Why abuse thrives in silence

It’s been a challenging week for many people, in the wake of the excruciating public interrogations of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr Christine Ford.

In case you missed it – though it’s hard to believe anyone has – Dr Ford alleges that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

On social media, this has opened up the floodgates for many, particularly women, who were sexually abused as children.


It is gob-smacking and heart-breaking, to realise how widespread this is. In fact, it would have to be one of most common criminal acts of all time.

And the reason it happens so much is this: it thrives in silence.

I read one truly devastating account from a woman who was abused from the age of four. The criminal who attacked her – let’s not beat around the bush with soft language here, because that is EXACTLY what he did – told her that if she told anyone, her mum would die.

“Every chance I had to make a wish in the years following, when blowing out birthday candles, I’d wish that my mum wouldn’t ever die,” she confessed. “How’s that for magical childhood dreams and wishes?”

These predators don’t destroy a person’s soul on the day that the attack them. No, the impact is far worse than that. It can last a lifetime. Which is why comments like this, from former United States federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, are so frustratingly powerful:

“One of the things that really concerns me is how broad a definition we are using of the term sexual assault… She was far from being raped. She hasn’t even alleged that any body part was exposed. She said he tried to take her clothes off, supposedly, but nothing came off apparently, it was all a fumbled attempt to make out with a girl at a party, it sounds like,” she told Fox News.

“If we start policing 17-year-old boys and 15-year-old girls at parties who try to make out with each other, we’re going to have a big problem with over-criminalisation.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me?!

This is not a story about “kids making out”. It’s about a teenager who gave no consent, who pleaded for the stranger on top of her to stop his aggressive sexual behaviour. If that’s not assault, what is?

This is why victims don’t report.

This is why abuse thrives in silence.