Tips from the Daughter of a Sexual Abuse Survivor

childMy mother is a brave woman who dared to speak out about being raped on multiple occasions by a brother-in-law during her childhood, although recounting such experiences caused her personal pain and in spite of pressure to stay silent for the sake of avoiding embarrassment and contention.  With the important disclaimer that I am not an expert on this topic, I would like to offer some advice, friend to friend, about what I have learned about protecting children from pedophiles as a result of growing up in a family that has seriously grappled with this issue.

  • Pedophilia thrives on secrecy.  Maintaining confidentiality is not a virtue when dealing with a pedophile; it facilitates their behavior. Teach your children that it is wrong for someone to ask them to keep secrets from their parents and they should tell you immediately if an adult asks them to keep a secret.  Regularly ask them if anyone has asked them to keep a secret.
  • Pedophilia is a long-term condition with no known cure. No matter how long after the fact this crime is discovered, it should be brought to light and if possible, prosecuted. The pedophile may have stopped harming the known victim by that time but is likely to have moved on to younger victims who are keeping silent. 
  • Teaching “stranger danger” is not helpful.  People are much more likely to be assaulted by someone they know.
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Nativity Scene

dec post 4“You don’t have to make every person in the city of Jerusalem,” my son says to me. He is home from college for the weekend and surveying the scene, incredulous that the stacks of fabric, scattered paper patterns, bags of pellets, stuffing, trim and buttons are ever going to amount to a proper Holy Family. I explain patiently. “It is Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, and there are a lot of characters in this story. I have already edited out the Innkeeper and his wife who are super important.” He says, “They are not what I would call ‘super important’.” I am indignant. “No Innkeeper’s wife, no manger. She orchestrated the whole setting” The row of cutout faces, lined up in various flesh tones alongside their corresponding future bodies, is particularly disconcerting to him. “Why does Jesus look like a thumb?” “Because that is how he is made, he is in swaddling clothes.” My son shivers. “He looks creepy.”

This is part of our holiday tradition. I attempt some seemingly impossible list of homemade gifts and my children and husband watch this ritual of aspirational overachievement with benevolent bemusement. Toys, quilts, scarves, all manner of stuffed and assembled things, most of which could be more easily and cheaply purchased, are in the works from November to the wee hours of Christmas morning. Skins and innards are strung everywhere as Mama Kringle assures everyone that this year she will get everything done on time and without incident. Retail jobs, small children, sickness, travel, nothing deters the hum of the machine or the smoke of the glue gun.

Last year I decided I wanted to make a Nativity out of bean bag dolls. I had bought the pattern years ago but had never done anything with it. I was trying to think of something special for my brother-in-law’s family and I pulled it out. It was the year to do it.

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Memory, Traditions, Christmas

Granny Jammies

I have been thinking a lot about memory lately, and a lot about traditions. The first is because of a very big book I read out loud twice while I was pregnant, called Memory, History, Forgetting. It is by the French phenomenologist, Paul Ricouer. He starts it by saying that the Greeks had two words for memory. One of them described the simple memories that just come to us without trying. We hear, or see, or smell something that reminds us of something else. The other term described memories that don’t necessarily come simply. Instead, they are the memories we actively search for, that we try to recollect. One of the main ways we do this is through telling stories, and essentially asking dear ones, “Remember when?” They might say “Yes,” and the story builds. It could also remind us that the same story can be recounted differently. For Ricouer, there are ways to recount a story so unfaithfully that they do violence or injustice, but there are also times that it is helpful to “recount otherwise,” to tell a different story. Remembering as story-sharing does something else. It helps answer a question some philosophers have had about memory: is it individual or collective? While one could make a case for either, it often seems to be both. We remember as individuals in a community, with narrative serving as the tie that binds. For us as Latter-day Saints, this also plays out each week when we sit in a room with those we call sisters and brothers and effortfully try to remember Christ. One of the ways we might attempt this, is by re-collecting the stories we have heard or read about Christ, including the ever meaningful, ever hopeful story of his birth.

I have been thinking about traditions, because I often think about traditions in December. I love remembering the way that my family celebrates Christmas and asking others the ways that their families do. I can feel close to my family, even when I’m an ocean or whole large landmass away. I feel part of something big and beautiful and sometimes messy, and I feel the warm feelings that I’ve come to associate as the spirit. (Or home. Or love.) Other’s traditions can feel a tiny bit foreign to me, but they can be wonderful to learn about, too. Sometimes I gain new insights, or new eyes to see those insights–to see inside something I have been looking at for a long time.

This happened to me on Sunday, but not quite with family traditions and rememberings of Christ’s birth. It happened with something slightly broader. My husband and I tried to sing along with friends, as we all tried to sing along with Handel’s “Messiah.” It was the first time for me, and because I am not a strong singer, it was hard. It was also beautiful and powerful, and a fitting tribute-tradition to our Savior’s birth, that I was grateful to experience first hand, in a chapel that I was grateful to sit in first hand, that was so different than the room I generally worship in.

A little while after that, my husband and I went with our sleeping babe to another church’s recreation of the journey to Bethlehem. It involved a 45 minute walk through a wooded path on a dark and frigid night, with a series of guided stops. There were two that gave me pause in the best way. One was to the shepherds watching their flock by night. They spoke amongst themselves, normally, casually, then a light appeared from a place that I wasn’t expecting, and I saw three angels. They spoke gentle, familiar words, and sang via a gentle (if still powerful), familiar song: “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” And I started to cry. Not because I love the song, though there might have been a measure of that too. I started to cry because each of those speaking, singing angels was a young woman. Aside from a small number of beautiful paintings, I can’t remember ever seeing angels depicted as female. (All of the named angels in the scriptures are male.) The other soul-stirring moment was at the manger.

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The “Measure of our Creation”

Today is the end of my seventh week in a 24-week programming bootcamp. Three months ago, I was only non-chalantly  applying for it, after having applied to another and had not gotten in. It wasn’t originally in my plans to do this now- next year at the earliest, but when opportunities come, I try to take them and not think to much about it. So far that philosophy has worked out.

I had been a stay-at-home-mom for 6 years. We homeschool. It has been a huge lifestyle change, and it’s unlikely to go back to how it was if I get a job after this. I am now gone 8-6 M-F. I have had a lot of disjointed thoughts on this situation this week and I supposed I’ll list them chronologically.

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Space to Fill

Warning: what you are about to read is not clever. It has not been edited for treacle, banality or minutia. I am pretty sure I am over-telling and under-showing. It is Thanksgiving morning 2014 and I need a dose of raw, unfiltered gratitude. Stat.

I am thankful that my husband is healthy. Eight months ago he was having major surgery. Last night, he was trying to make brussel sprouts tastes less like cabbage.  

I am thankful for our two sons who are kind, confident and passionate. Do you want me to tell you more about them? I have time. Do you want to see pictures of them? I downloaded several hundred off of facebook just last night. I love being their mom.

I am thankful I am safe, have a dry place to live, enough food, and warm clothes. I never take these things for granted.  

Today I am waking up with just two people in the house, one is still sleeping and one is typing. This is the first time my husband and I have been alone for a big holiday since . . . ever. It just happened. One of our boys is staying home and attending a “Friendsgiving.” The other is studying abroad. Friends and family can’t make the trip or are coming for Christmas instead. Several plans shifted at the last minute, and subsequently, my husband and I are here and everyone we typically host is somewhere else. We do have an invite for dinner, but we will not have the usual tumult of out-of-town guests, board games and traditional recipes. There is no turkey brining in a black garbage bag on our stoop. No stack of pies. No anticipation of someone squirting soda through their nose in response to mass hilarity.

I am thankful for all the extended family who do not necessarily get us, but love us anyway.

I am thankful for all my friends who listen to me and assure me that I am great, guiding me back to some version of great when I am being ridiculous.

I am thankful that I have interesting work that keeps my busy brain busy.  

I enjoy our empty nest, but I have been dreading the quiet today.

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Christmas Series: The Parable of the Nativity

Guest post by Quimby

 

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us – That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; that through him all might be saved.” (D&C Section 76)

nativityMy son was born on Christmas Eve. His birth came the year after our family’s most disastrous Christmas ever – a fairly remarkable statement, considering my extended family includes evangelical Christians, fundamental Muslims, and militant Atheists. My heart was still heavy with the events of 12 months prior when I cradled him in my arms and thanked a loving Heavenly Father for giving me this child, at exactly this moment, to soothe my troubled soul and let me find, once more, the beauty of Christmas. I looked into those slate-blue eyes and saw he already had all of the wisdom of the world, and he was anxious to share it with me. I kissed that soft spot on his head and cooed, “It’s alright, little one; we don’t have to worry about that just yet.”

Of course I couldn’t help but think of another mother, who had also cradled her newborn son one Christmas long ago. I marvelled at her courage and wondered if she did not rail at the injustice of it, that her child – so perfect – would have to carry such a heavy burden for us all.

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