At Our Mercy

I didn’t take a very long break from researching sexual abuse. This afternoon I watched a movie based on the writer/director Jennifer Fox’s real-life experience called The Tale starring Laura Dern. She’s one of my favorite actors, so I couldn’t resist and wasn’t disappointed.

There’s a thread that runs through young sexual abuse survivor’s experiences. They think of themselves as having full capacity to accurately make judgments and choices in their lives, as if they’re equal to adults and think of themselves as being in control of their experiences, that they have full agency over what happens to them.

Then looking back on their experiences as adults, they are able to see everything in a whole different light when they truly have full capacity and have developed the ability to make accurate, healthy choices, have agency, and can enforce boundaries. They can then come to terms about the reality of the situation they endured, especially if they have children themselves, they can clearly see and compare their past younger self to the corresponding ages their children are and realize that they were preyed upon and abused as a child.

The full reality dawns on them that they did not have control and were not mature enough to consent though they believed they were mature, capable, and responsible for themselves at that time. They believed they were in an equal partnership and were willing participants when the imbalance in power made that impossible. They believed and trusted the adult so were easily manipulated and groomed into compliance. The adult was in control and responsible for what happened. The child did not have the capacity to be fully aware and lacked the ability to enforce boundaries and was at the mercy of the adult perpetrator.

Children are at the mercy of the adults in the world. They are the most vulnerable group of humans by far. Children are abused as a matter of default practices. People raise their children the way they were raised, the past gets repeated even though it causes harm, the belief is, it worked for me, I turned out fine, so I’ll keep doing what I know. They never stop and question, examine, and reflect on if what they’re doing is really beneficial, healthy, and working. Traumatized adults often never do the work of healing or are still trapped in abusive environments where it’s difficult to break free and get better. Or even worse, they actively repeat abuse as an acting out or a power trip, with the mindset, this was done to me so I’m entitled to do it too.

The trauma is passed on, the abused children grow into traumatized adults and it cycles perpetually. Until there’s a reckoning where abusers are held accountable, with reeducation and reformation of societal practices/parenting along with ample social support for struggling families and a destigmatization of speaking out/getting help, it will continue unabated.

Films like The Tale help us come to terms with the abuse we are too afraid and horrified to face. It’s kept hush-hush and the children are often not believed. The adults have all of the power. Children can not be heard, helped, or protected without the vigilance, accountability, and advocacy of adults.

I believe children should be educated about healthy sexuality in age-appropriate ways along with firm boundaries surrounding consent while maintaining open communication with their parents so the child will feel comfortable reporting boundary violations to where there is no shame or blame evoked within the child. Children are easily manipulated and are extremely vulnerable to abuse, even teens who think they are grown, are highly vulnerable too because they think they have more awareness and maturity than they actually do. They have impaired judgment capabilities juxtaposed with gains in keeping up with more responsibilities and higher cognition, but they’re still not fully capable of making the healthiest decisions.

The world will not heal and get better until we adequately nurture, protect, revere, and honor our children. We need to educate ourselves, heal our own trauma, and get better so we can do better by our children. Society needs to shift and be more proactive by investing in what will actually help the most in building a better world. It begins with healing our own shit so we won’t keep passing it on. And we could use more help in our infrastructure to support us in becoming healthier in every way from the inside out, which means more mental health support, more social programs that help families and children. More support for the prevention of abuse and for survivors of abuse.

We as adults have the power to create positive change if we would only open our eyes, care, and speak up when we see something wrong it’s our responsibility to do something about it.

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. Albert Einstein

Michelle Miyagi
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