Fighting Against a Set of Broken Systems

“Sometimes, the only thing we can do is use our voices and pray someone listens.”

More than a decade ago, two of my younger cousins had a case through Child Protective Services. They were seen at a child advocacy center where physical evidence indicated they had been sexually abused. Later, they drew a picture of an adult lying on top of them, of rape. They also drew pictures of having their mouths taped shut and being locked in a closet. These pictures are only a small window into the many abuses they suffered and witnessed at the hands of family predators.

Years later, I disclosed to Child Protective Services as a teenager. I was seen at the same child advocacy center. After a forensic interview, a medical exam, and an investigation, my case was substantiated. I too had suffered multiple types of abuse, been exploited and witnessed trauma.

None of us received justice and all of our cases were entered into the child welfare system as the perpetrators being unknown. Besides the fear and emotional abuse that understandably kept us from naming who hurt us, various factors played a role in the lack of justice.

We are not the only children in our family who have suffered severe abuse and trauma. Many children in our family have in some form been involved with Child Protective Services, law enforcement, or other helping professions. Some of us are now adults, some of us are still minors.

A clear pattern of horrific crimes resulted in no justice and the allowance for criminal acts to continue. The lack of justice also allowed for more children in our family to be perpetrated. Today, I’m speaking up and I’m praying that someone listens because that’s all I have left. The reality is that the systems designed to protect us are too often broken.

I have been given many reasons why multiple professionals in different systems could not help us. And, many reasons why they cannot help us now or help the children currently living with our same predators. It is not the fault of any one person, but the consequence of various broken systems.

There is no reason that multiple children in the same family should have documented victimization of abuse, trafficking, exploitation, rape, and/or witnessing trauma, and nothing be done. There is no reason that multiple adults should be able to continue to commit heinous, life-damaging crimes. We are not talking about singular crimes, which would be bad enough. We are talking about ongoing trauma that affects every part of a person’s life. Trauma that hurts so deeply that recovery doesn’t mean moving on. But instead, means some how learning to live with what happened to us and the constant reminders. Trauma that can never be taken back or erased. Trauma that leaves permanent scars on the minds, bodies, and hearts of the people victimized.

I am writing all of this because I do not accept that nothing can be done. I’m speaking up because being told that I’ve done everything I can has never been and will never be, at all comforting. Why? Because one day the younger children in my family are going to come out and disclose, fall into the negative patterns that many trauma survivors do, end up seriously injured or end up dead. And all anyone will be able to do is give meaningless apologies that are not good enough or excuses that are not legitimate.

I’m asking for everyone to help us, other children, and other adult survivors who have been let down by a set of broken systems. I’m asking for everyone to speak up and fight for changes. A perfect system will never exist, but we can always work to continue improving them. We have to hold ourselves to that standard. We have to use our voices to fight because sometimes our voices are the only things we have.

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