“As a society, we’ll look the other way and pretend it’s not going on, when the reality is, it’s going on in our backyards.”
Those powerful words are from a survivor of child sexual abuse, Erin Merryn.
Merryn was a young girl when she was repeatedly sexually abused over several years. Merryn is among an estimated 42 million Americans who have been victims of child sexual abuse. Merryn also is one of five abuse survivors speaking out in TLC’s new documentary film, “Breaking the Silence,” which aired in late August.
As attorneys, we handle sex abuse cases everyday. The stories and scenarios of abuse, and the path to recovery sound very familiar to us. Clients come to us with the hopes of being understood and believed. After assisting hundreds of sexual abuse victims, we sometimes feel like we not only believe and understand our clients – we could probably finish their sentences for them, as the patterns of abuse are often similar.
Take a look at this staggering statistic: 42 million sex abuse victims. We might be emptying the ocean with a teaspoon in our work, but it’s a start, and we’re committed to helping our clients make a difference one case at a time.
TLC’s lineup in the documentary is impressive with a roster of articulate, razor sharp professionals in this area of expertise: Jim Hopper, Ph.D. of Harvard Medical School and Dr. Ann Botash, MD, Child Abuse Referral and Evaluation Program in Syracuse, New York, and Cindy McElhinney, Director of Programs for Darkness to Light, an organization devoted to helping abuse survivors.
One powerful moment in the hour-long film happens at 56:17, when Erin Merryn meets a very young abuse survivor to lend encouragement and a shoulder to cry upon.
The one reservation we have about TLC’s documentary is the inclusion of Michelle Duggar, mom of 19 Kids and Counting reality show fame. Her oldest son, Josh Duggar, now 27, is alleged to have molested five underage girls when he was 14 years old, including four of his sisters. This past summer, TLC canceled the Duggar’s reality show amidst public outcry over the abuse scandal. News reports about the Duggar molestation scandal claim that the Duggar parents delayed in taking action, allowed their son to stay in the home with his victims, had a family friend offer a self-styled therapy “program,” and had a state trooper give their son “a stern talking.” http://www.vox.com/2015/5/27/8662907/josh-duggar-abuse
Such actions are not appropriate for dealing with perpetrators. Minimizing, covering up abuse or hindering legal action enable perpetrators. Police need to investigate and prosecutors need to prosecute these cases. We tolerate the inclusion of the Michelle Duggar only as an example of the enormous damage sex abuse causes its victims.
So, while it’s far from perfect, we welcome TLC’s “Breaking the Silence.” It’s helping to shine a bright spotlight on child sexual abuse and the millions who continue to suffer.
Here’s Erin Merryn’s web site: