by Pam Congdon
Restore Hope Executive Director
Child sexual abuse is unacceptable . . . .
How did this become such a huge epidemic?
How can we help protect our children?
How do we help them heal?
Too many of us really don't know what to do about child sexual abuse. We hear about it almost every day on the news, and even though we hear the words, we have become deaf to the real meaning and implications of what's happening in our world. We want to help stop this epidemic or at least prevent the abuse of as many as possible. How sad that we are in a fight for the mental, physical, and emotional lives of our children and we know we can't stop it, only help it. Thats OK . . . . as helping stop one abuse at a time, and supporting the survivors, is where we can and must start.
It starts with awareness. If you have never been the survivor of sexual abuse, or known someone who is, you might think this is not a very big problem. The fact is we all know survivors. We just don't know their names . . . . some keep it a secret for decades . . . and some never tell. My own grandmother was a survivor of sexual abuse by her father. He worked on the railroad and was gone for long periods of time. She was the oldest of four daughters and was his favored target when he returned from his many long business trips. I dont know if any of her sisters were also targets of his abuse, but you can guess they probably were.
The rate of child sexual abuse is conservatively estimated to be 25% of our population.
My grandmother was from the "don't tell" generation and actually kept her secret until she was 75 years old. Seventy-five years old . . . the impact of that alone is staggering. Her secret was finally set free when my mother asked her, why were we never able to see Grandma and Grandpa - - -? My grandmother looked her straight in the eye and said, "Because I was sexually abused by my father when I was a child and I didn't want to give him the opportunity to abuse you also." This validates my feelings that we live in a Conspiracy of Silence.
What if . . . she had been able to tell when she was a child? Maybe she did? I do know that her mother was committed to a mental facility, and maybe it was from the secret she kept or the knowledge that she did nothing to protect or rescue her own daughter from this heinous crime. Often the same thing happens today when a mother chooses to stay with her husband or boyfriend and rejects or denies what's happening to the child. Where is the outrage?
My grandparents had a very unhappy and rocky marriage. The thought of what had happened to his young wife was just too much for my grandfather. He became a stalker . . . . living right next door to the man who had taken the innocence from his new wife drove him to sitting in the bushes, watching the activities in the next house, night after night. It nearly drove him crazy. In those days, telling was absolutely taboo but today things have changed, and we can, we should, and we must start telling. If only my grandmother had known that breaking the silence could have set her free.
This is a sad case. But how many young girls and boys attending our schools, playing on a playground or sitting in our church pews are still keeping the secret? The shame and guilt they sometimes feel is not their fault and we need to educate society to be aware, be vigilant and to be always ready to defend the rights and safety of our innocent children. A child's safety is an adult's job but sometimes even the adults in charge of children can't be trusted.
Our child sexual abuse epidemic won't end until we're all willing to start the dialogue, be open and honest and to tell what's happening.
I invite you to join Restore Hope in this fight that affects all of us in some way. A miracle is a change of perception and our society definitely needs a miracle concerning the way we look at child sexual abuse and what's happening to our children. If I could prevent child sexual abuse, there's nothing that speaks to the kind of fulfillment that would bring. But I can't . . . . the world of abuse is filled . . . it's overflowing with pain and it's unbearable connection of loneliness, guilt and silence, but we must start somewhere and we must start now!
Lets break the silence and start the healing.
You may be asking - How can I help?
• Join us in the conversation about child sexual abuse
• Learn the facts about child sexual abuse
• Talk with your children about healthy boundaries
• Believe in every child's right to grow up with their sexual boundaries intact.
• Breaking the cycle of sexual abuse will better our community
• None of us is immune to this problem . . . be vigilant
• Spread the word about our goal to build a recovery center that will help support children and families who have suffered this trauma
• Support us with your voice to help break the silence and start the healing
• Our financial needs can be met with your support
• Contact us to offer other ways you may be of help
Hope is the connection with others that can bring about change. Restore Hope thanks you for your willingness to share your voice and become involved so the change can begin.
Let's all help end the Conspiracy of Silence.