By Gaétane Borders, Ed.S.
I recently watched Tyler Perry’s film titled I Can Do Bad All By Myself, which stars Taraji P. Henson. I was unaware of the rollercoaster ride of emotions I was about to experience, as the movie deals with all sorts of issues ranging from death, love, abandonment, addiction, and sexual abuse. I was very happy to see how this latter issue was handled on screen because I realize that in reality it is not dealt with in this way. Despite the fact that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys are molested before the age of eighteen, people don’t seem to acknowledge how prevalent this epidemic is. The reason…we stay silent.
The truth is that more than 25% of you who are reading this have been sexually abused. Another reality is that only a small percentage of you disclosed this to your parents. So why don't children tell? One would think that they would run, yelling and screaming, to their parents if someone had molested them. But this is generally not the case. One reason may be because the abuser has brainwashed them to stay silent and to keep this horrific secret from those that can help. Another reason may also be that oftentimes the abuser is a family member (ie. Parent), and the child is urged not to “air the dirty laundry” to others even after the abuse is revealed.
I applaud public figures such as Tyler Perry, Mackenzie Phillips, Monique, Oprah, Todd Bridges, Don Lemon, Janice Dickinson, and the many others who have shared their very personal stories of abuse. Their courage to speak out encourages others to do so as well, and enables other victims to see that they are not alone. So, if your son or daughter tells you that someone has touched them inappropriately don’t tell them not to tell others. All that does is send a message to them that they did something wrong or that they should be ashamed. Silence only protects the abuser. They want you to stay quiet and allow them to roam freely. Don’t help them….help your child instead.
Since most children do not disclose the abuse to their parents, it is very important to watch for warning signs. I stress the importance of being attuned to any changes in your child's behavior because this will tell you a lot! Young children will often regress by wetting the bed, sucking their fingers, not eating. Elementary school age kids often demonstrate excessive fear of certain people, masturbate excessively, have nightmares, and will withdraw from people. In the teen years, kids may become promiscuous, experiment with drugs, be depressed, and may also have suicidal thoughts. You should be concerned if you see any of these behaviors, and begin asking questions.
Gaétane F. Borders, Ed.S., ABD
President, Peas In Their Pods