Oprah helps break the silence!

Twins on oprahOprah this week had on yet another powerful hour of the complexities of sexual abuse. She spoke with twin sisters who since age 5 had been sexually abused by not only their father but by their older brothers as well. This type of familial sexual abuse is a horrific example of the complexities of the cycle of sexual abuse, and the silent suffering that goes on behind closed doors – perhaps at our neighbor’s home. As Oprah brings these personal stories to light she is trying to break the cycle of silence that often prevails around issues of abuse of children…. we share in her mission.
How We Break The Silence:

1. By speaking about their tragic abuse these now 20 year old twins are breaking the cycle of silence that prevail around sexual abuse and in doing so, hoping others will have the courage to come forward.

2. Oprah asked questions of the twins – almost knowing their answers would be hard for us as non-abuse victims to understand – sexual abuse is not about sex – it is about head bending games. It is psychologically destructive – warping a child’s sense of the world, relationships, “normalcy”, and as Oprah so eloquently put.. “killing the person they could have been.”
3. Oprah made numerous efforts to point out how these then children sought and retreated from disclosing their abuse on numerous occasions. BUT noted that there were other adults in these girl’s lives that intuitively new something was wrong in that home – surely not thinking the horrors that were occurring – but that gut feeling was speaking to them – so what do we do when we have that gut feeling?


                From our KidSafe point of view this episode was exceedingly powerful. It touched on so many points that we feel compelled to continue this conversation with YOU, the reader.
First we need to break the cycle of silence. If it is common in your homes, in preschools, elementary schools, house of worship, and among your neighbors to talk with our children about the rights they have to keep their bodies safe, their bodies are special, their body belongs to them, touches can be safe or unsafe, not to keep secrets that make you uncomfortable or confused, and we read books with our children regarding the rights they have over their bodies. Then all children are getting the same message – that this is not a subject that is taboo to talk about. Children can gain an understanding of the rights they have over their bodies, and how to keep themselves safe.
Sexual abuse is damaging to a child on so many levels – for these twins the abuse started at age 5 – they were slowly groomed (introduced) into it. These innocent 5 year olds were “taught” that this was “normal” behavior. This is what Daddies do and big brothers do. In the beginning they probably felt “special and loved” for the attention. This was their family and they knew nothing different. Where was the mother you ask? Well for all of this to be able to occur under her roof you must only imagine the level of sick dysfunction with the mother. This was a mother who was never a mother to these children – mother’s love and protect…..she enabled and allowed her precious girls to be abused. So how can a situation like this be countered? There would have been no chance that in this house they would ever hear or see a children’s book about safe and unsafe touch. But perhaps one day at school in 1st grade, the teacher would read a story, and the story would be about good and bad secrets and how your body is special and belongs to you. And then the child would hear about private parts, and that no one should be touching your private parts and if they do, even if it is someone you know and love, even if it feels good, you have to report it to your Circle of Safe Adults. That it is never your fault and that it is okay to get help. Maybe, just maybe they would not have been made to suffer for so many years. We, yes you reader, and all of us, need to talk comfortably and directly with the children in our lives. In this case it does take a village.
That leads us to the question –  Who could have been in these twins Circle of Safe Adults? Often children put their parents in their Circle – but in this case they needed outside help. This is a conversation every parent needs to have with their children. Ask your child right now to name at least 3 adults they trust and feel they could go to for help about anything. See who they have in mind. Are you comfortable with their choices? Is there someone you didn’t expect on their list?
            For the twins – they had a neighbor who finally blew the whistle. One problem was that the twins after disclosing begged her not to do anything yet….and the children at age 13 returned to the house and were raped yet again. Here is the point – the average adult, not in the field of child protection, would not know how to handle disclosure or who to call when you have a concern for a child’s welfare. When you see a child with a bruise it seems so much easier to comprehend and to do something about it, but with sexual abuse there are not always outward signs.

Do what you would want to have done for your child – protect. 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…. always err on the side of protecting the child.

            Educating ourselves on these issues as parents and even just as good citizens is important. For more information on how to talk to your children about their personal safety, and to see excerpts from the book My Body is Special and Belongs to Me! visit www.kidsafefoundation.org. Help us keep KIDSAFE!.

Testimonials

"Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be included in the KidSafe program. I highly recommend this program to other schools. We hope that we will be given the same opportunity for our Kindergarten and 2nd grade students to be a part of this wonderful program during the 2016-2017 school year."

Mrs. Keelyn Meselsohn 2nd Grade Teacher/Team Leader Tradewinds Elementary School

"The Safe and Smart Series Book My Body Is Special and Belongs To Me is kept in my middle school clinic and has been a tool that has opened many conversations for me between students that have experienced a difficult situation and were unable to talk about it. Through the illustrations and nonjudgmental verbiage the author has allowed kids permission to share their feelings about invasion of their personal space. Thank you so much."

Nurse Connie, PBC School Nurse 6.8.2016

"I'm so grateful that KidSafe has partnered with my daughter's school.  I learned so much in the parent training--how to recognize potential sexual predator behavior; how to quiz my child about what they would do in different scenarios; and how to explain safe and unsafe touch.  In addition, knowing that my daughter is receiving weekly trainings on these topics gives me great peace of mind.  I have confidence that I can reinforce what she is learning in school in order to prevent her from ever being a victim of such a heinous crime.  Thank you KidSafe for your dedication to protecting our communities' most vulnerable citizens."

Christina Kranick

“It was a normal Saturday and I was at the rink with my 7 and 8 year old. My son asked me if he could use the Men’s Restroom by himself.  Without hesitation, my daughter said,  Absolutely not! I was in KidSafe today and you cannot go to the restroom alone.  It is very important that Mommy is with you.. with us.   I was so proud of my little girl!  We are so blessed to have Debbie Miller at our school teaching our children the importance of safety. Many thanks to you all!  Your program and instruction is absolutely amazing.  Keep up the great work!"  

Tara Henley Admissions Assistant, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and School, Ft. Lauderdale

I am a parent of two Pine Crest children and I attended your program on Monday night. I just wanted to thank you so very much for the very informative seminar. As hard as it was to hear all of those things, it was very needed. We were thrilled that you were able to come and share that very important information with us and our children. So again...thank you.

Elisa Aronberg

Today’s training was awesome! It was very informative. Sally was a very good resource, she motivated us a lot! We want to pass on this information to parents, teachers and students! Thank you for offering workshops like this. These are tools we use to continue serving our children and families.

Participant from Children’s Services Council of Broward Seminar

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