Recently I attended a webinar from Stop It Now! that was a reminder to me of how everyone’s situation and journey is so unique. There is no typical scenario or path to healing. It’s not like there is a checklist you can go through to determine whether someone is/was/will be an abuser, or another checklist as to when or how the abuse will be uncovered, or a one-size-fits-all plan on how families can/should/will move forward.
Sometimes a family may want to pursue legal action. Sometimes they want to handle it in private (or not at all). Many will find themselves thrown into the spotlight, especially if the perpetrator had a visible role in the community — and that’s a whole ‘nother set of situations, emotions, and issues to manage.
Some want to find a way to stay together as a family. Some may feel they do not have options or choices. Some are uncovering that their spouse, sibling or child has been abusing relatives (or non-relatives).
If you can imagine a scenario, I'm sure it has happened.
As I listened to a NOP (new term I learned on that webinar, which means Non-Offending Partner) tell their story, including the offender’s conviction, I realized I have not written about the legal aspect of incest and sexual abuse. It’s not something we pursued and I have zero experience with that.
If you do need legal advice or support, there are probably a number of local organizations where you live, or national ones like Stop It Now!, RAINN, and others that can help.
I am empathetic to the families whose stories, for whatever reason, have been thrown into the limelight. I appreciate their courage and strength and understand that we can never know the entirety of what they and their family are going through, so it is not for us to judge another person's of family's choices and decisions. We cannot know their story or situation. I saw this quote that said, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is battling a fight you know nothing about.” I liked that and keep reminding myself of it.
My hope is that no matter the circumstances, survivors and families feel supported. And we strive to create safe spaces where everyone can honestly and openly speak about what happened (yes, even the perpetrators) and know that there will be people and organizations available to help. The more we bring incest and childhood sexual abuse out of the dark, the more we can learn and get to eradicating it.