In our culture, we pride ourselves on independence and freedom, yet we have a long history of sweeping things under the rug. I’ve been unfortunate enough in my life so far to experience every type of abuse—though I’m not always directly involved. I know avoiding every type of abuse for an entire lifetime might not be realistic, but it’s worth a shot. Abuse almost always starts in childhood and it can be doled out by the very hands that are meant to protect you.
So pay attention.
- Have a clue, parents. I know how it looks for a non-parent to say, “Parents, PARENT!” but I know firsthand what damages can be inflicted when parents become more engrossed in having a good time with friends than paying attention to what their child is doing. After a long workday of dealing with terrible bosses and annoying co-workers, I can imagine that being lazy and letting your kid do whatever they want out of your sight is an enticing temptation. But the fact remains that everything from sexual abuse to verbal/emotional abuse can occur with parents laughing in the next room over.
- Look for warning signs. Abuse can start as a secret game or it can be kept quiet by a threat. Kids can abuse kids. One third of all sexual abuse is committed by those under the age of 18! If a child, friend or student seems tense or uneasy around certain people, ask why. Don’t assume it’s because they’re “shy” – there’s sometimes a different reason. Abuse goes unnoticed because the people who can help are either oblivious or afraid to know the answers to their questions. Don’t be one of the many who neglect needs because of fear.
It wasn’t until after high school that I finally confided in my best friend about what I’d endured throughout childhood. I still don’t know how my parents and teachers missed the signs, but I know what to look for when I have kids one day. God help the people responsible if I ever find anything.
For information on reporting suspected abuse, call PCA Georgia's HELPLINE toll-free within the state of Georgia at 1-800-CHILDREN or out of state at 404-870-6580.