Tips from the Daughter of a Sexual Abuse Survivor
My 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.
- Be careful to avoid the impression that children should obey grown-ups just because they are grown-ups. A better strategy is to teach them that they do not have to do something that feels wrong to them even if someone in authority makes the demand.
- At my annual well-child appointments, my pediatrician always gives me the option of checking for signs of abuse “if suspected.” I reply that I do not suspect abuse, but that I want my children checked anyway because my own mother was abused for years and no one suspected.
- Forgiveness is godly; forgetting, in the case of sexual predators, is dangerous. Forgiveness does not mean treating the pedophile like everyone else. It certainly does not mean trusting pedophiles to be around children, even years or decades after the known incident. The safety of an innocent child is more important than the feelings of even a very penitent abuser.