DISCLOSURE

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.

Why not?

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. 

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11 thoughts on “DISCLOSURE

  1. Amen! Going through that horror and then having the very people who are supposed to be your protectors choose to cover it up is abuse at its very worst

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  2. You’ve written a wonderful article. My feelings exactly, and if my parents reacted and cared for me like they should have done, I wouldn’t have been in therapy for 25+ years. Listen, believe and validate.

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  3. I just had a conversation with my father yesterday about this. I’ve told my story to the family just last summer. Everyone is keeping it a secret from his wife because they don’t want her to become angry and make my father’s life more miserable. So it’s hush-hush. My dad told me he’s never going to tell her. He also said he’s not going to bring it up to my stepbrother, the one who i’ve used me, because he doesn’t want to push him over the edge and make him feel bad because his life is difficult enough. Can you believe this? I told my father how I grew up hearing about people brushing abuse under the rug and never understood it, never realizing that’s what we were doing. I told him I was sorry about my sexual abuse is making his life uncomfortable… Sarcastically. I know all of this is out of my control and I just need to work on accepting it and them for what they are, and not feeling shame from it, but it ain’t easy

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        1. I agree. You can’t control what others do but in this instance turning a blind eye to your trauma and pain is adding wounds to wounds. I do believe you will find peace. And in those beautiful moments you describe with patients find joy and peace. (it sure sounds so)

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Debbie and Patricia,

    My name is Stef Louw. I am a young Bulgarian woman living in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    I was born in 1980 in the Eastern block of Europe and I believe I was molested sometime between the age of 6 and the age of 12 years. In mid February 2018, I told my mother for the first time about what had happened to me after being overwhelmed by flashbacks (for the passed 1 year).

    I recently started therapy/ counselling to try and process the trauma from the childhood sexual abuse, and it’s doing me a world of good. But the main thing is that I cannot remember everything that happened to me. In fact, I cannot recall anything in my life between the ages of 6 and 12. It is a blank. There are partial memories from the actual abuse and with the help of my therapist I was able to piece together certain images and feelings which surfaced from the flashbacks. I was told that I may not be able to remember because the trauma I experienced was severe and I have subsequently disassociated from it in order to survive.

    I am 37 years old now. I have lived in the shadows of my broken self for 30 years, stained by over sexualising my very existence. Finally, I spoke out. I let the words ‘sexual abuse’ come out of my mouth. I broke the silence.

    My mom listened very carefully as I was describing my experiences and emotions. She had that look of bewilderment on her face, she struggled to comprehend and embrace my pain. And she kept saying to me, ‘I didn’t know Stef, I didn’t know.’ But she did believe my story and promised to walk with me in my healing process, for which I am grateful. I do need her love and support. My mom thinks it could have been my older brother who had done this horrible thing to me but I cannot remember. In the memories that have surfaced due to therapy, I know and feel that I am connected to the person that abused me. I feel very close to him, but I cannot see his face in my mind yet. Anyhow, the therapist says I will eventually remember.

    The grace of God is sufficient for me. I will come thru this and I will heal completely.

    Blessings and hugs.
    SL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing Stef. That is a lot to handle with the added hardship of speaking about such a taboo topic, one that needs speaking about. That is a brave step.
      I am so sorry for all you have endured. But also in great admiration at the steps you are taking to work through this and get help.
      The body has a wonderful way of protecting itself from what is too much and things will come as you are ready to deal with them.
      Thank you for commenting and please feel free to write again anytime.

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