This new #whyIdidntreport movement has been breaking my heart. I have had the honor of working for a local non profit that is building a secure tiny home community for girls, ages 11-17, who have been recovered from domestic sex trafficking. When we hear many of these survivor’s stories and how being sex trafficked has become a part of their lives, you know what a common thread is?
They had a history of sexual abuse.
Did you know that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18? First of all, why is there enough data to even do a study like this? So that means, when you are in a room full of people you can bet 30% of those people have experienced sexual abuse. Many never reported it, many never had a voice, many never had someone protect and defend them.
They may not physically display the scars but they carry them internally. The trauma sexual abuse causes is real. PTSD, anxiety, nightmares, depression are all symptoms of sexual abuse. Shame is the driving force behind people not reporting. 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way. 68% are abused by a family member.* Many are led to believe they were the cause of the abuse, many are told this abuse is “normal” behavior.
Reading through some of the #whyIdidntreport posts I felt very stabby when I saw the accounts of the abuse they endured as a child. They didn't feel like they had a voice, they were dismissed or they were shamed into silence.
I’m going to speak as a mother four, for the remainder of this post..
If our child is sexually abused we aren't exactly prepared for that. We aren't taught what to do in those scenarios. When we leave the hospital with our bundle of joy there isn't a pamphlet we are give that tells us what to do if this happens to our child. However, reading the statements people have made about telling a parent they were abused and the parent didn’t report it or shamed that child, makes me come unglued.
We have a LEGAL obligation to report sexual abuse. I’ve heard parents say things like, “they made that up”. Just so you know, kids don’t make stuff like this up. Is it hard to report someone we are related to or have a close relationship with? Yes. But I would rather lose a “friend” or relative to ensure my child is protected. Not defending our children adds to the trauma they have already endured. Just because we don't know what to do, doesn't give us permission to sweep it under the rug and do nothing about it! I'm not saying air it all out on social media but for the love of God make a phone call, get on Google and do something!
If you are reading this, and you weren’t defended or protected by your parents I want to say from the bottom of my heart, I am so sorry. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t deserve that. You are valuable, you are loved, you are not what happened to you.
We also don't need to wait until something like this happens to our families. We can be pro active and teach, train and equip our kids should anything like this present itself to our child. As parents, we need to have the hard conversations about what is and is not appropriate touch. We need to communicate to them the importance of transparency. We also need to be aware of signs to see if something HAS happened but they are afraid to tell us.
I think one of the most important things we as parents can do is be aware of what is going on. I have heard far too many people say, “that doesn’t happen here” and claim ignorance. While that may be the case we can’t pretend that our families are exempt from this happening to them. Sexual abuse does not discriminate. It happens to all demographics, all socio-economic classes, all genders and races. I don’t think we should live in fear, but I think we need to do our due diligence to know what our kids are being exposed to and be the ones to educate them on certain topics instead of them learning it from their friends or the internet.
Let’s talk about porn. Some people believe porn is harmless, however pornography is highly addictive and linked to sexual abuse.
Two doctors noted in their research-based book, Pornography and Sexual Aggression, that “certain [aggressive] forms of pornography can affect aggressive attitudes toward women and can desensitize an individual’s perception of rape. These attitudes and perceptions are, furthermore, directly related to actual aggressive behavior against women.” They also found adult porn was connected with each of the 1,400 child sexual molestation cases in Louisville, Kentucky, and child porn was connected with the majority of them.*
One report shows, “in spite of the lack of formal research, though, the FBI’s own statistics show that pornography is found at 80% of the scenes of violent sex crimes, or in the homes of the perpetrators.”
Can we say EVERY person who has been exposed to porn will become an abuser, no. However, we have to acknowledge the link between porn and sexual abuse. I read a study that said the average age a child become addicted to porn is 12. Many times they will hear a word they don’t know and Google it, they become exposed to graphic images that become addictive.
There is an amazing book called “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” that helps us talk to our kids about porn and what to do when they are exposed to it. One of my kids was exposed porn on a phone at lunch, so it’s not a matter of IF they see it, it’s a matter of WHEN they see it, will they know what to do?
We have three boys. We are SUPER intentional to talk to them about boundaries, to teach them how to respect women, how to honor girls, what is an is not acceptable behavior. We are raising them to be men, not dudes that take advantage of girls. I think as parents we HAVE to teach them these things otherwise they learn how to be "men" from the world and CLEARLY the world isn't getting it right.
If you are told NO before sex and you don't stop or are told no even DURING sex and don't stop, that's rape. You don't have sex with a person who is passed out. You don't have sex with a person who is too intoxicated they can't stand up straight or how about intoxicated period. You don't shame or blackmail a person to have sex with you. You defend and stand up for anyone who is in a vulnerable state and could be a target. You don't have sex with a child. Like, this should be common knowledge but again we live in a broken world where hurt people, hurt people. Lines between what is right and wrong have been blurred and we, as parents, need to take our place to teach the difference between the two. We need to set the bar higher. We can't put our head in the sand and pretend this isn't happening or assume they will make the right choices.
I am proud of those who are speaking up about what happened to them. It’s bringing to light something that thrives in darkness. It exposes behavior that has been silenced for far too long. They are paving a path that will allow others to be brave too and get the help they need.
If your child has been abused: Report it. There are resources available to you and your family!
If you have been assaulted: Report it. If they told you to be quiet, go to the media and report it. Keep reporting it until someone listens to you!