I remember the first time I heard Mary's story. I had a knot in my stomach and angry, hot tears streamed down my face. I couldn't believe that someone could hurt a child like that. And that others knew but did nothing to protect her.
I'd rather not talk about it-- sexual abuse.
I'd rather not know that according to CDC statistics: --Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men report experiencing rape. --A 2011 survey of high school students found that 11.8% of girls and 4.5% of boys reported being sexual abused.
Or that according to the National Center for Victims of Crimes: --1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. --Children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.
Sexual abuse is not something I have experienced first hand, but statistically many of you reading this have. Many. And many of you who have shared your story (or not) have been met with silence. And silence has a way of speaking volumes.
As a former English teacher, I love words. Words create and convey and communicate meaning beyond their literality.
For instance, when someone asks me where “Lydia’s real mom lives?" The question has adoption-parent-child-relationship-implications, that communicate much more than just a simple question of location. I am her real mom.
Word choice is important. But so are pauses. So is silence.
Because silence is not always golden.
"If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would've lived in the land of silence." ~Psalm 94:17
And so we tell our children, over and over… If you hear someone being hurtful to someone else, it is your responsibility to stick up for the wounded, to encourage, to come along side–
Because silence has the power to unintentionally condone cruelty.
“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know…” ~William Wilberforce
I just recently finished reading Mary Demuth's new book, Not Marked. I read it because I care about Mary, because I want to understand as best I can how to support the friends I have who were sexually abused, and also because I want to prevent our children from experiencing that same kind of pain.
As a mama, I so appreciated Mary's wisdom about ways to protect our children from sexual abuse because as she states, "every crime needs these two elements. A perpetrator has to want to abuse, and there needs to be a victim in proximity" (Not Marked pg. 223).
She goes on to share several suggestions that may help parents protect their children, "while still letting them be children" (pg. 226).
#1) Know Your Child--
"The best defense in protecting your kids is knowing them well. Know their nuances; become a student of their behavior...If your child has a sudden shift in behavior, take it seriously" (pgs. 226-227). Mary goes on to list many common symptoms of sexual abuse that a parent should take note of.
#2) Be Vigilant But Not Immobilized--
"Be cautious about adults seeking alone time with your child. Watch your children and who they hang out with...Remember that abusers seldom look like criminals...(but) don't become so immobilized that you never let your kids be kids. You don't want to raise fear-based kids" (pgs. 227-228).
#3) Teach Your Kids About Sex--
" ...you'll need to talk about sex with your kids at an early age-- in an age appropriate manner...The more comfortable you are talking about it, the more comfortable your kids will be in bringing you any concerns" (pgs. 228-229).
#4) Entrust Your Kids To Jesus--
"Although I have warned (my kids) about stranger danger and how to flee, and we've talked about inappropriate touch, I have also learned to entrust my kids to Jesus...We can lean toward controlling our kids, micromanaging their worlds. While we should protect our kids, we're also role models, demonstrating a life lived in adventure, not fear" (pgs. 229-230).
#5) Our Greatest Gift--
"The greatest gift we can give our kids is our relationship with Jesus, modeling to them what we do when we're injured or hurt. Our own willingness to run to Him with our pain will show our kids how to work through their own difficulties as they grow up. Contagious family life is not about appearing perfect,...It's about a bunch of messy people living together, broken, but running to Jesus to find help" (pg. 231).
As we read these words and consider this heartache...
Some of us are processing as parents wanting to protect children. Or friends wanting to come alongside those we care about. Or spouses who daily watch a loved one struggle through the aftermath of sexual abuse. But many reading right now, have experienced these wounds personally.
If you are reading this today, a victim of sexual abuse, my heart breaks over your pain and heartache. I am so sorry.
I'd like to share with you Mary's Prayer for a Sexual Abuse Victim.And if we can pray for you today, we'd like to do that.
We'd also like to share 3 copies of Not Marked with our readers. We are praying this book can be a source of encouragement and hope. In it, Mary doesn't gloss over the pain and struggle, she doesn't minimize the heartache, but she offers real suggestions (not platitudes) for healing and progress and she proclaims the freedom of living-- not marked, but with true hope.
"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." ~Eph. 2:10 NLT
With Love, Kara @ The Chuppies
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