What we can take away from Penn State, child sex abuse cases

14 Nov

A few years ago I was sitting in a temple prep class (it’s a Mormon thing) when the man giving the lesson told us the story of his childhood. He had been raped and sexually abused. At the end of his story he told the small group that when he walks into a room and speaks to people, he can tell which of the others in the group had also been sexually abused as a child.

I felt like he was looking right at me.

Maybe he knew, maybe he didn’t. I don’t know that I’ve really kept it a secret the last few years, but I’ve never publically announced it. I’m getting ready to, however. Not because I feel like I’ve been holding this deep dark secret, but because I feel like my story helps others.

The recent news of football coaches and other authorities at Penn State covering up, or covering their eyes, to child rape and sex abuse has others coming out to tell their stories.

(And just because I really need to throw my opinion in here: I think the focus should be on Mike McQueary and not Joe Paterno, who should never hold a position of authority again. How he could WATCH a child being raped and not immediately stop it. To make matters worse, he waited till the next day to tell anyone, and it wasn’t even the police. I don’t care what the laws say or how terrified the man was of losing his job – he is one of the many people responsible for allowing child sex abuse to continue. Every person involved should feel ashamed and disgusted with himself or herself. There is nothing more precious in this world than our children. If you allow them to be abused by monsters, realize how you are shaping our future. And I hope Sandusky rots in hell.)

In light of the news, Goldie Taylor decided to tell her story on CNN of how she was raped by a teacher at her high school. She had never said it publicly. Based on her comments, I feel that she may have been ashamed and felt guilty for what had happened to her. I sympathize with her completely. I’ve been there.

But I don’t fully agree with everything she said last night.

goldie taylor tells her story

I was sexually abused as a child. In a book I am writing about the dangers of allowing children to come in contact with pornography, I open with my story. It’s a story that may greatly upset those close to me and those who always wondered what skeletons I was hiding in my closet. Don’t we all have them?

But I have learned from sharing my story with individuals, that it brings them a sense of hope. I am not victim. I am not a survivor. I am a warrior. I can choose to “cope” or I can forge ahead passionately and make something incredible of my life.

I made mistakes, lots of them, as a young adult dealing with the pain of being abused as a child. But I chose to leave it behind me. In fact, after counseling, I no longer feel that aching pain inside when I think of the things that happened to me. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for my abusers.

I chose to forgive them for their choices, and I chose to forgive myself for the mistakes I made afterward. It has made me stronger. It has made me a fighter. It has made me a better and more alert parent.

Maybe there are days when I see the childlike Jennifer pushing through, making me scared and vulnerable. And I embrace that part of me because it makes me human, realistic and more willing to accept faults in others.

I still make mistakes. I’m still untrusting in relationships. Some days I am still afraid to let a man get too close. But I control my future. No one holds me back except myself. And that I have full control over. I strive every day to be a better person, mother and worker.

You can, too. Don’t let someone else’s mistakes hold you back.


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4 responses to “What we can take away from Penn State, child sex abuse cases

  1. Joel Sanders

    November 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Been there too Jen, thanks for sharing.

  2. Colleen Powell

    November 14, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks, Jen, for your courage in telling your story today. I just saw your segment on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. I’m a survivor, too, and I appreciate your decision to speak out. I hope that other victim/survivors will feel like this is the right time to speak out about the abuse they suffered/are suffering. Speak out. Tell your story to the police. Often, the people within the family/school/church/organization in which victims have been/are being abused have their own personal motives for not helping victims, not working to stop the abuse, and not holding perpetrators accountable. Go to the police.
    Colleen Powell
    Louisville Chapter
    Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

  3. Colleen Powell

    November 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    My bad! Sorry Jan. When I saw the Goldie Taylor comment in the middle of your blog page, I thought I had arrived at the site I “asked” Google to take me to. So, I was wrong about you being on The Last Word, but I wasn’t wrong about you having courage to tell about your abuse. Thank you for that. May it give others the courage to tell their story. And may your healing journey continue.
    Colleen Powell
    Louisville Chapter

  4. stillhurts

    November 14, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I just saw Goldie on Lawrence O’Donald and I can’t stop crying. These people – monsters – have no conscience. They only care about their sick needs and if they ruin a child’s life forever it’s just too bad.

    The first time I was sexually abused I was about two and have hazy memories but I told my Grandfather (the predator was taking me 400 miles to stay with him) and he was very upset and told my mom. My mom said she took me to a doctor and I was “ok” and so young that I wouldn’t remember it. I did remember parts and when I’d ask my mom, she’d get upset and tell me “I’d made it up”. Predator to me to a hotel for his jollies and left my ‘lovie’ and I cried and cried for it. I’d hold a picture of me with the ‘lovie’ to try to feel like I still had it.

    When I was 7 my mom’s boyfriend molested me – it was terrifying but I told her the next day and I thought she would protect me. Later that day she said she’d talked to him and said I’d made the whole thing up, and why on earth would I do that? I tried to talk to her but that was it. I was lying. The next time he came over she let him tuck me in bed and said “next time you won’t tell your mother because you hurt her very bad and she might not want you any more”.

    I remember like it was yesterday and I’m 57 years old! The very moment my mom told me she didn’t believe me I KNEW she didn’t really love me. She had betrayed me and I had no one. I had no dad or siblings. I think how different my life might have been if it had never happened. Maybe I wouldn’t hate sex. Maybe I would have made more of my life. They made me feel like I was nothing and I’ve lived that way.


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