Why did so many doubt Mayor Murray’s accusers?

Why did it take a fifth report to compel Mayor Ed Murray’s resignation when four others spoke out months ago? How was he able to remain in public office during this time?

Months ago, four men disclosed to the world that Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had molested them as children.

During this time, he stood strong in his convictions and remained in office, all while discrediting these individuals and their allegations as part of some sort of “right-wing conspiracy.” It was only after a fifth victim came forward — Murray’s cousin, who claimed that he also was victimized as a child — that the mayor finally decided the distraction was too great and determined it was time to resign.

For those of us who dedicate our lives to the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse, stories like this feel like a gruesome Groundhog Day.

Why did it take a fifth report to compel his resignation when four others spoke out months ago? How was Murray able to remain in public office during this time? And why do we consistently doubt the personal accounts of those who have the courage to come forward?

The answers lie in our society’s collective inability to address the prevalence and stigma of child sexual abuse. It’s a topic few individuals want to discuss. As a result, incidents remain severely underreported and prevention is under-prioritized.

How prevalent is child sexual abuse? Our nonprofit organization, Darkness to Light, estimates that at least one in 10 children are victims before they turn 18. The National Children’s Alliance reports that nearly 70 percent of the more than 311,000 children served at child-advocacy centers across the country in 2015 disclosed sexual abuse. And more than 90 percent of children who disclose their abuse indicate the abuser is someone they and their families know well, directly contradicting the “stranger danger” fallacy. Furthermore, the effects of abuse last a lifetime, costing U.S. taxpayers an estimated $210,000 over the course of just one survivor’s lifetime.

Eventually, these children grow up, and the misplaced shame many feel about being victimized in such an intimate way…

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