Impact of Child Sexual Abuse

UNICEF spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

A REFLECTION FROM AN ADULT ABUSED AS A CHILD

Although you may grow physically, you don’t grow emotionally. This means, of course, that although you are an adult outside you remain, in many ways, a child inside.

The results are all too obvious. Poor decision-making, unwise choices in relationships, underachieving academically and/or in employment, often behaving inappropriately and/or seeking inappropriate attention.

Somehow, you feel you never quite measure up. This can often be as simple as ‘If you knew the truth about me, you wouldn’t like me …’ and so you feel unable to tell the truth. When you’re living with a lie of this magnitude, it cannot help but colour the rest of your life.

When the abuser is a member of your family or extended family, the situation is even worse. If the abuser is an ‘accepted’ member of the family and generally behaves in a way that seems responsible and appropriate, it is impossible for a child to disclose the abuse.

The abuser has created him/herself a cast-iron ‘alibi’. When the abuser is also a ‘special constable’ and a Eucharistic minister of the Catholic Church, you have absolutely no chance. Interestingly, our abuser’s time served in these roles appeared to count as ‘good behaviour’ in his defence.

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE HAPPENED IN OUR FAMILY

A MOTHER’S REAL LIFE STORY

Before saying anything else, I feel it’s important for you to know the Child Protection Police officers are sensitive, caring, thorough, gentle and discreet. However, they have an investigation to complete while you, as a witness, are left to cope once they’ve gone. But how do you do that?

I have no idea how it is for parents who refuse to accept the truth or for parents who have been abusing their child. What I do know is how it was for me and others to whom I have spoken over the years. And so, what happens?

You say ‘goodbye’ and thank the Police for coming because it seems polite. Then WHAM reality hits you. You feel crushed and numb; you want to scream and run for the hills and hit everything in your pathway. Your world has imploded! Everything you knew to be your life no longer has meaning or purpose.

You can’t sleep. You can’t stop crying. You can’t see a future. You can’t function. You don’t know how you’re going to live. Suicidal thoughts invade your mind and you become irrational. You think “Clearly everyone will be better off without me. I have messed up the lives of those I love.”

Even opening the post and answering the phone turns into a huge task. You’re scared of what you’ll find on picking up the phone or opening a letter, will it be more shock to bear? You fear meeting neighbours and friends, the reality is many people will avoid you because they just don’t want to know.

You fear new people in your life, you wonder what they want from you. You ask yourself ‘Why do they wish to be my friend? Can I trust them? Will I trust ever again? And then you think maybe I will just stay indoors and hide away.

A raft of extreme and intense emotion powers into your head and heart, it consumes every hour you breathe day and night. Realisation, betrayal, denial, acknowledging the truth, anger such as you have never known, it is a powerful force with white heat burning through your very being like a laser. Any anger you felt before is recognised as being mere frustration or irritation. Real anger is something quite different. It eats into you and you find yourself consumed with anxiety, depression, fear and guilt.

I think guilt is the last emotion you process, and it’s the hardest to deal with, the inappropriate self blame.  Even now, 10 years on, on a bad day it can creep up and hit me but I have developed methods deal with it.

Why do I feel guilt? I have done nothing wrong. But, as a parent, I believe my role was to protect my children. And I didn’t. I couldn’t because nothing prepared me for this happening.

After a while, I wrote a book “Never Take No for an Answer” explaining my story and fight-back. It was cathartic for me and, hopefully, it will help other Mums in the same position who struggle with their own emotional fall-out. Then from the ashes of heartbreak and anger Enough Abuse was born.

Avoid the pit I fell into or your life will never be the same again. Learn NOW, TODAY, the signs and develop the awareness to recognise grooming. This information wasn’t available back in the 1980s.

Find ways to positively move your life forward. Otherwise, you give the abuser too much significance and he/she is absolutely not worth it.

Marilyn Hawes
Founder of Enough Abuse