After the ’70s ended, we watched American society unravel even more. It had to happen. Hidden matters came to the fore. No longer could we consider domestic violence to be merely “a family matter” best unspoken. We needed police intervention and laws to protect the defenseless. We needed safe homes where victims could escape the abuse. Rape, especially date rape, needed to come out of the closet. “No” means No” began to be recognized as a woman’s right, and any perpetrators using sex as a form of violence needed to be punished.
For the first time, childhood sexual assault was put on the table with some frightening statistics. According to the Crime Victims Center, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Until these facts were exposed (not so very long ago), no one spoke of “the taboo of incest.” The topic of sexual assault on a child, by a known and trusted adult, needed to be opened up for examination, instead of hidden away by victims ordered to “keep our little secret.” When disclosures began to be heard, the usual and immediate reaction was, “Oh, no, it’s too horrible to believe.” It may be difficult to acknowledge what some parents or clergymen, or Scout leaders, or teachers (anyone in a position of authority) are perpetrating on innocent children. But, with more and more victims coming forth, no longer can we push away these horrendous facts, no longer can we stay in ignorance or denial.
Because of the wide exposure, we have made progress. We now have educational programs to prevent assault on innocent children and defenseless adults. We have laws in place to put perpetrators in jail, and there is support and counseling available to help the victims heal from their traumas.
I think about the youths today and how very different is their experience from what ours had been. There is so much more global information penetrating them, with the threat of terrorism in the foreground. The 9/11 attacks coming to our own shores changed things forever. Bin Laden had threatening words for us, “Americans will never again feel safe.”