A reader sent in this post to speak her truth in light of the recent sexual abuse scandals that are monopolizing the headlines and wanted to share her own story. Please leave some words of encouragement in the comments if you are so moved:
You’ve more than likely heard about the sexual scandals that have occurred at Penn State University and Syracuse University. You’re probably aware of similar happenings a few years ago in the Catholic church. Chances are you’ve watched To Catch a Predator. You’ve formed your opinion, you’ve discussed it with family and friends, and what did you do after that? You probably are wondering, “What else could I have done?” It’s time to speak up and fight back.
It’s called molestation, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, rape, sodomy, and incest. It keeps happening and the statistics are frightening. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN):
- 44% of victims are under age 18
- 29% of victims are age 12-17
- 15% of victims are under age 12
- 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker
- 34.2% of attackers of juvenile sexual assault victims were family members
- 58.7% of attackers of juvenile sexual assault victims were acquaintances
- 7% of attacks of juvenile sexual assault victims were strangers
Alarmed yet? Concerned? Afraid? You should be. These statistics are absolutely unacceptable. But what’s being done about it? There are adults who are aware of these attacks and choose to remain silent, sleeping soundly at night while a child is going through absolute pain and torture. Disgusted? I certainly am. So what are we going to do about it?
Look for signs: There are some victims who are too afraid to admit something has happened to them. They were either threatened by their attacker or they assume no one will believe them. However, you can usually tell something is wrong by looking for a few warning signs, such as changes in eating habits, poor sleeping patterns, distracted and distant, mood swings, sexual acts portrayed through art, unexplained fear, self injury, and more. Obviously, these signs don’t always point towards sexual abuse, but they’re an indicator that something is wrong and should spark a conversation expressing your concern.
Listen and believe: For those who are brave enough to speak up about something that has happened, you need to listen and believe them. Get the facts, listen to their story, don’t deny them. The feelings are magnified when something happens to you and no one believes you. People are so concerned with asking “Are you sure?” and “Do you know what you’re saying?” and not quick enough to take action. For some children, sure, you have to be absolutely sure they know what they’re talking about. However, in many cases, what does the child have to gain for lying about something so serious?
Seek justice immediately: For many, I know it’s hard to contain yourself when you witness or learn about such an injustice. You may want to take matters into your own hands, confronting the predator, and possibly going overboard. Seek justice right away! Go to the authorities, ensure the child is removed from the situation, and get help! What’s so frustrating about the Penn State scandal is that several people were aware of the situation and did nothing. The children were repeatedly violated and no one helped them. Don’t wait around!
Be someone the child can truly trust: The men at these universities abused their position of power and lured the kids in with false trust. Be someone the child can really trust. It’s not just the parents’ job to protect their children. We should all assume a responsibility for a child we know or that is in our presence. If you witness an act and do nothing about it, don’t listen or believe the child, or don’t seek justice, you are another adult who has let this young person down. Again, most abusers know the child. Be open and available for the victim to come to in a time of need.
I was molested by my stepbrother from the age of 11 to the age of 13. My stepmother (his mother) walked in once and witnessed what was going on and did nothing. I wrote a letter to my stepbrother begging him to stop, and my father found it and blamed me, and called me a whore. He told my mother and stepfather that I was tempting my stepbrother, which was not the case at all. I figured if two parents didn’t believe me, the other two wouldn’t either. I confided in friends, and it quickly turned into a nasty rumor around school. No one saw the signs, my parents didn’t believe me, justice wasn’t served and no one proved trustworthy.
The abuse deeply affected my life, sending me into a downward spiral of depression, promiscuity, and suicidal thoughts. It could have been a lot worse, but thankfully I rose above it. I look back and wish I had someone else to help me, which is why I’m so passionate about helping victims. I hope after reading this, you’ll feel more compelled to protect a child crying out for help, whether they tell you blatantly what happened or not. Make a difference and be the trusting, helpful adult.
like what you're reading?