Child abuse is one of those scary facts of life that affect more people than you may expect, more than is guessed at or shown in statistics. It affects the people who love the victim and the abuser in ways that most people don’t even take the time to think about. It affects the victim in countless different ways through all stages of his or her life.
You might be wondering why I would choose to write about something so somber on a Friday night, when all the normal people out there are resting at home with a movie or going out for celebratory drinks, or simply just going out to have a good time.
Well, an acquaintance recently told me about an incident that happened at his home with a family friend’s 9 year old daughter who touched his younger son inappropriately and the way he dealt with the problem. Now the question you should ask yourself is; how would you deal with the problem? Try to answer as honestly as you can, taking into consideration the potential relationship you may have with the parents of said child. This is by no means easy. This acquaintance and his wife chose to address the problem in a reasonable discussion with his son, with a cautioning to stay away from this girl. This might be the way most parents would like to deal with this; after all, our first concern is and always will be the welfare of our own child.
I understand that, and I respect that, however there is still more to it, aren’t there? I raised the fact that a child of that age doing inappropriate things like that indicates a history of sexual abuse. His answer was “possibly, however there are girls of ten or eleven starting a career in prostitution, and sometimes kids are just messed up” I mean, how can that possibly be his answer? If there is a problem with her brain/psychology (and here I must admit I know little about the subject) it would most certainly manifest in a different manner, after all, we do what we know, and we lash out in ways that feel familiar.
He was immovable in his conclusion that it was not his place to raise the matter, as, for all he knew, the father may be the one responsible. In their defense, they did discuss the situation in depth and reviewed their evidence and the potential conclusion of this problem before deciding that it was not their problem. I must ask though… whose problem is it? Some other parent can say something if it happens to their child was the response, (I was thinking: which might be what the previous parent said, before your difficult conversation with your innocent child, that parent may have had a similar one with their child)
So the problem continues. The victim, who is drowning in shame, thinks that no one is aware of their shame (because in most cases, the children feel responsible for it, as if they are asking for it in some way) and the abuser feels all powerful in how brilliant society is in its set up and fear of rocking the boat. They get away with it. Forever. Ready to abuse the next child, who could very well be yours.
Discussing abuse and our roles in it, is actually worth a lot more pages and time, I would however like to keep my argument short. It is cowardly to decide that you will not take a moral stand on it because it is inconvenient, may cause trouble and be unpleasant for the people involved. By deciding to simply cut the person out of your life without trying the make a difference protects only your child, and only for now. This abuser may very well get another chance with another child, someone you care about, maybe even your child (perhaps in an environment where you are not in control to protect him or her) or even your grandchild, years from now. Is this what you want your child to do if they are faced with a similar problem? Is avoidance really the one value you want your child to learn?
This is something you don’t know. I am a victim of abuse, and I am no longer ashamed. When I look at my daughter and the innocence that radiates from her, I understand, finally, just how helpless I really was. In retrospect, I also know that some people were aware of the abuse as there were signs. I wasn’t an unhappy child. Abused children rarely are, we tend to compartmentalize our lives as a way to cope with the trauma. We never unlearn this. I was a good student, did my homework, listened to my parents, and always maintained a positive outlook.
My lashing out came much later, just after my teenage years in fact. Other signs were there though. Signs that, if you had the courage, could have prevented years of abuse. This is true for me, and in twenty years, will be true for her. Every day, someone has the power to improve someone’s life, and teach children that there are people who say “Enough”
I learned this only when I myself became a mother. I will be the she-wolf that protects my cub to the bitter end, with my life if I must, and if I have the opportunity to protect your child, I will. No, I am not ashamed, not any more. I am proud of who I have become, not because of the abuse, but despite it.