Monday 11 July 2016

Child Sexual Abuse: When parents are dismissive

Very sad
Don’t be ridiculous, you are lying.”
That was a mother’s response to her daughter who reported her being sexually abused as a child. She was 13 and this continued on an almost weekly basis for three years. This was Becky Vardy, the wife of Jamie Vardy revealing why her mother from whom she is estranged was not at her wedding and how the sexual abuse made her suicidal. [DailyMail]
Readers of my blog will be very well aware of the fact that I have written a lot about child sexual abuse, not only the act, the violation, but also the consequences. Consequences that many of us still live with and just have to cope with.
Difficult communication
It is difficult to imagine how hard it is for a child to go to their parent and tell them of being sexually violated by trusted people in our communities who could be relations, family friends, neighbours, teachers, clergy or professional people to whom our parents have entrusted our care.
The reaction of the parents to that shocking revelation can have lifelong consequences from estrangement to even suicide on the part of the child. The responsiveness of the parent can be the determinant of many things if they can get beyond the embarrassment, the shame, the indifference, the disbelief, the denial, or the dismissiveness to engage the child beyond just removing the treat and attending to the physical and mental healing of the child.
I was not dumb
In my own case, I never had the opportunity to tell my parents of the fact that I was being sexually abused because we never had the situational circumstances to have that kind of conversation. In my father’s demeanour towards his wards, he was strict, overbear and at times quite violent as a disciplinarian. Whilst it might have helped keep them in line, it also made him literally unapproachable because it engendered an atmosphere of fear.
In other areas, he could be critical, excoriating and dismissive, even as recently as a few months ago, when intimated of certain health challenges I had, there was a comparison and an almost indifference resulting in challenging why I had the frailty I had. There are too many instances of this lack of engagement that has affected our bonding.
To this day, except if he has read my blogs, he is still unaware that I had my first sexual experience at 7 and since then, there have been lifelong consequences. I was not dumb; we have just not gotten to the point where the talk is possible.
Scarred by religion
On the part of my mother, that is a different story. Steeped in religious excess that has affected everything else, we have not really found anything to accentuate the positive, rather we have constantly been at war with the seen and the unseen, the assumed and the implied, the fatuous and the bizarre.
It has been a trek through a wilderness full of beasts as we sought an oasis of peace, at times it was in itself a blessing and relief to be absent from all this.
Neither parent offered an inlet to converse on the things that affected me apart from the need to measure up to expectation and excel in comparison to others. Self-expression was operating within the bounds of their regulated control of activity I engaged in, bolstered by threat and punishment.
We find ways to cope
Then some expect us to have some convenient relationship in the twilight of their lives? Even if there was much to forgive, there is a lot more than cannot be undone, we have to seek safety in others who give us more reason to go on.
In the case of Becky Vardy, a loving husband and family, hopefully, a marriage that stands the test of time along with the psychological help she has received. To many more, maybe friends who give value and support that they do not come to any more harm than they have experienced before.
I started this blog to talk about the dismissiveness of parents to the sexual violation of their children, whatever else I have written between is part of the narrative and gives perspective to the spectrum of attitudes that form the reaction to such cases.
Child sexual abuse is damaging and its long-term effects are unquantifiable, we all find coping and self-preservation mechanism to get beyond it, others may never understand why the victims of abuse end up the way they are, act like they do. Still waters run deep, what you see at face value does not half reveal the story in the person.
What parents must do
It behoves parents today to create channels and opportunities for their children to talk about the most intimate things that affect them. The greater responsibility of the parent goes beyond provision; it involves most particularly the mental and emotional health of the child. Ignoring that will always have dire consequences.
Communicate and make it easier for the child to communicate. Do not wait, expect or assume that the child trusts that you will deal with issues in the best of ways, you have to pave the way for the child to trust wholeheartedly that they are safe with you, in every way.

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