A TEACHER'S STORY|
I'd been teaching elementary school for a long time when I met two little
boys, practically towheaded twins. Their mother was a dear Christian woman,
sweet and loving, determined to do the best by her children. Their dad was a
pillar of the church - ready to lend a hand or to take any office to help
That's why I was so unprepared when other children began to let little
things slip out about these boys. It couldn't be true. No Christian family would allow hardcore pornography in their home; no Christian mom would let her sons practice oral sex on each
other. Surely if someone told the parents, they'd set things straight. It
didn't occur to me that they'd be in such strong denial that they'd refuse
to believe the evidence and do nothing at all.
My professional integrity demanded that I protect my children in my care -
the schoolchildren from the boys' sexual advances, the boys themselves from
this soul pollution. But I didn't know how. Nothing I thought of seemed the
right thing to do.
A MOTHER'S STORY
Another family and ours were best friends. Our children were as close as
siblings. It's great to share everything with someone - the same books and
music, each other's hobbies. As our children budded into teenagers, it
seemed natural for them to spend an occasional night with our friends. But
as time passed we realized that one child was invited more than the others.
I wondered if the left-out children had done something to offend them. I
don't think I ever asked.
When a teacher-friend called us to ask what we knew about the situation
with Friend X, we didn't know what he was talking about. We quickly assured
him that our friend was a fine, upstanding man who held our highest regard.
We were aghast to learn that he had been French-kissing and fondling our
12-year-old daughter. Devastated at the news, we were thankful that her
sibling had found out and had told a trusted teacher (who was reluctant to
tell us, so asked a mutual friend to inquire discreetly).
We immediately asked our children about the whole situation. Tragically,
the allegations were true. Although we were too hurt and angry to face
Friend X, we were assured that nothing of that sort would be permitted to
happen again. We didn't go to the authorities. Shortly thereafter Friend X
left the community.
If we'd known then what we know now, we would have gotten our whole family
into counseling and possibly averted what happened next. But back then
people didn't talk much about sexual abuse, not much was known about helping
families cope with the aftermath.
Now we know that the child and the family can find healing, and that
therapy may be needed for a long time after the event. Now we know ways of
helping young people avoid harm by teaching them refusal skills. We tell
children about "good touch-bad touch" and we urge them to tell a trusted
adult if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
But because of our innocence and ignorance, we managed to get the one child
out of the frying pan, but the sibling who had "informed" fell into the
fire. Incredible as it seems, Sibling B was seduced by Teacher-Friend Y (the
very one who'd told on X). This time we didn't find out, and the
relationship continued for two years until that child went away to boarding
school. Even when it became apparent that Sibling B was emotionally
disturbed - and throughout a whole year of intensive counseling - the truth
remained carefully hidden by the betrayed youngster.
Why am I telling you this? Because you should know that sexual abuse can
happen in the best of families and in the best of schools and churches. More
important, you should know how you can do better than I did and maybe avoid
some of the guilt and pain that I live with. And maybe your children won't
bear the scars that mine carry even now.
A TEENAGER'S STORY
I'd been friends with a boy, not a boyfriend, for several months. We
belonged to the same school clubs; we worked on art projects together. We
both were away at college; not living at home. When Sam asked me to sort of
go out with him I thought it would be great, because he was so much fun to
We had a terrific time, and when it was time to go back to the dorm he
started kissing me. I rather enjoyed it, thinking that he truly liked me and
maybe wanted us to start dating. Then suddenly he grabbed me and told me I
had to have sex with him. I was terrified. I didn't even "like" him like
that. I was a virgin, and I wanted to wait till I was married.
But he pushed me down and made me do it anyway. Afterward I was bleeding
and hurting and shaking and crying, and he yelled at me, then took me back
to the dorm as if nothing had happened. I was too afraid and ashamed to let
But as the days passed I grew worried I might get pregnant, so I went to
one of my teachers. At first he didn't believe me. Then he said that it must
have been my fault. I couldn't think what I'd done to make Sam rape me, but
I figured he must be right. I never told anyone else.
Later one of my other teachers started being extra nice to me. I really
liked it, because I felt pretty terrible about myself, and he made me feel
better. Only then he wanted sex too. I didn't know how to resist him. He
didn't force me physically, just kept on insisting, and finally I couldn't
refuse him. I just didn't have any more willpower. And after that he
wouldn't leave me alone. He just kept after me and after me, and we kept
having sex until I left that school. I never told anyone. He was a popular
teacher, and no one would have believed me.
A DOCTOR'S STORY
Way too often a mother or child tells me a story like the ones I have
shared (with their permission and identities protected). Don't let it be
your story too. Take positive steps to protect your children in your care.
If something has already happened, remember that it is never too late to get
HOW TO EMPOWER YOUR CHILD TO RESIST UNWANTED OR UNCOMFORTABLE ADVANCES:
- Teach them, from infancy, accurate names for body parts. Diapering, potty
time, and bathing are good times for this to occur naturally.
- Teach them that the human body is beautiful and has inherent dignity.
Children's books for this purpose or artistic paintings and sculpture can
help convey this so that kids don't have to look at "dirty" pictures or
experiment with playmates to satisfy their natural curiosity.
- Teach them, from the time they're toddlers, to respect their own and
others' privacy (but maintain constant vigilance to ensure their safety).
- Teach them to express their feelings in words from early preschool age, and
LISTEN to what they say. Don't stop just because they grown into teens.
- Teach them that they can ALWAYS come to you if they feel uncomfortable in
any situation and that you will help them. Remind them especially when they
are away from home.
- Teach them specifically (children don't generalize; they are
literal-minded) that no one may touch their "bathing suit" areas unless you
are present or have given permission for a specific situation such as a
doctor's visit, and that they are not to look at or touch anyone else's
unclothed bodies without your permission.
- Teach them to say "NO!" forcefully and loudly if someone tries to get them
to do something that you have taught them is wrong or that they believe is
wrong, and to get help if the person persists.
- Teach them to feel good about themselves, their bodies, and their future -
to have self-confidence, self-respect, and self-worth.
IF YOU THINK YOUR CHILD MAY HAVE BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED:
1. Believe your child and affirm them for telling you; stay calm and
2. Seek professional help immediately for your child and your family. (Start
with your pediatrician, child protective services, and a counselor trained
in treating sexual abuse.)
3. Reassure your child that it wasn't their fault and that they did the best
they could at the time.
4. Expect the consequences to be painful and for the pain to recur later on
at different times. Don't expect it to all be over and done with and put
behind everyone. It takes time to heal and is an ongoing process for
everyone in the family.
5. Let your child talk about it at their own pace. Don't push them or try to
6. Expect your child to recant when the going gets rough. Encourage them to
tell the truth for the good of all concerned, but understand that they may
try to "erase" the whole experience.
7. As strongly as possible, let your child know that it's the adults' job to
protect children and that you and God love them no matter what!
And, the following is advice from a Dear Abby writer on child pornography...
My letter is in response to "Terrified in the South," who discovered her
husband's interest in child pornography. "Terrified" asked whether you
thought her husband could be a child molester and said that she couldn't
stand the thought of her husband touching her "if he...hurt a child like
Abby, her husband doesn't need to physically touch a child to "hurt a child
like that"; his desire for child pornography creates and fuels the demand
for sexual exploitation of children.
Please inform your readers that the very act of downloading or viewing child
pornography is a criminal act and creates the environment for children to be
sexually abused by SOMEONE.
The US Customs Service investigates the trafficking of child pornography via
the internet. If your readers suspect someone is involved with child
pornography over the Internet, referrals can be made by calling 1-800-BE
ALERT (1-800-232-5378) or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.