One of the worst misconceptions of child sexual abuse stems from a line that we all tell ourselves about one issue or another: “It will never happen to me. It will never happen in my own family.” Many believe that since the issue of child sexual abuse isn’t talked about as much as political, religious, or international issues that it isn’t as prevalent. The truth is precisely the opposite. According to Darkness to Light, an organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience sexual abuse before they turn 18. That means in a kindergarten class of 20 children, at least four are likely to be sexually abused before they graduate from high school. (www.stopitnow.org)
If that seems scary to you, it gets worse. A majority of these events are occurring in our friend’s homes and even our own. As reported by Darkness to Light, 30 to 40% of children are abused by family members. And as many as 60% are abused by people the family trusts. Add all that up and you see that only about 10% of abusers are strangers. Do you have goose bumps yet?
So why isn’t this more common knowledge? The answer: It’s because lines we tell ourselves like the one stated above. “I’m too smart to let it happen to me or my family.” These are lines we tell ourselves about rape, about drunk driving, about drug use, and yes, even about child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse is not only closer to home than we think, it takes place in our homes, sometimes under our very noses.
Then how do we keep child sexual abuse out of our homes, out of our own families?
We, the world, needs to learn about prevention. It isn’t enough to stop what is currently going on, we have to prevent it from happening in the first place. And when it comes to child sexual abuse, many turn their heads and look the other way. Many people don’t know anything about child sexual abuse, especially young adults. Being a young adult myself, I can tell you that ignorance amongst people my age is scary. And it needs to change.
At this point, you may be thinking, who is this person to be telling me that I am not seeing reality or making bold claims that the world needs to change?
I have never been a victim of child sexual abuse. But I am the 20 year old daughter of someone who was. And through my mother’s healing, prevention work and being raised to be aware of this issue, I know more on the subject than most adults and parents do. Because of my mother, I can see the signs of abuse in the young adults I come in contact with, through sports, parties, and at my college. I look out for the signs in my own friends. I can spot a creepy man a mile away. I am very good at not getting myself into bad situations, especially with men in unfamiliar places. I once came in contact with the uncle of a friend who raised all of my red flags and when I approached my friend about it, I was told that I was paranoid. I get this a lot. Because it is such a hush-hush topic, and not many 20 year olds know about the issue as much as I do, I am often met with rolling eyes and responses about being too paranoid or too quick to judge. But it is exactly responses like this that are the reason so many get away with abusing others. In our society, especially with women, it is considered impolite to suggest that a person is creepy or to ask them to not be around our children. It is impolite for a woman to say that she doesn’t feel comfortable with a man and often is told by her “girlfriends” that she is crazy and being unreasonable (Yes, this happened to me as well.) But I think we can agree that being “impolite” is worth saving yourself or your children from abuse of any kind. No one should ever be shamed for standing up for themselves or for trusting their gut.
I am here to tell you, the reader, that knowledge of this issue, all the facts and statistics that I know, have helped me to live a more aware and safer life. I see the world for what it truly is. Life is beautiful and filled with love and happiness and good people. But I am also aware of the bad that comes with humanity and because of my mother, I know how to keep that bad out of my life and out of the lives of any future children I may have.
I hope that I persuaded you in some way, to look around you and maybe look inside your own family. Prevention is all about opening your eyes to the truth. Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, to anyone. You know that cheesy Amazing Grace song, “I once was blind, but now I see?” It may be cliché, but it’s the truth. You can choose to be blind to the reality of this issue, or choose to open your eyes and see the truth. The choice is up to you.
By Elisa Brooks
Elisa Brooks is a 20 year old college student, currently getting her degree in English. When she is not editing or writing for her mother, Svava, she is playing soccer, reading and writing poetry, and watching movies with her family.
Want to learn more? Want to get educated on the subject? Check out webinars provided regularly here on this page for parents interested in learning more about prevention and how to keep their kids safe.