Though his words have a disturbing ring, Bill McGill has done a remarkable thing.
His subject could hardly have been more serious, but McGill, senior pastor of the Imani Baptist Temple, used his trademark rhyming method of writing and speaking Sunday to tell how as a child he had been a victim of sexual abuse.
McGill’s revelation came first in a piece he wrote for our oped page after Robin Williams’ suicide. He was making the point that too many people – even mega-celebrities like Williams and Whitney Houston – fail to get the help they need to deal with crushing inner problems.
“As someone who suffered in silence for years from the stain of an aunt’s molestation,” he wrote, “I know how stifling it is to live with years of internal agitation.”
McGill expanded on his experience in an interview with The Journal Gazette’s Chris Meyers. He told of his vivid memories of the molestation by his aunt at her home in Cleveland in the spring of 1966. He said he confronted her about it years later but received her “anticipated and expected denial.”
The bad memories can’t be erased, McGill wrote, “But I am a proud witness that therapy can teach you to manage the damage! ... Sometimes a neutral but caring ear can help you to overcome your areas of fear.”
Such words from a respected leader like McGill may help other adults who were sexually abused as children come forward and get the help they need.
Sexual abuse is a horrendous problem. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that one in four girls and one in six boys have been victimized.
“It’s far more common than we would like to think,” said Rachel Tobin-Smith, executive director of Stop Child Abuse & Neglect.
But Tobin-Smith notes that people today are apt to listen and help if a child says something improper occurred. Teachers, health care workers, ministers – all are being trained to respond. That wasn’t always the case, and children of McGill’s generation – he is almost 58 – may have spoken up, only to be ignored or told they were lying.
“They get into adulthood and they ask for help,” Tobin-Smith said.
McGill was one of them. Again with apologies to the master rhymer, his courage may help others who once weren’t heeded to get the help they long have needed.