A friend recently wrote a blog post entitled “Betrayed by Silence: My Personal Story as a Survivor of Sexual Abuse,” where he exposes the pedophile, a close family member, who abused him beginning at age 9. The honest and courageous story is stunning on many levels. I read it a few days ago and have not been able to get it off my mind. His post has attracted over 13,000 readers in the first day or so, and countless conversations ongoing on Facebook and elsewhere.
Beyond the clear need to educate ourselves and our children more clearly about the dangers of sexual predators, I believe there’s also an important cultural aspect to the horror that went unchecked, and later, unpunished. As a fellow Persian-American, one thought keeps nagging at me: How can the cultural priority to “save face” trump the safety of a child? This priority of face-saving runs throughout many cultures, not just Persian, and like many ancient social practices – bride-price, female genital mutilation, honor killings, or even the favoring of the boy child for education and resources – it has no place in modern life. We know better.
I’m often thought of as a defender of “multiculturalism,” of cultural diversity and sensitivity about the ways culture impacts families and perspectives. But make no mistake: When culture works to impede justice I will never defend it.
Face-saving is part of what has created the mess of pedophilia plaguing the Catholic church. And the church isn’t alone. So many cultures and families within those cultures have valued avoiding the shame of the adult over the safety and well-being of the child. Power and privilege have trumped justice, honesty, goodness, innocence.
Thanks to the courageous voice of people like Bobby, the folly of “face-saving” is clear. If you have seen your own culture or community revere face-saving, please share Bobby’s story. As he wrote in a note of thanks to friends that have supported this journey: “There should be no shame or taboo about this subject. We are the innocent, those who steal innocence and happiness are the ones that are shameful.”
Thank you for speaking out and for your courage. I bow to you.