How can anyone learn how to react to a child who discloses abuse when we as a society still put our hands over our ears when the subject arises?
One third of all women and 14% of men have been sexually attacked as children. These statistics haven’t changed in decades.
Yes, it’s a subject causing disgust, even nausea. So we don’t talk about it, not in public places, social circles, card games or parties. That needs to change. We don’t talk about it because it’s unpleasant for others. But if we don’t the cycle of pain, destruction and harm to our children ravages on.
What if your child, grand-child, niece or nephew came to you and said, “Uncle Joe fucked me,” or “Grandpa sucked my pee pee spot,” or “Daddy stuck his thing in me?”
Would you be able to contain your look of shock, horror, and revulsion? Probably not without previous fore-thought or training. And how do you hear that and maintain a neutral demeanor when the subject is horrifying and taboo?
The child absorbs the revulsion and horror into herself instantly. “I am horrible, dirty, disgusting, and BAD.”
The look that naturally comes from hearing such words out of a child’s mouth are immediately internalized within her. The negative thoughts and feelings become part of her identity. What she thinks of herself cements into a life sentence.
And what do you do? Nothing out of fear that others won’t like it, disbelieve it, argue or disapprove? Or will you take action… Take action, do something, do all that you can and have to to protect her. Yes, stick your nose in and tell the appropriate people even if it means that part of the family will abhor you.
Families hush it up to protect themselves and then require silence from the child compounding her traumas greatly making them impossible to process. Had we a system that talked about childhood sexual abuse outright rather than in hushed tones, along with treatment plans that were also highly vocalized, perhaps families would seek help rather than silence the child.
If we accept the truth that this happens, and it’s prevalence, perhaps things can change. Perhaps there is hope where for most there is none. She if often further victimized by family who choose not to believe her, and don’t protect her from further attacks. If they were to believe her it means facing their own reputations being destroyed. So the child is additionally dumped on with a killing load.
She stays silent because she is too young not to. She needs her family to survive because there is no other. She is silent until she can be no longer. And when she speaks she loses it all…but gains herself. It is a very tough journey and she is all alone.
If a child discloses, listen with love. Act on it. Protect her. Provide care, sympathy and compassion. Allow the truth to emerge so that she can freely speak of the abominations committed against her. If she can process the trauma, she can heal, and so can the family.