talking to your kids about CSA.

image from thinkandactblog.wordpress.com
image from thinkandactblog.wordpress.com

The statistics are alarming: childhood sexual abuse (CSA) affects 1 in 5 children before the age of 18 and over 90% of the time, the abuser is a relative or someone in the family’s inner circle of trust.

This is not okay.

I want to help parents talk to their kids about CSA. I’ve had several friends ask me “What if this happens to one of my kids?” or “How can I talk to my child about this?” I’ve asked myself those same questions. I’ve been there. Here are a few suggestions; it doesn’t have to be as awkward as you think.

1. Talk to your kids on their level. I have a different conversation with Sam (age 12) than I do with Faith (age 5). With Sam, I feel comfortable naming body parts. We talk about sex and he also took a Family Life and Sexual Health class in fifth grade where he learned a “crap-ton about sex”. These were his exact words. I know, I can not believe it either. I am still in shock. With Faith, I say “private parts” and “bottom”. I am not quite ready to call the parts by their proper names with her. If you are comfortable doing that with your kids, then by all means, do it. The main thing is to not be uncomfortable when you talk about it because they will be able to sense that. Use the language that you are comfortable with now and that you think they will understand. As they get older, you can change the language that you use.

My conversation with Faith went something like this:
Me: *waits for Faith to mention some “private part” so I can ease into the conversation.*
Faith: Hey, Momma, wanna see my booty!? *Shakes her booty at me.*
Me: *trying not to laugh* Hey princess, that reminds me, you know that those private parts that you’re supposed to keep covered with your underwear belong to you, right?
Faith: Uh-huh
Me: And no one else is supposed to touch them, right? No grown-ups, no older kids. Maybe if you have a boo-boo and I need to put on some medicine or a doctor need to look at them – that might be okay but we still need to ask your permission first, okay?
Faith: Yep.
Me: You know that you can tell me anything, right? And you don’t need to keep any secrets from Mommy because I love you no matter what.
Faith: I know! *kiss*

2. Have short conversations often. Don’t just talk about it once and think you are good. Just like we remind our kids to look both ways before crossing the street and to wear their bicycle helmet – you keep reminding them because you love them and you want to protect them. The first time that I talked to Sam about abuse was a little more difficult than talking to Faith, mainly because I had to change the subject to bring it up. Like I mentioned before, he has apparently completed some sort of master level sex-ed course and thinks that he knows everything. I know that he does not know everything and I can’t leave the conversations up to his teachers and classmates. Sometimes I am going to have to be the one to bring it up – that is the hardest part, the rest of the conversation isn’t so bad. When Sam and I talked about abuse that first time, I knew that a short conversation could potentially prevent a lifetime of hurt. We talked about sexual abuse and also physical and emotional abuse. I defined what abuse is and gave him examples of each kind. I asked what he thought and let him ask questions so that it was more of a conversation and less of a lecture.

3. Be your child’s Safe Person. Connect with them on an emotional level. I think this gets harder as the kids get older. Remember when they were little? They would fall and get hurt and then they would run to you to make them feel better. Or maybe you had to go to them and pick them up and tell them “Mommy/Daddy’s got you now. You’re going to be okay.” When they get older they don’t fall down as much – their hurts are on the inside. We have to be intentional about having conversations and finding out what is going on inside of them. We need to be a safe place for them so that they will still run to us when their feelings are hurt and we can still hold them and tell them that it is going to be okay. My hope is that having the conversation and raising awareness will help prevent CSA but if it should happen; children need to know that they can tell someone. If you are ready to talk to your kids about CSA, I am sharing a link to a great tool from the UK that I found while I was doing research for my children’s book.

From the NSPCC: simple conversations to keep your child safe from abuse

Feel free to comment or send me an e-mail! I would love your feedback!

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my story.

“It’s time to be free.” He was gentle but persistent. I tried to ignore Him, although I knew that He was right.

I had followed Him through dark places before but never any place as dark as the one within myself.

This past fall, a conversation with someone dear to me triggered some repressed memories. Reading psychology books in college, I had never quite understood how someone could forget something so traumatic that happened to them. But here I was, remembering details from things that happened thirty years ago. I realized that I had never truly forgotten what had happened; I just didn’t want to remember. At an early age I was sexually abused.

The wounds were deep but I knew that God wanted to bring healing to my soul.

The first step was telling the truth about what happened. I had to bring it out of the darkness and into the light. I couldn’t keep it a secret anymore.

So I told my story. The first time was the hardest; I bawled on the phone as I told one of my closest friends. Then I told Jason, who has been amazing through this entire process. Then I told my sisters; and I felt a little more free.

“Is that it God? I told some people. Are we good?”

“Tell your story.” I didn’t want to tell my story. I wanted a new story –

“God, could You give me another story? I don’t like this one. Could I maybe have a story like Taylor Swift? Or maybe even one like the girl who worked for Anna Wintour and wrote The Devil Wears Prada? Or what about a story like the mom I had just met whose parents owned a Christian camp and she spent every summer at church camp and had the best childhood ever? Can I have a story like one of those?”

“Tell your story.”

So I did. I told old friends and I told new friends. I told my parents, after thirty years of keeping it a secret from them. I told my community group and my friends from church. I told neighbors and mom friends from preschool.

And what happened next was beautiful. Some of them said, “Me too.” And many more of them shared their stories with me – their stories were not identical but their pain was just as deep. I realized that I wasn’t alone. I hated that what had happened to me had also happened to others. And I hated that so many were still hurting from their past. But in those moments, I realized the beautiful thing was that we could be broken together poured out for one another.

I have been meditating on this passage lately. The entire chapter of 2 Corinthians 4 is so perfect, but the last two verses from the passage are specifically what Dr. Piper is preaching from in the video:

You see, the short-lived pains of this life are creating for us an eternal glory that does not compare to anything we know here. So we do not set our sights on the things we can see with our eyes. All of that is fleeting; it will eventually fade away. Instead, we focus on the things we cannot see, which live on and on. 2 Cor. 4:17-18, The Voice Bible

This may or may not be your story. But if you are hurting today, you are not alone. You have no wounds so deep that Christ cannot heal them. He has wept over what has happened to you. He feels all of your pain. He wants to heal you and to take what the enemy of your soul has stolen from you and make something beautiful.

He wants to redeem all of it.

I will share more of my healing journey with you here on my blog. I am writing a memoir and hope to have it completed by the end of this year. I have joined a group of about 200 other first time authors; we are encouraging one another as we write and learn about the book writing and publishing process. I have also started writing a children’s book titled Tell Someone.

I still want to talk about funny things like why Faith thinks Taylor Swift will ask me to be a bridesmaid at her wedding and the time that Sam said he wanted to be a sex-ed teacher when he grows up. Spoiler alert: It was at his fifth-grade graduation. For now though, in my next post, I will have some information about how you can talk to your child(ren) about sexual abuse.

You are loved,
becky

a new thing. part 2.

I haven’t blogged since we left Seattle. I know that you are on the EDGE OF YOUR SEAT waiting for an update! Here is a list of highlights from the past few months:

Jason and I drove from Seattle to Austin in 3 days with 2 cars, 2 dogs and 0 kids. We slept in our cars 1 night. You don’t need to mention this to our parents because we told them that we stayed at a hotel. They seemed to think we would get murdered if we spent the night in a parking lot so we did what any other grown adult would do – we lied to our parents. Look, the dog situation is complicated. And we had A LOT of stuff in our cars. Apparently, I would be murdered before my face cream got stolen. Moving on, we knew we were in Texas when we saw the Blue Bell Ice Cream Truck!

We met our neighbors the first day we were here and we absolutely fell in love with our neighborhood and our little street. We live on a cul-de-sac where the kids ride their bikes and scooters and play out in the street; and the grown-ups watch from camping chairs in the driveway talking about anything and everything. We celebrate each others birthdays and the guys have “garage beers” almost every Friday night. Jason and I are still pinching ourselves – we feel so blessed that the Lord led us here to this community. We have neighbors from Colorado, Nebraska, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and even a few native Texans. This area is one of the fastest growing in the United States. People – just like us – are moving here from all over!

Sam and Faith both love school. Love, love, love it. They have made friends and we have found a local church (Northpoint Austin) where we are serving. Jason is helping to lead the preschoolers at large group time. He is so good with the kids and he has so much fun teaching them.

the day my cup runneth over. there was coffee everywhere.
the day my cup runneth over. there was coffee everywhere.

For a while I cried every time that it rained because I missed Seattle so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love Austin. Things are wonderful here. But I missed what was familiar.

I was also afraid. I was afraid that my best days were behind me. I would grow old and tell stories to my grand children and refer to them my “church planting days”.

I felt lost. I knew that He was calling me to a new thing but I had no idea what it was. I wanted to go back to the old thing. I did.

The old thing was better than the idea of the unknown.

I heard Him saying, “Tell your story.” I have wanted to write for some time now but didn’t feel like I was good enough. I was good at fashion and decorating and making chocolate chip cookies. Maybe, I thought, I should do one of those things.

So, I applied for a job at Nordstrom because I am stubborn and disobedient and also because of shoes and employee discounts. And the part of me that wanted the old thing back thought that maybe one day I could move back to Seattle and do the old thing some more. But I can’t. And Nordstrom never called. And I am okay with that. And He still whispered “Tell your story.”

It took some time and a good bit of wrestling. It took a lot of heart examining and a little bit of therapy. And it took a trip to IF:Gathering where I finally could not ignore Him anymore. There, surrounded by His presence and nearly a thousand other women, I wept for the new thing.

I wept because I heard His voice and I could not be disobedient anymore. He was still there saying, “Tell your story.”

I wept because I realized I was still so afraid. The new thing is to write. To be a writer. To tell my story. To tell God’s story.

I realized how afraid I was. I am afraid to fail. I am terribly afraid to promote myself on social media. I am afraid of criticism. And I am afraid to offend people. What if I offend my non-Christian friends with all of my Jesus talk? And what if I offend my Southern Baptist friends when they find out how much I love my gay friends?

If I’m honest, I have been worshiping fear. Fear is a terrible god to worship. I can’t bow down to fear any longer. So I’m just going to write. I am more afraid of missing out on the adventure that Christ has for me. Even if I fail. He never fails.

A friend sent this scripture to me just yesterday and I wrote it down in my prayer journal and have prayed it several times already. I am keeping it before me so that I do not forget.

Don’t revel only in the past, or spend all your time recounting the victories of days gone by. Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it is happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; waters will flow where there had been none. Isaiah 43:18-19, The Voice Bible

What is the thing Christ is calling you to?

What is holding you back? 

How can I pray for you?

Comment or send me an e-mail so I can be praying for you! Or message me on twitter @beckyanncole