Opinion: Lawyer’s statement in Huntsville abuse case offensive, dismissive

In response to the truly vile content of this article:

Stepdad ‘tickled her in her ticklish spot’ Huntsville victim tells mom

I responded with a Letter to the Editor. Please read:

I was deeply impacted by the article about a young Huntsville girl being sexually abused by her stepfather.

I found the statement by attorney Jessica Mor to be offensive, dismissive and utterly based in mythical thinking around abusive behaviour. Sexual abuse is not, as she states, someone being dealt “a very unlucky hand.” It is not accidental, nor is it a result of fate. This man made the repeated decision to sexually abuse an eight-year-old girl. As we know, many men who are abusive are described by others as “good men.” Yet, there is no question as to his guilt; he pled guilty. Ms. Mor, will you be explaining to this child how her experience falls on the “lesser side of the spectrum of sexual abuse” when she is dealing with trauma?

The fact that this child’s words were used as the headline to an article is beyond inappropriate. It is sensationalized, titillating and, unfortunately, retraumatizing when she inevitably reads it one day. She will also have to read the content, wherein many adult, likely male, friends and supporters of the abuser sing his praises. Did they realize, before declaring him so wonderful, that they do not meet his target demographic and therefore would not see the side of him that his stepdaughter had to?

I am writing as someone who experienced abuse very like this — at a similar age and with the same relationship to the perpetrator. I have carried this abuse as a part of my story and I share it widely, rejecting the shame that members of our community are so quick to place on the shoulders of victims. Those who exonerate abusers must look deeply at their complicity in a culture rife with sexual violence. Look at who you stand behind. You, too, are making decisions.

I would like the girl’s mother to know that she is a warrior for her daughter. That there is a community of women and allies supporting them both. That her daughter is not alone. And that injustices like this will no longer be tolerated.

Kathleen May

(Note: the editor of this newspaper reached out to me to discuss best practices in reporting and journalism so I will be following up with that.)


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