Abuse has no specific face, race, economic or educational background, it can happen to any child anywhere. Unfortunately, it is happening all over the world to children everywhere. It has taken me many months to write and share this post with you. I feel that it is a topic not easily discussed, but it is also one that needs to be shared.
No child deserves to be abused. No child deserves to be in pain over these unfortunate circumstances, but abuse does happen and where children have no voice, one should be appointed on their behalf.
In February, I read an article in Essence magazine’s entitled, “Not My Boy,” by Jeannine Amber. The article shares the story of Darwin Hobbs, a well-known gospel singer, who was abused as a child by his stepfather. Hobbs, shared his story about how his stepfather “groomed” him by allowing him to watch inappropriate pornography videos, which eventually led to further sexual abuse over a period of time, until he had the courage to threaten to tell the police. Hobbs also discussed how his mother adored his stepfather and felt that he was essential to their care and well-being. His stepfather was nice, likeable, friendly, and a business man all characteristics that were not alarming or red flags to his mother. Hobbs also shared the phone call he had with his mother where he revealed to her that he was abused by his stepfather. He talked about acting out in school, feelings of shame, and years of therapy.
A couple of weeks later, I watched the story of Shelia Escovedo AKA Sheila E who is a world renown percussionist on the show, “Unsung.” Sheila E spoke about being raped at the age of 5 by a neighbor. Sheila E shared with her fans her story of pain and her continual struggle to thrive despite what happened to her as a child. She also, spoke about her foundation, Elevate Hope Foundation (EHF), which is “dedicated to providing abused and abandoned children an alternative method of therapy through music and the arts, and funding special services and programs that assist the needs of children using these fundamental methods.”
Then a month later, I heard “What Finally Made It ‘OK to Tell’,” an interview with abuse survivor and author, Lauren Book on NPR’s show “Tell Me More” and I knew I had to write my post. Book tells her courageous story of being abused by her female Nanny, she shades light on the “grooming” process and signs to watch out for. Some of her advice to parents which stood out to me was:
- Parent’s need to be aware of sexual abuse. It does exist.
- Parent’s need to be concerned if the child always wants to be around a certain adult and has no friends his or her own age.
- Parent’s should have open communication with their child/children
- Parents should always pay attention to how their child interacts with other children and adults.
She also spoke of her families upper middle-class status, their vulnerabilities and the secrecy that was at the foundation of her grooming process. Lauren Book also spoke about her abusers trial and conviction. One key part of her story that stuck with me was that she had an affinity for her abuser. There are times when we think of abuse occurring in a manner that automatically reveals itself such as the child not wanted to be around his or her abuser. Well, that may the case for some children, but more often than not, the abuser has befriended the child in such a way that the child has an affection for the abuser.
Unfortunately, sometimes people take a nonchalant attitude of “It can’t happen to me, in my family, or by someone I know.” But the truth is, maybe it could, just keep your eyes open and watch, at all times, know what behaviors are normal for your child and what behaviors you should be concerned about. Be watchful of an adult who gives a child lavish gifts for no reason. Of course, a situation of abuse whether sexual, physical, mental, or emotional can be shameful for the people involved, but what is even more hurtful, is if the child doesn’t get the help and intervention he or she needs and their entire lives he or she feels victimized and oppressed by a past that may continue to haunt them long after the abuser is no longer around.
One of my passions is being an advocate for children because I believe if us parents and caregivers took greater care to nurture, protect, and love our children unconditionally we all would have a better outcome on life and a better world to live in, we have to be voices for our children when they are silent. Remember abuse can happen anywhere.
WHAT ARE SOME WARNING SIGNS?
- The child may have injuries or visible bruises
- The child shows behavioral changes
- The child has trouble focusing and learning
- The child always is weary and believes something bad will happen
- The child may have a strange fixation with sex
- The parent is not attentive or caring about the child’s needs
- The parent lacks self control and cannot control his or her anger or stress
- The parent is not concerned about the safety and well-being of his or child
- The parent and child rarely communicate and avoid eye contact with each other
- The parent is struggling with mental issues/disorders.
*Please See the US Department of Health and Human Services website for a list of warning signs.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT A CHILD IS BEING ABUSED?
1. Listen. Give the person an opportunity to share what has happened.
2. Don’t ignore your concern. Let the child know you are concerned and care about their well-being.
3. Get Help.
- Contact your local Child Protective Services: Childhelp.org has a list of how to get in touch with various local chapters.
- Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). If the child is in immediate danger call 911 and get the child to a safe location.
- Visit the website from Darkness to Light shares a comprehensive list of things you can do to help prevent child abuse.