I can still picture it, my husband in the backseat of our two-door Oldsmobile Firenza, cradling our newborn son. We had just returned home from the hospital and my husband had crawled in the backseat of the car to get our son out of his car seat. I was waiting patiently, well, okay, not so patiently by the passenger side door.
“Are you coming in?” I repeated.
He didn’t even look up. “We’ll be in soon,” he said.
I was so glad to be home. I wanted my own bed. I wanted my own everything. But my mind told me to shut up, to take in this moment, to etch this beautiful picture deep within my mind.
My husband with his firstborn. Strong capable hands holding a helpless baby. Our baby. I didn’t ask Ken what he was thinking. I didn’t have to. It was a sacred moment. It was their moment, and this sight spoke more to me than words ever could. The love was palpable. And my baby, our baby, was learning from that tender moment on, that he could trust his daddy.
I believe that there are few things more precious to preserve, and more innocent to defend, than a child’s right to trust. A child longs to trust. A child needs to trust in order to grow up into a healthy adult. Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult for we, as parents, to teach our children that sometimes there are individuals that can’t be trusted.
My survivor friend trusted. "I was abused by a close relative. He was absolutely trusted. And he took advantage of me. And I went along with it because I didn't know any better. Because I trusted him."
Her parents trusted him. She trusted him. And that trust was broken. Shattered. Destroyed. And she couldn’t tell her parents because she trusted. She trusted that what was happening to her was somehow okay because people you love and trust don’t hurt you. Do they? Can you imagine the confusion she felt? Can you imagine the war that raged within her little mind, within her little heart? I can’t. And when I try, it makes me cry.
But what if her parents had taught her that her body was special and that the parts that her swimsuit covers are extra special? What if they had taught her that no one is allowed to touch the parts that her swimsuit covers, that she is not allowed to touch anyone else where their swimsuit covers, and that if anyone does, she should tell them—no matter whom it was? What if they had taught this information to her from the time she could identify body parts like nose and hand? What if they had taught this to her several times a year and built on this information in age appropriate increments? What if . . .?
We will never know the answers to my "what if" questions. Sexual abuse is a complicated issue, but as a parent, I want to know that, at least, I tried.
Let’s begin the conversation about childhood sexual abuse with our children. So they will know. So they can tell. So they can continue to trust.