When I was a little boy, I knew exactly what to do if I caught on fire: “Stop, drop, and roll.” I knew because they taught me in school. Just like they taught me, “Just say no,” to drugs.
What I didn’t know is what to do if I were raped. I didn’t know what to do if a rapist threatened to kill me, and my parents, if I told. I didn’t know what rape was. I thought it was a freak occurrence, making me a freak.
And so I didn’t tell.
One in four girls. One in six boys. Not a freak occurrence.
The estimates stand up to scrutiny. One in four girls and one in six boys in the United States are sexually abused, nine times out of ten by someone they know, very often The Last Person You Would Expect.
One in four, one in six.
Tens of millions.
This epidemic feeds on fear and shame and silence. We deny the horror because it is horrible, and because silence is easier, expected, and polite. We dodge. We equivocate. We say children are “molested” when we mean, “raped.”
But it’s better than it was. Penn State. Boy Scouts of America. The Catholic Church. Revered institutions long deemed untouchable, disgraced in public for harboring serial rapists of children, forcing us to acknowledge the horror.
When I was a kid in the 1980s, the popular media portrayed survivors of childhood sexual assault, and especially men, when they were recognized at all, as weak, damaged, dangerous, irredeemable. That image is shifting. Strong and successful men and women, including professional athletes and performers, are coming forward, joining the chorus of, “It happened to me, too.”
Their voices are lifelines.
I hope this play helps. I hope it makes survivors feel less alone and less afraid, and I hope it makes predators feel more exposed. It’s long past time they’re the ones are terrified.
To those ends, I ask you to support the passage nationwide of Erin’s Law, a bill requiring public schools to teach age-appropriate childhood sexual abuse prevention and awareness, beginning in pre-Kindergarten.
Its catchphrase is, “Get Away, Tell Today.”
For more information, visit erinslaw.org.
Other resources I recommend: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (missingkids.com), Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (rainn.org) and, for male survivors, 1in6.org.
To Markus Potter, New York Rep, the producers, and the cast and crew of “Stalking the Bogeyman,” thank you. For helping me tell.