While on my way to the GED testing center, I listened to a great episode of The Mental Illness Happy Hour. The show was an interview with a man named Matthew McVarish who walked 10,000 miles around Europe to raise awareness about the silence surrounding the sexual abuse of children.
According to Matthew, an alarming one in five children in the European Union will experience sexual abuse. In his travels he met ambassadors, government officials, and even The Pope. Through the awareness of his walk, laws concerning abuse and statutes of limitations in several countries are being examined and changed.
One of the things that really struck me was the struggle that Matthew had in terms of identifying as gay. Having been sexually abused by his uncle as a child, he assumed that his uncle was gay, and thus equated being gay with being perverted and a pedophile. Coming to terms with his own sexuality, he was forced to rethink his notions of what “gay” is. Not only did he have to cope with the trauma of being abused, he had to overcome his own internal homophobia that was instilled in him as a child.
When I was young, I never heard anything about “gay” that was positive. The messaging was that gays are evil and perverted. My first strong memories of any conversation of homosexuality was about the time that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was implemented. I was at my grandparent’s house and there was a story on the news about it. A conversation ensued amongst the adults in the room about the abomination. I walked away from that conversation with the belief that being gay was one of the worst things that a person could possibly be. I wasn’t even old enough to know what “gay” meant, but whatever it was, it was bad, really bad.
I'm struggling to convey all of my feelings that have come up after hearing this story. I wasn't sexually abused as a child, but I did experience some abuse as a late teen, so the topic of abuse and speaking up to end it resonates with me. The more time that I spend with my nephew, the more aware I am of just how vulnerable and innocent children are. Children need protection, and they need a voice.
Visit www.mentalpod.com/Matty-McVarish-podcast to listen to the episode on The Mental Illness Happy Hour.
Visit www.roadtochange.eu for more information about The Road to Change
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