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Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I’ve been asked to testify on an amendment to a Colorado State bill: clarifying the requirement that certain persons report child abuse or neglect (C.R.S. 19-3-304). This will be personal testimony to help clear up an ambiguous section regarding mandatory reporting.
The main concern is this: Should the law require that a mandatory reporter (such as a therapist) report (the perpetrator) when an individual over age 18 reveals abuse and/or neglect?
I had therapy in my teens, twenties, thirties. It was not until I was 43 that I revealed childhood rape, incest, abuse, neglect, and domestic violence. The focus in my therapy until my forties was to keep me alive (I was suicidal), manage PTSD symptoms, and develop healthy coping strategies. At age 43, in the safe confines of counseling sessions with a therapist I trusted, I revealed the perpetrators, one dead, one living. Talk-therapy helped me to take back the power that incest had held over me. Talking freed me enough to begin to experience healing, not only my mind but also my body. I started to find the self that had been stolen by childhood abuse.
Would I reveal the perpetrators if I knew the therapist had to report them and their activities of 3 decades earlier? Or would the threat of law enforcement and court proceedings intimidate me into keeping the silence? Would my therapist lose focus on my immediate needs as a survivor so she could provide legal documents and attend hearings? In those proceedings, all too often the survivor is re-traumatized in our victim-blaming society. Would I lose my self again in guilt, shame, and blame, instead of proceeding on a healing journey?
In my case, I did reveal to my therapist the perpetrator’s relationship to me, but not his name. He (the perpetrator, my brother) had a child the same age I was when he raped me. I confronted him myself, asking him if he was molesting his daughter. Of course, he said “no.” He knows he “did something” to me, but he claims he does not remember the details. If he was mindless while “molesting” me, how could he know he had not molested his daughter? He lived in another state, and the conflicts of varying state laws complicated any further action. There was no reasonable evidence that demanded reporting. I’d be caught in an interstate war of “he said, she said” and a battle of wits and memory. If I had proof that crimes against a minor were being committed, I would have fought for the safety of others.
This is my individual case, my dilemma, my question of moral duty. My therapist did focus on my healing. I am alive today, busy as an author and advocate. There is so much work to be done in the laws regarding sexual violence.
I’ll testify on behalf of all those victims who do not feel safe enough until adulthood to tell their painful truths. Would you tell if you thought your therapist was forced to report? (rhetorical questions).
Lynn C. Tolson, advocate, Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide