Are you listening?
I have no memory of a single event that began the raping of all things good from my life. I was 3-years-old and only know those sad initial details of what he did to me then because at 16 I had an opportunity to confront him. According to my uncle, when I was 3, he said he went to gather me from his bed after a nap (he was my legal guardian at the time) and said I was sitting up in bed with my hand in my diaper touching myself.
His excuse for putting his hands in my diaper too? I wanted it; needed it even.
According to him, I needed it for more than 9-years; 9 of the most formative years of my life.
The Nightmare by, Cheri Roberts
Morning comes peeking beneath my eyes with bitterness,
sharp and cold.
Tight chested reminders echo,
“Beware, the night is never gone.”
A sadness hangover of puffy eyes
muffled by the dawning of light.
I awaken choking, gagging
spitting on this new day.
The hand of the Sandman, my captor, will drag me unwilling,
humbled, thru the tick tock of time
’til once again I am in darkness
where nightmares come on tippy toes
to sneak and creak into my mind.
This uncle wasn’t the only uncle [or man] that abused me as a child. My childhood memories are only lightly peppered with any kind of joy, stability or even hope.
The general physical abuse and emotional abuse in my home and the homes I was subjected to was bad enough, but the childhood sexual abuse seems to be the wound that never heals. Every time I think I am, “OK” I am faced with the fact that I am not, “OK”.
Damage Control … For YOU
The damage caused by childhood predators, particularly pedophiles, is damage that never goes away. It drives many of your decisions in adulthood including as a spouse and/or parent.
But, the continuing damage isn’t just that from our own memories and minds.
The damage continues because we still keep the secret — even when we don’t want to and we do it … because of you. The same reason kids keep the secret during the abuse.
Kickin’ the Dog by, Cheri Roberts
The pain in my gut from your shoe-kick of words
takes my breath away
and words are lost in the shame and sorrow
as I kneel in regret and remorse.
Not only do our families [attached to us from childhood] not want to hear about what happened and actually deal with it, they also don’t want us talking about it to anyone, let alone publicly, because the potential light in which they perceive it to paint them.
In addition, the continued damage is exacerbated by the relationships victims choose as adults. Many spouses, just like family members, don’t want to hear it either. They think we should be “over it” and cannot understand why we are not.
It’s Heavy Shit And It’s Time To Flush
I have spent 47-years carrying the weight of a lifetime of abuse. Is it any wonder I have gone through life kicking and screaming? There have been times along the way that I have been able to talk openly about these things when opportunities presented, but now I am creating my own opportunity to create a bigger conversation, that although difficult, is one that is much needed in this country and one that can actually help others like me, finally heal by doing something that can impact the problem in a positive way for other kids and their families.
If we care to protect kids from the types of abuses I endured, then we need to stop sweeping distasteful things under the rug. We need to stop tippy-toeing around a problem that instead needs a swift steel-toed boot to its ass.
The problem in all of these years since the toll-free hotlines were established in the late ’80s and ’90s urging kids to tell, is we really aren’t urging them to tell at all, and those that do tell?
The shaming of the pedophile is also reinforcing the actual shaming of the child.
We Are Doing It Wrong
Like the saying, “work smarter, not just harder”, we can work smarter.
Child pornography is epidemic. More than 64% of these images and videos are of prepubescent children, i.e. targets of genuine pedophiles. We’ve had the ability to impact that number and bring it down, but we are going about it the wrong way and it isn’t the authorities fault; it’s our own.
History repeats itself in every generation of every family. There are no families untouched; there are only words unspoken. Genetics may even play a role in the creation of pedophiles and I can unequivocally say, in my own family, there were many.
Most of my cousins endured the same atrocities that I did; some have acknowledged it; others have buried it … quite possibly forever.
Pedophiles that act out and harm children most often harm children they are close to in life. These men [predominately] are usually family members or close friends of the family. They can also be authority figures in the child’s life outside of the family unit, like a teacher or even a counselor.
It’s About Access & Attitudes
Those with the intent to abuse, that have access to children, will act on their intents unchecked however, not all pedophiles will abuse a child. This is a fact.
There is a grooming process as part of the dance and this is what is truly key to understanding how to move forward with measurable results because believe it or not, the grooming period is noticeable, if you are looking.
This grooming makes a child feel loved and special. Often children abused by a pedophile are ripe for the picking because there is already abuse and neglect in their lives. The pedophile zeros into the emotional neediness of the child and fills the space with something [not sex] that we are not getting in the normal balance of the family unit.
In my own case, as is the case for many others, some of the very people that harmed me are the same people that harmed my own mother. Yet, for some reason she didn’t see — or maybe overlooked or didn’t believe, the potential that I too would suffer the same. In fact, one of these uncles violently raped my mother at a Travel Lodge in front of me and one of my younger brothers when we were very very young. I am not even sure my brother remembers the incident.
Pickin’ at Me by, Cheri Roberts
Music surrounded me at all times as a child.
My mom also grew up with music surrounding her.
The same music.
The same memories.
I can still hear the chords of his guitar.
Each plucks at the strings of my memory with angst.
How can one cherish and appreciate the sound
yet abhor and fear so greatly the sound maker?
How did history repeat itself?
I’d seen the violence shown to my mother that night. The travel Lodge logo is one I cannot “bear” to see because I cannot wipe this memory from my mind like I have been able to with some of the others.
This same uncle, although not the main offender of my childhood, is one that I was forced to socialize with in family settings after seeing what he had done. I took great pains to not be in situations alone with him. I wasn’t always successful.
I was never allowed to speak of what he did to my mom and the threat of violence, even to someone as young as I was, was very real.
That same uncle (like most of my others) abused his own children, of which there are many. Most of them have not openly talked about this. many of them are scattered from each other’s lives because of this.
But, no matter which uncle was doing what to who … we all know it happened.
From There To Here
Too many of us have extended the problem into the generations that follow and there is no indication that extension has an end … unless we ourselves end it in honesty. Those who don’t trap, surely trap those who do [or want to], into silence.
The utter inability within most families to be open about this and allow it to be part of everyday conversations is the very thing that allows it to happen in the first place.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse should never allow access to their children by their own abusers, regardless of life’s circumstances, but that’s not all there is to it.
The shame and embarrassment people [non victims] feel, that thing that makes most people so uncomfortable to confront the problem, is the very thing that perpetuates the problem. If adults are not openly talking about how this happens; if adults are unable to recognize grooming; if adults are unwilling to see … they will always be unwilling to hear. And the silence and secrets continue endlessly generation to generation.
We have the tools. We have the knowledge. Experts can only be as expert as the knowledge they learn, but unless they have been victims, they cannot convey in the realest of ways why it’s your fault, not the victims; and just just the offenders.
Considering the numbers I shared a few moments ago about child pornography, there is no denying we do in fact have the answer in our hands.
Journey Within by, Cheri Roberts
Journey down the wayward path,
A trail that shifts and blurs.
Indistinct amongst the over growth of caution,
The brambles of fear.
A corridor of your own mind.
A humble reproach,
To echo through the tunnels of consciousness.
Contemplate each twist,
Each fork in the road.
Be wary of the murky boundaries
But, be blameless in your continuance.
The dauntless meandering search,
With no map to guide you
But, that of your own heart.
Nameless expectations sustain you
To the crossroads,
Whose lush and unflawed beauty imparts
Hidden secrets of old.
No longer an obscure whimper
Through the branches of time
But, a revelation,
By the soul
Of the voyager.
Hope And Help Comes From YOU
Whether you have a child in your life or not does not absolve you from participating in the solution, but those of you with children in your life; it is you that bears this burden the most. You have an obligation to that child’s welfare and care. You have an obligation to look in the mirror and suck-up your own shame and discomfort and do something.
Last Wednesday on my weekly radio show, Challenging the Rhetoric (CTR), I began to tackle this issue head-on with the help of two other female victims of child sexual abuse with the assistance of a leading cyber forensic child porn expert, Frederick Lane. I implore you all to take the hour to listen to the show; to hear the stories and the facts and become a part of the solution.
One of the women who joined me is intrinsically tied to my own abuse because she was my childhood best friend and it is within all of our homes that these abuses happened. It was my own family members that abused her too and although it wasn’t my fault, I feel a heavy responsibility because of that.
Together we can not only address this, we can make a difference. We will probably never be able to stop it entirely, but the prepubescent abuse by pedophiles within or close to the family can be stopped. You do the math. It’s is significant.
Beginning in a couple of weeks, Sue, Kim and Frederick, along with other victims — both male and female, will be joining in the broader conversation for a special CTR series.. Once a month, on a Thursday, this round-table will will feature other experts on the topic as they help us all work our way out of the shameful shadows we called home.
I ask that you join us.
If you are an expert or a victim, or both, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For my fellow victims, I would like to hear your story and if you are willing to tell it, the world needs to hear it too.
For the experts, we need you. We need your strength and certainty to protect us as the adults we are now, because we are still suffering in our own ways, as is our families, because everyone expects us to remain silent forever for their sake.
We cannot remain silent any longer if we genuinely want to save another child from this pain. We have to tackle this together and we need your help.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “When Childhood Ends.”