Monday, July 20, 2015

What The Cosby Revelations Teach Us About Facade and Abuse

I will not post a photo of him - you know who he is and what he looks like. Instead, I post a photo of me: 2 years old, 5 years before my own sexual abuse at the hands of a man everyone thought was the greatest guy. SHE deserves the spotlight...not he. Cosby hasn't been accused of child sexual abuse, but the lessons from what he has been accused of, juxtaposed with his image, are vital to those seeking to prevent CSA.
I was once a Cosby fan; my husband and I were loyal viewers of The Cosby Show, laughing til we couldn't breathe, musing at his seeming parental and marital wisdom, admiring of his educational achievements and his philanthropy. Needless to say, those days are over.
It's hard to miss the revelations of late: Cosby, in his own words, explaining his behaviors and thought processes regarding his extra-marital sexual conquests. After years of public denials, the assertions of his accusers seem validated. Sobering, to say the least, to any who held out hope that the Cosby they had adored was true to the projected image.
For me, as a child sex abuse prevention educator, the revelations are not a surprise - particularly regarding the dissonance between image and reality - and are a teachable moment, one I have repeated many times throughout my career: the person you are so sure you know, the man/woman who would NEVER do such a thing, is beyond reproach, trusted, perhaps revered, even loved, can, in fact, be an abuser. When it comes to child sexual abuse, 90% of children abused are abused by someone the family knows and trusts. Statistics repeatedly bear this out. "Stranger danger" can happen, but it is the statistical minority. Adults and caregivers, policy-makers in the lives of children need to understand and accept this in order to create sufficient protections.
Additionally, when children disclose abuse, 95.5% of them are telling the truth. When a child discloses to you, he/she is taking a huge risk: most never tell. Fears of not being believed (especially in the face of naming someone everyone, including the child, believed was wonderful), fears of repercussions, being isolated, a major life upheaval, all come into play. When a child discloses to you, they are trusting you. Honor that trust. Be calm, listen thoughtfully, don't ask leading questions and, most important of all, BELIEVE him or her and say so. Even if your insides are screaming; even if your mind is saying "this can't be true;" even if you're thinking your life will fall apart (if the accused is a spouse, partner, parent, grandparent or other relative). BELIEVE. Then...REPORT. You can fall apart afterward - to a trusted friend, partner, therapist - but in the moment of disclosure you need to be there 100% for this child. Your support and calm will never be lost on him/her.
It is not your job to investigate. It is your job to take what this child has said and report it to child protective services (or call 911 if the child is in imminent danger - perhaps the abuser is coming to pick them up from your school or program). It is then in the hands of professionals trained to move forward.
Do your part: turn intention into action and help a child who is reaching out. Believe their words, not the facade you cannot bear to part with. It is a dissonance, for sure, but as more community adults become versed in how child sex abuse happens and what it takes to resolve it, support for that devastating awareness will burgeon. Heed the may make all the difference in the life of a child you know.
For more information on child sexual abuse statistics and prevention, visit Darkness To Light.

"Kisses From Dolce: A Book for Children About Trusting and Telling" is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Trafford Publishing and directly from me at