#metoo #ChildAbusePrevention #SexualAssaultAwareness *Trigger Warning*
It seems on a regular basis, there are certain sexual abuse stories that make headlines, ones that finally get people’s attention. Truth be known that every 73 seconds, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. The statistics are worse worldwide. These statistics do not surprise me, I am actually more alarmed that many others are surprised. Our society is a petri dish for sexual abuse.
Sex is a basic physiological need. Healthy sexual development begins at day one of life. Our society tends to shame and repress our natural desires of sexual expression. So what do we do when we are not allowed to find healthy ways to express ourselves? … We hide it and seek out any opportunity to get our needs met no matter how wrong it may be which most often means taking advantage of vulnerable people. On top of this, we have a catch-22 in our society where we “train” children, our most precious and vulnerable, that they must obey authority figures and have no rights to say “No.” Then we neglect to teach children how to tune in and listen to their intuition as well as the skills they need to assert themselves in any context.
Sexual expression is a very complex and sensitive issue because even though we have been trained to feel mentally or morally wrong about it in many situations, even more conflicting for females. Yet sex is a fundamental physiological need, it feels good and is essential for holistic well-being. It is not enough to have the one ‘big talk’ or random assertion that “You should have no one touch you” and “to tell mom or dad if someone does”. It is a constant open dialogue in small teachable moments throughout life. It is in the subtle messages you send via your choice of words, clothes, media, and so on.
Although it angers me how ignorant people are to the prevalence of sexual abuse and that children are at greater risk with those they trust, I understand why we ignore the signs. To accept that this is going on in your city, your school, and even worse, your family would mean that you have to accept the responsibility that this went on without your awareness. Of course, it is easier to be in denial, it is a natural defense mechanism as who would want to take any responsibility for suffering.
The common reactions of when these stories of sexual abuse make headlines, “Yeah, let’s string ’em by their balls and make them suffer” or “They should rot in jail!” do not make things better. For me, those reactions come from the same vein as the initial crimes themselves, ignore the root problems, and no one can heal. I was sexualized and given inappropriate attention since I can first remember. I was molested by a neighbor and sexually harassed on a regular basis whilst attending a Catholic school. These events had led to traumatic consequences and emotional scars that I am still healing.
Only after years of having safe relationships where I could thoroughly process all the memories, feelings, and thoughts, I experienced a surprising sense to want to forgive all the boys and men who used me as an object and no longer wish ill on them. I understand that they were doing the best with the resources they had. I do not blame them per se, as we live in a culture that promotes sexual abuse. I choose to be part of the solution. I empower, educate, and support people to find healthy, respectful, and non-violent ways to get their needs met. I want to stress that forgiveness was never my goal nor do I believe people must forgive. This level of awareness only seemed to magically unfold as I gave myself permission to feel and heal. I had to learn to love and accept myself for where I was in my healing journey without pressure or expectation.
Here are links to get you started on promoting positive and empowering sexual development for children:
Talking with Your Child About Sex: Questions and Answers for Children from Birth to Puberty by Mary S. Calderone and James W. Ramey
Birds + Bees + YOUR Kids – A Guide to Sharing Your Beliefs about Sexuality, Love, and Relationships: Everything YOU Need To Know Before Middle School! by Amy Lang
10 Conversations to Have with your Teen about Sex, Dating & Relationships by Dr. Pepper Schwartz
Here are links on healing sexual trauma:
DISCLAIMER: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. This online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state of Illinois, USA
If you or someone you know is at risk of harm, please call or go to your local emergency center.