I spotted my father. He was seated on a lawn chair under the Maple tree. I ran.
“Daddy, Daddy, I was in the hayloft and Billy wanted me to . . .”
I won’t write what Billy, a teenage hired field hand, wanted me to do. I don’t believe that being graphic on my blog is helpful to anyone. But I did tell my father what Billy wanted me to do—the game he wanted me to play. I told my dad—everything.
My father didn’t respond in word, he was a member of what Tom Brokaw dubbed The Greatest Generation, that generation who discussed little, but out of their sacrifices ended a war. To this day, the men and women of WWII don’t like to be referred to as heroes; they just did what they had to do. However, my father did respond in deed—he listened to me, believed me, and took action. And although I didn’t understand the impact of his actions on my life as a child, they speak volumes to me today.
On that summer day, in 1968, my father chose to become my hero. But I’m sure if he were still alive, he would say, “I did what I had to do.”
I can still feel the emotion as I watched my dad bolt from his chair. He was headed for the barn. He was headed for Billy.
One would think that I stood there cheering my father on. “Go get’em, Daddy!”
I didn’t. I remember what I thought at that moment because my thought was attached to an emotion. I think I just got Billy in big trouble.
I didn’t want to get Billy into trouble; I just wanted to tell my dad about the scary situation I had experienced in the barn.
Children think in the moment. They can’t comprehend the complexities of sexual abuse or its consequences. They care deeply about people, even people who hurt them. And that is why adults must protect them.
To understand how to best protect children from sexual abuse, we must remember what it was like to think as a child. And do what we have to do.