“Stop wasting your time, children are never affected by these things. Your organization should take care of big people going through this, they are the ones who hold things to heart”. When I received this report from my team members on the ground, first I was angry and then my anger turned into great concern for the people who come to this office expecting some form of direction after sexual abuse especially the children. Who will teach the children to speak up when those who have been given the mandate to speak on their behalf when their voices are being covered, don’t think it is important for their voices to be heard?
Let me rewind a bit so that you can have context. Not too long ago, in our usual midnight hour meetings because of different time zone difference, my team and I decided to go for an outreach with the community. This came about from the ‘side-eyes’ we have been receiving from people who don’t like our age cap of 12 years and below.
As it is, the organization is currently dealing with children under the age of 12 and below and our next phase will be a shelter house for teens. The feedback we get a lot is people wondering why we did not start with teens since those cases are many and it affects them so much. That statement is not true in its entirety. It is true that teens are affected after sexual abuse, and many more cases are reported but it is not true to think, they are affected MORE, since the reports are higher than those of children. This is the reason we took to ensuring our phase one, safe house program is for children twelve years. Being a rape survivor and a trauma counselor for over 10 years, I have met with many sexual abuse survivors, but that number was not as shocking as the number of parents, teachers and social workers we have worked with concerning children who have gone through sexual abuse. Some cases being active while others not.
This cases will only be reported most of the time because a “loud” neighbor or teacher blew the whistle, or a pregnancy could no longer be hidden, or a tragic loss of the victim happened during the ordeal or an admission that reporters got wind of the particular story. Other than that, many parents feel embarrassed when their child is sexually abused because most of the time, it happens with a close relative. For this reason, those involved in way or another are sworn to secrecy in the name of protecting their family name and it’s purely by God’s grace that I will somehow get wind of what is going on and engage in a rescue mission while others will be brought to us.
Time and time, we assure members of different communities that our priority is to have the victim enrolled in our program to receive counseling and any other material that will help her and the family as well in the journey of healing. Secondly if her environment is toxic, meaning the sexual abuse was done by a close relative or someone influential and so putting the life of the victim in danger, they need to come and be accommodated in our safe house as we run our program while she is boarding. If a mother is fearful, we help in moving the mother to a different neighborhood as we work closely with the police and lawyers as well for the legal bit.
Our number one objective is to first ensure the child is in a safe place before we take any other action. Justice occurs to a few, mostly children from influential backgrounds but where most of our victims come, don’t suit that description. So, we feel their days with laughter, joy, prayer, talks and more talks that help them release what is in their hearts. It has become a popular way of pouring out our hearts to empty the negative and inhale the hope for a better tomorrow. When we put this in perspective, we realized, cases of children being defiled are much more than what is recorded. Many of these cases go unreported because ‘special interests’ need to be protected and in other cases, fear becomes a huge inhibition in the pursuit of justice.
We once had a case where a landlord’s son sexually abused an eight-year-old girl and the single mother felt that if she reports him, and she has no money to move out, her life would probably be in danger. When I asked the lady why she would think that, the lady told me, she had been threatened. This case was brought to me after six months from the time the heinous act was done to her. She was brought in only because she was having terrible nightmares, screaming at night, withdrew from playing with her friends and preferred to just stay indoors and worst of all, she started wetting her bed at night. The sexual abuse happened when she was playing outside and the man who was all too familiar welcomed her to his house for some candy. This wasn’t new, it wasn’t the first time either, but it was her first time to be introduced to the immeasurable pain that left her traumatized and her innocence violated.
This is not an isolated case. There are similar occurrences like and others with a few differences, but the common thread is that, many of this sexual abuse happen with familiar people, hardly strangers. The guilt and shame that reaps the parent/s hearts wondering why they were not able to protect their children hits them so hard and numbs them.
Unfortunately, they think that speaking up will serve to aggravate an already bad situation. What they don’t know is that, when they chose silence instead of fighting for their child with everything they have, they introduced to them how, it is okay to be beaten, hurt, lied to, misused and even tramped upon. They have taught them the first lesson when abused is silence. Since those that were supposed to show her how to walk, instead taught her how to bow to the situation. At that very instant the little was taught her worth is not all that, it can be traded. It is sad how we teach our children without saying a word, remember actions speak louder than words and this applies to our children as well. Back in the field at some low-cost housing areas we were targeting specifically those in authority from social workers, neighborhood watch chair-person, chief and even police stations in this areas.
The assignment was going on well, as we educated them on what we do, why we do it and to whom we do it to, how we do it and how they can get involved. Some offices we went to, were very interested in what we do and commended us for the great work and the beautiful concept put in place to achieve our goal. Others looked tired and just ready to leave after coming back from their lunch break. But out of all the report I heard and read, one gentleman stood out for me. This man had absolutely no idea why we do, what we do. Being a chief, a person in authority, he told us he does not think we are doing this right because children do not remember such things. We should concentrate on big girls. He continued to say, he is a psychologist and so he knows what he is talking about. Wow, I just had no idea how to respond to this level of ignorance and arrogance wrapped up in one. After my emotions of anger came forth in torrents of tears, I shook that out and encouraged my team it is time to buckle up and do even more work on the ground where most of our victims come from.
One thing I discovered if our authorities do not think it is important and they are the ones on the ground, then we can lose a whole generation into anger and bitterness from all that they have been through and still going through.
See you next week for another Warrior Wednesday as we share on some of the effects of sexual abuse among children.