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  • Writer's pictureBridie Farrell

Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

The Fight to End Child Sexual Abuse

Over a decade has passed, eleven years to be precise, since I publicly shared that I was sexually abused as a teen.  

Eleven years. Over 4,000 days.  

On the one hand, so much has happened and so much progress has been made for survivors of sexual violence. And on the other hand, we still have much work to do.  

In February of 2013 I spoke up as a lone voice seeking accountability from the US Olympic Committee for the abuse I suffered within that organization. I came forward because I wanted to make my small sport of speed skating safer for current and future athletes. I did not think my story on NPR would put me on a path of being an advocate and voice for so many people. I would have never thought I’d be writing something like this.  

In 2016, the news of the pedophile Larry Nassar broke and was believed. Hundreds of gymnasts came forward and spoke up. Nassar was sent to prison and Judge Rosemarie Aquilina permitted Nassar survivors to share victim impact statements in court.   

Also in 2016, the tape of Donald Trump saying, “Grab ‘em by the pussy” was released. I found this to be so devastating because it proved the theory that men in positions of leadership found no problem with sexually assaulting women. This confirmed how hard of a fight we survivors have.  

#MeToo exposed the sexual assault and harassment by so many men in positions of power in 2017. The NY Times found that in one year, 201 men lost their jobs because brave survivors spoke up. The movement didn’t stop in 2018. Indeed, it kept going.  

Many who were exposed as perpetrators were in media of some sort: entertainers, journalists, executives, and publishers. Survivors also spoke up against those in politics, union reps, and the arts. There are plenty of industries that managed to scare survivors enough to keep them silent – think of Wall Street and medicine. We have work to do here.  

Scores of child sexual abuse survivors joined together to pass New York’s Child Victims Act in 2018. This law allowed survivors with previously time bared claims to sue their abusers, and institutions that facilitated or covered up the abuse, within two years of its passage. Over 11,000 men and women filed lawsuits. That is over 11,000 people who were given a slice of agency.  

Bill Sponsor Assemblywoman Marge Markey and Bridie Farrell, 2016

In New Jersey, again a coalition of survivors helped to pass a law permitting previously time barred claims to be filed. Arizona and California soon followed suit. 

The various state Child Victims Act laws revealed rampant abuse that occurred within religious institutions, public and private educational institutions and youth serving organizations. Over 80,000 former boy scouts joined a lawsuit.  

More legislative success came with passage of the Adult Survivor Act in New York. Using this law, E. Jean Carroll took Trump to court for raping her and held him accountable.  

So yes, we as a movement have made a lot of progress. As with any civil rights movement, however, there is more to do.  

Every year when the “anniversary” of me telling my story comes around, it reminds me to reflect. Since I spoke up, I have been contacted by thousands of people and have been asked countless questions. What I’ve decided to do this year is share. I want to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked. I will share the legislative efforts I’m a part of. With survivors, I’ll share their experiences of filing under the Child Victims Act or the Adult Survivor Act.  

I think one of the harshest results of child sexual abuse is the feeling of isolation. While you may feel alone, you are not alone. You are not in isolation. Send me your thoughts and questions. Unfortunately, we are a very large community. The more we come together, the more we will help each other and the more we will make tomorrow a safer place.  




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