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For ALL parents! There's no such thing as too much awareness about sexual abuse.
For ALL parents, please take a few moments to read...
This concerns any and all parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles...anyone who cares and cherishes the well being of our children. The hope here is that you get something from this and pass it on...
From four years ago...
So something has happened lately to remind me of what true evil on earth is.
It isn't as if I ever forget that this evil exists. Or that I ever feel as if there is something more pervasive and evil than this issue. I've felt this way for most of my adult life, ever since I was old enough and mature enough for people to confide in me about the abuses they had suffered during their lives.
But luckily things go on around me often enough to help me keep my focus on how close this evil can come to me and my family and all families for that matter. I guess that's why I decided to write down my feelings and share them. So that maybe I can remind people to never get complacent about the things that could happen to them or someone they love.
I'm 35 years old at this writing and it is staggering to me every time I think that almost every female I've met in my life and knew well enough to share something so personal told me that they'd either been raped or sexually molested sometime in their life. This includes close friends, girlfriends, in-laws, and yes my wife. Everywhere I turn in my life I see evidence of this. I can't possibly over-emphasize how many people this has been. Friends, friends of friends, friends of family and the family of friends. I haven't sat down to quantify the actual number of people in my life but the stories I hear just don't seem to ever end. I could easily sit down and make a list of at least two dozen people connected to me in less than two degrees of separation (google six degrees of separation if you don't know what that phrase means) who have either been raped or sexually molested.
I also have to remind myself that these are people who actually confessed this to me. There is no way of knowing how many aquaintances I have known who I either did not know well enough or who were simply too embarassed or ashamed to share something so personal.
And it isn't as if I simply hang out with a certain type of crowd that you'd expect might be more prone to this kind of trauma. I'm talking about people from all walks of life. I've never drank or smoked in my life. I don't go to bars or parties to meet and hang out with people. Not that that kind of life predisposes a person to abuse or vice versa, that people who have suffered abuse are predisposed to live that kind of life. I'm just trying to establish that this really and truly is everywhere.
Oddly enough, I've never met a child molester or rapist.
Right! Of course I have. I just didn't know it. I have to assume that I've met a man that has done this kind of thing to a child or adult. In terms of probability, I don't see how I could know of so many women who have suffered and not met at least one person guilty of perpertrating this kind of crime. So sometimes I wonder who it was. Or who they are. Surely I've met a person who has hurt kids or women but how would I know? They are surely much better at hiding what's inside than those they have hurt. Because when a person sexually abuses a child, they not only destroy a childhood. They destroy the adult that child will become. I cannot possibly over-emphasize the importance of this statement. And a person who commits this kind of crime is infinitely more prepared and capable of hiding the signs of it than the victim is.
How do I know this? I didn't read it in a book or see it on Oprah or Dr. Phil. I live it every day. I've had to take my wife on two occasions to the emergency room because on those two occasions she told me before I had fallen asleep that she didn't think she would let herself live through the night. Her whole life has been turned upside down by what happened to her between the ages of seven and ten. For her there seems to be no "pursuit of happiness". At best it's more of a daily "pursuit for a reason to live another day". I've seen it in other people also. They are doing everything they can, making all the right decisions. They have every reason to be happy and yet most mornings they can hardly find a reason to even wake up another day much less get out of bed. If the victims were as successful in hiding what's inside as the people who did this to them, we would certainly be infinitely less aware of this problem than we are today.
From my own experience with people, I'm so tempted to say, "Show me a woman who suffers from severe depression and I'll show you someone who was sexually abused as a child." How can I say that? Isn't that too bold a statement? The strokes that I'm painting with seem way too broad for someone who does not have a degree in psychology. Yet every woman or girl I've ever known who was severely depressed it turns out also had been either raped or sexually abused.
In the neighborhood, I am known as Mr. Mark. I'm very generous and kind to all the kids in the neighborhood. I give them candy, drinks, and popsicles on hot days. I let them play in my yard when they want, even if my son does not feel like playing. I shouldn't have to point out that all of these traits should be red flags to parents who are looking out for their children's well-being.
And isn't it a shame? I'm as kind to kids as I am because I really do strive to be a kind and generous person to everybody. Especially kids. Of course the major difference between me and the kind of person that parents should keep their children away from is that I'm not out to f*** with kids. I do confess an ulterior motive though: My son is five years old and starting Kindergarten this fall. I've calculated that if I am very kind and generous to all the kids in the neighborhood, i.e. the kids he'll be riding the bus with and attending classes with, then perhaps they will do a small part in looking out for my son and making sure he is liked and especially not picked on. It does seem to have an effect. Most of the kids in the neighborhood do seem to regard my son with fondness and caring and seem to look out for him if not for his wonderful personality then at least I hope because he's my son and the kids seem to think a lot of me.
Though I let kids play in the yard and I give out treats to the ones who aren't little s***heads, I do not let them come into the house. This is a rule I have for several reasons. For one I'm looking out for myself. For the same reason that a teacher would not give a student a ride home in his or her own car, I do not want there to be any reason for a parent to suspect me of messing with kids and not letting them in my house is a good way to achieve that. It's sad that so many parents in our neighborhood couldn't say where their children were at any given moment or what they were doing. If the parents aren't going to prevent their children from coming into my house, then I will.
Similiarly I do not allow my son to go into anyone else's house. The only exception to that rule is if me and my wife both know both of the parents and even then we periodically walk over there if we know our son is there and we knock on the door to check on him. Though I don't just walk into the house, I do discreetly check to see that the front door is not locked while my child is there (another flag).
Let me be very clear, your children are probably no more than a block or two from having brushes with sexual molestation and the effects it has. A block or two or maybe a family friend or a family member themself. At this writing my very own son has had two brushes with this subject, neither of which my wife or I could possibly have seen coming. Well technically, it was one brush and one near brush.
The first had to do with a friend of mine. He has a daughter very close to my son's age and they play together whenever me and my friend hangout. At the time they were both 4 years old, i think. We usually practice guitar together or play video games or just hang out and talk and while we hang out, my son and his daughter go outside in the backyard and play or go into her bedroom to play.
Well one day my friend calls me up and says, "Hey, I have something to talk to you about can I come over?" He comes over and tells me what happened the last time I was at his house, which had been a day or two before. It had been a big get together with all of our friends to play video games and cookout. My son was there playing with his daughter. At one point my friend had suddenly appeared to be very shaken up about something and cuts the party short at that point. Well my friend tells me when he gets to my house that his wife had cracked open the door to his daughter's bedroom while my son was in there playing and was shocked at what she heard. His daughter had told my son to lie down on her bed because they were going to play doctor. And she had talked him into taking his pants off for the examination. When she opened the door, his daughter was touching my son's body.
She immediately had them stop and get dressed and then went to tell my friend what had happened, which is why he told everyone that something had come up and that we'd have to go. So I asked why he waited to let me know, and he explained that he was shocked and embarassed and didn't want to make a scene or have other people wonder why everyone had to go but me.
So of course what I'm worried about is that it could have been my son's fault. Maybe he'd contributed to what happened and my friend assured me that they questioned his daughter extensively about what had happened and whether someone else had played doctor with her. As it turned out someone had done this to her. They got out her dolls and had her re-enact with the dolls what had happened to her. At first they were sure it was her aunt who did it. They had social workers and police get involved and since have decided that it could have been another female friend of his daughter's who'd showed her this behavior. So this was my son's first brush with sexual abuse.
So back to what happened recently. It really shook up me and my wife. I had just come home from work and my wife tells me as soon as I walk in the door that the two little girls who live next door want to borrow my tent for a sleepover. So I gladly got it and head over there to set it up. The girls mother was out there getting snacks ready for them and laying down rules if they were going to camp out on the back porch. She is a wonderful mother. Very responsible, very able and always very concerned about her daughter's safety. She doesn't let them run around the neighborhood like other parents in the neighborhood do; she always knows where they are.
These girls were about eight and nine years of age. Their neighbors were also there, a girl and her older brother who were also both about the same age, maybe nine and ten. The three girls had decided to all have a sleep over in the tent and the boy also wanted to spend the night in the tent. My son, (5) was there helping me setup the tent. He saw how excited everyone was and also wanted to sleep in the tent that night. I told him if he thought he was big enough that it was ok with me.
What a fool I was. If my son had not chickened out that night and decided to go back home with me after I finished setting up the tent, then he would have witnessed what happened in the tent that night and I would not have been able to forgive myself. And the poor mother. I still don't think she's forgiven herself.
For a week or so, no one knew anything had happened and then the girls mother overheard something that they said and began to interrogate her children. As I understand they told her as honestly as they could everything that happened.
The reason we know is that my son is also good friends with the boy and his sister and the mother of the two girls thought we should know. I'm not going to go into detail about what the girls mother told my wife. Partly because it's obscene and disturbing but honestly the biggest reason I'm not going to relate the details is because at some point I'm afraid someone who gets off on this kind of s*** is going to read this and I don't want to take a chance that anyone would get any satisfaction reading about what happened.
But to paint in broad strokes, the girl and her brother had all kinds of "games" that they wanted to play with the two sisters. Including Truth Or Dare and something called "The Nervous Game". At some point according to the two girls one of them had been dared to put their mouth on the boy and they did. The mother, of course was oblivious to all this as she was in the house comforted with the knowledge that almost nothing bad could happen when four children had a sleep over in a tent on the back porch.
So you see? At the age of 5, my son has already had one direct brush with sexual abuse and a very close call. Just imagine my horror at the thought of my 5 year old son witnessing that. And the fact that I'd have been to blame because I was foolish enough to think that because the tent would be full of kids and not adults, that he would be safe. The mother of the girls asked her daughters how they could let that happen. Hadn't they listened to her when she told them about people would try to abuse them?
"But Mom", they said "you said grown ups, they weren't grown ups. They were kids."
Scary, isn't it?
Anyway, the mother met with the other parents to dicuss this. The other parents claimed that their children had told a slighty different story to them and that they felt the two girls were exaggerating things a bit. My best friend whose daughter wanted to play doctor with my son told me upon hearing this story that from dealing with the social worker about his daughter that he was afraid that the mother of the girls could possibly have a legal obligation to report the incident. Not because the children would be arrested, of course, but because there might be probable cause to investigate where all this originated from in the first place.
Sadly, the mother of the brother and sister is herself a victim of child sexual abuse. She would actually be one of the two dozen or so people on my list of victims I've known. She'd confessed this to my wife long before this incident to explain her severe depression and also because she knew my wife was also a victim. Obviously her past and her children's future are intimately intertwined. It's possible that she is responsible for her children's games. But I think it more likely that whoever abused her is now in her children's lives. It gives me a headache.
Look, what I'm trying to say is DON'T EVER ASSUME THAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE SAFE WHEN THEY ARE NOT WITH YOU. You really only get ONE chance at this. If your child becomes a victim it won't be like you can say, "Wow, this is a really awful thing to have happened, I'll have to make sure it never happens again." This is not a broken arm. It WILL NOT heal. It's an enormous undertaking after this has happened to go back and fix it so they can have a normal happy life. Look at a tragedy like this as your child losing a limb. Because the devastation can be as bad if not worse and losing a limb is something a child will have for the rest of their life. It will not grow back. And for God's sake, if your child becomes a victim don't stick your head in the sand. If you do, you are condemning them to a life unfulfilled.
Ok, well that's about all.
Good luck parents!
Luck? What does luck have to do with it? Following are some quotes regarding luck. Please apply them to the subject of protecting your children...
Susan M. Dodd - "Luck is largely a matter of paying attention."
Branch Rickey - "Luck is the residue of design."
Ralph Waldo Emerson - "Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances: it was somebody's name, or he happened to be there at right time, or it was so then, and another day it would have been otherwise. Strong men believe in cause and effect."
Thomas Jefferson - "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it."
Here's some tips copied from another website to keep your children safe. Read them. You might become more "lucky"...
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO TO PREVENT SEXUAL ABUSE?
Stay alert to sexual abuse and teach your children what it is. Tell them they can and should say "No!" or "Stop!" to adults who threaten them sexually. Make sure your children know that it's OK to tell you about any attempt to molest them--no matter who the offender is.
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages you to take the following steps:
--See if your child's school has an abuse prevention program for teachers and children. If it doesn't, get one started.
--Talk to your child about sexual abuse. A good time to do this is when your child's school is sponsoring a sexual abuse program.
--Teach your child about the privacy of body parts.
--Listen when your child tries to tell you something, especially when it seems hard for her to talk about it.
--Give your child enough of your time so that the child will not seek attention from other adults.
--Know with whom your child is spending time. Be careful about letting your child spend time in out-of-the-way places with other adults or older children. Plan to visit your child's caregiver without notice.
--Tell someone in authority if you suspect that your child or someone else's child is being abused.
Prevention measures to safeguard your children should begin early, since a number of child abuse cases involve preschoolers. The following guidelines offer age-appropriate topics to discuss with your children:
--18 months--Teach your child the proper names for body parts.
--3-5 years--Teach your child about private parts of the body and how to say "no" to sexual advances. Give straightforward answers about sex.
--5-8 years--Discuss safety away from home and the difference between "good touch" and "bad touch." Encourage your child to talk about scary experiences.
--8-12 years--Stress personal safety. Start to discuss rules of sexual conduct that are accepted by the family.
--13-18 years--Stress personal safety. Discuss rape, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy. Your child's teacher, school counselor, or pediatrician can help you teach your child to avoid sexual abuse. They know how this can be done without making your child unduly upset or fearful. For further information on child sexual abuse and other forms of abuse, write to the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse, P.O. Box 2866, Chicago, IL 60690.
Your pediatrician understands the importance of communication between parents and children. Your doctor is trained to detect the signs of child sexual abuse. Ask your pediatrician for advice on ways to protect your children.
When I originally wrote this piece it had many links of websites designed for the purpose of abuse prevention and treatment. For this Hub I'll just post this one website which has a list of sites worldwide for abuse victims...
Thanks for reading!