This has been a very difficult period in my life as I work to balance the heaviness, which has been occurring during the past year, as the year 2012 comes to closure and 2013 has begun.
I remain concerned that the children and families who are suffering in silence and traumatized by the betrayal and sexual abuse will continue to be ignored and in doing so severely impacted by the silence associated with their pain and suffering.
In the midst of this, I am struck by the psychological havoc occurring in my community. I am referring to the revelations of sexual abuse by the clergy within the Seattle African-American community. Local media broke the story that a minister admitted to 22 counts of sexual abuse over a period of 14 years.
Stunned, I reached out to the local church where the sexual abuse and betrayal of trust had taken place. I sought to meet with the church leadership and seek ways in which services from local agencies could be provided. As a traumatologist well versed with working with male victims of sexual abuse, I understood the mountain of clinical issues I was about to climb.
As a clinician I was aware that the victims could be questioning their roles in the abuse. Furthermore, there may be questions of how these sexual assaults may impact their lives and interactions with others in the many years to come. I have the awareness of working with later aged adults who remained psychologically damaged from such acts occurring in their childhood and adolescence.
When I took my concerns to the church leadership, I was met with a wall of silence. When I raised questions regarding the abuse and the wall of silence with my African-American colleagues, I was again met with a wall of silence.
When I raised the issue on the listerv within my professional organization of “good meaning liberal folk,” I was met with a wall of silence. I was ostracized by the leadership as they have now redefined the purpose and use criteria for the listserv.
One of my Caucasian colleagues chided me by commenting indirectly that if I as an African-American clinician am not having success in working with the church hierarchy, what impact could a white organization of good meaning liberals possibly do? Good point and well taken.
During early January 2013 a member of this professional organization that I belong to, Marty Falaberg age 91, passed away peacefully after a long meaningful life. He lived a life devoted to the mental health profession and to the clinical social work community. The listserv was used to extend messages of what this individual meant to the members of the organization.
There were numerous i.e. 17 alludes, acknowledgements and statements regarding his life and the impact he had on those on the listerv. These statements included words from the organization’s leadership.
Yet there is no mention or acknowledgement of the lives of the Invisibles i.e. the African-American boys and adolescents who were sexually abused and traumatized within the local Seattle area.
The leadership of this professional organization has provided numerous articles for its members and equipped its members on how to be available to talk to parents and families of the local communities who may be experiencing psychological stress due to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, CT. However the same leadership fails to offer any assistance or words of action, concern or condolences when it comes to the sexual assaults of African-American children and the wellness of their families.
Last month we honored the work of Dr. Martin Luther King. No doubt members of the African-American clergy as well as the leadership of the professional organization I have spoken of will verbalize words of brotherhood and action in Dr. King’s good name as to honor him. However it is in the actions not in words that we remember.
We will remember that the African-American clergy chose silence over action in the protection of its children. We will remember that the professional organization places more meaning and a higher value on its deceased than on the lives of African-American children. We will remember their suffering in silence. Their screams will continue to speak to us.
I acknowledged that it is time to let go of this issue. Letting go is not to be equated with giving up. It simply means it is time to move on with my journey. I have advocated for the “Invisibles.” Their suffering in silence has been heard by others and will continue to be heard.
In “blowing dat horn” and calling for awareness I acknowledge I have created discomfort for members of my professional community and the community in which I reside.
Consequences are responses for actions that we take. Being ostracized and cast out may be the price I pay for calling into question the lack of responsiveness to a beleaguered and vulnerable population. I am willing to pay that price.
However I have belief in my work as a healer, faith in my profession and trust in the journey. All three faucets rained water upon me, nourishing me, and providing me with hope. Hope is eternal. Hope will never die.
The journey continues…