“Get out of there, YOU IDIOT!” boomed a male voice. Stepping out my front door, I heard his yell blast through the neighborhood. Someone was being abused.
Abuse is more than bruises and violence. This man’s words were emotional abuse: belittling, shaming, name calling, yelling. But, subtle abuse, like giving the silent treatment, neglect or withholding affection does the same emotional damage. Fighting violently in front of your child, also abuses them emotionally.
A big misconception about sexual abuse is that it only refers to rape or violent sexual acts. It is often very subtle. Inappropriate touching and secretive sexual behavior does damage to a child and produces deep shame and guilt.
Even though physical, emotional and sexual abuse happens in different ways, it leaves much the same effect. It’s a form of trauma. It shatters a sense of security. It leaves behind feelings of helplessness, fear and being unprotected.
Abuse thrives on secrecy. As long as the abuser can stay hidden and their actions covered-up, the abuse can continue. It’s common for an abused child or adult not to tell. They have learned – through spoken or unspoken threats – they MUST keep the secret. Abusers make their victim believe they are responsible, not only for the abuse, but also for protecting the abuser and any other person who might be effected by the abuse.
It’s a horrible fact, but abuse does happen. I can’t guarantee the ones I love won’t go through some kind of abuse, but I can construct strong barriers against it.
A pamphlet was being handed out by our local police on the awareness of abuse. A lady walking by said, “Ooo, I don’t even want to know….it’s such an awful thing!” Avoiding the subject or pretending it doesn’t exist allows abuse to hide. Learn about it. Know the warning signs. Think through what you’d do if you suspected abuse.
Cultivating an atmosphere of NO SECRETS is powerful abuse prevention. For abuse to continue, secrecy and cover-up has to exist. Wickedness is done in darkness. Let your kids know they never have to conceal evil or keep secrets about wrong behavior to protect someone. Those secrets don’t protect, they enable. I John 1:7 tells us to, “Walk in the light…” Bringing abuse into the open, is like shining a light into the darkness. The abuser’s power is broken.
Don’t force a child to be around someone they are not comfortable with. Children need to know they can follow their intuition and have boundaries.
Talk openly that no one has the right to touch them in private areas, bully them or hurt them. Tell them if anyone says, “Don’t tell!” or makes them feel like they should cover-up something that’s happened, this is a big flashing warning sign, letting them know they are to tell a safe adult immediately.
Sue is the author of Grandma Sue’s Bible Adventures in Rhyme
Grandma Sue’s Bible Adventures in Rhyme, including: Lions, Bully’s and Prayers is available at: www.grandma-sue.com