Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Ashley Judd and the Celebrity Spotlight on Child Abuse and Neglect
I have been reading articles the last couple of days about Ashley Judd’s newly released memoir in which she supposedly doesn't hold back her truth about being abused and neglected as a child, much to the fury of her mom and sister (according to ‘insiders’, family friends, anyway). I have to say, Ashley Judd has more chutzpah than I do right now. And I am proud of her, as if I know her somehow. Strange thing about child abuse survivors, we have this invisible connection, and when one of us has a victory like Ashley, no matter whom they are or where they are, we all feel that victory, almost like we are part of a team. There is this courage that gets released from one to the other, through the atmosphere or something. I felt encouraged by her boldness in speaking her truth no matter what kind of public scandal it would cause because of her family’s outrage.
I was looking at some photos on the net of the Judds through the years, and whenever Ashley is in the group pictures with her mom and sister, there is a sadness in her eyes that I know; a sense of not belonging. And even in many of her solo pictures, she has that same look, like she is just so lost. I know that look, I see it in my own family pictures and in me. Always feeling like the outsider, almost as if we are somehow in the picture by mistake. And that’s what it comes down to for a child abuse survivor. We have always felt as if WE were a mistake. And that being a mistake was reason enough for being made to endure whatever abuse or neglect that came our way. No child should ever be made to feel as though they are a mistake. And it’s easy to do, to make a child feel this way. Easy for a parent or other family member who decides they have a right to take their frustrations, fears or deviances out on you just for being there; or by ignoring you and putting you in harm’s way. Neglect is just as devastating, if not more so, than outright abuse. Because neglect says that you don’t matter at all. You just don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
And for Ashley, the neglect continues, doesn’t it? Because what she has to say about how she was raised and about what it did to her, well, it doesn’t seem to matter to her family except that somehow THEY are the victims now. You see, what matters most to them is how people view them, not the truth of what was done to Ashley and how it affected her life. She is still not important enough to them to hear her. She has something to say and they still don’t want to hear her. Because nothing has changed, it’s still all about them and she is still on the outside, still that mistake. One that if they could erase, maybe even by shaming her for speaking her truth, they would, just to make life easier on them or make them feel better about themselves in some way.
The truth doesn’t matter in the family of abuse. Keeping up appearances does. It’s all about protecting the reputation of the family, of the abusers or those who neglect their children, even if the lie is killing one of their members, the slow painful death in the wounded soul of an abused child.
Ashley Judd has used her celebrity spotlight to show us that being abused happens everywhere and its effects are the same for all of us who share this common connection. And speaking your truth is bold no matter who you are. I am proud of her for speaking her truth. I hope that I will one day be able to speak my own, even if it makes my voice shake.