Friday, April 19, 2013

Stolen Childhood

I returned home from a meeting to find an unfamiliar cord plugged into the power outlet in my carport.  Following the cord led me to repairmen next door who had plugged their heavy duty equipment into my power.  My neighbor wasn’t home, his house was locked, and the repairmen had no access to power, so they plugged into mine.  Since I wasn’t home they didn’t ask.

I wasn’t excited about their creative use of my power and there was some unpleasant discussion.  The men moved their power cord across the street to an unoccupied home.  No one would ever know, no one, except the repairmen, and me.  I don’t know what you would call this, but I call it stealing.  Perhaps the men thought there was no harm in stealing a little power if it was done in secret.

Have you ever had something stolen from you? It can be a devastating experience, creating sadness, anger, and fear.  If the stolen item had great value to you, you may have been heartbroken.  No matter what the value of the stolen property, you probably felt somewhat violated.

When a child is sexually abused something has been stolen from them; something that cannot be replaced.  I call it stolen childhood.  For an abused child, childhood will never be quite the same.  An abused child may feel sadness, anger, or fear.  This is a crime that is veiled in secrecy.  In fact, secrecy is the abuser’s best friend. 

 No parent expects that their child will be sexually abused, yet the frightening truth is that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday.  Since parents cannot be everywhere, wise parents take opportunities to instruct and empower their children.  Here are some things you should teach your children about abuse.

  1. Teach children that they are in charge of their own bodies and that no one has the right to touch them inappropriately.  Children should know which parts of their bodies are private.  A simple definition of private parts is the parts of their bodies that are covered by a swimming suit.
  2. Teach your children what to do if someone touches them inappropriately.  Teach them to get away as soon as possible, and always tell.  Be aware that an abuser will warn your child not to tell.  Tell your child that telling is the only way to be safe.
  3. Teach your children to trust their feelings.  If something feels uncomfortable, there is something wrong.  Tell them they can talk to you about anything that doesn’t feel right. 
In addition to talking to your children about abuse, it is smart to cultivate an open relationship with your child and to talk about all sorts of things.  Be a safe person for your child to talk to.  Let them know that you are on the same team and that together you can always work things out.  This will develop trust and make it easier for them when they need someone to talk to. 

It’s important to know where your kids are and who they are with.  This isn’t controlling, it’s just smart.  Let your kids know that you want to know what’s going on in their lives because you care about them.  Trust your feelings.  If something doesn’t feel right, find out why.  The only thing worse than finding out that your child is being abused, is not finding out.

Always listen to your child, and always believe him or her.  If you find out that your child is being abused take steps to protect him or her from further abuse.  Report the abuse to local authorities and seek help from your family physician.  Counseling may be a good idea.  Though sexual abuse is devastating, healing is possible.  Support your child in the healing process.  Never blame your child.  Abuse is never the child’s fault.

 Stolen childhood is everyone’s concern.  We are a community of caring adults. Let’s stand together.  Let’s stand up for kids.

Linda Garner






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