Recovery from sexually harmful behaviour is complex as a result of the strategies used by the person causing the harm and the variety of responses from the victims and those close to them. In intra-familial sexual abuse the experiences and needs of victims are often invisible. Others, especially mothers, are unfairly put in positions of blame or self-blame. To facilitate the recovery of the victims and their families, it is critical for all concerned to contribute to the unravelling of the circumstances – and for the offenders to accept responsibility.
After fifteen years spent as a media witness to conflict-affected peoples, my peacebuilding work has allowed me, in a small way, to be more effective in supporting some sort of a journey towards breaking cycles of violence. And yet why do I continue to see exactly the same conflict issues, no matter which continent? The patterns are so predictable. What is unpredictable is the ability of the human spirit to choose dignity over humiliation; the victim to become a survivor; the powerless to acknowledge their strength. This is a rite of passage to cherish because one chain in the long cycle of violence dissolves forever. There can be no more ‘dark nights of the soul’ when Truth becomes Beauty. Amandla Awethu!
Early in my counselling career, I had to face the uncomfortable reality that as a male raised in a patriarchal society, I was a beneficiary of the structural imbalance of power over women. So, when confronted with the opportunity to get involved in trying to stop violence in the home against women and children, I felt like I had an obligation to do so. My gender is mainly responsible for the problem, so I felt and still feel a duty to be a part of the solution.
It is imperative to challenge the forces within our society that would prefer the issue of child sexual assault to stay silent, or for the silence to be disguised by messages including ‘tired of talking about it’ or ‘it doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore’ or ‘it only happens to certain children in certain families’. A critical responsibility of all who work in the field professionally is to never allow such silence to prevail.
I believe that every person has the right to feel safe and to live a life free from violence. That’s the reason I do what I do. If I can make a positive impact in someone’s life, then that’s one less person living in fear and my work is making a difference.