As a child, I was taught that you do not share the family business. What goes on at home, should not be shared with other people. I think one of the biggest examples of this was the cohabitation of my mother and my ex step father. Perhaps a year before my mother married my ex step father, they decided to move in together. I remember being told this was not something I was to share with any one outside our home. If our church found out, they would condemn us. Even still I thought it was okay to share this secret with my godmother. I told her and somehow that secret eventually reached the ears of our
cult leader, pastor. When he found out, there was this important meeting with my parents. By this time they were engaged and had a wedding planned and everything! Well, the pastor told my parents he would NOT marry them in a church because they were living in sin and so my mother and ex step father married at city hall.
Soon after that meeting happened between my parents and the pastor, my parents confronted me. I remember stammering, “I do NOT want to talk about this!” Yeah, that didn’t go so well. Maybe Tiffany in Iowa can say that but saying that to a black family on the south side of Chicago, doesn’t work. There are cultural nuisances that do not fly. I was punished. I was grilled. I was told that I was to NEVER share the family business. What goes on in our house STAYED in our house. If my parents argued, I was to tell no one. If they decided to do anything or said anything or whatever the case may be it was not okay for me to share with anyone. Family business was family business.
I took it to heart. And so did my ex step father. That conversation gave him more power to abuse me. The abuse started after they were married when I was 7 years old. I had been primed to be his victim. <— I’m telling this story because of the video I have linked below. Its a beautiful reading of the book, ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept” which I think is an awesome story. Just beautifully awesome and I think EVERY ADULT SHOULD READ IT TO EVERY CHILD!
But, here’s the BUT, the book still gives in to traditional understandings of sexual abuse. The story continues to show that victims are threatened and that’s usually why they keep the secret. We assume that the criminals threaten their lives, threaten their families, and ask them to kept the special secret. When we send this message out, we are subconsciously guilting the victims who were never threatened. We’re confusing them. The victims are questioning whether they played a hand in the abuse or if it was abuse at all because they were never threatened. We need a book that talks about that to children! Perhaps I need to write that book.
I WASN’T THREATENED. EVER. But I was sexually abused for SEVEN YEARS.
We need to tell those stories too.
Sometimes you don’t have to threatened a child. If you’ve taught children that adults have the right of way and the final say….if you’ve taught children that they should listen without talking back or giving their opinion…..if you’ve taught that family secrets should never be shared or that adults are the authority and should not question them….you don’t EVER have to threatened a child. They know to lay there and take it. They will be quiet before, during and after they are being raped. They won’t fight back and more than likely they will internalized it, rationalize it, excuse it and/or blame themselves. WHY ARE ADULTS NOT SEEING THE LINK???? It’s not abuse prevention that needs to be taught to children. It’s empowerment! It’s your parenting style that needs to be addressed, not “stranger danger.” If you tell me not to share the family secret, then there is no way in hell I’ll tell anyone my daddy is molesting me. Do you get it? This is why I don’t like when an adult tells a child, “Because I say so” or “You’re just a child, I’m an adult.” I would ask that adults use rational logic when trying to teach a lesson versus that poor thought out rhetoric. You’re telling your child to shut the fuck up, not have a vocal opinion and to do whatever they are told to do and in the future to just sit there and take it. Please talk with your children like they are a human being thats entitled to respect and honor and please STOP talking AT your children like they are your little bitches. (Ok, I need to calm down.)
The other quick thing to address is symptoms. We’re told to look out for warning signs in a child’s behavior to signal that maybe abuse is happening. If those bullet point lists were as accurate as they could be, the extremely low and almost non-existent statistic for reporting abuse would not exist. Those bullet points are out-dated. Where is the new research? I don’t fit in that bullet point list. I was a straight A student that every teacher loved. I was a community volunteer. Extremely active in church. A student leader. A great big sister. Focused, driven, obedient and “godly.” People thought I was perfect and wanted their young children to grow up to be the 12, 13 and 14 year old me. I had healthy female and male friendships. I was vibrant, imaginative and spent my free time playing Barbies and writing fiction stories. There were no warning signs. No one would have EVER known had my mother not read my journal. That was the only sign. We need a new list.
With all that being said, watch the video. By the book. Read it to your children. It’s one step in the right direction but its not complete and its perpetuating stereotypes regarding childhood sexual abuse. Still, I like the book and I think its powerful. What say you?