I believe her

Lisa - Hartford, Connecticut
Entered on March 25, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe her. I believe what she told me. I believe the ones who tell. I believe survivors of sexual assault.

My daughter was sexually abused over a period of a few weeks in 2004. Abuse by a “trusted” member of the “extended family” can be more traumatic and emotionally damaging than stranger abuse. The perpetrator, now her stepbrother, stole and marked my daughter’s first “sexual experience” when she was five years old. Perpetrators select their victims, develop a rapport, manipulate children, and “set them up”. These were planned acts. More was planned for my daughter, by the boy who was fourteen at the time. Luckily, she found her way to telling me…and eventually her teacher, friends, doctors and therapists.

How do you explain childhood sexual abuse to a five year old? How do you respond when she says she wants to confide in her trusted friends? How can I ever trust that my daughter will be safe? I want to believe that God is as powerful as She ought to be. I’m disappointed in what seems to be Her Powerlessness to prevent this.

Right after my daughter disclosed the abuse (which took place in the bath at her father’s home) she was drying herself after a bath at our home, and she named her genitals as “the ‘perpetrator’ part” (of her body). My daughter had assigned ownership of her five year old sex organs to a teenage boy who penetrated her with his finger and exposed himself to her. She and I then worked with a therapist to disentangle the perpetrator from her sex organs.

After she told me, I asked myself repeatedly “why didn’t she tell me? Did I miss signs?” When the abuse took place, my daughter was headed to Kindergarten, so we had been talking about stranger safety, good touch and bad touch. It was safe, good and right to talk about her body, her feelings and her privacy. This is when she disclosed the abuse. She told me after several incidents, because the perpetrator told her it was “their secret.” Advocates reminded me: “most kids DON’T tell.”

Most kids don’t tell because adults don’t want to hear it. Adults can’t believe it. We have our own needs — to believe in “ideal” childhoods. This “ideal” tidily eliminates childhood sexual abuse. This “ideal” diminishes the sacred wholeness of our children by erasing their own sexuality, and with it, our obligation to respect it and protect it.

My daughter’s father doesn’t believe any of this. Her father doesn’t believe his own daughter. His family says “this is not normal.” No, childhood sexual abuse is NOT normal, but it is her truth. We are not the exception. One in every four girls and one in every six boys experiences sexual abuse.

I believe her. I believe what she told me. I believe the ones who tell. I believe survivors of sexual assault.