CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Have you ever loved a family member so deeply, whether it was your mother, father, sister, brother, grandfather or grandmother, aunt or uncle, or maybe a cousin? Well I did. Have you ever been hurt by a family member so deeply that forgiveness was never something you could give? Well I have. Have you ever tried to forget something so bad that it just seems to sit there in your mind for long? Well I've tried. Have you ever heard that expression "forgive and forget"? To forgive is easy, but to forget can be the most difficult thing to do. I know because I've been there, and I am still there. I can say this though, for those who know what I'm about to talk about, well, you are not alone.
Growing up and being surrounded by family members was great and heart-warming. Nothing made me happier then to be around my loved ones. Yeah, now I can say nothing makes me disgusted even more then to be around those loved ones I would say that I hate. When I was a child my grandfather and grandmother were the most important ones in my life. I would say like a mother and father to me. My grandfather would always walk me to the bus stop everyday when my father was at work. He would stay with me until the bus arrived and until he watched me wave bye. He was the greatest and always fun to be around. We would laugh and play, and joke around, was great times. He would also come visit me when I would have my stays in the hospital due to my fatal illness. I had many great moments with him. Well, great moments don't last forever.
January 2001: The most important woman in my life had passed away. She was like my best friend, but most of all she was like a mother to me. She was my grandmother and my inspiration. I can say this though, I am glad she wasn't around to see the kind of man my grandfather was. July 2001: My grandfather had been going through rough times without my grandmother. I would always cry when I looked into his eyes and see the love he had for my grandmother, and now gone. He was sitting down watching TV, I hated seeing my grandfather alone, so I decided to go sit with him and watch TV like old times. I was only 14 years old, and no clue what he was doing. I was confused, lost, and didn't know what to think or say. I had never been through this before. I didn't know what he was doing, or how to react. I was shocked! Nothing disgusted me more then to see his hands all over me, and I really mean all over me. I will never forget his words when he heard my mother coming down the stairs, "shhh don't tell your mother". I went up stairs to bed while my grandfather sat there in the living as if nothing ever happened. I couldn't sleep that night; my mind was traumatized with the disgusting thoughts of his hands all over me, all over this 14 year old girl, his granddaughter. I've had enough health situations to deal with, and then this came along. All my life I've felt guilty, guilty that I never said anything, guilty that I never yelled at him and told him to STOP! I had many nights where I would cry myself to sleep. I was just a young teenager who felt that she had no one to turn to. Telling someone was not so easy, and actually was the hardest thing for me to do. Saying something was actually harder than going through what I went through.
Four years later, 2005, I finally came out and told my mother what my grandfather had done to me. She was the first one I had ever told. Would you believe me if I told you her first words were "why did you let him"? My guilt grew even bigger than ever. I was only 14, how was I supposed to know what to do. Those were shocking words coming out of her mouth. How could my own mother who raised me tell me this? For years after I had told her, my grandfather was still welcomed in our own home, staying with us every time he came from my country to visit us. I could never sleep without the horrible thoughts of him coming into my room and thinking of what he would do to me. My own mother never protected me. I always protected myself. I stayed away from him a lot, but I would always get judged for protecting myself in my own home. One day driving me and my mother, we came home and I got a big lecture in the car about how I never say hi to my grandfather. You know what my words were to my mother? "You disgust me". See I love my mother and respect her, but in my culture some women look at things differently. If a woman gets hurt by a man, it is her fault. This is one thing I will never agree with.
Two years later, 2007, I finally felt that maybe talking to a doctor would help, but it did take me a few months to come out and say it. It's been 3 years now and we still talk about my situation. Talking about it helps a lot, but ignoring it makes it even worse. Don't ever let your feelings build up inside like I did to the point where it drove me on medication. Till now I'm still on meds, but it's helped me think straight. Thoughts of sexual abuse will never escapes one's mind, but learning to deal with it and move on, and learn that none of it was ever your fault is always a good way to go. Talking to my doctor actually helped me a lot when I couldn't talk to anyone else about it. She made me see that the real victim was me and that I had nothing to feel guilty for. In fact, my doctor has had over 25 patients who had been sexually abused in the past, so I knew then I wasn't alone. Although many learn to move one and accept the fact that they were never guilty, there will always be a little feeling of regret, but I would say it's a normal feeling.
September 16, 2009, it was a day of hell for me. I actually couldn't take my family ignoring what had happened to me, so I packed up and left my house for 2 months. Of course, when the family and relatives knew my reason for leaving they believed that I had made up my whole situation about my grandfathers molestation. I was judged, hated on, and insulted. I don't know what's worse, being molested, or having your own family insult you and tell you that you are trying to ruin your grandfather's reputation. Would you believe me if I told you my own mother denied the fact that I told her, and said to me, "you never told me that your grandfather had molested you". I was crushed. I felt so alone, how could my own family turn their backs on me when I needed them the most. After that, I was afraid to speak out to the family about what a horrible man he was. Although they didn't like it, it had to be said. They needed to know so that they can protect their children, which unfortunately still didn't stop them from keeping their own children away my grandfather. Telling my father what is father did was hard. My father is very precious to me and I didn't want to see him hurt, but he needed to know what his daughter was going through.
Sexual abuse can be very difficult to talk about, which is why many sexually abused teenagers keep silent. Well we got to break that silence and speak up. We got to speak up for those who need help. This reminds me of a friend back in high school who had been sexually abused since she was a child by her own father. Her mother suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, which she had spent years in the hospital being treated. She wasn't able to talk to her mother about what she had been going through. After 4 years, I couldn't take the pain and suffering she had been feeling. The tears she cried. I knew exactly how she felt. She was afraid to speak up, so as her best friend I spoke up for her. She was pretty upset with me for days, but I had no regrets. My concern was her safety, and it didn't matter to me if she was upset or not. I can tell you this, after Children's Aid Society (CAS) had spoken to her father, I would say that's the last time he will ever lay his hands on her. It's been 3 years since I hear or spoke to her, but where ever she is, I hope she is living a good life and away from her father. This was one smart girl who I always believed and still believe has a bright future ahead of her.
Sexual abuse is something that should never stay silent. If it happens once, it can happen again.
What is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse or "molestation" is any unwanted sexual behavior towards another person. The offender is usually known as the "sexual abuser". When the victim is under the age of consent, it is known as child sexual abuse. They may be exploited by a family member or someone unknown to them. We cannot compare sexual abuse since each experience is unique.
What are the types of sexual abuse?
- touching and fondling
- sexual exploiting
Why do people keep quiet about their experience with sexual abuse?
It is not easy to talk about sexual abuse, and many people keep their experience of sexual abuse quiet due to many reasons; guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear, or many other reasons like being threatened. They may feel that if they disclose, then they would be harshly judged. Staying quiet about sexual abuse does not protect you from being abused again, but puts you at a higher risk of being abused again. Often, the abuser is someone who we have a close relationship with and is someone we trust such as a family member or caregiver. This is usually another reason why some abused children and teenagers often keep silent. Many child abusers are often male. However, perpetrators can also be female, such as a mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, or a female caregiver.
How are victims of sexual abuse affected?
Sexual abuse affects children and youths both emotionally and physically. Often incest, which is the most common form of sexual abuse, can have negative effects on the survivor. Often times,
the abused child is blamed because of what reporting the abuser has done to the family. When this happens, children can feel emotionally helpless, feel adults cannot be trusted, feel like they have had their innocence taken away from them, and often the child has trouble trusting their parents because they did not do anything to stop it. The child/youth often feels dirty, confused, and powerless, hurt, tortured, lost, betrayed, and numb from feelings and body. Other emotional affects may be depression, anxiety and rage. This is exactly what I had gone through, so I can relate that to that experience. Children may also feel the physical and psychological effect of being sexually abused. These may be; anorexia, bulimia, depression, suicide and post traumatic stress disorder. However, the good thing is many of these physical and psychological effects may be treated with therapy.
How can we stop/prevent the abused from being abused again?
The only way we can really stop the abused person, is to have that person speak up and tell an adult what has happened, whether it's telling a family member, a close friend, or a health care professional. However sexual abuse can be preventable. First of all, you want to get all the facts available to you. It can be hard to tell the signs of sexual abuse in children and youths even if you think you can see the signs, because children hide it so well. The emotional signs can be hard to see, but the physical may not. These are warning signs like rashes, redness, swelling in the genital areas, headaches and frequent stomach aches. Having fewer adults around a child is also another way to prevent child sexual abuse. Always keep an eye open for a child who seems to be uncomfortable or nervous around an adult. Children shouldn't have to prevent sexual abuse themselves. As adults we are here to speak up for them and protect them. Remember they are only children and may not even know what sexual abuse is, but teaching them about their body and what places no other has a right to lay their hands on, can give them an idea of what sexual abuse is. It is sad to say I was never protected, even by my own family, so if you know a child or youth who you think is going through sexual abuse, please speak up and protect that child, because the saddest thing to have to go through is trying to protect yourself while having your family knowing what you are going through, even till this day, yet having no support given to you.
You know, it's been 8 years and till this day I still regret just going to sit next to my grandfather to watch TV with him. I always tell myself "If only I hadn't, this wouldn't have happened", but this could have happened to anyone. I've learned to grow and deal with the situation and I always tell myself it wasn't my fault. So for those who have been through what I had been through, just let this be a bad dream and don't be afraid to get help because your future is important. It's your time to shine, your time to heal, and your time to help those who need it.
For more information see Facts for Families:
This article was written by Tim
Manasterski, a Metrodaycare.com staff member.