THE SECRET CRIME...
Sexual abuse is a secret crime and one of the best kept secrets in the world. Many children fear that if they speak out, they will not be believed so they pretend it never happened. They are afraid of what others will think so they hide behind a mask. Many of the schools in SA like schools in other countries, experience some sort of bullying, substance abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, racism, gangsterism, guns and weapons, vandalism and a host of other rebellious behaviours.
My concern is the long term effects on children who have been victims of abuse. You can look around you and at your friends and you may never know that they are being abused, but on the inside they are hurting. Sexual abuse touches your life …. your self-esteem falls, it leads to loss of trust, development of shame, guilt and depression, school performance can be affected, some students drop out of school and for many, their social and personal development is also affected. Sexual abuse can lead to eating disorders, substance abuse, suicide and promiscuity/prostitution. It is also common for survivors to blame themselves for what happened. They start to believe that they are bad, dirty, gross, stupid and weak. Sexual abuse has a huge impact on your ability to trust others and later in life you may experience relationship problems.
I know, because I am a survivor of child sexual abuse whose life for many years wasn’t all that it appeared to be. I was abused by my father, who was an alcoholic, until the age of 12. A friend of my mom’s also abused me. For many year’s I wondered what had I done to encourage this. I only told my husband in 1987 and my mom in 1997. I started my healing walk in 1995 by seeing Childline. It’s not the abuse itself that was a problem it’s the effects that it has had on my life. I had a very low self-esteem, I didn’t think I was worthy of anyone’s love so I pushed people away. I also didn’t have many friends because I didn’t trust too many people. I was a very angry person (I’m still working on this) and I was promiscuous as a teenager. Until a few years ago I was filled with shame and guilt. At age 13 I tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose – nobody, not even my mother tried to find out why I was so unhappy. I tried again in 2000 and was admitted into hospital with a nervous breakdown. I still suffer from depression and according to doctors this is something I will live with for the rest of my life.
I was afraid of what others would think, so I hid behind a mask. When people looked at me, they saw this perfect, confident girl who had her life straightened out. In trying to get some control in my life, I became a control freak, people pleaser, a perfectionist and a tough girl. All of these are a subconscious shield of protection. I became involved in too many things (if I was busy I wouldn’t have to think or feel the pain), I very rarely cried because this would show that I was weak. I believed that for people to love me I must do what they ask. I found and still find it very difficult to say NO to people, so people take advantage of me. I built protective walls around myself. I assumed that if someone couldn’t get near me they wouldn’t hurt me. I became a loner and made myself unattractive by gaining weight.
You need to understand that sexual abuse is not about sex; it’s about power and control. I used to believe that if I had done something differently or had some power, I wouldn’t have been abused. I know now that there is absolutely nothing that I could have done or that I need be ashamed or guilty about.
If you have been abused / are being abused / or know of someone being abused, REMEMBER:
- It’s not your fault
- You never wanted it or asked for it
- You are not responsible for your families happiness
- You deserve to be believed however you need to be selective about whom you tell. The person you confide in should be someone you trust – someone who you think will believe you, accept you, love you, protect you and walk with you along the road ahead.
Sexual abuse is out of control in our country. South Africa is one of the countries with the highest incidence of sexual abuse in the world. We need to break the silence.
25% of all children has or will be sexually abused before age 18. In most cases the child is raped or molested by his/her father, brother, or another family member or close friend of the family – the people who are supposed to protect you.
According to statistics compiled by Childline, (an organisation that assists children who have experienced abuse), one in three girls and one in five boys have been or will be sexually abused before they reach 18 years. Sadly most cases of abuse are not reported. They state that 85% to 90% of children who have been sexually abused know their abuser. The Teddy Bear Clinic, which treats children who have suffered abuse, states that 21% of children are abused by their biological father.
According to Women Against Child Abuse, sexual abuse happens in families of every ethnic, social and economic background. Incestuous acts can be physical, verbal, or emotional and can include sexual touching and fondling, oral, anal or vaginal penetration, having children pose undressed or perform in a sexual fashion on film or in person. It involves forcing, bribing, threatening or pressuring a child into sexual activity or awareness.
One of the greatest privileges that each one of us has is the right to be heard. We want to give you a voice. We want you to be healed. By bringing abuse into the light we will help prevent more abuse and help abuse victims heal from their silent pain.
If I can leave you with this:
“IF YOU’RE BEING ABUSED, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. The first step towards healing is to TALK ABOUT IT”. It’s your decision which route is followed.
If you need help in how to deal with sexual abuse, contact us at