Your child tried to tell you something today, did you listen? The something that he or she needs to tell you will change your life as it has changed theirs. It will destroy their ability to dream, to play, to grow, to be normal.
Your child sat across the dinner table from you today and while they played with their veggies, they dreaded that night was coming and the monster would be leaving your bed and getting into theirs. Or they mutely asked you not to go out to that new movie and leave them with the sweet older boy who loves spending time with them.
How do we know this? We were that child. We sat across the dinner table from our loved ones, wanting to reach out and tell them. We meekly went to bed afraid. We tried to stay with you instead of going to the next door neighbor's. We cried ourselves to sleep, thinking that we were alone and abandoned.
You might be sitting there reading this, thinking to yourself that it could never happen to my child. "I would know," you think "I pay attention. We are not poor, my child is well educated, and she/he would have no problem telling me." That is what our parents thought, too. Now they are dealing with the guilt over what happened to us, happened right under their roofs or right in front of their eyes. And they didn't see it.
So, you had a talk with your child about what to do if approached by a stranger, it doesn't mean that every time his/her cousin or the nice boy from down the street comes over your child isn't forced to do oral sodomy. But you will have to do what laws in this situation can't—protect your own child.
Watch for the signs of abuse. Your child will probably not directly tell you, but may become withdrawn, suffer from low self-esteem, or even have horrible nightmares. The impact of child abuse will follow them for the rest of their lives.
Trust your gut feelings. Pay attention to people who make you feel uncomfortable. Watch for people who are overly jealous of your child, inappropriate with your child, or seem to not act "quite right" in regards to your child. . If you strongly suspect or confirm abuse, remove your child from the situation immediately.
Until sexual abuse by a family member, family friend, school teacher, coach, or scout leader stops being something we whisper in the shadows about, there will be more little girls and boys like us. There will be men like the one who became the monster of my childhood. Their lives will be marred, stained forever. There will be children who grow up to be adults who hate, distrust or fear men and some that will never forgive their parents.
Please, do something, don't just sit there and feel sorry for us. Get up and go find your child and have a conversation with them, have a talk that might save them from having the life we have had. Tell them that their private parts are theirs and they can have control over who touches them. They have control over what they do. Since most children listen to adults, make sure your child knows it is ok to say "no" when they feel uncomfortable with something. Lobby for stricter laws in cases of child abuse. Remember, you are their protector, their voice. When you gave birth to your child, you made a silent oath to protect him/her. Do your job and ensure that their childhood is as wonderful as it should be.
Symptoms of sexual abuse in a child:
§ Lack of interest in regular activities
§ Change in appetite
§ Develops bizarre sexual behavior
§ Exhibits low self-esteem
§ Has bruising or redness in genitals or mouth
Symptoms of child sexual abuse as adults:
§ Suicide ideation and/or attempts
§ Gastrointestinal distress
§ Eating disorders
§ Sleep disorders
§ Sexual dysfunction
§ Chronic pain
This letter is being brought to you by 17 women, who come from all parts of this country, with different backgrounds and education. We are tired of being ashamed and afraid. We finally got angry when we realized that it is still going on today, yet no one seems to notice. Everyone is concerned about the sex offenders list, predators on the internet, and/or stranger danger. But people don't understand how much abuse is going on in their own homes and neighborhood. So we decided to stand up and help these girls and boys, so their lives are not completely damaged beyond repair. If one little girl or boy is saved it is worth it.
Sue Johnston, 51: South Salt Lake, Utah; abused at age 4 by girlfriend's brother and 8 or 9 by brother's friend.
Lori, 23: Ames, IA; abused by elementary school staff member
Tanya, 39: Denver, CO, age 4-18, stepfather
Summer: Wichita, KS; molested by brother-in-law the summer of 1989
Christina: Trevor, WI; abused for years by her brother
Jeannie, 35: Round Lake Beach, IL: age 5, mom's boyfriend, Lake Villa, IL
Susan, 58: Pontiac, Michigan; age 5 by father
Mary Jane, 41: Santa Rosa, Ca; age 4 by mothers live in boyfriend, and she knew
Sheryl Fournier, 22: Warren, Mi 10 by family friend
Heidi, 33; Utah/Idaho; abused for many years by my own father and two neighbor boys.
Anne, 57, British Columbia, age 5 to 12 abused by a number of men and boys
Ashlee 22, Connecticut, ages 7-14 by step-brother
Kim, 49: Collinsville, IL, molested by uncle age 2; repeatedly molested by playground stranger age 9; molested by step-
father age 13-18.
Name Withheld, 27; Athens, GA, age 2-18 by father
Angela, 32, Owosso, MI, Step-father and Step-brother
Kim, California, molested by my father when young.
Dee 49, Massachusetts, father ages 4 to 14
1. Abel, Gene and Harlow, Nora. Stop Child Molestation. Xlibris Corp., 2001.
2. Briere, J., Eliot, D.M. Prevalence and Psychological Sequence of Self-Reported Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse in General Population: Child Abuse and Neglect, 2003, 27 10
3. Finkelhor, D., H. Hammer, and A.J. Sedlak, Sexually assaulted children: National estimates and characteristics, in Juvenile Justice Bulletin. In press, Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention: Washington, D.C. http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/factsheet/pdf/CSA-FS20.pdf
4. Hanson, R.F., Resnick, H.S., Saunders, B.E., Kilpatrick. D. G., and Best, C. (1999). Factors related to the reporting of childhood sexual assault. Child Abuse and Neglect, 23,559-569
5. Medem: Medical Library, website http://www.medem.com/index.cfm