The childhood sexual abuse survivors Paul Mones represents tell us they are relieved this topic is finally getting the public attention it deserves.
Some survivors have been trying for years to tell the world about their abuse only to be ignored. Others were inspired to come forward because open public discourse made them realize they were not as alone as they once suspected. But it is a third type of survivor that public discussion of this issue has really empowered — those who didn’t appreciate as children what happened to them was sexual abuse.
How Is This Possible?
Sexual abuse comes in many forms. While most people understand that sexual physical contact in any form between an adult and a person under 18 is sexual abuse, they may not realize abuse includes so much more. Sexual abuse also includes things like supplying pornography to a minor and/or viewing it with them, creating pornographic or explicit materials with a child, discussing sexual acts, or encouraging minors to perform sexual acts on themselves or others. Adults can also abuse minors by encouraging them to sexually touch another minor or perform sexual acts on one another.
Many survivors were so young when they were abused they may not have realized their abuser did or said anything inappropriate until they became sexually aware/active as an adolescent or adult. Others have been enlightened by their therapist or by a news story about childhood sexual abuse in the Catholic church, the Boy Scouts of America, or some other headline-generating institution.
Other survivors repressed memories of abuse or processed them as normalize because their abuser groomed them. Grooming is the term used to describe the broad range of activities predators use to integrate themselves into a community, build trust, and procure victims they can use to satisfy their sexual urges.
Grooming starts innocently enough. The predator works their way into a position of trust in an organization that gives them access to their preferred victims. They build a reputation in the community for being hard-working, trustworthy, and caring — the last person you would ever suspect of harming a child.
Once their place in the community is secure, they begin to identify victims. Often children who have self-esteem problems or crave adult attention and approval. Slowly, they begin to build a close relationship with their target. Giving them small gifts or favors, or allowing them special privileges denied to other children is common.
Then the touching starts. It begins with something innocent like a high-five or a pat on the head but eventually morphs into more intimate things like lingering hugs, lap-sitting, or back rubs. The abuser will press on until they are having their sexual urges gratified.
Because these institutional predators usually have such stellar reputations in the community and have become a friend to the child, and often the child’s parents, nobody on the outside suspects that the abuse is occurring. Even if the child is uncomfortable, he or she justifies the abuse as normal because a good adult I trust would never hurt me.
Why Are So Many Survivors Coming Forward Now?
Public awareness of childhood sexual abuse has increased dramatically since the 2002 Boston Globe stories about widespread abuse in the Catholic church opened the public’s eyes to this issue. Outrage at the lengths the church went to hide abuse rather than put a stop to it caused many to question what was going on behind closed doors at other institutions. We have since seen lauded institutions like USA Gymnastics, the Boys and Girls Club, the Boy Scouts, and various schools exposed for their attempts to cover-up abuse.
In response, policy-makers have been changing state laws in order to make it easier to bring lawsuits against these organizations and the abusers they harbored, even years after the abuse occurred.
Attorney Mones has been at the forefront of this movement, fighting for justice for survivors, for over 35 years. He and his experienced team have the knowledge and resources it takes to hold abusers accountable, and they are ready to take your call if you are a survivor in search of justice.