The Silent Scream: The Sexual Abuse of Children
Winifred M. O'Rourke was a writer and journalist in Saskatoon.
Linda Halliday has been engaged in research into the sexual abuse of children for several years. She first surveyed her own community of 20,000 and in six months had found 55 victims (48 females, 7 males), with 38 offenders involved. When the information was made public, the neighbourhood was “shocked into awareness.” This was not unique to this community; it can be found in any area of the country, the author states. As a consequence of her findings, Halliday became involved in setting up a self-help group for victims: “Sexual Abuse Victims Anonymous” (SAVA). Services provided by this organization have expanded to include counselling, public education, and so on.
Each chapter of the book deals with a different aspect of sexual abuse. A statistical analysis gives ages of victims at onset of abuse, length of time of abuse, and the offenders’ relationship to the victims. The majority of offenders were usually close relatives, although a “family friend” heads the list. The “generational aspect” shows that in some cases abuse follows through three generations. “Common Indicators of Sexual Abuse” includes medical signs and the signs that occur according to ages of the victims. Also dealt with is the long-term effects of abuse.
The mother of the victim, the author states, is often neglected “although she is crucial to the family’s recovery.” In the chapter called “Confronting the Offender,” the author gives sound advice on how to accuse an offender and explains that in a family situation there is a lot of pressure on the mother. The author states that it is important to realize there is no cure for sex offenders — only treatment involving behavior modification and therapy. “Sexual abuse is the abuse of power and the need for control,” which must never be given back to the offender. The remainder of the book contains stories of victims of sexual abuse as told in the self-help/counselling groups. Statistics are very useful to create an awareness of this problem in Canadian society, but reading the anguish of the victims arouses both compassion and a determination to be alert to the problem. A book well written, factual yet easy to read, a book that should be available to all professionals who deal with children and their families.