The Secrets We Keep
Child sexual abuse is much more common than people realize. According to National Centers for Victims on Crime 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse. These are just the reported cases so it is believed that the actual numbers are much higher. Some possible effects of sexual abuse include fear, panic, shame, anger, possible PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome), anger, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse is often correlated with sexual abuse. There is a need for more available services, services better suited for survivors that provide emotional healing, more communication, and less stigma. It is difficult to discuss the abuse and it’s often kept hidden, which is difficult on survivors, and especially on helping professionals who have been sexually abused and are now exposed to secondary trauma. If you fit this category you may ask yourself “Why am I reliving my past”? Or “How do I let go of my past?” It is never too late to seek help from a therapist or open up to others you can trust about your feelings and experiences.
My friend, author Marvel Katz, wrote a book on how adults (parents, teachers, therapists, helping professionals) can help child survivors of sexual abuse. This is a book geared toward children that adults can use as a tool to aid discussions about sexual abuse. You can read more about her and her book, Tiny Finds His Whisper, and her story below:
I have been hearing stories over the past several months, from adults who have kept secrets, buried in shame and fear, about childhood sexual abuse. This topic is difficult to navigate, and it bears much pain for so many.
We all have questions. We all know someone who has suffered life-long pain stemming from childhood trauma, and sexual abuse is one of the worst kinds of trauma, because it is clouded in secrecy. The secrecy is usually perceived to be done with good intention by the victim, such as protecting loved ones, or protecting family reputation, but the victim often suffers life-long shame and prolonged psychological damage. In some circumstances the perpetrator appears to carry on with life, often masking their hidden shame- which is a prison in itself, while the victim carries much of the shame in secret silence.
What happens when a child is protecting an older sibling or parent; maybe a relative that everyone seems to love or adore? Does the child hold onto this terrible secret because they are afraid of what may happen to them? Unfortunately, according to statistics, most sexual abuse happens in the home/family, not outside the home/family as many want to believe. As a parent, how do we approach this topic? Can we engage in conversation with our children, without implying that we think there is an issue or a concern? Can we empower our children to stand up for themselves without causing them to become suspicious of everyone?
Our daughter was the joy of our heart. She was full of energy, happiness and life. We cherished the memories we were creating with her and her brothers; we wanted the best for our children. We were concerned about our daughter because she suffered with anxiety, every time it was stormy outside, or if we went to a restaurant or even to the movies, she would have an anxiety attack. The school would call me often, to say that she was feeling sick or anxious. I didn’t understand. I tried to talk to her, so she could tell me what was happening. I didn’t know the secret she was carrying.
I was in the kitchen one day, working with my daughter, who was now 16 years old, and we were casually chatting. She told me how she had been keeping a secret, that she had been sexually abused as a child. My heart fell, and my mind went blank; I didn’t know how to respond to this revelation.
Several years have gone by since this time, and we have grieved, but also learned and grown in wisdom as a family. I have been especially inspired by the courage and strength of our daughter. We are so proud of her.
Sexual abuse affects everyone in the family. Every member is robbed of something. Fear, shame, secrets, pain, emotional, mental, physical consequences of sexual abuse. As a mom, I never thought it could happen to my child. I thought I was educated and experienced enough to see the signs. I grappled with not knowing; how could I not have known?
My daughter and I decided together to write and illustrate a children’s story that would empower and give a voice to the youngest child. We have worked together to create a story of a little mouse,Tiny, who only has a whisper, but that has the courage to speak up about his secret that hurts him a lot. This children’s story is a way for us to pay it forward; to create a safe place for a child to reach out for help. Adults and children will find that this story creates breakthroughs for those too afraid to use their voice, and to know that someone cares about them.
This story is a gift that I wish I had for my daughter when she was young. We have partnered up with several organizations that offer practical help and support to families going through crisis and pain cause by sexual abuse. We have incorporated direct links in the book to our website, where you will find opportunities for training, support and practical help. This book is appropriate for children as young as 2 up to 7 years, and is a practical resource for teachers, counsellors, parents and anyone who works with children.
To learn more about Tiny Finds His Whisper and available resources go to Marvel’s website at https://tinywhispervoices.com/ . You can purchase the book on Amazon. You can also contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share your story or have any questions or comments. Know that you are not alone and if you have experienced sexual abuse, or you know someone who has, there are people who can help.
Marvel grew up playing in the forests and fields of British Columbia. Like Tiny, Marvel has a sense of adventure, and loves to explore the world around her. With her background in Early Childhood Education, Marvel has a compassionate heart for hurting children, and her home has been a safe haven for many little ones over the years. Marvel felt inspired to write Tiny’s story after learning about her own daughter’s journey; she felt lost trying to find support and resources suitable for parents and children who have been affected by sexual abuse. Now finding strength in her daughter’s healing, as well as from her own past, Marvel wants Tiny to be a vessel of hope for children, teenagers, and adults.
#PTSD #trauma #secondarytrauma #panic #relivingmypast #letgoofmypast #emotionalhealing