Words Matter!

19 Apr

“If I survived it, so can she!” Words I recently read in an article, the words of a mother responding to reports of her 14-year-old daughter being a victim of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)

“I just believed, if your mother knew and still left you, I figured I wasn’t compelled to do anything.” Words said to me by a beloved aunt a few years ago

“I thank god he didn’t kill them, when he was doing what he did to them!” Words allegedly spoken by the matriarch of my family, referring to the sexual violations on her children and grand children by her husband, in response to the stories of recent incidences of young girls being raped and then murdered by their perpetrators.

Three separate but very telling examples of mindless speech in regards to CSA. In my opinion, whether these comments were made due to inexperience, naivety, stupidity, being uninformed, unaware or so disconnected from reality, all three statements can be traumatic to a victim of CSA.

It’s rather sad to say the least that any mother could respond to such a violation of her child this way…now take a moment and factor in that she too was sexually abused as a child.

She is of the belief that she survived by virtue of the fact that she’s alive and is indeed ok. Those words she spoke, her mindset unbeknownst to her says something different. She never mentioned how or what she did to become a survivor but simply that the child WILL be fine.  As a CSA survivor I felt that her comment lacked compassion and understanding… the comment was puzzling, I began to wonder, what has she worked through? anger? rage? pain? fear? to name a few of the emotions CSA victims often experience. I further thought, is she simply existing? Is she honestly fine?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been inundated with stories of CSA which now seems to include murder of the victims. It’s apparent that new cases are being reported and discovered daily. To some this may be viewed as a positive step in the battle against CSA, however in my estimation, it is upsetting and devastating. The new trend in the world of CSA is the raping and murdering of young children in an effort by the pedophile to cover up the secrets and hide the heinous acts being committed against them because the perpetrators are afraid of being discovered.  Am I happy that we have brought more awareness to CSA? Yes I am! However now we need a new strategy to protect our children from permanent death. We have to evolve the same way the perpetrators are evolving.

I was prompted to write this article as I sat reflecting on a couple of comments I read and was told of prior to reading the article with the mother stating her child will be fine because she too was violated and she’s fine. Her response triggered emotions regarding my own battles with ridiculous, stupid and thoughtless comments aimed at CSA victims and survivors. I was quickly reminded of one such comment that was made to me.

I continue to be baffled by the warped and jaded thinking of some folks. I am concerned for our society and the future generations when you have people making remarks and actually believing the nonsense they spew. I know at times we tend to speak without thinking not taking into consideration the feelings of the person with whom or of whom we speak.

The comment made by the mother was very similar to one I experienced a few years ago when a beloved aunt said to me; “I just believed if your mother knew and left you, I figured I wasn’t compelled to do anything.”

I was alarmed, rather puzzled by the remark, the anguish I experienced then probably would have been less terrifying had she taken a dagger to my heart… This mother’s response helped me to dissect my aunts comment and I now believe she spoke naively, not realizing the impact of her words.  As I reflected on the comment of the mother and my aunt, I began to realize she was clueless to the fact that with that comment she had confirmed what I felt for years, “I didn’t matter, I wasn’t important enough, my experience/ordeal wasn’t that big of a deal”. I realize she hadn’t thought it through, for had she done so, she wouldn’t have made the comment, instead she would have felt regret and would have felt the need to make a supportive statement instead.

How much longer are we going to apply the Bystander Effect like my aunt and this mother? Why did my aunt not feel responsible and compelled to intervene?  I’ll tell you what I think, I think she didn’t find it necessary because of this same mindless thinking and belief that “it’s not my problem, it’s not a big deal, it’ll pass, etc.” This attitude causes me to worry about how society views this problem. As a society with this kind of approach and mindset, we are guilty of giving the perpetrators a license to continue perpetuating such crimes. (My aunt has since become a grandmother). I’m certain she wouldn’t say the same thing to her grandchild if she knew she was being sexually abused and her mom out of fear or shame did nothing.

The problem with this comment is: Regardless of the reason a parent doesn’t stand up for a child who is being abused, if everyone in society should take the same approach and ignore the pain of an innocent child, How can we hope to ever rid our society of these issues? If we can’t be our brothers keeper, we should at least aim to be a protector of children be it yours or someone else’s. If we have mothers, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. convinced that CSA is just not that severe an act to take action, to speak, to prevent, then what hope does the future generation have?

As for the comment; “thank god, a victim wasn’t killed or harmed by a perpetrator?” This comment holds no merit, there is no truth to this statement. THE VICTIM DID DIE!! Though not a physical death, something in us dies and contrary to what some may think, many victims would have preferred the sweet release of physical death as opposed to becoming a walking, living, breathing dead. Being brutally violated and/or raped is not an act we are all equipped to handle, some are not mentally capable of self recovery and some would have preferred physical death than the state in which they remain.

Many CSA survivors live in a state of simply existing, dead on the inside, just coping with life, in a zombie like state, being unable to truly feel, deal, trust or be normal human beings. Some live in constant fear, fear that someone will find out their secret, fear of being judged or misunderstood, not knowing who they truly are, feeling worthless and unworthy accepting and attracting everything but good because they attract the very thing they fear and despise “Abuse of any kind.”

A CSA survivor sometimes does not know their worth, they often experience feelings of “nothingness”. When a person has been raped or  violated sexually, they DO DIE, you are killed mentally and emotionally. I struggle to understand why many people cannot comprehend that being raped especially as a child KILLS the victim, the act of being violated in such fashion, someone forcing themselves on you, not having a choice, a voice or a say in the matter kills the very essence of who you are, of who you were meant to be. You are robbed of your identity, your innocence, your dignity, your childhood and any hope of normalcy.  I mean ripped from your grasp and along with it your self-respect, self-love and anything you cherished, your hopes and dreams die in the process for now you must contend with the not so-confident, the bruised, the battered, the tortured and tormented shell of a soul that remains.

How can anyone be “fine” after being raped, sexually assaulted, molested, touched inappropriately, fondled, molested, defiled, or any other name you may choose to call it. If an adult is raped and or violated, most frequently they cannot get beyond the act, the image, a smell, a sound, the memory etc plays over like a record stuck on replay.  Are they fully able to function and are capable of leading a so-called normal life? YES but, it is a constant struggle to find the balance between normal and abnormal.  If some adults that are raped prefer death over having to relive their traumatic experience, think about a child who does not have the knowledge, or understanding of self. Think about the impact of such an act on one who has not had the chance to develop their sense of self, self-worth, self-love or their self-confidence.

I have yet to see, hear or encounter an abused victim that just recover, snap back to reality after the act was committed on them. It is usually a long, pain-staking journey for those of us lucky enough to find our way back. There are those that went to their graves a mere fraction of what they could/should have been had not some creep violated them in such a way.

So how do we correct the wrongs? How do we help put a stop to/rid our society of this plague? How do we begin to create a respectful and productive future for our youths when we have people spreading this type of propoganda that CSA is not that serious, when we minimize the impact of sexual assaults, when we make a mockery of the victims of CSA?

Well we can begin by acknowledging the seriousness of this plague, we speak, we make an effort to learn more, to understand more, to empathize more, to speak less when someone is expressing their pain derived from CSA and listen more to those who have had the experience! We act!

I only wish that we would think before we speak (take the necessary precautions to help a victim become a survivor, help a victim on their journey to become well-functioning, secure, self assured and loving assets to the world.

Words are powerful, there is nothing simple about a child being sexually abused, CSA changes the trajectory of a life. This is not questionable or debatable it is not a matter of maybe, but instead a fact, a child sexually abused begins a chain, a cycle of events that affects all of us.  Rape alters lives, it cuts to the core and eventually creates a negative head spin. We can however give victims hope by being a support, we can decide to intervene and alter the destruction course, change begins with each one of us. One parent at a time, if not the parent, a family member, a teacher, the community, a therapist, a friend… let it begin with you!

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