Saturday, June 08, 2013

Just Hearing The Words

Recently, I got told off for linking to my blog on a Creatures forum, because my blog has 'mature content'. I, naturally, assumed the problem was one of my recent posts, which was indeed fairly explicit. So I reverted that post to draft and asked again.

That post wasn't the problem. The problem was the 'about me' section. Or specifically, two words:

'Sexually abused'

The moderator went on to explain that they have 'children under 10' frequenting this forum, and she doesn't consider it appropriate for them to see those two words.

Well, firstly, it seems pretty ridiculous to think that merely saying those two words in the presence of a child will damage them in any way - or indeed have any impact at all for most of them. I'm pretty sure if a child went from my posts to the Creatures forums to look at my blog, they would be looking at the Creatures content, not the about me section. And even if they did - either the child already knows what those words mean, and nothing's changed for them, or they don't and they'll most likely just gloss over them because they didn't understand.

Furthermore, even if I had explained what happened to me, in terms a child would understand, would that be inappropriate? I don't think so.

An estimated 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 7 boys are sexually abused, many of them before the age of ten. The majority of these kids, when the abuse is going on, they don't know it's abuse, and they don't know it's wrong. They just know that they feel uncomfortable and bad, but they've been taught to do what adults want, and this adult is (usually) someone they like and care about. Those kids could be helped immeasurably by hearing an explanation of what sexual abuse is. Indeed, they have been helped by education programs such as Red Cross's 'Be Safe' Program, or the Kids on the Block Program. Indeed, when a representative of Kids on The Block presented at my Women and Gender Studies class, she told me that after a presentation to kids, when they get an opportunity to speak privately to the presenters, in virtually every class at least one kid discloses sexual abuse to the presenter. Some of the time, the abuse is already known about and being addressed, but it's not at all uncommon for them to hear about ongoing abuse that no one knew was happening. They have a specific set of actions that all presenters are required to do in such a case.

Other kids have not been abused, but might end up in a risky situation in the future. It's unknown how many kids fall into this category. But it is known that many abusers will back off if a child is assertive about their boundaries. And those who don't, the child can tell on and have only one instance of abuse instead of hundreds. These are the kids that the sexual abuse education programs are primarily aimed at, and we have no way of knowing in advance who they are.

Then there are the kids who won't ever live through sexual abuse, or be in danger of sexual abuse. But I can guarantee that they will know someone who was abused. Maybe a friend, who needs their support. Maybe, once they're grown up, they will be babysitting or teaching a child who discloses abuse to them. They may even have their own child disclose abuse to them. And this early education might mean the difference between them ignoring or denying the abuse and them providing a supportive and helpful response.

And lastly, there are the kids who might be abusers themselves, or might grow up to be abusers someday. Many of these kids will also be victims of sexual abuse, and being taught that what happened to them was wrong could prevent them from doing it to someone else. Some may not have realized, otherwise, that what they were doing was abusive. And some may be deterred by the awareness that people are watching for this kind of behavior, and they could get in serious trouble for it.

So, no - don't protect kids from the words. Protect them from the actions instead.

And with that said, a message to any child reading this post:

It's your body. You have the right to tell someone that you aren't comfortable with how they're touching you, and they should listen (unless they need to do it for your health, like a doctor checking your breathing. If you aren't sure about a situation, ask a trusted adult if it was OK touch). It's OK to touch many other areas, but if an adult touches you in the areas that a bathing suit covers, you need to tell a trusted adult.

Who can you tell? If it's not your parents doing it, you might be able to tell them. You could also tell a teacher, or a coach, or any adult that you trust. Or if you can't think of anyone to tell, go to the phone book and look for the numbers on the inside of the front page. Most phone books have various help lines there. Look for one that mentions kids or sexual abuse, and call them.


Blogger said...

That's how it is :)
it is called political correctness.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Elena said...

I've just discovered your blog and started reading some of it... I'm sad there is people who find your "About me" section offensive or threatening to children.

I think they qualify themselves with their actions and words in this situation.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Bas van den Berg said...

Like pretending it doesn't exist will help anyone. I'm glad there are people who do understand how things work and that being honest and open about stuff is the way to go. =)

8:50 AM  

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