Now that we know

Ignorance is bliss – until you’re no longer ignorant.

I walk into a patient’s room. The chart says it’s a 3 year old girl with a rash. I check the rash and notice a bruise in an unusual area. I try to ignore the bruise since, after all, the family came in for the rash. The little girl is precocious, though, and can’t help oversharing. “My father likes to kiss my booboo away” she says. She doesn’t understand the significance of what she just told me.

But now I know. I am fully aware of the bomb this little girl has dropped in my lap.

I am no longer an ignorant bystander and my knowing changes everything.

I now have to decide: will I be an ally to the little girl, or will I ignore her statement by awkwardly laughing it off? Will I simply try to explain it away?

Mind you, she’s only 3. What do little 3 year-old little girls know about kisses and booboos? Her mother acts like she didn’t hear. I almost convince myself that I didn’t hear the girl’s statement correctly. But I know deep in my heart, I know what I’ve heard, and I know that it’s true.

I am a mandated reporter of child abuse. I am a pediatric Emergency room physician. I look for signs of abuse. I listen and watch and never assume the best or the worst about anyone or anything. But I am called and have vowed to be an advocate for children. I will do whatever needs to be done, so help me God, to stop any pain wrongly inflicted on a child. Or an adolescent. Or any man or woman who has been wrongly touched, abused, or hurt in any way.

It’s my job to know. It’s my privilege to know. It’s my duty to report.

Up until now that privilege and duty was restricted to a few professionals: school teachers, counselors, doctors, social workers etc. Sunday school teachers were exempt. Pastors were exempt. Friends and family were exempt. Which means that if you weren’t looking for signs of abuse, you didn’t think about it, you didn’t look for it, you didn’t see the world with the filter of the reality of abuse.

Up until now, ignorance was bliss.

And then the Catholic Church scandal of abuse broke out. How could such a cover up last for so long? Why didn’t anyone believe the children? And then the US gymnastic team scandal broke out. We watched in horrified agony as women stated to have reported the abuse, only to be ignored by the very professionals that should have protected them. This year the Southern Baptists are facing their own dirty secrets.

We no longer live in a world blissfully ignorant. And thank God for that.

Now that we know, we must decide. Will we believe the 3 year-old girl who tells us that daddy kissed her booboo away in a place he should almost never touch? Will we believe the many who have voiced their pain, much to their shame and embarrassment?

Now that we know, we must decide. What kind of people will we be?

Will we give victims the benefit of the doubt, or will we assume the best about the abusers?

Now that we know, will we seek justice where it’s needed and protect the weak?

Now that we know we must decide how we will live going forward.

Now that we know, our knowing changes everything.

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