Today I was reading about someone that was running a child abuse awareness event. While I all in favour of these. People need to be aware. They need to be able to spot the signs. They need to be shown; please don’t look away just because you don’t want to see.
There’s another side. I think, or at least I wish there was something when I was a child that was for me. Not someone to come in and save me. Not someone asking questions about what was going on. Of course people see a child in harm and they want to rush in and take the child away.
What a fear I had of that. How awful it would have been for someone to do that to me. I cannot tell you how afraid it made me. That someone would take me away from my family. I would be punished because I was being abused. I would lose my Nan, my brother, my beloved dog. My home. A new school perhaps? New friends? And then after that, my parents in prison? How would I live with myself knowing it was because of me? What of me and my brother? Would we have been split up? Would we have stayed with my Nan? Such a huge responsibility on the shoulders of an already troubled child.
There’s also, what if no one believed me?
My father was well known. Well loved. All his mates down the garage area where he worked knew what a great guy he was. Supporting his family. My mother too, always smiling. Always happy.
I did get asked once. One morning when I was eleven my teacher took me to the library and she asked me if anything was going on at home. I’ve never been so afraid in my life. All of the above thoughts crashed through my mind. What if this happened? What if that happened? What if I never go to go home again?
I could do nothing but cry. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to lie, but I had to. I did. I told her that it was just me and my brother fighting. I don’t think she believed me, but what could she do? She wrapped her arms around me and let me cry. I don’t know how long for, but it was probably one of the only hugs I ever got as a child. I’ll always remember it.
I wish there would have been someone I could just talk to. That would not act unless I wanted to. That gave me control of my situation, because after all that’s one of the things that’s taken in every way. The abuser takes control in their way and the saviour takes it another way, by telling a child what is happening is wrong and then ‘saves’ them.
I tried to tell my best friend one time. We were walking to school and I asked her what she would do if someone she knew had bad things going on at home. I pretend a boy in my class had told me. She said she’d tell her mum and dad. So I shut my mouth. Never mentioned it again. Even my best friend could not be trusted with my secret.
I just wanted to tell someone, but I was locked away with all the possible repercussions.
Throughout my life I have come across many children in need. Some I have taken in and some I have just helped. But I didn’t once force them to get help. I waited. I told them what I thought was wrong, what people were doing, but I said, when you’re ready I will help you. They just had to ask, and they did. When they trusted me. When they knew that it was safe. They had control all the time. One of the children, whose stepfather was beating her, now resides with her grandmother. She calls me often just to tell me the most inane thing. Another, I talked to and helped her to get to hospital and the last I heard she was off into foster care and another whose drugged up mother and stepfather were treating him like a slave was brave enough to report his mother, he now resides with his father.
The girl probably took the longest, for three years I listened to her telling me her stories, I held her when she cried. I hugged her, but I waited. Some might think this is the wrong action; I was letting it happen perhaps when I knew what was going on? But what was I supposed to do? She would have lied until she got to that moment she was ready to speak. I held her hand when she did so.
Instead of child abuse awareness, I wish there was something like child awareness. A place for them to go just to talk. Where they are in control no matter what is happening to them. Give them back their voice.
I understand that this is not the case in all situations, some are life threatening, but it is something I would love to see as a first step. A Mr. Ted for anyone that needs it.
I get what you mean…
I understand exactly what you mean. I wish I had such a place when I was under my mothers ‘roof’.
Open one for the children and they will come. Be the first and others will follow. I think that is a great idea…really, it should have been happening right along.
An excellent idea indeed. I love the way you think, James.
I could probably spew off a hundred different instances when something felt wrong about my parents and I had nobody to talk to. Because unfortunately, kids know when something isnt like it should be at one point in their lives but in that moment, they feel so much fear, and become immobile. A place like this is an open doorway. It isnt saying we’re gathering information to put your parents in jail, its saying that no matter what is happening to you; abuse, bullying, or just the fact that you feelings you don’t know what to do with, you can come here and talk and someone will listen without judgement.
JD, thank you for putting so much thought and effort in writing about this from a child’s perspective. At all costs, I believe the very first thing to consider when a child reports that they are abused is the coping tools necessary to prepare that child for what’s to come, and alleviate their fears, especially of the unknown.
In a very recent APB article, a Baptist Pastor (can you believe it?), Gary Morgan painted what I think to be a very realistic picture:
““What you need to know about turning the light on is it is going to be hell on earth,” Morgan said. “When you decide to turn the light on and say, ‘Grandpa abused me,’ get ready. It is going to be almost as bad, it may even feel worse to you, than the initial abuse did, because you’re going to be so shocked.”
How in the world do you prepare a child for that? If they are to be freed from the situation, which they MUST, how much time do you give them until they’re ready?
The way I understand it, the law would never allow waiting for a child to be ready to tell what happened if it’s already been reported to an adult. In most areas, and under most circumstances that I know of, there are mandatory reporting laws in some form or another. Not reporting when a child tells you they are being harmed could be a crime where you live.
Again, thank you for shining some light on this topic. Much more emphasis needs to be placed on the immediate and urgent needs of a child who has disclosed abuse to anyone.
Keep speaking out!
I know they wouldn’t wait, but there wouldn’t be any harm in adding this service. You never know, might make more children come through, sort of like having a small stepping stone for them. When they are steady on that, then they can make a leap. Of course every case is different, but offering a child their voice to begin with, where its safe cant be harmful.