Along the continnuum
July 19, 2012 4 Comments
Over the past two years, I’ve worked with one detective in particular who was tasked with the job of investigating a historical sexual assault. As it turns out, the perpetrator was what I call a predator who assaulted quite a large number of children and youth over many, many years. He held positions of power and authority and all the adults loved him. One kid tried coming forward during his teen years and he was shut down and sent on his way. Even though you are all shaking your heads and thinking of the many CSI or Criminal Minds types of shows, this is actually not the norm. It is more common for a child to be sexually assaulted by a family member or close family friend than someone in the community. There’s lots of reasons for that and they would take way too long to explain here so I’m going to skip past all of that.
30 years later, this detective is hunting down people and asking them questions about being sexually assaulted in their younger years. It was amazing the amount of people who were willing to talk to him and then who were willing to provide statements, testify and then later on give victim impact statements. Large numbers of people coming forward is also not the norm and it speaks to this detective’s skill at doing it “right”.
This case was particularly trying for this detective because he felt like he was ripping the bandage off of an old healed wound and causing all kinds of pain. Him and I had many conversations about what he was doing and the impact it was having on the people he talked to. What he didn’t understand is that he was really helping these folks far more than he was hurting them.
I’m a big believer in counseling and send many people off to see counselors. The problem is that people kind of view counseling as the “magic wand” that will fix everything and see their own interactions as somehow separate or not relevant. That’s simply not true. Every single interaction can either help or hinder someone. Teenagers in particular are very reactive to others and hold close to their hearts feelings of being hurt, not believed, not supported or not respected. These feelings can interfere with a teenager’s ability to get help or work successfully with a counselor whereas positive and respectful reactions from adults sets up a teenager to move forward and get the help they need to get better.
I tell the people I work with all the time that you have one shot at it when you’ve got a teenager who needs or wants help. If you shut them down, disrespect them, don’t believe them are negative and blaming then you’ve lost your chance and shut down their chance and many teenagers won’t move on and try again.