Who is writing about the child sexual abuse depicted in Fifty Shades of Grey? All the buzz is about so-called “consensual sex;” about how all sexual behaviors are normal and healthy, as long as no one gets hurt. Really? What about Christian?
Anne Lee, the founder of Darkness to Light, a non-profit based in Charleston, SC, knows first-hand about child sexual abuse. Darkness to Light trains adults in how to protect children from sexual predators.
Many of the principles taught in the Darkness to Light trainings are violated in Comprehensive Sex Education classes. Children are groomed at an early age with explicit sexual information making them vulnerable to porn, sex trafficking, and other sexual crimes.
Fifty shades of childhood trauma
Mar 7 2015 The Post and Courier Charleston, SC
Almost every woman I know has read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I had no interest in it. But when my sister-in-law came to visit, she brought the trilogy, and I saw a way to sample a few pages without a real commitment. To my surprise, I finished all three novels. They are not, however, the books that everyone else seems to have read.
The key fact of “Fifty Shades” is not what the billionaire bondage enthusiast does to women; it’s what was done to him. As a child, Christian Grey was physically abused and neglected; as a young teenager, he was sexually abused by a socially prominent friend of his adoptive mother. It’s no surprise, therefore, that these indelible scars drive his behavior with women. “Fifty Shades” is built on one of the oldest myths in the history of abuse: The abused becomes the abuser.
I understand the attraction of a handsome, young, rich man. I appreciate that women in settled relationships might respond to a spicy story. But in a country where 25 percent of all adults have suffered some form of abuse, I wonder if readers aren’t also — or primarily — responding to the trilogy’s unacknowledged theme. Although we may not acknowledge it or want to share it, those of us who have struggled with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse see glimpses of our own struggle within Christian’s story. We pull for this hero/villain to move from his shadowy past and into a healthy relationship. We want him to triumph over his past. And, first and foremost, we want him to break the chain of the abused becoming abusers — we want no more victims.
As the founder of an organization that seeks to prevent sexual abuse of children, I went looking for reviews and articles that connected this theme to Christian Grey’s behavior. I couldn’t find one. Of the many explorations of Christian’s obsession with bondage and domination, none mentioned abuse.
Tellingly, nothing I read connected this fictional trilogy to three non-fiction situations that have experienced the same primary element: Penn State, the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church. In each case, there were abusers accomplished in their pursuit of young victims. They groom. They misrepresent what’s happening. They convince the victim that this is what he wants.
Later, when these cases become public, many of us are shocked. We can’t believe anyone would ever do that. But there’s no longer any reason to be blind to offensive, illegal behavior. There are trainings that teach adults how to protect children. And there are programs and books for children that show them the limits of appropriate adult behavior.
Those who devoured “Fifty Shades of Grey” — and, as many do, want to talk about it — would do well to go online to find local community resources and national organizations that combat childhood sexual abuse. They should do whatever they feel is appropriate to protect the children in their lives. Then, when they next talk about the book, they’ll have something compelling, relevant and useful to add to the conversation.
Anne Lee, Founder of Darkness to Light
Heritage Keepers® Abstinence-Until-Marriage Education Program is a Partner in Prevention with Darkness to Light. All staff are trained annually by Darkness to Light in how to prevent child sexual abuse. As mandated reporters, Heritage Keepers® believes that it is the adult’s (educators) responsibility to protect children from sexual exploitation, not the child’s responsibility to know that they are being groomed for sex!