When I was 16 years old, I reported to a mother that I believed the father of her children was sexually abusing her infant and child. I often babysat these children, and when they returned from a visit with their father, I discovered one child had signs of abuse in her diaper area and the other child who was able to speak cried, “sore pee pee.”

I never understood why the mother allowed her children to visit this man; he was a self-admitted pedophile, although at the time unconvicted. I learned then that the epidemic of denial could not be countered with facts — it required action.

My telling fell on deaf ears; my claim was dismissed in the delay of a doctor’s examination and by enablers who “knew” but didn’t “see,” thus perpetuating the epidemic of denial.

I chose to do what I could — I cursed him publicly and told him he’d have to get past me to get to the children. I was 16, it was all I knew to do. He didn’t cross me, but I couldn’t always be there to protect them.

When I was 7 or 8, I told the truth about being molested by my stepfather. The abuse started when I was 5 and ended when I was 15.

My telling fell on deaf ears; it was dismissed in Christian counseling, apologies, “it was just fondling” lies, and in the epidemic of denial.

When I was 18, I went to the police. When I was about 35, he was finally indicted.

 The epidemic of denial includes mothers, fathers, family members, neighbors, teachers, doctors and, sometimes, other victims, who turn a blind eye to abuse that is happening in plain sight.

The epidemic of denial is also afflicting the general public, which seeks surface solutions instead addressing childhood trauma as the root issue of many of our society’s ills.

The epidemic of denial is so rampant that an abuse story must often be so shocking and grotesque and from our own neighborhoods or Facebook feeds to awaken our senses to the reality that abuse is happening every day!

Child sexual abuse happens to one in 10 children in the United States, across class and color lines. Yet, even when the community is awakened to this reality, rarely does sustained outrage last more than a news cycle, and rarely does anyone ask or question: What can be done? What can I do?

In my story, my stepfather was found guilty and sentenced on sex abuse charges. I believe in action. I believe in moving out of a culture of denial, personally and in community, and into a shared movement that something can and will be done, survivor by survivor, supporter by supporter, child by child.

What happened to me was a tragedy, an incomprehensible horror, one that I shudder to even write, but I leverage my outrage into creativity, action, and advocacy — public and private. I support the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network and Child Advocacy Centers across the state with full faith, because they are one of our most comprehensive, action-based organizations working to protect children from abuse.

We must commit together to turning our communal shock and grief into action to help prevent abuse, give children a voice and stand by survivors on their journey to healing.

Crystal Good is an artist, advocate and entrepreneur in Charleston.

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