Disclaimer: This is a four part series on the blog covering issues involved in childhood sexual abuse and especially focuses on areas of prevention in your home. Please know this is a sensitive subject for many but I’ve felt moved to write this series over the next 4 days. This is not meant to inspire fear or panic in parents but to help inform them of steps they can take with and for their children to better protect them from this ever being part of their story.
We sat in a circle. there were 17 of us. Nine of us had the same story.
Different ages, different situations, but still the same.
Behind closed doors in darkness and broad screaming daylight it happened. Strangers and friends, family and siblings, a neighbor boy, an elderly man around the corner who used to pay boys to wash his windows and water the lawn behind his home and then when the door closed and the boys pockets were crinkly with new dollar bills he’d touch them. The man was elderly and frail, in need of help around the house and wasn’t he a nice boy for helping out.
His shoulders curled in on himself, limbs long and lanky, ankles crossed on the floor. He told his story, staring at the swirling pattern of carpet, tears seeming out-of-place on his chiseled cheekbones and chin. Head down he told how he couldn’t look at his neighbor, who would tell him what a good job he did in the garden or how his windows gleamed and how his mother would smile down at him, proud. How his cheeks burned red-hot shame when he felt himself get aroused because he knew this was so wrong. Did this mean he was gay? What would people say?
And we could all see it. Why he was silent. After all he was a boy. He was supposed to own his manhood and sexuality and at 11 years of age, he could have certainly said no, fought back, told someone. The man was elderly and frail, in need of help around the house and wasn’t he a nice boy for helping out. And there was no place for his voice then, awkwardly transitioning between squawks and base as he grew bent into manhood.
But we didn’t tell either. The other eight of us never said a word. And we were all girls.
Because you see, shame is shame. Silence is silence, and none are exempt from the voice of accusation. You are dirty.
When we think of sexual abuse, we think of men abusing women or in many cases girls. We think of perverts and strangers. And it’s true, the vast majority of sexual predators are male. It transcends location, class, ethnicity, age, and upbringing but the vast common ground for sexual abuse in our country is that they are male and they are known and trusted.
And I look at my children, who are beautiful in every way. And my soul turns inside out when I think if statistics hold true one of them may experience this. When I am in a group of my daughter’s friends, I think for every three, one may feel this kind of pain. One may go through this. One may already have and I would never know.
Because shame is a great barrier to truth. It erects walls and fortresses to keep light out and to keep fear in.
Fear that it was your fault.
Fear that you didn’t tell right away.
Fear of threats or fear that because there were no threats, you should’ve fought harder, resisted more.
Fear that you asked for it or deserved it.
Fear that your parents won’t believe you, that they will never look at you the same, that it’s their word against yours and everyone loves and trusts your abuser.
Fear that you’ll have to answer questions about the most embarrassing things, shameful dirty things.
Fear that if you talk about it, it will be real, it will have happened, it will be true.
And I think of how my parents could have protected me more. What could they have done? What can I do?
Have you experienced childhood sexual abuse? If so, have these things haunted you? Kept you from seeking healing? Blocked you from believing in God’s love or goodness? I want to pray with you today that you would know the fullness of God’s grace and mercy and the redemptive power of His everlasting love. I pray you would be free, just as I pray these things for myself.
Tomorrow I will be sharing about the reasons why I believe this is an important conversation to have. Then we’ll be talking about specific action steps you can do with your child. Lastly, we’ll be talking about the bigger global impact of child sexual abuse and why we, as parents should care.