Margaret Hoelzer, a member of the powerful US Olympic Swimming team, returned home from Beijing with three Olympic metals. That in itself would be newsworthy, but she has used her triumphant Olympic performances to announce the secret that she has kept for many years – that she was sexually abused as a child.
It was the father of one of her friends that began the abuse. Margaret stated that it started when she was 5 years old and continued for about 2 years. She didn’t tell anyone about it until she was talking to a friend when she was 11 years old. Her friend urged her to tell her mother, which she did. Gratefully, her mother believed her and contacted the police. Although the perpetrator was arrested, no formal charges were made due to lack of evidence.
Another Olympian, speed skater Chris Witty, who won the gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, also used her popularity after the Games to tell her story of sexual abuse. Chris was overwhelmed by the number of people who came forward with their own stories of abuse after her revelation.
But what makes children keep silent after abuse? There are innumerable reasons why a child does not tell that they are being molested, especially if it is a family member who is perpetrating the abuse. Oftentimes the perpetrator will play games with the child that gradually becomes more sexualized over time. Eventually the child may feel guilty that they are responsible some how for the molestation and will remain silent. They may blame themselves because they did not say “no” or fight off the abuser. For some of these children, the abuse started at such an early age, that it seemed oddly normal. Sometimes the abuser will threaten the child, a pet, or his/her family. The molester may use violence and fear to silence the child. Research has shown, though, that more often than not, children do not report the abuse until time has elapsed, if they tell at all. For More Information go to Total Life Counseling Center’s site.
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Author: Evelyn Wenzel, MSW, LCSW, CAP