(photo credit Emma Winowiecki)
by Brittany Bartkowiak with Nicole Dekker
Michigan Radio’s Believed podcast has come to a close after 8 riveting and raw episodes (plus an epilogue). Ultimately, Larry Nassar was convicted and will spend the rest of his life behind bars – even though it should have never taken this long.
While listening to the podcast, I was shocked by how many people involved in the Nassar investigation just flat out didn’t believe the multiple girls who came forward. This doubt is one of the primary reasons why not all perpetrators end up with a fate like Larry’s.
What happens after a child’s initial disclosure is crucial. The first person that child discloses to needs to believe enough to report. Once a report is made, police officers need to believe enough to pursue a thorough investigation. Once a case is in front of a jury, they need to be able to believe this crime could happen. Because we know, it is incredibly rare that a child makes up or lies about allegations of sexual abuse. If one – just one – of those many people aren’t willing to believe, the consequences can be severe.
These consequences extend far beyond the personal impact sexual abuse has on a survivor. As a result of the Nassar investigation, USA Gymnastics filed bankruptcy. Multiple high level officials lost their jobs or were forced to resign. MSU was left to deal with the attention and fallout.
The cost of not believing kids is too high.
How high, you ask? Let me give you an idea.
These preliminary facts and figures don’t account for other costs, like keeping a courthouse up and running. When you think of how many days Larry spent in court and the extra fees associated with prosecuting a high profile case… I’m sure it’s a huge number. It also doesn’t account for the time, money, and energy spent by survivors and their families to take time from work, pay for a sitter, and arrange transportation, etc.… all so they can receive therapeutic treatment, go to medical appointments, and ultimately testify.
The cost of not believing kids is too high. The cost of believing kids isn’t.
The cost of believing kids is the cost of supporting CARE House. Supporting your child advocacy center is a way for communities to hold offenders accountable when a shred of doubt or disbelief made it impossible for the law to do so. Supporting your child advocacy center is supporting a safe space for survivors to heal in the aftermath of abuse.
Believed is a powerful reminder that the effects of abuse on a survivor, their family, and their community cannot be measured or calculated. But a donation to CARE House and a willingness to believe kids can, and no matter small or great this is, the impact on a child is life changing.