Saturday, November 21, 2009

It Happens Everyday: Cases of Abuse


It Happens Everyday.  It really does.  I am not just saying it because it’s the title of my book, I am saying it because it is so.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t get a word of a new a case of abuse.  Many of you are thinking of course you hear about it everyday you are a DA.  Well, actually I am not anymore (always will be at heart but not in profession) yet I still am inundated with stories and cases of abuse.  

For whatever reason in the last few months my worlds of sex crimes and legal commentating has merged as several high profile cases made there way to the news.  But even as much as it is “out there” from a news place it is amazes how many people are still too “icked” out to even talk about it. 

Who am I talking about when I say people have a hard time stomaching sexual assault. I am referring to a very specific group---the media.  Not all media, but a lot of it.  I probably sit in two meetings a week talking to different producers,  production companies,  networks, etc.  with the people who have the ability to choose programming only to be found that this topic is just to darn tough.  I am not saying I disagree and I understand it feels tough to find a sponsor who wants to put their brand on this issue but someone has to!   

Last week I was on Dr. Phil. It was so refreshing to hear him say it like it is he said something to the effect of this is difficult television, not television that everyone wants to hear but it is responsible television.  Amen, Phil!  Thank goodness you have the cajones to use your space, your platform, your stage to give light to such an important issue.  And not just for a segment, not just for the high profile cases, but for a whole show highlighting real cases, real people.   

As a society, we can talk about all kinds of crimes-murderers, gangs, and domestic violence with no problem.  We don’t think twice about preparing kids about what to do in a fire, earthquake, or tornado.  We observe and discuss the media and over-sexualization of teenagers.  We go to the movies and laugh at slapstick, dark, and inappropriate humor and even go to horror and thriller movies with sick enjoyment.   We watch CSI, Law and Order with ease and barely flinch at the Dr. 90210.   

Yet despite all of this people are constantly telling me they are scared to talk to their kids or even each other about protecting us and our children from sexual abuse.  But, it’s time.  Just like the time was about 10 years ago to make breast cancer a focus of national concern amongst women and men, it is time for people to feel just as comfortable talking about keeping our bodies safe as it is to wear pink, admit we have fought and beat cancer, and stand strong together.

In order victims—children and adults alike to become survivors they need to have a place to speak and the place begins with recognizing that there is an epidemic of sexual abuse in our society.  And even if you don’t buy into the statistics put out by organizations or even the government, I can tell you from my own case load, working in the trenches of Los Angeles County that sexual assault is rampant.  It is rampant amongst whites, blacks, Hispanics, men, women, children, and crosses all socio-economic boundaries.  And while the preference is to think that the sexual abuse occurs in dark alleys by random strangers the fact is that at least 85% (if not more) is perpetrated by someone the victim knows.   

So as much as people want to bury their heads in the sand it is time to recognize there is an issue and start talking about it.  As soon as we have the conversations with each other and our kids, we will be able to do more to prevent it as well as help allow victims to come forward so they can make their way towards healing and survival.    


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