A Survivor's Reaction to the Senate Judiciary Hearings

By Amy Wheeler, Executive Director at Learning Courage

September 15, 2021

Olympic Gymnasts Testify to US Senate

As the Executive Director at Learning Courage and a survivor, my unwavering conviction for the need for Learning Courage was reinforced yesterday when listening to the courageous and painful testimony of four gymnasts in front of the Senate Judiciary. Our systems need to radically change in order to stop abuse and promote healing. 

Today I feel like a victim not a survivor. Caught in my body as if back in the abuse, caught in the shame, vulnerability and despair instead of the strength, courage and resilience of my more familiar survivor self.

There are so many of us. So many children abused by adults, let down by the adults and the systems that are supposed to protect us. I am a survivor of abuse after abuse after abuse. A victim of trusted adults harming kids and not doing the right thing. A victim of trusted adults doing the absolute wrong thing. A victim of trusted adults and trusted systems perpetrating more harm. Over and over and over again. As if the sexual abuse was not enough, then there is the neglect, the disbelief, the mixed messages, the lack of action. The harm done in the guise of support, once again. Betrayal. Re-victimization. From the organizations, the government, and the people we are supposed to trust to protect us and care about us.  How many times can we be abused? What is the cost?

Watching the gymnasts testify today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee hit close to home. They spoke of the sexual abuse and the subsequent lifelong trauma that results from that. They also spoke about the failure of the adults to do anything about the abuse they had the courage to report; the collusion of those in power to silence the survivors and shield the perpetrator and others in power. They spoke of the ways the adults lacked any understanding of what it means to interview a survivor, how they minimized their experiences, twisted and changed their reports, did nothing with the reports while saying they were and, most egregiously, protected the adults and their organizations at the expense of the safety and well being of children. The severity of the compounding trauma is unfathomable. The physical and emotional toll it takes to stand up and speak and tell your story is hard to measure. Then to be disbelieved and ignored. To be told by the FBI “it is being handled” and subsequently learning of hundreds more children getting abused when it could have been prevented. Horrifying. Disgusting. Appalling. Devastating.

How many times do the victims have to be hurt for people to learn?

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