‘Other People’s Children’: the Need for Open Discussion about Abuse

Link to the NewStatesman "If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen": the Falsities We Attach to Sexual Abuse
Link to the NewStatesman “If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen”: the Falsities We Attach to Sexual Abuse

It is a naturally human tendency to ‘other’ in the face of tragedy or danger.

Traffic accidents happen to “other people”.

Cancer happens to “other people”.

House fires happen to “other people”.

Natural disasters alter the lives of “other people”.

While this is an extremely unrealistic and unfair perception of the world, it often seems the best way to cope when we hear of someone else’s grave misfortune. We hold our own, healthy children tight and thank God it wasn’t them…and that, or so we assume, it never will be them.

As Sana Saeed recently noted, we are especially prone to ‘other’ sexual assault. Rape happens to “other people”. “Other” societies are sexist. “Other people” face teen pregnancies caused by violence. Sex trafficking only happens to “other people”.

We hold our own, safe children tight and thank God it’s not them.

And we assume it never will be them.

Tragically, not all parents have that psychological luxury. They are the “other people”. Their children who have been savagely violated are the “other people”.

Hold your own children close but never take for granted that, to the rest of the world, you are “other people”. With that mind, treat the “other people” as if you were in their position.

In conversations about abuse, there can be no “other” people.

Francis Ryan writes (source linked above):

What comes through to Childline are the things that everyone should hear and no one should have to say. They do though. In their thousands, and they’re just the ones able to call. That last point is important. Sometimes sitting on the phone in silence for a minute is the bravest thing anyone can do. But we’d be back in the comfort of ignorance if we weren’t very aware there are more unable to even get that far.

1 in 20 children in this country have been sexually abused. One in three who were hurt by an adult find no adult to tell. Nine out of ten children were abused by someone they knew.

These are not the things we think about. These are not the statistics we’re able to believe are about our lives. They’re what sit safely behind grotesque headlines, the sort of thing that happens to other people’s children.

For some people, “other people’s children” has to be their children. The comforting promise that it isn’t our own family’s concern at some point has to end somewhere.


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