Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) is known for many things, among them his unexpected defeat of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley for the Senate seat left vacant by the late Senator Kennedy’s passing. As such, he has shared many things with the public along his meteoric rise to prominence. But one thing he has never revealed, until now, was that he is also a survivor of child abuse.
In a recent interview with Lesley Stahl, of CBS’s “60 Minutes” Senator Brown recently revealed that he was the victim of repeated physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother’s many husbands. Even years later, Senator Brown admits that the memories of what he went through still haunt him as an adult–as he grew older, he seriously explored purchasing the home he lived in with an abusive step-father, with the express intent of burning it down.
But the abuse didn’t end there. When he was ten, Brown revealed that he was the victim of repeated and unwanted sexual contact at the hands of a camp counselor. Like many victims of child sexual abuse, Senator Brown says that he suffered from intense feelings of shame and fear, and kept his abuse a secret, even from his mother. “That’s what happens when you’re a victim,” explains Brown. “You’re embarrassed. You’re hurt.”
Senator Brown went on to explain how his abuser also threatened him, and dissuaded him from reporting the abuse because he would not be believed. “He said ‘If you tell anybody…I’ll kill you. I will make sure that nobody believes you,” recalls Brown. “And that’s the biggest thing. When people find people like me at that young, vulnerable age who are who are basically lost, the thing they have over you is they make you believe that no one will believe you.”
From a DV perspective, Senator Brown’s brave revelations are important because they raise awareness about the existence and prevalence of child abuse in our society but just as importantly they debunk myths that abuse only happens to “certain people” (e.g. the poor, ethnic minorities, women and girls, etc.). Moreover, Senator Brown’s experiences give stark insight into how child sexual abuse can continue to haunt and affect survivors, even well into adulthood.
But in order for child sexual abuse to be combated, and prosecuted, it first hast to be reported. And one of the biggest challenges to reporting is the fact that many victims are reluctant to report the abuses that they’ve suffered, sometimes waiting decades before they are able to speak about their experiences—if even then. As acknowledged by Senator Brown, part of this reluctance comes from victims’ own feelings of shame as a result of their experiences, and an understandable desire to forget that the abuse ever happened. But the another important contributor to under-reporting by victims is the perception that there is “no point” in discussing the matter—that it is far better to leave such matters in the past, rather than re-experience the trauma, only to be disbelieved.
To this end, FVPC conducts community education programs aimed at raising community awareness of all aspects of domestic violence, including the affect of violence in the home on children and how kids can stay safe at home and in other situations. We believe that in order to build a culture of acceptance and lessen the stigma of abuse, victims not only need to feel safe identifying and reporting their abuse but that they will be believed. We also offer crisis counseling and support services, including safety planning, support groups and court advocacy, for adult victims of physical abuse. If you or someone you know was physically abused as a child, and are now an adult, you can contact FVPC 24/7 at (919) 929-7122.
If you or someone you know was sexually abused as a child, and is now an adult, you can contact Orange County Rape Crisis Center at 1-866-WE-LISTEN (935-4783) or 919-967-7273 or 919-338-0746 (TTY).