There are some things that all victims of childhood sexual abuse want you to know:
1. We want to run to you and tell you what has happened.
2. We are very, very scared.
3. We want you to love us.
4. We want you to believe us immediately.
5. We want you to act on our behalf against our abuser.
6. We don’t want to be questioned about what we were wearing or doing that may have brought on the alleged offense. We are children and this is not our fault.
7. We want your protection, but…
8. …if it’s too late for that, we want your outrage and disgust to be directed at the perpetrator, not us.
9. We know that you may not know what to say when we tell you. It’s okay, neither do we. Hugs work just fine.
10. We don’t blame you, unless of course we told you and you did nothing to help us.
11. Often we don’t tell because we are ashamed, confused and, again very, very scared.
12. We are afraid that we will be blamed for what has happened to us and so often we are.
13. We need your help. Help us get therapy, help us talk to the authorities and help us feel valued.
14. We need you to not ignore us, make excuses for our abuser or wish it away.
15. We need you to know and understand that we will never “get over it”. With the right support and through therapy we will learn to live with it, put it in the proper perspective, deal with the anger, hurt and betrayal, but understand that it will always be a part of us.
16. We need you – friends and family – to walk this road with us and don’t blame yourself. Quite often there is no way that you could have known.
17. We need you to understand that sexual predators can be other children.
18. We need you to understand that whether young or old, male or female, they are predators and this is no accident. They understand their victims and know how to manipulate us. Most important, absent some sort of intervention, it never happens just once and rarely do they stop on their own.
19. We need you to know that “trust” in our interpersonal relationships is very hard for us to achieve. After all, our innocence and trust was taken from us (most abusers are people we know).
20. We are everywhere. It happens more often than you know – 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the time that they are 18 years old. Therefore, we are your mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, co-workers, gym buddies, fellow church members, PTA moms, grocery store cashier, car mechanic…anyone. Be careful with your words because every time you come to the defense of an abuser, the message sent to the victim is that you have taken sides against us. That the hurt and violation that we have suffered is of no consequence. There really isn’t a way to walk the line between the two because the nature of the crime is so egregious that it’s either wrong to you or it’s not. There is no grey area.
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Childhood sexual abuse is a subject that hits very close to home for me and honestly I had no intention of discussing this topic any time soon, if ever. I am a victim of childhood sexual molestation. I finally told my parents and siblings many years ago, but many years after the fact. Under the circumstances, they all responded as well as could be expected. Since then, my concern has always been those children who are being abused and are terrified to tell their secret, fearing that they will become a pariah. Believe me when I say that victims really want to let someone know what has happened, but the fear is paralyzing.
Some secrets can destroy you.
Like everything else these days it seems this topic has recently produced some extreme responses probably because it’s tied to a celebrity; and not just any celebrity, but a Christian celebrity. The effect is extremely polarizing. However, of all the opinions being expressed none are more important than those of victims, particularly the ones that have yet to tell their story. Everything that we say and do as a community should provide these young people with a safe place and help them find their way through a tragic situation to a healthy resolution. Additionally, we must seek reform in a system that is set up to let offenders walk free to find another victim.
Very rarely in life are we presented with a situation that is so clearly right or wrong and where the wrong choice can do so much damage.