Thank you for reading my story from victim to victor (Go here for Part 1 and Part 2). I no longer identify with my past it is just one chapter in my journey of life. I have heard it said, whatever you are passionate about; what keeps you up at night, makes you mad that is the problem you were created by God to solve. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I can offer some insight into what we as parents can do from my experiences.
My earliest memory of “talking” about safe touch and bad touch was while my mother was giving me a bath. I complained about my “female parts” hurting. In our home growing up we never used the real terms “vagina” and “penis.” My mom asked me what was wrong. I quickly told her nothing but she was persistent. She asked me point blank, “Did your cousin touch you?” This is was my chance to tell her the truth. But I opted to say he kissed me.
1. Create an environment to talk: As a child I learned early my role in the family. I was the baby but I knew I was the peace keeper and problem solver. I did not tell my parents because I knew my mom would be mad, not at me but I did not want her mad period. I did not want to cause strife. Parents, it is so important that we create a relationship with our children in which there is an open door policy. Even if you are mad put on your “poker face.” Offenders prey on this idea, “Your parents will be mad at you!” You have to start now, if you have not already, instilling in them that is NOT true! Also, make sure you are not putting your children in a position where they have to make “adult” decisions. I never told my parents what happened to me until I was an adult. And they still do not know to the extent of my abuse. I opted not to tell them because there is nothing they can do about it now. I am healed. However, I can, through the grace of God, make sure the line of communication with my children is open. That my children understand they are NOT responsible for sheltering me from hurt but I am responsible for doing that for them.
Also, in my home there are no SECRETS, not even in a joking matter. Offenders thrive off of secrets as if the victim and offender are friends. My children are often reminded we DO NOT keep secrets even if someone tells you too.
2. Teach your children not to be ashamed of his or her body: We must let our children know that his or her body is not a shameful thing. In our home we had nicknames for our body parts. I always felt like my body was something to be ashamed of, being abused did not help matters. I don’t even remember having the “talk” with my parents and if the topic of “sex” did come up, here was the lesson: “Don’t do IT.” What’s IT? When people do not understand the purpose of a thing they will misuse and abuse it. You know your child’s level of maturity. But, I dare say my lack of “knowledge” and truth about my own body even at five-years-old was a hindrance.
3. Trust your GUT: According to the American Psychological Association an estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child, not family members, but may be neighbors, family friends, etc. The APA says about 30% of perpetrators are family members such as a parent or sibling. I never asked my mother why that day, at six-years-old, she automatically asked me if my cousin had touched me in a not-so-safe way. However, there may have been a trigger that went off. Parents, I plead with you DO NOT dismiss what I like to call your “peace.” Even when I was eight-years-old walking down into that basement “my peace” alerted me that I was not safe. Even now, I do not allow my children to play “house”, “nurse” or “mommy & daddy” or any other game surrounded around the idea of grown up life. I remember in my own life much of our experimentation came from those hands on games. If you suspect something is weird or uncomfortable about someone investigate or check it out.
I remember, I NEVER felt safe around that teenage boy who had me pinned to that old couch when I was eight. I remember being at a neighborhood cook-out and would see him peering at me, staring at me in a most lustful way. I tried everything to avoid him until that day when he attempted to assault me. Your children have a keen sensitivity about their own safety. At least look into it because this gut check could save them.
So what is the end of my story? Before I got married, I prayed for the Lord to allow me to see the men who abused me one last time. I wanted to see if I had really forgiven them. Both the cousins turned up at a family get together. I never confronted them. The shape of their lives was indicative of their personal pain. I also received a random call to my parents home from the man (I use that term loosely) who raped me, wanting to catch up. I firmly told him never to call me again. He denied what happened and I told him, you cannot deny when a person says NO.
So thank you Good Enough Mother, Rene, for providing me an opportunity to “pen” my story. My prayer is more people will step forward out of the darkness of silence and speak up…trust me someone needs to hear your story!
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