Kathryn, in 1991, pressed charges against her step-grandfather for sexually abusing her when she was a child. In reflecting on her prolonged legal battle she states,

I could not let him win again. So many people had told me, including my first shrink, this happens to everyone. Get over it. And I thought, no, this can’t happen to everyone. If I shut up and don’t say anything, it’ll just keep happening. I felt guilty. I didn’t care if it killed me. I was going to go down fighting.

As with many other victims of sexual abuse, Kathryn was convinced that her only way to “get over it” was to persist in her legal battle. It is usually the only venue to meet the need to be heard. The need to be believed does not have an expiry date.

Yet it is a real horror to discover that once some of these people believe you, it becomes clear that they do not care. As the psychiatrist said to Kathryn, “This happens to everyone. Get over it.” This attitude wades in the pool of complicity as an accomplice after the fact via a defaulted acquiescence to sexual abuse.

Our justice system is being used to provide a structure for deciding what is right and wrong. Justice by itself does not generate healing. We have problems with false memory accusations and disclosure legislation.

Rogan rightly points out what is at the heart of the matter for the victim of sexual abuse: finding a way to regain personal control of one’s life which had been stolen away. It has a strange allure, that option of court litigation to take back power, to force an abuser through a system, for to make someone stop and sit and listen to the victim. At the end of the day, it is the process itself which is the ultimate goal, not the final judgment.

But confronting the abuser only re-traumatizes the person. The other person rarely admits to the activity, although I know of one case in which a minister did admit his “malfeasance”, his sexual misconduct to his bishop.

…pursuing your abuser through the court system keeps you hopelessly entangled with your abuser– sometimes for years.

Often all we seek is a clarion cry saying that abusive behavior is wrong.

1. Mary Rogan, “Judgment Call”, Chatelaine, October 1998, 68.

2. Rogan, 70.

3. Rogan, 72. Lerner & Associates were named in regards to historical abuse cases, etc., 75.

4. Rogan, 78.

Advertisements