Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scott Brown's Brave Speakout

At first glance, the Massachusetts Senator's revelation of his childhood sexual abuse on 60 Minutes might be filed under the heading of "Things I Didn't Need to Know," but it is far from that.

From the still unfolding Catholic Church scandals, there is growing evidence of how badly victims are hurt and how long they carry the scars, particularly, as it so often happens, they are too frightened and ashamed to tell anyone, even their parents.

A camp counselor, Sen. Brown reveals, repeatedly abused him psychically as well as physically:

"He said 'If you tell anybody...I will make sure that nobody believes you'...When people find people like me at that young vulnerable age, who are basically lost, the thing that they have over you is, they make you believe that no one will believe you."

There is no way to know how many men and women today still conceal and carry the pain not only of what happened to them as children but the shame of feeling that being victimized by a predator was somehow their own fault.

By speaking up, Scott Brown is taking a step toward lifting that burden from all of them.

Even at my advanced age, I have an untold story of 75 years ago when Bronx kids like me played baseball in the park and our only problem was rounding up a ball, bat and enough gloves for two teams.

We got help from a man everyone called Unk who brought a canvas bag filled with softballs, bats and gloves. His manner was brisk and impersonal, like a teacher or coach. We were awed by his skills and took to heart his sharp comments on our fumbling efforts.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when he invited another 11-year-old boy and me to a Saturday afternoon movie. After we were seated on either side of him in the dark, I was startled to find Unk’s hand in my lap. I took hold and politely pushed it away. But the hand came back and began groping. I got up and ran out of the theater. Confused and ashamed, I never told anyone. After that, I stayed away from Unk’s games.

How many stories like that--and much, much worse--still haunt generations of grownups? By telling his own, Scott Brown has done all of us a service.

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