I just spent half a year advocating for the Child Victims Act alongside a group of dedicated and courageous survivors and supporters. We went wherever we could to be seen and heard. We spoke of our own experiences in order to show how children of today and tomorrow would be safer and healthier with this law in place and justice could not be served without it. We explained how the law, as it now stands, prolongs and continues the abuse by reenacting the shaming, blaming and silencing of survivors and could re-traumatize them as they sought to be heard.
Today, as I look back over this time and replay it in my mind to see where I fell short, said the wrong thing or failed to say the right thing, when I wasn’t at a rally or press conference, or didn’t make another call to a Senator, or made any number of other wrong choices, I realized I was doing exactly what my abuser did to me 46 years ago. I was blaming myself for the calculated exploitation by a person who had power over me.
The parallels between what we just went through and the message we were attempting to get through to lawmakers and the public, are amazing to say the least. I must confess my naiveté regarding NY politics, but now that it is gone I see how deliberately we were “groomed” by skilled manipulators; powerful men accustomed to getting their way.
It began for me when Governor Cuomo put the CVA in his agenda for 2017. From that point on I more or less belonged to him. This was a breakthrough for our cause that had never happened in NY before and we dared not upset him lest he take his approval away and leave us on our own again. I don’t believe I was alone in this as it may have even led to some tension in our ranks near the end, when he had not made good on that initial “promise”. It reminds me of why I did not confront my abuser for so long.
Senator Flanagan never bothered putting on sheep’s clothing like the governor did. It was only Senator Flanagan’s abject refusal to let the CVA be voted on (even though there were enough votes to pass it) that finally killed it. Disregarding the wishes of those whose welfare is in your hands and endangering that welfare is an abuse of power, pure and simple. Again, I’m taken back to my own abuser’s power over me and how he used it to his own advantage.
Predators may seem to act alone but society is complicit in maintaining a culture that enables them to get away with their abuses. Senator Flanagan could not have pulled this off without enablers of his own. Why else did Governor Cuomo string us along, awaiting his program bill until nearly the last moment, give us a shot in the arm of hope and then almost immediately snatch it away by declaring he had little hope for it to get passed. That’s how he gave Senator Flanagan all the cover he needed. The only plausible explanation is that it’s been an orchestrated dance all along.
I am not saying Governor Cuomo and Senator Flanagan are child-abusers themselves or anything like that. I’m merely pointing out how our society tends to prey on the helpless and vulnerable and then proceed to hold that against them. I do feel violated by what went on throughout this legislative session as I’m sure my fellow survivors and advocates do as well. Yet it also gives me a counter intuitive sense of strength. This time I can’t be silenced. This time I’m not alone. This time I can and will fight back. Abusers are basically bullies and they count on us being victims, not survivors.