October means many things to different people, Fall, Halloween, Christmas shopping time, just to name a few. October in our house means that it is Sexual Violence Awareness Month – a busy month for me that ends with the International Reclaim the Night march on October 27.
Each year, October’s awareness raising focuses on a particular aspect of sexual violence. This year the focus is “Stop incest.” I hear this message loud and clear. Turnaround defines incest as: Any overtly sexual act between people who are closely related or who perceive themselves as being closely related (as in relationship between in-laws, stepsiblings and stepparents, and close family friends). In addition to physical sexual contact this can include voyeurism, masturbation in front of the child, suggestive talk, provocative photography, exposing oneself to the child, etc. Incest results from a breakdown in the family and creates emotional isolation, stress, confusion about family roles and boundaries, guilt, and a host of other symptoms.
Did you know that eighty-five percent of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by somebody well know to the child, usually a family member or somebody that has close access to the child. Unforgivable! It is also unforgivable if we do nothing to help end this global pandemic. We all have children and we are all at risk of falling victim to the predators that single out our children, groom them and zero in on them.
But what to do? Incest is never the fault of the child, or the non-perpetrating parent, it is always the responsibility of the perpetrator. Surely we could target them rather than having to change things ourselves. I agree with this but the reality is that incest remains so hidden, so secret, that it is almost impossible to see an incestual family member until it is too late. Therefore, we need to ensure that our children can talk to us about anything and that we will believe and act protectively when they tell us stories that are just completely unimaginable to us.
Every parent wants to think that his or her child will come and tell if something bad happens. We tell our kids that they can tell us anything. A lifetime of research supports that children do not tell about incest though. The parental dynamic of authority makes it near impossible for an abused child to talk up, even if their non-perpetrating parent is always encouraging them to talk about anything.
My children are well trained in Protective Behaviors. Any of them could attend the trainings that I offer, and run segments themselves. They know about the importance of talk and the legalities around abuse. They have grown up in an open and sexual abuse cause focused household. But…secrecy and loyalty were stronger than that. One of my children kept a secret for a friend. The friend claimed that she was being raped by her brother, but please don’t tell anyone, especially your Mum. My child kept the secret for months until I finally realised that something was very wrong. A huge argument resulted in my child telling me the troublesome secret. “Please don’t report Mum. He said he wouldn’t do it anymore.”
I was gob smacked. With all the training and information my children had, one of them chose to hold back on information that was destroying a friend’s life. Report I did (the next day) but it took me months to overcome my stunned reaction to why my child kept the secret. My child kept the secret because they wanted to believe that things would get better. They viewed reporting and intervention as a threat to their friend’s family. They were scared for their friend and wrongly thought that the friend might be taken away by the Welfare Department.
In incestuous households, things do not get better until the perpetrator is taken away and the family relearns a new dynamic of openness and honesty. Incest is never acceptable and cannot go untreated. I urge all of you to have DAILY talks to your children about how NO ONE is allowed to touch their private parts or make them feel yucky by showing them rude pictures, telling them rude jokes, or playing private games.
If there is an Incest perpetrator in your family, please get them some help. They cannot recover on their own and they will sexually abuse more children in the family. Protect your own children. Do not allow unsupervised contact with a person that you know is sexually abusive. The risk is TOO HIGH. Take a stand. Decide whose side you are on, your Childs or your incestuous family member. This does not mean you are rejecting the perpetrator; you are rejecting their behavior and protecting your children.
Every article during October will be around a sexual violence issue. I have organized some interviews with adult survivors of child sexual assault and with parents of children who have been sexually abused. I have started a forum titled Reclaim the Night and I invite survivors to talk openly about what has happened to them. There is NO SHAME in being a survivor. You did not cause the abuse. Another person took advantage of you because he could. Shame on them.
Related families.com articles: How Do I know if a Child is Being Abused?,
My FAVORITE child focused article of the day: The Power of Loving to Learn by Valorie Delp.