"I was violated at the age of five, ten, and fifteen," she said. "At five I was touched inappropriately, at ten my girlfriends and I were playing at the park and a man exposed himself and masturbated in front of us, and at fifteen an older boy sexually assaulted me on my way home from school."
I've known this woman for over twenty-five years. I know her well. She has lived and does live a joyful life. So I asked, "Why haven't these events paralyzed you in your adult life?"
"It's how my parents handled each incident that has made all the difference," she said. "They listened to me, believed me, and took action every time. I have little memory of the first incident. I know I told my mother about the inappropriate touch, she took me to the doctor to make sure I was okay physically, and she and my father protected me from the perpetrator. They dealt with him.
"I remember the second time well," she continued. "It was awkward, but my friends and I ran and told my dad, he took us to the police station immediately. The police caught the exhibitionist and he went to jail. We found out later that this man was a wanted on other sexual charges.
"And the third time, I ran home and told my parents. They took me to the police station and we ended up with a court case. I had to testify. It was scary, but my parents supported me the entire time. The older boy was charged and sentenced to prison.
"But do you want to know what happened after that? What's really amazing?" she asked.
"Sure," I said.
"Being a tiny girl and a racial minority in a large public high school, I used to avoid the cliques of students standing outside the front of the high school each morning and slip in a side door to avoid any kind of taunting or bullying. After I won the court case . . . I used the front door."
I can't promise you by following the six steps to protecting your kids, outlined in my previous posts, that your children will not experience a violation. It happens to one out of four girls and one out of six boys before their eighteenth birthdays. But what my survivor friends will tell you is that it's not the sexual act or violation that does the most damage to their hearts, minds, and souls. It's the isolation. It's the secret. It's the not being able to tell, or worse, not being believed.
My friend was blessed to have amazing parents who listened to her, believed her, and took action. She knows this and thanks God for them. And she has allowed me to share her story with you so your children can use the front door too.
We can follow all of the steps to protect our children from sexual violation and still a violation can occur. It happened to my daughter in high school, and I have been educating her on this issue for years. But you see, because I built the bridge of communication with my daughter, regarding sexual abuse, she knew she could cross over the chasm that abuse creates and run safely into my arms. No secrets had to be kept, no internal lies that abuse creates had to be believed. She got to hear from her parents over and over again, “It wasn't your fault.” When we take steps to educate and protect our kids we have hope. And by teaching our kids about sexual violations, we have nothing to lose.