By Benjamin Radford | Wed Apr 20, 2011 02:26 PM ET
Two high-profile people have come forth in recent weeks with memoirs that discuss alleged sexual abuse during their childhoods.
In his book Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances, Republican Senator Scott Brown describes sexual abuse that he endured at Camp Good News, a Christian summer camp, in the 1970s and 1980s. Since his memoir was published, over a dozen other campers have come forth saying that they, too, were sexually abused at the camp.
Ashley Judd, the actress and member of the Judds country music clan, revealed in her own new memoir, All That Is Bitter and Sweet, that she, also, had been sexually abused. She wrote of being exposed to drug use, violence, sexual abuse and incest as a young girl and teenager, which led to a life of depression — and ultimately to her advocacy work with abuse survivors.
Another thing that Brown and Judd have in common is that they have both refused to identify those who they say abused them, or contact police to report their claims. During a radio interview, Sen. Brown defended not naming his abuser: “I have no evidence at all that the person who did it to me 42 years ago is, number one, even alive, and number two, is doing it again.”
The issue of whether to identify abusers is a complex issue, according to Heidi Anderson, a Development Coordinator at SAFE Homes – Rape Crisis Coalition in Spartanburg, S.C. “There are many reasons why a victim of sexual assault would not want to name the abuser,” Anderson told Discovery News. “The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, and often cares about. In these cases, the victim may not want the assailant to go to jail, but simply cease the abuse. Other times, the victim has decided that naming and/or prosecuting the abuser is not worth the additional pain and suffering. Victims have already had the decision of whether or not to have sex taken from them and they need to regain autonomy over their lives. To try to make them feel guilty for not ‘protecting others’ puts the blame on the victim, instead of on the abuser where it belongs.”
Ashley Judd does not name any of her abusers in the book either, and offered no identifications in the press. There may be another reason why Judd has declined to identify her accuser: As she told Today Show host Meredith Viera in an interview, the book is about her own perceptions and reality, not necessarily the literal truth: “The book is very honest; it’s not necessarily accurate.”
If some of what she wrote (especially about her sexual abuse) is “not necessarily accurate,” she could get into legal trouble if she falsely accused someone of sexual molestation. The important point for both Brown and Judd is that their stories are being told, and encouraging other victims to come forward.
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