I picked up the kids from school yesterday and made them run errands with me immediately after school so that I could have an un-distracted conversation with them. With Michaela behaving oddly lately, I had to make sure (just one more time for once and for all) that her behavior change was not due to any hidden abuse or mistreatment that Stan and I were unaware of. This is an area of deep fear and baggage for me and I want to handle it correctly so that my kids are aware and careful but not forced to walk through life filled with fear. I’ve hinted at it with them but had lacked the boldness to come out and ask…specifically Michaela…because I didn’t want to plant any ideas in their heads…and because I was fearful…what in the world would we do if the answer was yes?
After talking about school, friends, feelings, things that make us happy, and things that make us sad…I dove in: “Speaking of things that make us sad, have either of you ever had anyone touch you (other than a doctor, Mommy, or Daddy) in your “no-no square?” Michaela, without much hesitation, “No, Mommy…that’s not allowed.” Meanwhile, though, Caleb had a concerned look on his face…and my heart plummeted into my stomach. “Caleb, honey, do you have something you want to tell me?” *pause* “Well…yes…this summer…but I don’t remember who.” Hmmm…not remembering who would either mean this is a mistake or so traumatic that it’s being blocked out. “Do you remember if it was a grown up or a kid.” *Shakes his head no.* “Do you remember where you were? If it was this summer, maybe it was at a camp?” *pause* “That’s it! It was at soccer camp! It was a kid! He hit my privates with a soccer ball!” *exhale* I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath…praying “Lord, please don’t let this be true. Please don’t let my children learn at a young age what it is to be a victim!” I was so relieved that it was just a soccer accident…I was soaring. So we talked about the difference between and accident and abuse. We talked about how the no-no square is off limits to everyone who does not own it or have permission to touch it…how even the doctor has to get permission from them AND Mommy before touching them anywhere because our bodies are so very special: Our bodies are how we interact with the world around us. When our bodies have been mistreated, we will view the world differently because our bodies have become different and our experience is different. (And how we need to protect our bodies so that Mommy doesn’t end up going to prison for murder…although I didn’t say that part out loud to the kids.)
The statistics are staggering: Every 2 minutes, an American is sexually assaulted. (RAINN – Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 7 boys will be sexually assaulted in their childhood. Let that sink in for a minute.
My heart is heavy and easily-broken on this topic. It’s scary and the answers to these questions can be utterly devastating…but keeping secrets can be even more cruel and devastating. Statistically, many many of you have been recipients of sexual mistreatment. I am so deeply sorry and broken for you. But also statistically, many of your children have some sort of sexual mistreatment in their histories or futures. Please…please talk to your children about this regardless of how difficult or painful this discussion is for you. This is NOT an area that you want to look back on with regret. If they have received abuse, they need you to shine light on the darkness in their lives…where darkness and secrets are, shame lives and thrives…and that is, quite frankly, a continuation of the abuse.
So, how are you doing with this? (Sorry…I know this was another heavy one…but I feel that somebody needs this today.) Is there something in your past that needs to be brought to the light? Do you have a safe person you can speak to and whose advice and love you can count on? Has mistreatment of your body (physical, sexual, verbal, chemical, etc) changed how you relate to the world and to God? Have you had an open dialog with your children about this topic? Do they know that they can tell you anything related to this topic…regardless of whether or not it’s not an abuse situation? Most victims feel some bit of responsibility whether or not it’s true…that frequently keeps people from speaking up. Your children need to know that you love them and are on their side even if whatever is going on is the result of poor decision-making. (If abuse has occurred, please pursue professional help of some kind…this is too big of a burden for one person to carry.)
Today, my dear friends, I am praying that God would impress on us all how important we are to him. I am also praying that we would all understand that bodies and sex were both created by our loving God for good things…that our bodies and souls are not a mystery to our God who created them…and how to repair brokenness in our bodies and souls is no mystery to our God either. I am praying for light, healing, and life for us all. Much love friends,