Saturday, January 19, 2008

Woman Who Reported Sexual Abuse By WA Karate Instructor Speaks Up


YAKIMA [Washington] -- Years after the alleged abuse stopped, Rachel Harvey told Action News in an exclusive interview Monday that she walked into the Yakima police department alone last week finally ready to talk. "I was shaking and crying," said Harvey. "I was really afraid they (police) wouldn't believe me, that I wouldn't be able to prove what happened." Harvey told police that when she was 13-years-old her Yakima School of Karate instructor Paul Barr began touching her. By 15, molestation turned to weekly sex. [...]

Others at the karate school suspected something funny was going on with Barr -- police say he took a special interest in young girls -- but no one ever had any evidence something was going on.

This case highlights that in many abuse cases there are signs and it highlights that organizations that work with children need to know what to do when there is a vibe that something isn't right.

Confronting the child is often the worst thing to do since most abused children will deny the abuse out of fear or shame and then this denial can be used as so-called proof that the child was fine with whatever was happening when that is not what was going on at all.

I believe organizations that work with children need a systemic way to collect feedback from children in a way that has a chance of quantifying this type of vibe. The collection of this feedback must be done in a way where the child won't fear retaliation.

Like the allegations in this case, the boundary violations often start very small for several reasons. The first is deniability. The abusive adult can claim that a child who immediately recognizes that someone is attempting to violate them is simply being paranoid.

The second is that this stealth approach can have a child saying nothing because the boundary violation is coming from a trusted source that the child has been told to obey. The child may not be able to fit the actions of an abusive adult into what they've been taught about abusive adults. They may not realize they are in serious danger until after they have been harmed. Because they didn't raise an alarm immediately they may buy the nonsense that they therefore did something wrong.

Because many adults view any repeat of abuse without disclosure to a parent or police as consent, the child may wrongly assume equal or greater responsibility for the adult's abusive behavior. This assumption is almost always something that the abuser works to support. An inappropriate touch may come after the child did something right or it could come after the child did something wrong. But of course the abuser will work to make it seem like the inappropriate action comes because of what the child did.

The spin will be that the child caused the adult to offend.

Kudos to the Yakima, Washington police for treating this woman with the respect she deserves. Unfortunately, there are still too many police officers in this country and others who would have confirmed her fears about not being believed and who would have used the result of their own bigotry as proof that as a significant number of those who report sex crimes are liars.

Rachel Harvey has created a MySpace group: You HaveThe Strength to help those who have had similar experiences.

Update (12/9): Barr was found guilty of molestation after the jury deadlocked on rape charges.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:40 AM   0 comments links to this post


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