I am privileged to publish the below guest post by Tanya R Simon, an abuse survivor. For my review of Tanya’s book, “This Present Garden Of Pain” please visit the following link, (http://newauthoronline.com/tag/this-present-garden-of-pain-tanya-r-simon-book-review/). Thank you to Tanya for the below article.
The Monster Is Just Down The Hall
Tanya R. Simon
Most everyone in America was taught not to talk to strangers, not to take anything from strangers, not to trust strangers, etc. In the 1980s, we began to teach out children what to do if someone tries to make them go somewhere and that person is not a friend or family member.
Though first coined in 1963, the phrase, “Stranger Danger” is what school programs, PTA, Neighborhood Watch Organizations, and parents have focused most of their protective energies toward. I think for many people this phrase conjures up a weirdo, standing outside of a school playground in a trench coat with nothing on under, waiting to flash children at recess.
The Sex Offender Registry, which became national in 1996, but actually started in 1947 in California, was designed so all parents would know if there was a registered sex offender in their neighborhood.
While every single one of these measures is a valid and needed move in the war against those who would harm children. They fail to protect the vast majority of children who are sexually abused. They fail because more often than not, the monster waiting to rob a child of their innocence is right down the hall from them every night.
The terrifying fact is that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 5 boys under the age of twelve will be molested by someone they know. And of those who are molested by someone they know, a staggering 30% are molested by a parent.
Children molested by a parent or sibling, are less likely to report it to a teacher or counselor. They are more likely to go on to molest their own children. They are more likely to grow up with confused sexual identities, regardless of the sex of the parent who molested them. These children often spend their entire lives living in the shadows of their childhoods.
You can protect your child in several ways:
- Be aware what is or is not normal behavior for your child. If your child is extremely talkative and suddenly becomes quiet and reserved, investigate the reason.
- Be aware of the background of the people who you let into your child’s lives. Use online services to perform background checks on anyone you plan on having your child around. Never leave your child alone with anyone you have not checked out and know something about. Use babysitting services, accredited daycares, well-known camps and sports programs.
- If your child does not want to be alone with someone or they tell you they do not like someone, remove the person from your child’s life until you can find out the reasons why.
- Never assume anything when it comes to the safety of your child. Just because a friend safely left his or her child with someone does not mean your child will be safe with the person. Pedophiles have types and the other child might not have been the pedophiles chosen type. The pedophile may have figured it could not get away with anything with the other child for a variety of reasons, but thinks they can with your child.
- Following your instincts, never thinking that you must have misunderstood what you saw or felt. Better to alienate a friend than have your child scarred for life.
There are textbook signs of abuse that you should be aware of:
- Sudden hostility towards you or other adults in authority positions in the child’s life.
- Aggressive behavior towards siblings or friends.
- Sexually inappropriate behavior of any kind.
- Bedwetting if the child had not been a bed wetter before. This one would merit a trip to the doctor to check for a physiological reason for the wetting.
- Terror at the thought of spending time with someone. Even if you think the terror is from spending time with a school friend, there is a good chance it is not the friend but someone in the friend’s life that your child is truly terrified of.
- Bruises of an unexplained nature, ANYWHERE on the body. Just because your child is sporting a bruise on his ankle and is known to be clumsy or active in sports, does not mean the bruise got there innocently.
- Bleeding in their private regions or blood on their underwear, sheets or clothes.
How you treat your child after finding out they have been abused can also shape the life they will lead.
- Though you are most likely volcanically angry, do not show this anger in front of the child. No matter their age, in that emotional state they will think the anger is directed at them. And they will take on blame for the abuse they suffered. They will also no longer trust you as someone safe to tell their problems to.
- NEVER, under any circumstances, ask the child why they didn’t tell you. This also implies that what they just went through was their fault because they could not tell you. There are dozens of reasons why they took so long or never did and you discovered it. Often the perpetrator has threatened the life or safety of someone they love, maybe even yours. The child is terrified of the perp, so no matter how much they think you are a superhero, a part of them believes this could happen and they are not willing to risk you or their siblings or Grandma to take the chance they will be believed. Rest assured the perp has told them that no one will believe them if they tell.
- Do not treat the child like they are irrevocably damaged. This will send a message to them that they will never get past this experience and can do irreparable damage.
- Do not treat the child as though nothing has happened. This minimizes the feelings they have surrounding their abuse. It sends a message that they are not being mature or grown up or even right in feeling the way they feel.
- Please, do not think you can handle the recovery of your child alone. Even if you are a trained professional, this is your child, and you are not qualified. Seek the help of someone who is a specialist in dealing with children who have been through sexual abuse. They usually will state this specification in their website or phone book listing. Often law enforcement officials will have a list of professionals in your area who are qualified. Also, whether you think you need it or not, please get professional help for yourself as well.
- Please, no matter whom it was or if they promise never to do it again, report the abuser to the authorities. Doing this can stop another child from living through this nightmare, it can get a sick person help, and most importantly it sends a message to your child that they have your belief and your protection and you are not ashamed of them.
- Tell your child in plain language that they did nothing wrong, that you still love them, and that they are still going to be able to have a good life.
- Unfortunately, in today’s justice system the laws surrounding Non-Stranger Sexual Abuse are inadequate. Many require DNA samples or bruising in the genital area to even arrest the individual. If you find out after a recent attack, you have to put your child through the collection of the DNA and the taking of the pictures to show their bruises. If there was no recent attack or they suppressed the events, there is no DNA evidence or bruises. A few states do allow for medical records to be submitted into evidence. This allows for physical damage caused by the attack, but does not in anyway tie the perpetrator to the damage, so it usually gets thrown out of court. With all of these possibilities that the person who attacked them will never even see the inside of a court room, NEVER promise your child their attacker is going to go to jail.
- Never threaten to harm the perp in front of your child because they have probably lived with the fear of losing you because of this and you going to prison forever means they will have lost you. This action can cause a child who has been victimized to recant just to protect the parent they so desperately need.
- And most of you will think this is a given, but it isn’t, do not stay with the abuser if you live in the same house as they do. Take the child and move away if possible, if not then have the person removed from the house, change the locks and make it clear to everyone in the home that the perp is no longer allowed to be there. Your continuing to allow the perp to be a part of your life tells the child that you value them more than you do the child.
- Go on loving your child, teaching your child and being an active part of your child’s live. They should not lose anyone or anything else more than they already have.