Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

November 3, 2012

Another View: Pass sexual abuse law

It's difficult for most to imagine being molested as children by an adult, a relative, a parent or someone in authority. It's difficult to imagine the act and the destructive feelings that last for years afterward.

We've learned to honor those with the courage to speak out about the abuse they endured, such as Beckie Francis, women's basketball coach at Oakland University.

Francis, now 47, revealed recently she had been sexually assaulted by her father from the age of 4 and lasting through the seventh grade. Her father has died. She's not sure when; she blocked him — but not the experiences — out of her life quite thoroughly.

Trying to forget her experiences, Francis believes, led to ulcerative colitis and her resignation from Oakland University after leading her team to the 2002 NCAA tournament. She returned to lead the team back to the tournament in the 2005-2006 season and has remained at Oakland since.

Along the way, she began therapy and developed a strong Christian faith.

She recently began talking about the experience and recovery within her church and with her players before going much more public. "Since I have just let it go, I am happier and healthier than I have ever been."

Learning to accept the reality of sexual abuse of vulnerable children has been difficult for many. We have understood too slowly that a few people in authority — parents, priests, teachers, for example — are capable of such acts. When it happens in our own family, in our own group, we've been too quick to reject the accusation as unthinkable and incredible.

That lack of credibility has made it far more difficult for the vulnerable to come forward. Who will believe them? Will they be punished? What will happen to their abuser, someone they may have loved and trusted?

There aren't easy answers to those questions. But acknowledgement that the abuse may be more commonplace than we've been willing to believe will help arrive at answers.

Francis has joined with other prominent victims seeking to have a version of "Erin's Law" adopted in all 50 states. It would require schools to create lessons to help children understand and talk about sexual abuse. Such a bill is pending in Michigan.

We see no reason to delay passage.

-- The Macomb Daily (Mount Clemens)

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