Monday, April 7, 2008


April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

It was interesting to read in the Deseret News the opinions of readers commenting on Elder Scott's talk in General Conference about abuse. He did an excellent job rebuking abusers, encouraging forgiveness and progression towards healing for the victim. Even so, there are always critics. They cry, "Church leaders don't do enough to prevent it or punish it." They leave the Church because someone in a leadership position didn't punish the abuser as they should have. They criticize even this talk because the "abusers won't listen, heed and change." In fact, it is true, many of them won't even be listening to the message at all. Clearly as is often the case, they may be preaching to the choir in many cases. But, Church isn't for the perfect - as there is nobody to fit that category at all. It is for the sinners and hopefully some of them WILL hear and heed and change. Regardless of who actually listens or cares, the message needs to be sent. This is one piece of the puzzle that needs solution.

The message is also for the victims who must learn to overcome the damage done by their abusers (since nothing can be done now to change their past experience). Of the millions listening to this message, many will be affected at some level. No message will address every need for every person or cause every perpetrator to change his ways. Is it not worth saying simply because it won't magically change the world?

What we need is more public outcry. Every member of society needs to take responsibility to make abuse unacceptable. If everyone who cares actually did something, the tide could change. As a society we must accept some responsibility for allowing some of the tolerance. We laugh at jokes that put down women, we even circulate them. We say "boys will be boys" when they do the unacceptable, use vulgar language or put down women as a group.

We believe it when people say pornography doesn't hurt anyone and only affects the person viewing it. We should be outraged that women are portrayed as sex objects. It is interesting to me that liberals like to be "open minded" about such evils while at the same time screaming about women's rights. They vocally put down Church leaders who they erroneously believe do not treat women as equals while just as vocally say we need freedom of speech and press, allowing filth to reach our homes, checkout stands, children's online experiences, music, prime time TV. They don't think we should censor anything and have failed to recognize that such public display of sexually explicit material perpetuates abuse at every level.

What can we do? I recently read an excellent book, Why Does He Do That? (subtitled, Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men) by Lundy Bancroft, counselor to and investigator of abusers (male, by the way). This is a place to start. He does an excellent job of debunking myths surrounding the abuser, many of which have given the abuser excuses for his behavior.
He shows how abusers manipulate, control and gradually destroy their victims. Every person who cares about the victims of abuse (likely at least one in three women at some time in their lives) should read this book and take the message to heart. This is not a book for the abuser - he won't be reading it anyway. But, it shows how we as a society could turn the tide. It tells how we have perpetuated and "allowed" it by not taking action. In many cases inaction is action in itself.

Even suicide is often the result of abuse. So if suicide has affected you in any way, as it has me, you should care to do something about abuse in every form - emotional, verbal, physical and sexual. Please read this book. Instead of just reading about women's rights, stating your belief in equality and expecting someone else (even Church leaders) to fix it, do something at some level. Don't tolerate any put-downs of women, be vocal in your objections to every level of abuse. Don't say "it's not my problem" or "they (the couple) need to work it out between them without interference." Not saying or doing anything is implied consent.

Protest TV and print media that glorify abuse and sexual assault that blame victims. Refuse jokes that insult or degrade women ("It's just a joke" doesn't cut it). Expect boys and men to be respectful and kind and don't tolerate (Heaven forbid teach by example) name-calling of women.

Don't buy into the idea that the abuse is justified or that some defect causes it. It is unacceptable behavior no matter what his other issues are.

Teaching equality and respect for all human beings is essential because this is a deep-seated value-based, core function, not merely "anger management" or "communication issues."

Support any measures that decrease, limit, restrict or condemn pornography - even so-called "soft porn" which is the gateway to hard porn. Nobody can argue that this kind of stuff promotes women and demands their respectful treatment - it does the opposite!

Abuse will be harder to get away with once we remove the cover of excuses, distortions, and manipulations from abusers.

Every human being needs to become involved; not expect Church leaders who are mostly ignored by abusers anyway to solve the problem while we sit back and on any level accept the mistreatment of women and/or children.

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