Enjoy the journey: Abuse victims' healing starts with listening

2012-06-28T00:00:00Z Enjoy the journey: Abuse victims' healing starts with listeningOpinion by Bob Oro Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

For me, the trial of Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant Penn State University coach convicted on Friday of molesting 10 boys over 15 years, was about bravery - being brave enough to listen to the boys' accounts, brave enough to read about it and brave enough to understand it to the point that bravery was no longer a factor.

It is very challenging to hear and read about the accusations against Sandusky. Over the years I have had to learn to accept the specialness and trust that occurs when people share experiences that are so difficult to understand.

As a spouse of a survivor of abuse, it brings back all the memories of her stories, what happened to her at such a young age, and the evolution of her healing, which started with someone "just listening."

So over the last several weeks I have made a concerted effort to not be intimidated by these news stories. It takes courage to listen to or read people's descriptions of the assault on their bodies and psyches.

In the case of abuse, it is overwhelming to comprehend that young children, so traumatized by the event and, usually, the ensuing coverup, often end up doubting their own sanity.

As the feelings and memories flow out, it is like the victims are telling it again to those who did not listen in the first place. For many, that is why they gave up and buried it so far down.

Not only did it happen, but the trauma was compounded when no one would listen or help when they needed it most.

That is why it's so difficult to listen to the stories of abuse victims - they are allowing us into their minds and the memories they worked so hard to bury.

Those who speak out have summoned the courage to open a door to a room filled with horror. Once open, the contents spill out, and, for many, only when someone else hears it does sanity return - sanity and the hope that it will not happen to another at the perpetrator's hands.

So, in listening to and reading reports of the trial, I figured out that the healing could start with me. If I could be brave and listen to their stories, I would not be part of the "conspiracy of silence," as it is termed in psychological literature. If I could hear their message and feel the emotional pain they experienced, I could share in the healing process.

Most of all I thought about what it would mean for my life and my community. What if I could read and listen to it and realize it is all too real and common in our society? What if I became a carrier of the torch of light that these folks have ignited? Can I carry their light to our community?

Can we become braver because of what happened at Penn State and at Sandusky's home? If we are able to accept and understand that the accusers' stories are more common then we dare to admit, we will start to understand the courage it takes to come out of the darkness to tell them.

Enjoy the journey,

Bob

Email Bob Oro at northwest@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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