and in our shaming, blaming, judging, and punishing, the victim and offender are both vilified and neither adequately reintegrated or healed.
We have it all wrong. Shunning the offenders is not working. Locking them up is not working. Settling in court for massive sums of money is not working. Ruining the life of the offenders in the name of justice is not working. Leaving victims to pick up the pieces of their life alone is not working. The sexual abuse of our boys and girls is still going on, generation after generation.