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How Censorship of the Word "Vagina" by the Michigan House of Representatives Is Related to Child Sexual Abuse

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Written by Claudia Trevor-Wright for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

An Open Letter to the Michigan House of Representatives:

I write to you today wearing several hats — I am a health educator and an attorney. I am also the mother of a four-year-old son, and tremendously fortunate to be expecting another son in August. Over the past few weeks, I have had the distinct displeasure of following the criminal trial of former Penn State Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky. He stands accused of over 50 separate counts of sexually abusing ten children over a 15-year period. One witness testified that Sandusky anally raped him repeatedly, causing tearing and bleeding from his rectum. Another testified that Sandusky forced him to perform oral sex. A third witness testified he screamed for help while being raped in Sandusky’s basement.

You may ask — what does your silencing Representative Lisa Brown for her use of the word “vagina” have to do with these horrendous allegations?

According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN),  44 percent of victims of sexual violence are under age 18, and for 93 percent of them, their attackers are trusted adults. Their attackers are family members or acquaintances. These children remain silent. In fact, most instances of sexual violence still go unreported. These children have every incentive to keep silent about their abuse. They may be deeply ashamed. They may blame themselves. They may be confused. Their safety or the safety of their loved ones may have been threatened. They may not have words to express the horrible things that are happening to them. In this silence, they remain vulnerable to continued abuse. And in this silence, they suffer. The  World Health Organization reports these children are more likely to experience depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and to consider suicide.

Yet here you stand — in your position of tremendous authority — raising the volume of that silence to a deafening roar.

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