It’s been one of my life’s missions to fight for the rights of children who have been sexually abused, because, after all, I was abused, too. But I remember recently telling a friend and fellow survivor of child sexual abuse, while getting ready to speak at a rally at the New York State Capitol on The Omnibus Child Victims Act, that sometimes, advocating for our rights in modern times feels like fighting for freedom from slavery. And not that I would ever understand what being an African-American slave feels like, but I do understand what it’s like to be physically tormented, beaten, and sexually abused. Not to mention the fact that fellow advocates, Senators and Assemblymembers have been fighting to eliminate the statue of limitations for child sexual abuse in New York for eleven years now. Repeating the same legislative process, year after year, is exhausting to those of us who grew up knowing nothing but humiliation and shame. Many times we feel as though we have to beg, cry, scream, and plead for our basic human rights – rights that were stolen from us as children. Thankfully, with the help of Governor Cuomo this year, I believe that things will be different. I want so badly to believe, and I will continue to fight for change.
Historically, the abused and marginalized are the ones who have always had to fight for a long time before they’ve seen any progress. And, with battered and sexually victimized children, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, slavery, and so forth, every marginalized group that has had to overcome extreme odds and oppression has had to do so at the hands of some “power” group. Mainly, the white conservative, and often narcissistic male heads this group. What gives him the power in the first place, or the expertise to keep things running the way they are, thus keeping the helpless, categorized as that – helpless?
The “broken” are the ones who have had to rise above, again and again, without very little resources or help, from the white, narcissistic male. There is no logical explanation for this, but simply, it is an ignorance and a belief system at play that simply cannot work anymore in our society. As with slavery and other marginalized groups, sexually abused children are treated as though they have no rights: they are voiceless and thrown into the adult world, not afforded an opportunity to receive justice. Most laws do not protect them, and trying to get them passed has been an overly long process. While I stood up in front of Senators, reporters, and fellow advocates and told my story and urged lawmakers to pass S809, I found it empowering, but at many levels, grossly demeaning – a reminder that I am one of those people, the less than, and I have to fight for basic rights while others go on about their lives, never understanding the true meaning of suffering.
It’s high time that we break down the egotistical walls that have kept the sufferers suffering, and the ignorant fat. If this country is ever going to become great again, we have to help one another, and that means coming to an equal playing field. In the words of Martin Luther King: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”