Boy…will we miss Oprah! We will especially miss Oprah because she became the empowering voice behind the survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Thanks to Oprah the silence surrounding childhood sexual abuse has been broken. When Oprah came forward years ago and shared her story about being sexually abused as a child, it opened the door to others who believed they were alone in their pain and suffering. Oprah became a friend, a confidant, a role model, to millions of people…”Saying this happened to me…I survived..You can too!”
As Mental Health professional, we know that sharing your personal story is the beginning of the healing process. Oprah, through her sharing, inspired women, men, professional athletes, politicians, Actors, Actresses and musicians to share their stories. As heartbreaking as it is to hear these stories it has helped countless others and has made talking about childhood sexual abuse less taboo.
It seems every day (and maybe it’s just us because keeping children safe from abuse is our life’s work) there is story upon story about yet another child being harmed. It is time for lawmakers, politicians, and the president to realize that every child deserves the right to be safe and to learn the skills to help PREVENT child abuse. We need Prevention Education MANDATED in elementary schools across the nation.
Why? Because as the statistics show 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be sexually exploited before their 18th birthday. Every 10 seconds a child is abused. Those numbers are only the children who REPORT and most do not TELL. This is an epidemic and we need to treat it as one by helping all children learn how to keep themselves safe and educate adults on signs, symptoms and appropriate boundaries. Adults need to know what to do if a child comes to them and discloses – which is especially hard when it is someone in the family, as 68% of the time a child is harmed by a family member and 90% of the time it is by someone they know! Adults need to realize with those statistics how hard it is for a child to disclose and how rare it is for a child to lie about abuse…..BELIEVE THEM!!! Your response to their disclosure can make a child feel Powerful or Powerless!
How can we help more children? Continue to break the cycle of silence that prevails around sexual abuse and in doing so, hope others will have the courage to come forward. Make it the norm in your homes, in preschools, elementary schools, house of worship, and among your neighbors to talk with children about the rights they have to keep their bodies safe. Tell children directly that their bodies are special, their bodies belong to them, and touches can be safe or unsafe. Teach children to not keep secrets that make them uncomfortable or confused, and read empowering books with children regarding the rights they have over their bodies. All children would then be receiving the same message: “ There is no topic we cannot discuss – even about sexual abuse.” When you give children this message,they gain an understanding of the rights they have over their bodies, how to keep themselves safe, and our children become EMPOWERED!! To do this we need to provide all children and adults with Prevention Education.
Our Gut Instinct – always trust your intuition – it is rarely wrong! Think to yourself ‘ what would I want someone to do to protect my child?’ Would you want someone to turn a blind eye or would you want them to protect your child? If you suspect a child is being abused, CALL the authorities…. If you’re not sure what number – call 911 – or your local child abuse hot line. We know from experience that this is not an easy thing to do, fear of the backlash, having self-doubt that your reporting will be helpful or more hurtful to the children, BUT…. We must always err on the side of protecting the child.
Educating ourselves on these issues as parents and even just as good citizens is important. It takes a village to keep children safe. Oprah may be leaving, but the effects of her disclosure and years of talking about child sexual abuse can still have powerful effects of keeping children safe if we all work together. Our book My Body is Special and Belongs to Me! Addresses the issues of Safe and Unsafe touch Secrets, Private Parts, Boundaries and how to get help in a developmentally appropriate, fun and natural way for children to understand. We also included an extensive parent section that can help you in your efforts to educate your children and keep them safe.
All Proceeds from our books go directly to our 501(c) 3 nonprofit to bring prevention education to all families.