Let’s talk about Child Sexual Abuse. Why? Because most children affected won’t talk about it, unless we prompt them!
So, if we’re too afraid or uncomfortable to talk about it now, we may not get another chance until it’s too late!
Last week Saturday I shared My Story at the Purposefully Broken for Greatness event, organised by Heather Ashalley at the Hargrave Community Hall in North London.
I was so nervous and fearful to share initiate details of my childhood experience in front of a room full of strangers. I could here the voices in my head telling me:
- “No one cares about what you’ve got to say“;
- “Are you sure you want to do this?“;
- “Don’t waste people’s time, just sit down and let the professionals do the job“;
- “People will only judge you like they did in your past“;
- “What if you get up to speak but the words don’t come out?; and“
- “What if your mother could hear you?”
But I’m grateful for the courage and determination inside me that didn’t get put off by these negative voices but instead, drew upon Words of Affirmations to bring positivity to my mind, which enabled me to push forward in speak my truth.
I was so touched by the responses from the audience especially after my talk. I was privilege to have so many people asking me questions, making constructive comments and sharing with me their own personal and private experiences of Child Sexual abuse.
So I decided to write this blog to keep the momentum alive and continue to inspire others to Break The Silence and seek the support they need to heal and overcome these horrific trauma in their past.
Thinking about it, a combination of key moments have brought me to this point. A point where I’ve not only experienced physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse as a child, but I’ve also notice how easy it is for us to “sweep it under the carpet” and pretend like it’s not happening, even when children are involved. So why is it like this?
Why aren’t we doing more to address child sexual abuse?
A few weeks ago, the BBC aired a documentary on ‘R Kelly: Sex, Girls and Videotapes’ scandal. I was in two minds watching the documentary: whilst I was aware of different potential agendas at play, I was also aware of my own internal resistance to think of R Kelly as a paedophile, or similar to any of my 4 childhood perpetrators.
Although I don’t know R Kelly personally, I knew of him to be an amazing, powerful and wealthy music producer and singer /song writer. I thoroughly enjoyed his music growing up.
I noticed that I’d defined in my mind what a ‘paedophile‘ looks like – based on my experiences, and what I’ve seen in the media and around me – that definition didn’t fit my reality of R Kelly! So, I rejected the allegations and blamed it all on the media. I blocked it out and pretended none of it was true. How could it be true? It’s R Kelly!!
I thought about the evidence presented in the documentary which occurred over a number of years. And it dawned on me how easily we – including myself – disregard allegations of child sex abuse, base on opposing beliefs or excuses we tell ourselves.
I’ve come to accept that child abusers come in all shapes and forms!
I realised I was being very selfish. I wanted to hold on to my teen memories of singing and dancing to his songs with my girls as a way of expressing our pain and joy. I thought that believing these allegations would tarnish some of my best memories in my youth.
But if we choose to dismiss allegations like these so easily, we’re both consciously and subconsciously ignoring the voices of the victims which only continue the damaging cycle. I spoke to others about the R Kelly’s allegations and found I was not alone with my initial thoughts.
So where is the community to protect our young girls – our future generation? What kind of women, mothers, sisters, aunts and friends are we grooming our girls to be? And what kind of boys will these girls produce as they grow into adulthood? (The next time we’re unhappy to hear about associated issues in our community – such as youth violence, domestic violence and broken relationships – just think about these questions!)
Is Childhood Sexual Abuse More Prominent in Our Communities than we want to Believe?
About 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abusers!!!!!!!
The younger the victim, the more likely it is that the abuser is a family member or trusted by the family. Be very aware of who you’re leave your child with alone, regardless of who they are or how old they are.
What can we do about Child Sexual Abuse?
Before we get too overwhelmed by statistics, shut down or disengaged and do nothing, let’s try to educate ourselves about the abuse.
Let’s gain the knowledge then apply it by being more equipped to combatting child sexual abuse. That way our views will be more balanced (I.e without judgement). We can also do a lot more to prevent it from happening and help to Break the Silence of potential victims needing support.
What is Child sexual abuse?
Child Sexual Abuse is not specifically defined in UK Law, but there are some published guidance to help us address this question.
According to the NSPCC:
“A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities.
This doesn’t have to be physical contact and it can happen online. Sometimes the child won’t understand that what’s happening to them is abuse.
They may not even understand that it’s wrong. Or they may be afraid to speak out.”
Where does Sexual abuse originated from?
I recently asked this question on Facebook and had a number of responses including:
- “Frustration and cognitive defects brought on by child hood experiences in many cases“
- “Insecurity“; “Control and Power”; “Toxic parents”;
- “Lack of education“; “Lack of respect for women”
- “Past trauma“; “Media“;
- “Patriarchy, power imbalances, gender inequality, religious indoctrination mixed and matched with “culture“…
Whilst there are many opinions of where it comes from, my research shows me that Sexual Abuse is among the highest in the African and Caribbean Diaspora. This is because it originated from Slavery – used as a weapon to get a population of people to bend to their master’s will! Severe violence and abuse against our women and girls was used as one of the many tactics to obtain involuntary obedience from our men (the provider, protector and King). Of course our men were also subjected to same/similar type of treatments too.
Since “slavery ended”, there’s been no mental, healing or therapeutic support for the slaves or their descendants who suffered such horrific treatments for hundreds of years. And so this kind of #LearntBehaviour became the norms. The Slaves treated each other similar to how they were treated by their masters.
Over the years we’ve seen the impact of ‘Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome‘ (PTSS) as named by Dr Joy DeGruy; these inhumane behaviours and treatments have been passed down through generations in many ways including violently beating our children for them to obey out of fear as well as abusing ones power to hurt the more vulnerable (i.e. children).
Today, all over the world, both boys and girls are still victims of sexual abuse, although girls are six times more likely to be abused.
How does Child Abuse happen in our daily lives?
- CALM: No abuse is taking place – standard day to day living. This is usually called the Calm period.
- TENSIONS BUILDING: Tension builds up, communication breaks down, child becomes fearful and tries to please the abuser.
- INCIDENT: The platform is now created for abuse to take place including emotional, physical, mental and sexual abuse.
- RECONCILLATION: The abuser apologies and/or makes excuses and make the victim believe it’s their fault or they are overreacting. Once the storm calms down, it goes back to the CALM period and (if no intervention), the process is likely to start over again.
The general ‘Cycle of Abuse’ set out above is relevant where the abuse is committed by an older person like in our homes as well as other places our children spend their time such as schools, churches, clubs etc. It should also be noted that children are now abusing other children too.
It’s evident that whenever there are issues causing tension in a child’s life, the key to understanding the problem is by increasing communication with the child. This may result in the child opening up to you about something concerning them or it could give you the opportunity to spot signs of abuse or other concerning issues.
At the very least, increasing communications with the child could build better bonds, help to resolve underlying problems and reassures you of no alarming concerns.
From my childhood to teens years, there has been many signs to suggest something definitely wasn’t right with me. But most people ignored these signs and labelled me as difficult or a ‘rebel’. The first person that took a genuine interest in me – without judgement – changed my life forever. You can do the same for someone else too.
What are the signs of Child Sexual Abuse?
These are just some of the possible signs of child sexual abuse. It’s important to note that these signs could result from other trauma in a child’s life such as emotional abuse, neglect, etc. Therefore we shouldn’t jump to conclusions as that could be more damaging – instead take note and ask questions.
It’s also important to note that there are other types of signs depending on the individual child such as aggressive behaviour, withdrawal from the abuser, issues at school or even direct hints and tips from the child.
Whenever there are challenging times or change in circumstances in a child’s life, it’s important to monitor the child to spot any changes in their behaviour, then communicate with the child to investigate further to get a clear picture of what the issue maybe.
If you spot it, report it! The evidence shows our children won’t report the abuse themselves or talk about it unprompted. Therefore it’s important that you are able to spot the signs and be willing to report it.
If you don’t report it, the abuser is likely to continue abusing other children; the child victim is unlikely to get the support she needs and therefore much more likely to be sexually abused again in her life time!
Research states that if a child gets the right support within a month of being abuse, they grow up without much impact of the abuse. But, as stated above, most child victims won’t talk about the abuse at all. Some end up committing suicide (I attempted suicide as a child and now I’m so grateful it wasn’t successful). Usually when we hear about child abuse, it’s generally when the child becomes an adult – after living with the abuse most of their lives and the masks can no longer bear the hurt and pain inside.
As a victim, it’s not easy to ‘Break the Silence‘ and ask for help especially in communities where there are unspoken agreement to remain silent. The victim is “caught between a double edge sword” – believing in the fear of speaking out and having their worse nightmare coming to fruition or remain silent and live the rest of their lives in anger, pain and torment.
Statistics show that victims are likely to:
- Suffer abuse and/or violence again.
- Have children who suffers abuse and/or violence.
Also an abuser is likely to reoffend the more he gets away with committing the crime.
My advice to Victims/Survivors
My advice to victims/survivors of abuse or violence is:
“take it easy on yourself. Learn to love and look after yourself. Find a safe place in your mind to “go to” when times get hard. Build your mindset to prepare yourself for the challenges of speaking out. No matter how tough you think it will be, it’s so much better than remaining silent. Until you break your silence, you’re effectively trapped in your trauma. Even if you don’t agree right now, all it takes is for something or someone to trigger those emotions and bring you right back in it. This could be a voice or another sound, a smell, taste, or touch. Anything could trigger you where you feel similar emotions to how the abuse made you feel at the time. This feeling can be worst than anything else you’ve experienced in your life (besides the actual abuse itself). So empower yourself to take control of the situation and build yourself up to being ready to ask for help.”
As a survivor, I specialise in helping women and young girls seek the support they need so feel free to drop me a message and I’ll be in touch.
Where can I find help if I suspect a child is being abused?
It’s best to act urgently if you suspect a child is being sexually abused, particularly if the child is displaying symptoms of fear or verbally telling you of the abuse.
You can report the abuse anonymously or in person to the:
- Social Services
- NSPCC (by phone 0808 1000 900 or email: [email protected]
If you’re a child who is being abused, you can get help and advice from the Childline by calling from on 0800 1111.
Let’s keep the conversations going in our communities including our homes, school, work, church and clubs, etc. We’ll need full community cohesion as there’s much work to be done and each person is required to play their part.
It starts with the victim Breaking the Silence, but what happens after the silence is broken? What resources are there to support the victim? How do we ensure that victims don’t get blamed within their own community?
Let’s now choose not turn a blind eye anymore. Enough is Enough!!
Let’s make a commitment to ourselves to stand up against CHILD ABUSE! Affirm your commitment by getting in touch and do what you can to help #StopChildSexualAbuse. Do get in touch by filling out the ‘Contact Form‘ at the side of this blog (above) or email me here by clicking on this link.
Finally, don’t forget to look after yourself so you can help to look after others too.
Until next time, your loving and peaceful SiStar✸