The Silence That Enables Abuse

The Silence That Enables Abuse

It’s 30 years since I entered care. Since then, I’ve been a fully involved uncle to my nephew and niece, and to quite a few foster kids and teens too! They’re young adults themselves now, and I feel as a family we can be reasonably confident we’ve done a good job of raising our family, in spite of little healthy parental role modeling as children ourselves.

It’s unthinkable to me that I could know about children in my family suffering abuse and neglect, without making a personal, intrusive intervention. One question, among several, then, is why did my own aunt and uncle not do so on mine and my sister’s behalf, when the signs of abuse were all too obvious?

The silence of my biological family then, and 20 years of stonewalling since I talked briefly about sexual abuse at the hands of my grandfather with my younger cousin is something I gave up trying to resolve a long time ago. But, as the famous words of Martin Luther King above emphasise so clearly, the silence of my birth family members, then, and now, can’t be erased from the memory of my miserable childhood.

Personally speaking, I couldn’t bear the burden of conscience if I turned a blind eye to child abuse. I wonder how other people can. But not much. I’ve a life to live, one made all the better by my foster family, who I went to live with, in 1988. It’s now almost 30 years since I moved into ‘Edward Road’ as we have now come to call our home at the time.

Late, perhaps, but, in December last year, I took my foster family’s surname. A token, bureaucratic gesture of respect to my late foster dad, and an explicit joining up of loose ends, I guess. Though it’s had a more powerful effect than expected, and perhaps I’ll share a little about that another time, but my belonging feels more certain. I don’t think I need to allow the shame-based shunning of those in my birth family who were complicit and willfully ignorant of my childhood abuse to rent space in my head anymore.

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