By Rae Luskin
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month.1-4 girls and 1-6 boys will be abused by the time they are 18. Many abuse victims suffer the violation in silence, either blaming themselves or being afraid no one will believe them. The survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience a high rate of physical problems, mental health issues and social problems. They suffer from guilt, shame and low self esteem. The emotional and physical consequences can last for a lifetime.
The majority of childhood sexual abuse cases go unreported. It is estimated that there are 39 million survivors in the United States. It is estimated that 30% of survivors never tell anyone. We have to ask ourselves why children don’t tell.
1. Children are not sure who to tell. What if one of the parents is the abuser, what if mom is sick or one of the parents is dead.
2. No chance to be alone to tell
3. Caregivers do not listen
4. Parents discourage conversations about sex
5. Oftentimes children do not know what to say: they are too young or they have no words to describe it.
6. Abuser tells them; no one will believe you, you will be taken away from your family; you will never see your parents, friends or siblings again. No one will love you or marry you.
7. Abusers threaten to kill their family, their pet or themselves.
8. Children worry that if they really knew me their friends and family will reject them. They will think “I am disgusting, broken or dirty”.
9. Children worry that their parents will feel guilty if they could not protect them; other people will blame their parents.
10. Fear the abuser will be put in prison; will get hurt or killed.
11. Children may think what is the point, nothing will change or it will only make it worse. For instance, Laurie was about 12 when she told her mother that her brother was molesting her and her mother said “it is your problem handle it.” So Laurie lived with a chair under her door until she could leave home.
12. At first a child may be confused. They may ask themselves: Is it really happening? Is it wrong? They may think this is normal. They may believe they are only one experiencing this. They believe they deserved it, it was their fault they did something that caused this or they are being punished for something they did. Finally, they are ashamed to admit they enjoyed the sexual stimulation or they loved the affection, warmth and attention.
So now the question becomes what we can do as an individual, a friend or family member to encourage children and adult survivors to come forward and share their secret.
Educate your children about appropriate sexual behavior and what constitutes unwanted or uncomfortable physical contact. Tell them that it is always safe for them to come to you. You will believe them. Help children practice responses to potentially dangerous situations. Tell them they have a right to decide how and when anyone can touch them.
You can help the adult in your life. Do not say it is in the past get over it. Do not scold or shame them. Do not suggest it was their fault. Instead listen with compassion, validate their pain and remember they need to work at their own pace. It could take a year or it could take 40 years. You need to create a climate that is safe for them to take the journey.
Finally, Challenge the media or advertising when they sexualize children! Support legislation that mandates we teach safe touch in schools! Ask what policies and protocols are in place at school, work or your religious institution! If you suspect abuse you must report it! Tell the doctor, the police, call your local protection agency or 1 800 25 ABUSE, the National Child Abuse Hotline.
If you want to share your story/secret I encourage you to join my challenge. Transform Abuse One Story at a Time. In the next year I want 100,000 courageous men and women to share their truth through creative expression; it can be a poem, a story, a piece of art, music or dance. By sharing your story you can take back your power. Break free of guilt and shame. Release the negative voices in your head. Connect with others in an authentic way.
If you are looking for a loving and supportive mentor who has walked this dark and scary path herself as a guide; apply for a free discovery session. You do not need to be an artist. No creative experience is necessary, only a willingness to play, explore and experiment. Apply at www.thehealedheart.com.
The Essence of Who I Am
You hurt my soul, you broke my heart
I curled up into myself and became small and insignificant
I was sure I was unlovable, defective and unworthy
Afraid of my secret shame,
My cry for help a mere whisper
Till I found my voice
SCRIBBLE THE PAIN, DRAW OUT THE HURT, COLLAGE THE FEAR, DANCE THE ANGER, JOURNAL THE SADNESS, TELL MY STORY
Transformation, a healed heart
I am enough, I am loveable, I am whole and complete
I am strong and courageous
I take a stand and boldly declare
I am a magnificent living work of art
A creation song of love, joy and possibility
Rae Luskin is an artist, teacher, author and community activist and a sexual abuse survivor. She is available for speaking and workshops. Find out more at www.raeluskin.net. Special price for ART FOR MY HEART now $16 plus shipping.