Sexual abuse at root of many problems
There is a correlation between sexual abuse, substance abuse and the number of incarcerated people
in the United States.
Seventy to 80 percent of all Vermont inmates are incarcerated due to a drug and alcohol problem, according to some corrections officials. Where and why did they develop this problem? There are those who assume everybody drinks and drinks a lot.
Statistics do not bear this out however. Research finds that in the United States 7 percent of the people consume 45 percent of the alcohol. Itís likely that many of those in that 7 percent make up the same 70 to 80 percent of Vermont inmates. Many of those inmates only recently left Vermont public schools. What was happening to them while they were there?
When looking at substance abuse in the schools one of the key factors is determining which students are in the high-risk categories. Statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by age 18. Twenty-three percent of them before age 8. Only one out of 10 will report this abuse.
The rest will suffer silently or turn to other things to dull the pain, embarrassment and shame they feel. Teachers and staff will see it manifest itself in poor academic progress, behavioral problems, depression, substance abuse, promiscuity and even attempted suicide.
As a public school teacher, I have seen what I speak of. Intervention at an early age is very important to changing the lives of these students. These are not the only students who will fall into those categories. Many students today are from broken homes that are suffering financially difficult times. These children are also at risk of alleviating this stress by turning to drugs and alcohol.
Because of this itís important that the topic of sexual abuse becomes much more frequent and open. By speaking of it freely and openly as a society, victims will trust that coming out with their abuse will not stigmatize them, but will stop the abuse and put the offender in prison.
Sexual abuse thrives in secrecy. The offender counts on this. He encourages this secret, telling victims they wonít be believed, they will physically hurt them, they liked it, too, or they will hurt someone they care about. The longer the victim carries this secret, the worse the damage and the more likelihood that the victim turns to self-medication to deal with post-traumatic stress, shame and the feeling of self-loathing.
Often they are re-victimized by a society that blames the victim. Society is embarrassed by the discussion of sexual abuse and, therefore, blames the victim for bringing to light this embarrassing subject, rather than blaming the offender.
The above statistics show that all of society is ultimately drawn into the circle of abuse. Many victims will become trapped into the web of drug and alcohol abuse, jail, prison, rehab, over and over again, costing society not only the skills the victim would have provided, but the monetary cost of incarcerating the victim who turns to crime to feed their addiction.
To stop the cycle of abuse, society has to confront this problem. This should be the number one priority in families, Congress, courts, and the public schools. Speak out against sexual abuse. If you know someone who is abusing or being abused tell someone. Breaking the secret will ultimately make our world a safer place.
Charles Laramie is a resident of Fair Haven.