Continuing the Conversation Blog
Confident Parenting In A "Me, Too" World
Wednesday, January 24, 2018
When I was four, Billy, a teenage hired field-hand wanted to play a secret game with my older sister and me. I think it was because I was with my sister—I always felt empowered when we were together, and that Billy hadn’t taken time to groom us—manipulate us for the purpose of sexual abuse, that I ran and told my dad.
My father did three very important things for me that day: He listened to me, he believed me, and he took action. I can still see him marching toward the barn. I can still remember my first thought as I watched him go: I bet I just got Billy in big trouble. I felt ashamed.
Billy didn’t get himself in trouble. I got Billy in trouble.
After puberty and years later . . .
When I felt the hard slap on my butt, I stopped in my tracks. Stunned. As I began to realize what had just happened, I could hear their laughter. Looking toward the sound, I saw two young men, running through the home goods department of the Sears store, glancing back at me. I was twenty-one. I felt humiliated.
Were my jeans too tight? Why did they pick me? Me. It’s where my thoughts went immediately. What was wrong with me?
When one of my daughters came home from school and told me she was violated in her classroom, I called her guidance counselor. *
“Why didn’t she scream?” he asked. It was his first question. I’m glad my daughter didn’t hear him. I can only guess what she would have felt—shame.
Why didn’t she . . .?
People wonder why children don’t just tell—why women, men, boys, and girls don’t just scream.
And I tell them, as politely, and as compassionately as I can, what I told my daughter’s guidance counselor, “The shame is immediate. And shame is the great silencer. She believed it was her fault.”
Victims of sexual abuse blame themselves for the grievous choices of their perpetrators. (TWEET this!)
Sadly, we will have “Me, Too” stories for as long as human beings draw breath, as long as there is good and evil. And I pray your children never have their own story. It’s why I speak about prevention to as many who will listen, and offer free prevention resources on our website (Learn our prevention tips in 5 minutes.). But if your children do, I pray their stories end like this one:
Several years later after many conversations about sexual abuse with my children . . .
My young adult son came home from work distressed. Without warning, his much older boss, a husband and a father, had made an unwanted physical advance.
“He called me into his office,” our son told us, “where there would be no cameras, no proof,”
“What do you want to do?” We asked.
“File a police report. Even if they can’t do anything about it, I want them to know. Maybe someone else will report in the future. I keep thinking of all the kids who work there, who won’t know what to do. I’m so glad you talked to me about this stuff.”
We were never prouder of him. Our son took back his power. And even though he was correct, there wasn’t enough evidence, the police took his statement and thanked him.
I don’t know if we can replace the shame our kids will feel or change their initial thoughts of self-blame should they encounter abuse. When it comes to sexual violations, our default buttons are preset.
Sexual abuse attacks the dignity of its victims. (TWEET this.)
But by engaging our children in conversations about prevention throughout their lives, we can change the outcomes.
We can teach it and preach it, with love in our eyes and passion in our voices, to our children and their children, at least once a year and every teachable moment in-between—"If anyone, and I mean ANYONE, speaks to you, or touches you in an inappropriate way, tell me. I will listen.”
Then we, as moms, dads, grandparents, and trusted care-givers can be confident that we’ve done all we can, within our power, to prevent an incident of abuse and a lifetime of shame.
Prevention begins with conversations and shame ends with conversations. (TWEET this.)
Begin the conversation with your child today with our free conversation starters.
You can do it! We can help.
* Please learn from my mistake. If your child ever discloses abuse to you, call the police, not the school, the church, or the organization. Schools, churches, and organizations are not trained in the complexities of forensic interviewing and may not understand what’s in the best interest of your child. But you will.
Carolyn Byers Ruch is the founder of Rise and Shine Movement and author of the children’s books, Ana’s Song and Bobby Gilliam, Brave and Strong, both tools for the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. She has spent the past ten years championing the issue of childhood sexual abuse and has received training certificates from some of the leading organizations dedicated to protecting children. A former teacher and mother of seven, her life has been enriched through adoption and foster care.
Christy Willard From At 1/25/2018 9:30:51 AMThank you for sharing so openly! It's hard enough dealing with our own "me, too" stories, let alone knowing the best way to help our kids possibly thru their own. The idea of that feels hard, but you're right, the only way to prevent it, the only way to keep shame away is to talk about it.
Would your child keep a
secret from you?
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