The latest statistics tell us that one out of three girls and one out of six boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, destroying their lives in ways we can’t even imagine. We also know that 90% of the time, victims know their abuser. Daniel Pearse is living proof of both of these statistics.
Like many abused children, Daniel then suffered in silence for decades as an adult. Now, he’s committed to stopping the cycle of abuse that causes so much pain. His new book, Breaking the Cycle of Silence proposes age-appropriate sexual abuse training and education in schools. It teaches children what is appropriate, shows adults the signs of abuse to look for, and offers sources of support for victims. With this training and education, we can identify and stop abusers, preventing them from claiming victim after victim for years.
Drew Applebaum: Hey listeners, my name is Drew Applebaum. I’m excited to be here today with Daniel Pearse, author of Breaking the Cycle of Silence. Daniel, I’m so thankful you’re here, welcome to the Author Hour podcast.
Daniel Pearse: Thank you, Drew.
Drew Applebaum: Daniel, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Daniel Pearse: I was adopted at four years old, myself, and my twin. We lived on basically a hobby farm for most of our years growing up, then I’ve been working as a longshoreman for 36 years. I’ve got two grown daughters, I have three grandchildren, and pretty much consider myself a hard-working family man that basically is a normal, everyday person.
Drew Applebaum: Now, you start off this book, talking about a night 10 years ago when some repressed feelings started haunting you. Can you talk about that night and the revelations that came from it?
Daniel Pearse: Yeah, I guess these kinds of things, you can put them in the back of your mind as much as you want but they somehow surface. I buried my experiences as a child as far back as I could. I didn’t want to think about it, I almost thought it happened to someone else and not me.
Nine, 10 years ago, what happened–I didn’t expect it but I kept waking up early every single day before work, an hour or two before I had to go to work. I was very angry and a couple of days in a row, I didn’t really know why. In the end, I did know why, and I had a lot of questions I had to answer.
Those questions were–why did this happen to me as a child, what happened to my mother, why was I allowed to be adopted by these people? Why did my mother die? These things came back to haunt me, even though I thought they were gone. I didn’t realize that they were there all the time.
Drew Applebaum: Can you talk about the process from that day to today? Some of the emotional journey you went through in writing this book?
Daniel Pearse: Some of the questions I had, I had to start answering them in some sort of order, so I started off with finding out what my mother died from and then moving on from there. I tried to contact the hospitals where she may have been to see if they had any records of that. I was able to get a hold of one and they sent me a bunch of records. Most of the records at that time had been purged because it was so long ago, but from what I can tell, she passed away from cervical cancer and lupus so she was in a lot of pain for many years. She did a great job of trying to raise us, she did the best she could.
Then from there, I went on a journey to try and get my adoption file because I just wanted to know how a family with five kids at home was able to adopt us. I wanted to know what happened there. It took me a couple of years to get it but I did get my adoption file. Then I had to look into the abuse so I thought, the best place to start with that, to try and understand it is to visit a children’s center. I did that and the alarming thing that I realized from that visit was that there’s no one working on the prevention of child sex abuse, there is no one.
The centers deal with children and families after the fact, after it’s already happened, and they do a great job. The police, they can only deal with reported cases. Really, there was no one dealing with preventing it from happening in the first place. That put me on a journey to write Daniel’s Law. Daniel’s Law basically, the premise of it is putting age-appropriate child sex abuse education in public and hopefully private schools, so that kids have something, they have some reference, they have some guidance. Because in a perfect world, this kind of stuff should be taught by parents and I agree with that 100%. But unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.
For those loving parents and guardians that want to educate their children and protect them as much as they can, that’s great, but in the same respect, we don’t live in a perfect world and if kids can get taught some things in school about protecting themselves, that would go a long way. It’s not teaching kids about child sex abuse, it’s teaching them about personal safety, and that’s really important.
Drew Applebaum: Were there any other big surprises you found out, maybe something about yourself, maybe some repressed memories that came up along the way as well?
Daniel Pearse: Well, just the fact that this kind of stuff doesn’t leave you. I’ve always lived my life watching other people and seeing how other people deal with things and I’ve done the opposite. These kinds of things can affect you in several ways, and I didn’t let that happen. You know, sometimes people get depressed and they have anxiety and they have drug and alcohol problems and feelings of guilt and shame and self-blame and a lot of cases, suicide.
I could see all these things happening to other people and I didn’t let that happen to me but even though I didn’t let that happen, it’s still building up inside, it’s still affected me. That was a surprising effect, that it was affecting me and I didn’t even realize it.
Age-Appropriate, Accurate Information
Drew Applebaum: Now, you mentioned it before and while it could be uncomfortable, speaking openly with children about sexual development and sexual abuse is one of the keys to preventing the abuse. You mention that phrasing it correctly is also the way to go. What questions should people ask their children?
Daniel Pearse: Well, first of all, it’s age-appropriate information for the children. So, you start off when they’re small, when they’re young, and it’s just mainly about personal safety and you build up as they get older. Then you sort of ramp it up, you make them aware that this thing happens so they’re aware of it and as well, you let them know that there are safe people to talk to and let them know who those people are.
Because a lot of times, even though the child may suspect something, they may not know who to go to, in the public school system or private school system. There has to be someone to go to that they can trust, someone who they can talk to, and know that they won’t be judged. That’s very important for children.
Drew Applebaum: Now, you also break down the narrative of stranger danger in the book when it comes to sexual abuse. Why is that?
Daniel Pearse: Well, because 90% of victims know their abuser, that’s going to be a parent, a guardian, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, it could be a coach or someone who is working in a child-minding organization, it could be a teacher. 90% of the people who are abusing children want some way to get close to them and gain their trust. So it’s very important for people to understand that yes, you have to watch out for strangers but on the other hand, you have to watch out for everyone else as well, someone who is close to your child and that’s why educating your child is so important.
Drew Applebaum: We know there is a sort of stigma out there and that men don’t like to come out about stuff like this happening in their life. How would you combat the stigma for men so they can come and talk about this from their past?
Daniel Pearse: Yeah, there is a huge stigma but it’s a stigma for everyone, not just men. The facts in Canada say that one in three girls and one in six boys will be affected by child sex abuse by the time they’re 18. Now, with that figure, if you can believe this, over 95% of all cases aren’t reported, so that’s a very devastating fact. There are men and women suffering in silence every single day and that’s very devastating.
This has to be brought into the forefront of conversation, people have to talk about it so that these victims, these survivors aren’t hiding in shame and they can come forward and get some release, some help. Once they start talking to someone, it could be anyone, just one step at a time, they’ll feel a lot better. There’s no need to hide in silence and feel ashamed because it’s not their fault.
There are people out there that care, and I think it’s very important for them to know that there are people that care and people who will listen and they can begin their healing journey.
Bringing the Light
Drew Applebaum: What are some ways that you found that people can take any blame or guilt off of themselves and find a better perspective?
Daniel Pearse: Just by talking about it and knowing that it happens to other people as well. It’s not their fault. I sent a copy of the book to one of the characters in the book called Jack. Jack tried to commit suicide. He read the book and he said, “You know I couldn’t stop crying.” He couldn’t help crying and he said that the book is going to help him heal. It is helping him heal on his journey. So that is very, very important for people to know that you are not the only one out there. There are people that care, it is safe to talk about it, and it is going to help you start your healing.
That is really important. I didn’t realize it but when I wrote the book and put information about my own experiences in there that is basically reaching all of my abuser’s victims because there is something similar in all of it. So, really there is some release in there for them as well. I am really, really proud of that. I didn’t even realize that was going to happen but once I heard it from Jack, it’s great. I can’t be happier about that.
Connecting with Resources
Drew Applebaum: We know there’s this lack of resources out there that people know about and towards the end of your book, you have a ton of resources that are available to folks in Canada on numerous topics. Can you tell us about a few of the resources that you’ve listed and where people can find them?
Daniel Pearse: Yeah, that is a section I am most proud of actually, the recommended resources section. The book wasn’t just about telling something about me. I had to justify the rest of my opinions in the book by giving people some background on my experiences but the recommended resources part is what I am most proud of.
There are five organizations in the book that allowed me to reprint some of their educational information for readers and that will help them begin the journey of educating themselves and their children. I am very, very proud of that. They are not all from Canada–one is from Canada. So, we have Little Warriors, we have RAINN, we have Darkness to Light, Stop it Now, and Early, Open, Often. With all of these organizations, I handpicked information from each of their websites. I was able to get their permission to put that into the book so that my readers could get an introduction to education.
I have touched base on several different topics. So, I am very, very happy about that. Little Warriors has Canada stats. An alarming stat from DC is that offenders abuse more than 70 children before any victims come forward. That’s an alarming stat that is terrible.
Drew Applebaum: Yeah, there are a lot of eye-opening stats in that section of your book.
Daniel Pearse: Yeah, it is amazing. Then RAINN, they have the children and teens stats for the United States. They talk about how to talk to your child about sexual assault. Darkness to Light has five steps for protecting your children. Stop It Now, there’s a tip sheet and warning signs of possible sexual abuse in a child’s behavior and possible physical warning signs. Little Warriors again, there’s disclosing and reporting. Early, Open, Often, there is healing after reporting.
So, there is lots of information and lots more available. So, all of it is an introduction to education and so that the kids can go to those sites and more on the internet and start getting educated on the subject. So, in their community, in their neighborhood, there are places they can go and get educated. I think it is very important for parents to get educated and then educate their children about their personal safety.
Drew Applebaum: Can you go into a little bit more detail about what you mentioned earlier, which is Daniel’s Law, which is something you proposed for the Canadian government to enact? We know that education is one of the best defenses against sexual assault and that is on both sides for parents and children. So, can you talk a little bit about what Daniel’s Law is and the letters you wrote to Congress and maybe what step it’s at now?
Daniel Pearse: I wrote a letter called Daniel’s Law and to summarize, it is putting child sexual abuse education, or I should say age-appropriate sexual abuse education in all public and hopefully private schools. I wrote that letter and I sent it off to every MLE in Canada that is a member of a legislative assembly because those are the people that dictate the laws in a local manner.
I sent that off two years ago and I had less than great results. So recently, last June I sent that letter to every MLE in Canada and I sent it to every Member of Parliament in Canada. All I want to do is enact change. I want people to know that this is an issue out there that is not going away unless someone does something about it. What they have to do to change the law is someone has to put a private member’s bill to the legislature and then they’d have to vote on it.
So far, no one has taken up my plight, but from the recent letters I have sent out, I have had some responses back saying that some provinces are putting measures forward to educate children in school. I am really proud of that. I have also obligated myself to send every single MLE and MP in Canada a free copy of my book because I want them to read and see how dire the situation is. I want them to understand that this doesn’t just affect people they don’t know.
This may affect maybe their grandchildren, maybe their next-door neighbor, maybe someone they know, they could be hiding in silence, ashamed to say anything and they need to help. So, I think these lawmakers need to understand that this is for every citizen in Canada and every citizen in the world.
Drew Applebaum: You briefly compare the laws in Canada that are on the books for sexual abuse to the speed limit, as long as you don’t go above the speed limit, you are not going to get pulled over. Can you explain more about how you feel the Canadian laws aren’t doing enough?
Daniel Pearse: You’re exactly right. Why give these pedophiles that opportunity? There have always been laws in place but children are still being abused. So, the next best thing to do is educate the children. Educate adults and educate children, that’s the best thing to do. Just because there are laws in place doesn’t mean kids aren’t going to be abused, they still are. Why give the pedophiles that opportunity? Let’s educate our children.
Pedophiles won’t approach a child that they know is going to tell someone, they won’t do that. So, if we educate our children, we’re going to cut down on these terrible, terrible acts.
Drew Applebaum: Do you have any advice for someone going through what you went through right now that maybe hasn’t spoken to anybody yet?
Daniel Pearse: Well, I hope my book will give people the strength to do that. It all starts off with one step at a time. I recently heard from Jack that one of the other boys that grew up in my house, I knew him for a few years, committed suicide recently. People have to understand that these things will stay with you forever.
The first time I talked about it, I talked about it with Darcie, a character in the book. The feeling was surreal. It was amazing, the release of pressure on myself. So, I think the more people talk about it, the more they can start to heal, and it is so important. Just talk to someone, start a little bit at a time, one step at a time, talk to someone. It is not your fault. That is the best you can do–just talk about it and maybe work on making sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else. I think that is very, very important. We have a role to play and that is making sure it doesn’t happen to any other kids. We have to give the kids a better future than what we had.
Drew Applebaum: Daniel, writing a book, especially one like this, which is powerful and an emotional journey, is an incredible feat. So, first of all, congratulations on writing this book.
Daniel Pearse: Thank you very much.
Drew Applebaum: If readers could take away one thing from the book, what would it be?
Daniel Pearse: I’ve heard this saying that if you do something out of your comfort zone amazing things can happen. I’ve been a longshoreman for 36 years and writing a book is nowhere in my forte. I want to help make a change in people’s lives. I want to make things better for them. You know, if people understand that all it takes is one step at a time, it just takes working out of your comfort zone sometimes and they can make a change. They can make a difference in other people’s lives. Why else are we here? That’s very important.
Drew Applebaum: Dan, this has been a pleasure and I am excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Breaking the Cycle of Silence, and you could find it on Amazon. Daniel, besides checking out the book, can people find you elsewhere?
Daniel Pearse: Yes, they can find me on all social media sites as Dan Pearse Author. That is one thing that I put in the back of the book is that I like people to let me know what they are doing to help prevent child sexual abuse or maybe let me know about their journey of healing. They can go to Twitter or to Instagram or they can go to my Facebook page and let me know what they are doing. Let me know how they’re doing. Together we can make a difference in this world.
Drew Applebaum: Well Daniel, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today.
Daniel Pearse: Thank you, Drew, I appreciate it.