Look Me In The Eye – I Am A Victim Of Child Sexual Abuse

In honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month, I am ending the month on another article. I will list books at the end of the article to read for more information.

This article is something we don’t want to talk about, see, or really even hear about. Most of us will give a news article a few moments of horrific thought and then go on with our lives. We say it can’t happen to us. We will sometimes put blame on the victims. Well I am here to tell you WE ARE ALL VICITMS!

Children

Child sexual abuse isn’t just about the child who was abused. Please don’t misunderstand this. I do not mean to minimize the trauma that has happened to them. They are the biggest and most important victim in this crime. But each and every one of us are also victims. We may have had it happen in our own families. We may have a friend who was a victim. Maybe you live near someone who has been or is being sexually abused. The numbers are staggering.

I personally have a child and grandchild that was sexually assaulted. I have a friend that was sexually abused by a family member. This has affected my direct family. It has damaged parent/child relationships and sibling relationships. It has made me angry, confused, sad, embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, fearful, and overwhelmed. I am a different person from who I was before I knew about the abuse. My other children have been affected by this. Their relationships with their own families has been changed. All of those people now have a different reaction to others. It goes on and on.

Before the age of 18:

  • 1 out of 4 girls will be sexually assaulted
  • 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually assaulted
  • Nearly 70% of all sexual assault reports are children 17 and under
  • More than 90% of abusers are people the children know, love and trust
  • Young victims often don’t recognize the abuse and victimization
  • Children who are sexually abused that keep it a secret or who “tell” and are not believed are at greater risk for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems lasting into adulthood
  • The way a victim’s family responds to the sexual abuse plays an important and lasting role in how the incident affects the child.
  • An estimated 42 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist in America today

Child sexual abuse is a taboo subject in our society still today. There are feelings of shame, fear, and embarrassment surrounding it. Often there is disbelief, disgust, and accusatory comments, looks, or actions toward the abused and their families. We are all taught from a young age about our “private” parts. We are taught to listen and mind adults. It is assumed that all family members and friends are trustworthy. We often expect our children to let these people touch them and hug them. This is not to say don’t hug family members etc. It is simply a fact that it helps an abuser.

Child sexual abusers are in our families and friend circles. They are our neighbors. They are coaches, teachers, store workers, daycare workers, etc. We certainly can’t distrust everyone we or our children come in contact with, but we do need to be more observant and questioning.

More importantly, we need to believe the child immediately when they find the courage to tell. We need to be understanding and let them know that none of this is their fault. We need to be able to discuss the freely and openly. A child learns from a very young age to read their parents and other adults emotions through physical signs such as their facial expressions, their body movements, and their words. We must be able to react with love and understanding.

Of course this is much easier said than done. Society has placed such a stigma on this topic that we don’t want to talk about it. We must banish this taboo around the subject and openly talk about it with each other and with the initial victims. When a child is sexually abused, it affects the entire family. The abuser could even be another family member. We feel guilty that we didn’t protect the child. We feel shame and embarrassment that a family member or close friend is an abuser. Child sexual abuse is such a horrific thing that we find it hard to “believe” and accept. It brings out feelings of confusion and anger. We feel alone in the face of it. We are afraid to hear about it, even if it is not in our direct family.

We need to bring this discussion out in the open. As a society, we need to recognize that it exists. We need to understand that all the emotions this crime elicits are normal and ok. We need to accept what the child and family are going through.

Once we do know, we question what we should do. Should we report it or keep quiet? Should we talk about if with the child or leave them alone? Should we take the child to therapy right away? How do we turn in another member of our family? What if reporting it brings unwanted attention? Maybe CPS gets involved or the legal system.

Each person and family have to make these “tough” decisions. Be mindful and accepting of that. If a family chooses the legal journey, know that it is a hard road and often re-victimizes those involved. Be supportive and respectful not judgmental. Remember, they didn’t think it would ever happen to them until it did.

There are many organizations that are out there to help. Reach out to them. Suggest them to your friend going through this. Become a member. Donate your time or money to one you can believe in. Speak out about child sexual abuse. Listen to someone that needs to talk freely about their experience. Help to change our justice system. Join an organization to help the children and the families. Be an advocate.

Below are just a few of the organizations that you can find information and help. You will also find a few books. These are stories of abuse. Many are hard to read. They have graphic descriptions. We must read and learn of the problem to be able to begin helping and healing.

For every victim, there is a survivor.

ORGANIZATIONS

Darkness to Light
Kid Power
Rainn
CASA

BOOKS

A Child Called It
Dear Teddy
Phenomena: The Lost and Forgotten Children
Can’t Anyone Help Me
Don’t Tell Mummy

As always I ask for your comments and thoughts.

What is a Victim?

vic·tim – noun – a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action. synonyms: sufferer, injured party, casualty; a person who is tricked or duped. “the victim of a hoax”.

The child that is abused is certainly a victim. The short and long term effects are many and varied. Children can become withdrawn or start acting out. They may tell and they may not. They may shy away from their abuser in the future or they may not. If the abuser is someone close to the family this may be especially true. It is hard for us as adults to handle this. Imagine being a child. Children may not even understand that what happened was wrong at first but it always affects them in some way. See for more info: http://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/effects-of-csa-on-the-victim

There are so many other victims that are created from this. The child’s siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. It is just like throwing that stone in a pond and watching the ripples get bigger and bigger. One child speaks up and says they are a victim of abuse. Immediately that child’s parents and siblings now share that burden. The parents talk to their parents or siblings and those people now become victims and share the burden. The child’s siblings talk to family members and their friends. The child says something to a playmate who then tells others and goes home to tell their family. The ripple effect of this is never-ending. Ultimately we all come to share this burden and in some ways become a victim.

Once a police report is filed there is almost no turning back. Police, victims advocates, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the defendant all become involved. See Criminal and Civil Justice. These people often victimize the victims again. Sometimes it is not intentional. It may be due to lack of knowledge and experience. Perhaps they are understaffed and overworked. There are people in this system without the proper training. There could be a lack of empathy. There are times they have to prioritize because they have so many cases. This then is done on which they deem to be the most heinous to the least. Prosecutors do not like to try these cases. Often there is no evidence, and no witness. It is the word of a child. Of course defense attorneys are purposely trying to confuse and discredit the child and the family. They say it’s their job.

When it is your loved one none of these things matter. So I ask what can we do to make the system better? There are organizations that do help. Families First IndianaCASA. I believe we need major changes in the system.

Through my experience from the beginning – the report and interview. I must say here the police department was very quick in coming out to take the report. The officer was professional and polite. Muncie Police Department. The officer explained that they do not speak to the victim because they have a SMART team Muncie SMART team. This team was to contact us for interviews. Within a few days the team had spoken with the child victim and referred them to Meridian Services Meridian Services. The child was seen 5 days after at Meridian. However, I (as the adult the child told) was not contacted in over a week. I was placed in an interrogation type room and was told they were going to find video equipment. The door was closed (I do not know if it was locked). As you can imagine this was intimidating. I had never been in any sort of trouble with the law before. I was understandably very stressed, upset, emotional, and shocked. This room made me feel more like a criminal than someone reporting a crime. I ask you City of Muncie can you not find a more relaxed area or room to conduct these interviews?  The officer did come back in the room and to my memory said she couldn’t find the equipment and she would just take my written statement. I don’t know if this is true or not because at a later date the defense attorney deposing me said there was a video. I did tell the officer what the child had said to me, she also asked questions, and was writing things down on a writing tablet.  Over the next year and a half as we were trying to get the prosecutor to file charges we were told our statements had been lost and we would have to re-write them. This was by the prosecutor at the time on our case. I ask, How do you lose police statements? The child had to be re-interviewed. This was another victimization in my opinion. It should not have been such a fight and long time to get charges filed and there should have been no “lost” records. Delaware County Prosecutor

Can you explain this? Can you explain how you won’t file charges and lose official statements? Was the prosecutor at the time just not being truthful? Were they negligent in their job? How as citizens can we help to change this? What do you need to make this a safer place and procedure for these victims and their families?

I leave the story today here. As always I encourage comments and suggestions for helping us make this better.

 

Mamaw, I’ve been molested.

Good Morning All,

Yesterday I introduced myself and wrote a short story about my journey into this. Today I would like to go back and start at the beginning. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very private person. I share this story to not only help me and my family gain your insights and suggestions, but to help others that may be starting down this road.

It was a normal Saturday morning. My daughter had dropped the kids off before going to work. We were in the kitchen and I was making breakfast for everyone. I loved talking to the kids while I cooked. My oldest granddaughter was excited because she was supposed to go with her big half-brother to a fun-house later in the day. As she is excitedly talking about this she says, her brother did something to her (details left out) that made my heart stop! Here is my 6 yr old grandchild saying the most atrocious thing to me in normal conversation. I said to her, “What did you say?” She repeated it as she ran back and forth from the kitchen to the window looking for her big brother to arrive.

I realized she didn’t even understand that what had happened was wrong. How could this be? Stop It Now. I was stunned and thought maybe I was misunderstanding. I asked her if she could draw me a picture. There was no doubt in my mind after I saw what she had drawn. My first thought was to call my daughter. She was also shocked and yes disbelieving! This is something you can’t begin to fathom would happen in your own family. She did call the brother and make up a story so he wouldn’t come pick her up. Of course now my granddaughter was upset and confused about why she couldn’t go have fun.

How do I explain this to her? What do I say? What if I say something that is wrong? What if I handle this wrong and cause more damage? How could this happen? What to do now?

My daughter and spoke that evening. Should we call the police? That was my initial reaction. Would filing a report make this worse for the child? Where do we go to get answers? It was like having a cyclone of questions and doubts swirling around in my head. Ultimately we decided to file a report. I went to my daughter’s house that day rather than having the kids come to me. I thought this would be better for the child. The officer arrived and spoke to me. He took down my story and informed me that our city had a SMART team and someone would contact us to interview the child. This SMART team is supposed to be set up with individuals in the legal system ex. police officers, investigators, etc.

This is where our long and frustrating saga began. There are SMART teams, Victim’s Advocate groups, and the Prosecutor office that all get involved eventually. Here is where we began to feel defeated before we even began. The child was interviewed by the SMART team. There was a referral to a mental health facility. It took several more weeks for the team to interview myself. There were many reasons for the delay. People on vacation, behind in cases, etc. There was little to no empathy or concern communicated to any of us. It was like just another case to them. While I understand this to some extent I believe we need to make sure as a community that these groups are educated well within the area of child sexual abuse. I believe they need to be staffed with professionals that understand the emotional impact and devastation this has on the entire family unit. They need different rooms to conduct these interviews rather than an interrogation room.

This is where the victims begin to feel re-victimized. I ask, “What can we do to make this better?” What do you need from your community to help this process become a better and safer place?

I encourage any and all thoughts. Only through the power of each and every one of us can we make change. Together we can go to these groups to make them better understand.

Police Investigations

Victim’s Advocate

County Prosecutor

Please comment and share any ideas, stories, or opinions.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me in my new Blog!

Hi
My name is Patty and I want to be part of the solution for child sexual abuse. I am 57 years old. I have 3 children and 7 grandchildren. I am a single woman. I have dreams, fears, and conflicting emotions. I am hoping to reach others that will help find answers to protect our children.
Here is my story.
I grew up in a 2-parent home with a stay at home mother. I became pregnant at 17 yrs. of age and delivered my first child (A beautiful girl) at 18. I married at 20 and had a boy 3 years later and another girl 2 years after that. I had a very busy life raising my children and working full-time. At the age of 40 I became a grandma for the first time! I was so excited each and every time a new grandchild came into my life. I would have them often. We would go on trips together and have fun. I have babysat most of them at one time or another.
I was babysitting one weekend in 2014 for 2 of my granddaughters 6 and 2 when my world came crashing down! The 5yr old said she had been molested (my words not hers). I was shocked and stunned. I felt so many things at once. I asked her to draw a picture and then called her mother at work.
We talked that evening together to try and decide what we should do. This was the most devastating, confusing thing that had ever happened to us. We called the police the next morning and filed a report. I didn’t know what to do or what to say to her. I was worried for her emotional state. I was worried there was a “molester” free to do this to others. I was sickened that this had come into her life. These are all still true today 3 ½ years later.
Here we are in 2018 and still dealing with the legal system. She is 9 now. Her “molester” was arrested and released with bond. He was 18 and her half-brother. His life has gone on like nothing happened. My granddaughter is still in therapy. She has been put on ADHD medication. She still doesn’t talk about it. She gets very emotional and frightened.
I have found the legal system to be lacking in the skills to deal with child molestation. I have researched hundreds of organizations and web pages for information. What I have found is a need to change the way we handle this. I am hoping to reach out to others for ideas, inspiration, and help to make changes in our system so that the victims HAVE A VOICE!
This affects us all! It is like throwing a stone in a pond and watching the ripples move outward. Please I ask for any comments so that we may support each other and move forward to make changes. Below are some great links to sites to learn about this problem.

www.d2l.org

www.speakingout-csa.com

www.invisiblechildren.org

https://marsyslaw.us

https://www.rainn.org

https://www.nsopw.gov

A quest for calm in the storm of abuse for victims and all the lives touched!

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