Since I have been sharing my journey of healing from childhood sexual abuse, several people in my life have confided in me: either their own stories or their children's. I am stunned and saddened to be made aware of what a rampant problem this is. I admit I also feel frustrated that as serious as it is and as widespread...no one is talking about it.
Ponder this for a moment. If you have a facebook page, you know that nearly every time you log on you will see on someones status: 'repost this if you know someone who has cancer'. I asked a friend once, what is the point of me reposting it. (Yes, I was a little cranky that day, but fortunately my friend didn't take it personally.) She said, "awareness". Oh...because cancer is a big secret? Pink ribbons for breast cancer, red dresses for women's heart health and it goes on and on.
I don't mean to trivialize cancer or heart problems, certainly. The point I am getting at is 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer, 1 in 3 will be sexually abused. And yet where are the facebook posts and the ribbons for awareness of this problem? According to Boy Scouts of America, "More than 3 million reports of child abuse are received each year, including half a million reports of child sexual abuse." Half a million a year! And those are the ones that are reported. How much would that number grow if every case was reported? I shudder to think...
There ARE some out there trying to raise awareness. Recently I saw a car magnet with a ribbon that said, "Silence promotes violence." The point being that we need to talk about it to help prevent it. So let's talk about prevention for a moment.
There are websites out there that tell you where convicted child molesters live when they are released from prison. While I do think that is valuable information, I suggest that it is the "unconvicted" abusers that we should be more concerned about. Most victims are abused or molested by someone they know and trust. So what can we, as parents, do to protect our children? Knowledge is one of our best tools. Here are a couple books I have found helpful.
BSA Pamphlet for preventing child abuse: http://www.scouting.org/filestore/ypt/pdf/46-015.pdf (until you can get to the library...)
Out of Harm's Way by Sandy K.Wurtele PhD
A short book that you could read in an hour, but is packed with information. I learned a few new things from reading it.
Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story by Mary Ann Broberg
Once several years ago, I was with a couple of friends when one of them casually mentioned, "When I was kidnapped as a child, they found me in a basement." Ahh...excuse me, did I just hear you correctly? You were kidnapped? My friend's mom wrote a book about their experience. Jan was kidnapped and sexually abused by a family friend. I mention this because the foreword of the book is written by a police officer that worked on the case and he said, Mrs. Broberg, was very brave in asking him to do this because what he was going to say was that my friend's did "everything wrong". There were warning signs, and red flags that the parents missed. Mrs. Broberg was willing to put her pride aside, admit her mistakes in order to help prevent us from making the very same mistakes.
So Sexy So Soon by Diane E. Levin PhD and Jean Kilbourne EdD
I haven't read this one yet, but one of my favorite blogs did a fabulous review on it. You can read the review (and other great reviews) here: Reading for Sanity I am interested in this book because I am very concerned about this trend. Not necessarily from the point of view of the authors, but in a world of half a million reports of childhood sexual abuse is it wise to allow our daughters to dress "sexy". Do we really want to attract the lustful eyes of pedophiles?
Finally, we need to talk to our kids about abuse. I know, I know we don't want to scare the kids. I have that same fear. I was discussing that with a friend recently and she said, "It depends on how you present it. When you ask your child to wear a bike helmet, you don't tell them that it is to they won't hit their head and spread their brains over the sidewalk." Point taken.
My friends, lets start talking about this problem. Talk to one another, talk to your children. Through talking about it we can educate ourselves to prevent it. Through talking we can support survivors and their families. And through talking about it we can help victims to come forward...this is especially important for those that are being abused right now.
Let's do what we can to stop the abuse. Start talking...Silence promotes violence.