The theme of child abuse - especially sexual abuse - makes us uncomfortable, however it is extremely important to discuss. In her new article, T. Conswello Davis, touches this sensitive subject and gives advise to the survivors of sexual abuse and their families.
Sexual abuse within the African American community is a difficult topic just like mental health and mental illness. We are likely to deny, hide and refuse to acknowledge or discuss these subjects within our community. Approaching sexual abuse is perplexing because the subject of abuse – especially sexual abuse – makes most of us uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable due to the fact that most victims know the abuser. Perpetrators are known individuals (aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, parish members, and family acquaintances). Sexual abuse includes rape, sexual assault, molestation, incest, and sexual assault by an acquaintance. Today, parents teach their children that if someone touches them in private places, with or without consent, the child needs to tell someone. Celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Gabrielle Union, Tyler Perry) are discussing their own experiences with abuse to focus attention and encourage conversations on the subject.
Statistics state that one in five girls have been sexually abused and 90 percent of all reported rapes are committed against women. However, boys are not immune. The statistics for boys show that one in 20 will be sexually assaulted. Regrettably, many boys or men will suffer in silence about being sexually abused due to the stigmas and myths surrounding the topic.
In casual conversation with male friends, some have asked me if I was sexually abused or molested. These men were aware that women they dated had prior sexual child abuse experiences. Recently, I published my story and how I overcame sexual abuse. It occurred as a child and at the hands of two family members. I asked my sisters if molestation happened with them. Neither one of them admitted it to me. As the majority of victims of child abuse do, I often wondered why me? I believe I was targeted because I was a very timid and unique child. I definitely changed after those abusive experiences. I am now assertive, some may say aggressive, but I have learned that standing in my power is trusting my instincts and intuition.
I have battled with the R. Kelly debacle. How can a man that molests young girls not be in jail? The families settled. They made their choice. Some may view it as their justice was decided when they chose the money. I can only accept the fact that they did what was best for them at that moment in time. It has been researched and reported that victims of sexual abuse may experience some degree of trauma and symptoms of psychological distress varying from dissociative patterns, regression, to sexual and relationship problems.
My sexual abuse as a child has impacted my life in many ways I would not have imagined. I have suffered from anger and depression. Anger and depression are among symptoms that manifest in adults who experience sexual child abuse. I did not start receiving therapy until I was close to 23 years old. It is important that victims of child abuse receive therapy and join others in educating and influencing their communities to acknowledge and talk about sexual abuse.
The advice I can give to those suffering with this secret,
especially Black women, is to address it and speak about it. Black women have to withstand so much within this society. We have endured rape, sexual assault, and molestation since slavery. New research has proven that prior traumatic conditions (e.g. Holocaust, slavery, etc.) can affect offspring for generations.
• Speaking about these situations can be therapeutic and inspire others like our Black men.
• If you are afraid you will shame your family, writing your story and changing the narrative of the story to benefit you, in the end, can be therapeutic. Whether you speak on this issue in confidence with a professional or someone trustworthy, it is challenging but very important to discover and recognize the feelings of betrayal, shame, guilt, and anger.
• Acknowledging the transgressions made upon your body supports your healing so that you can move forward with having a healthy relationship with yourself. It can also assist you in dealing with sexual issues and relationship problems.
Family members or significant others who are aware of the individual’s challenges should try the following:
• Be empathetic and supportive. Denial is the initial response from many people. Most people deny the truth because it is difficult to comprehend or process especially if a family member is sexually abusing another family member. It is best for the family to not render judgment.
• Listen to the victim. Assist with attaining therapy and possibly with filing criminal charges.
• If the culprit is a family member, the individual who committed the sexual abuse needs to be ostracized for breaking the bonds of the family and family boundaries.
• If you are physically and emotionally able, become an advocate like Moise Morancy. If you are a witness to a situation or notice something happening which is not right, speak out, and help the victim. This includes speaking out against perpetrators.
I must say Thank You Moise! We need more people like you in this world! I was once that young girl. You saved her from a distressing situation. Know that you are an ANGEL!