When a child falls into a well then is saved, a dramatic news cast is born; or any other traumatic event a child survives except sexual abuse by family members or a friend. We love and protect our children. Or do we?
Only when it’s not ‘family’ business. No one wants to get involved if it’s someone else’s family. Somehow they feel absolved…or scared. The family itself corners the child into silence no matter what method; shame, guilt, the threat of abandonment, whatever it takes. And often the child knows and feels these threats though they may never be spoken aloud. Spare the child in this instance equals sacrificing her life, sanity, and safety for the sake of the family and its ‘good’ name.
When a child grows up suffering the horrors of sexual abuse in silence, she becomes a shell of her real self. She cannot talk about her overwhelming traumas or receive condolence, nurturing, support, love, kudos for her courage and bravery for surviving them, nor acknowledgement for other attributes that come from the will and determination to survive; attributes she has but go unnoticed and not congratulated or reinforced because no one knows or understands what she has endured.
She cannot soak up a community of kindness and compassion for all she has gone through, what she would receive had she survived any other trauma. It is not accepted to talk about such things. A great part of who she is goes underground and stays there, sometimes for life. She feels fake, unreal, invisible. She attacks herself in her loneliness, betrayed by every person who will not listen. And who will? Generally someone who is paid to do so.
It’s time we talk about all aspects of trauma to children, every dark corner that needs airing. All of it.
I wonder how I survived it. I wonder how anyone has.
My grandson was in a deadly car crash a few years ago. So serious his car seat straps grasped so tightly through his clothes into his skin there were abrasions, marks exactly the size of the straps. Over the course of the next several weeks he came to play as usual. I didn’t realize the little guy needed to process the trauma. We played together in the garage, (the fire house). He began acting out the accident. I was his Mommy with an injured arm (his mother’s arm was broken). He was the fire man/ambulance driver, and he wrapped my arm and gently put me on the stretcher. He needed to do this over and over each time he visited until eventually, and thankfully, he seemed to complete the processing and moved on to other types of play.
In his play acting, he was processing the event but this time he was in control. He gained power over it. He was the rescuer, the fixer, the saver. Equilibrium was restored. I just had to be there, he did all the rest. It was all his doing. I did not bring up the accident, or suggest a way to play. He knew what he needed, the only thing he needed from me was a loving adult to be there with him while he acted out the healing scenario without criticism or direction. I remained mostly quiet but totally present while he acted out his memories. I felt as if I was sitting there next to him on the grass with broken glass all around, hearing the sirens and seeing the swirling lights.
Who is there for the children silently suffering through abuse, the trauma never processed?