The thing effecting more children than Autism that no one is talking about

According to the CDC 1 in 68 children (or 1 in 45 according to Autism Speaks) are diagnosed with Autism. It is a devastating diagnosis for the child and their family. A diagnosis that is life changing, creating life long struggles.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism speaks has done amazing work to raise awareness and funds to help those effected, find the cause, and ways to eradicate it.

According to some headlines on the Autism Speaks site, much of New York will light up in blue during the month in support. Red Bull Arena, Macy’s and Bloomingdales, and even the NYC sanitation trucks will aid in bringing awareness to this issue.

In a show of solidarity, the Great Buddha of Hyogo in Kobe, Japan, Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and maybe most amazingly, one of the 7 wonders of the world, Petra in Jordan will turn blue to honor Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd.

Remember those numbers I shared at the top; 1 in 68 (or 45) children diagnosed with autism?

What if there was something devastating our children at a rate 11 to 17 times higher than autism?

Something that creates long term, life long, significant mental health and medical issues. Issues like depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Or medical issues like heart disease, fibromyalgia*, GI disorders*, and early death. (Ace Study by CDC & Kaiser Permanente)

What if this something was preventable? What if this was something we had some level of control over, unlike a medical condition?

If this was happening, surely we would all be on board to do what we could to help these children and stop the ongoing suffering. Wouldn’t we?

For children all over the world this something is all to real.

According to the Ace study mentioned above, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys experienced sexual abuse. (Numbers can very in studies due to the perceived definition of what sexual abuse is and a Survivor’s willingness to acknowledge abuse.)

There’s a good chance you were completely unaware the numbers were so high. Most people are.

You are probably also unaware April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Again, you are not alone.

As a Survivor, Social Worker, psychotherapist, and advocate I could get on my soapbox about why this is and why nobody is talking about it. But, that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about putting an end to the shame and stigma of being a Survivor of childhood sexual abuse. It’s about coming out of the shadows and speaking our truth.

In order for this to happen, as a society we need to stop blaming the victim. As a culture we need to stop depicting Survivors as unbalanced, suicidal, homicidal, and damaged beyond repair in various aspects of media.

We need to stand with Survivors in this movement by sharing these messages and honoring the reality of the experiences of millions of Survivors.

As Survivors we need to be willing to speak our truth. We need to stop minimizing, rationalizing, or denying our own experiences. We need to put the responsibility and shame where it belongs. With the person who chose to violate and betray you.

THE SHAME IS NOT OURS!

With 1 in 3 or 1 in 5 of us experiencing abuse, we all know someone who was abused. A friend, coworker, boss, the stranger sitting next to you, or the person you admire.

It’s time to stop hiding. Only through speaking our truth do we lessen the grip of shame. And in doing so, give others the courage and inspiration to do the same.

In the spirit of speaking our truth…

I am a Survivor of sexual abuse and assault. 3 perpetrators over a 10 year period. I struggled with most of the same issues throughout my life as other Survivors. I have healed the shame and reclaimed the life I was meant to live. I am a wife, mother, friend, mentor, and entrepreneur.

I will continue to work towards this movement of releasing the shame and stigma of experiencing sexual abuse. Will you join me? Are you brave enough to stand up to the societal norms that say it’s not something we should talk about? Are you courageous enough to speak for those who are not ready?

If so, please consider sharing this post and joining me in this endeavor to make sure we all know April is more than Autism Awareness Month.

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I will be sharing Survivor stories as part of a special Interview Series Podcast. It’s not Christ the Redeemer or Buddha in teal (the color for SAAM) but it’s my part in making sure Survivors have a voice. You can find it here.

Are you ready to speak your truth? I would love to hear from you. Did anything surprise you? Did you find yourself wanting to click off the page once you realized what this post was about?

*All of the issues and conditions above have been shown to be related to experiencing childhood sexual abuse. The Ace Study is the largest of it’s kind regarding the impact of childhood trauma. While the study is on Adverse Childhood Experiences, there are aspects focused specifically on sexual abuse. There are no completed studies showing a direct correlation between sexual abuse and fibromyalgia or GI disorders. This statement is based on my anecdotal professional experience as a Clinical Psychotherapist.

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18 comments on “The thing effecting more children than Autism that no one is talking about”

  1. Was a well written article. As a survivor of abuse and a nephew with severe Autism. Both are important issues. I didn't realize the #'s for abuse were so high though. I myself have gone backwards severely in the last 6mths. Reading this and listening to your Blab has me trying to start getting my life back. Thx

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Jen. I'm sorry to hear you've been struggling more recently. Though I'm glad you're feeling ready to take your life back. 🙂 If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know. Thanks for joining us on Blab too!

  2. Great article Peggy!
    This is one reason why I was ready to share my story...Awareness, for all the children that need our voice and to help stop the silence!
    Thank you Peggy for all you do! 🙂

  3. I am just starting to find my voice and tell my story after 45 years of silence. Thank you for the encouragement.

  4. I am so glad people are speaking out and we all are not alone in feeling this way and there is hope in the voice of the people.... Thank you for this, Peggy and everyone else leaving comments too........ It is about time we stop feeling ashamed and i have to keep telling myself this too.....when the world makes you feel like this.... Thanks again! Melinda T.

  5. I am appalled that you have felt the necessity to have any form of link with Autism in this article. The two of these should not be linked in anyway. Yes it is Autism Awareness Month and Sexual Abuse Month but they should never be put in the same article like you have. Sexual abuse is definitely needs to be spoken about because so many people are suffering in silence. Hope you continue to reach out to all of these people.

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I've read over your comment several times trying to make sure I understand what aspect of what I wrote you are appalled with. I'm still not sure.

      If I am wrong in my (uncertain) conclusion, please let me know. It seems you are upset I wrote about autism. If this is the case, I'm wondering if you read the entire post? This post is not about autism or Autism Awareness. It is in fact, quite the opposite. I talk about Autism Awareness only in the aspect of how many more children are effected by abuse, yet there is far more attention given to something that effects far less children.

      If I am wrong, I would truly be interested in understanding more about your reaction.

  6. Hi Peggy,
    Great post! I have often had these same thoughts, especially in regard to all the attention that sexual assault on college campuses has received in recent months (the Oscars, for example.) It is not a matter of which type of sexual assault, or which issue for that matter (Autism vs. Sexual Abuse) is more important or more damaging to children, women or people. It is an issue of STIGMA. The stigma around childhood sexual abuse is still so great that people are appalled to even have it mentioned in the same post with other issues. I look forward to the day, (and I intend to be a part of bringing it about) that we have a stage full of childhood sexual assault and incest survivors raising their voices together in song with a world renowned star at an internationally televised event. Why don't we borrow a page, or better yet a chapter, from the playbooks of the groups whose recent attention and new-found awareness we so covet? Toward that end I'd be thrilled to be included in your podcast and share my story. In fact, I recently completed a book that tells my story of healing and finding love in the wake of incest. I spoke out in the media in 1991 when I sued my perpetrator/father, being interviewed for various TV shows and newspapers. My case was dismissed because of the statue of limitations (another travesty for survivors) but speaking out in the media was a tremendous leap forward for me in my healing process. I understand and respect that many survivors are not at a point in their healing where they are ready to do that, but personally I am more than happy to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime about the abuse I survived and how I've moved past surviving and into thriving! Thank you, Peggy, for this important post, for your own healing story and for all your efforts to help others. I am grateful.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting. I completely agree with what you say about the stigma. The more we speak out, the less power it has. I love your vision and will hold it with you. 🙂

  7. Thank you for this important post. I would be thrilled to be included in your podcast. I will tell my story of healing, loving and thriving in the wake of incest, as frequently as I can to until the stigma of childhood sexual abuse is lifted. I look forward to the day when a stage full of childhood sexual abuse survivors takes the stage and joins their voices in chorus with a world renowned artist at an internationally televised event. (Thanks Lady Gaga and the Oscars for raising awareness and decreasing the stigma of rape and campus sexual assault!) Let's take a page, or better yet a chapter from their playbook and get childhood sexual assault out in the light as they and Autism Speaks has done. Let's unite and help everyone rise.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Sheryl. Yes, yes, yes to getting this message out there! #notourshame!

      I would love to speak with you about the Podcast. Please send a message using "Use Your Voice". I can send you the details.

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