I have a friend who hates the holidays. She told me this before Thanksgiving, and I replied with the usual, “I know right? The traveling, the shopping, and the traffic make it almost unbearable.”
She replied, “No, I was often molested by family members during the holidays.”
I swear, my heart went limp and soaked into my body after her reply.
“What? When? Who? Why would someone do that to you?” I asked tearfully.
She went on to tell me that her mother did not always pay attention to her during family events.
“They just assumed that if I was in the house, I was safe. But, I was actually safer outside on the cold streets of Brooklyn, than I was when visiting my relatives.”
She began to recount her experience. She discussed her anger. She discussed her unresolved issues. She discussed how her own mother kicked her out of the house at sixteen years of age for telling her that her stepfather was molesting her.
“He was molesting me, and I got the courage to tell my mother. She called me a liar and kicked me out. So there I was, a young girl on my own.”
Her story was hard to swallow. My experience was completely different. My parents were always concerned and over-protective. I remember getting mad with my mother for not allowing me to spend the night at friends’ houses as a child. I couldn’t even completely experience slumber parties! She would come and pick me up around midnight, while all the other girls were allowed to stay at the party. In retrospect, I appreciate my mother, and now completely understand.
I have heard this story of molestation countless times, and it often surrounds a family member, or a family friend, who is hiding a big secret. So many men and women are dealing with these unresolved issues of pain, which are often carried into adulthood.
Per Wikipedia, research shows approximately 15 percent to 25 percent of women and 5 percent to 15 percent of men in North America were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders were acquainted with their victims. Approximately 30 percent are relatives of the child, and around 60 percent are other acquaintances, such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors. Strangers are the offenders in approximately 10 percent of child sexual abuse cases.
Therefore, family gatherings may be a pertinent time to watch and pay attention to where your child is. The craziest thing about my friend, is that this Christmas (and most Christmases), she will still spend it with the very relatives who previously molested her, and they behave as if it never happened.
“It is so hard to face them. I remember everything, every time I see them. And it infuriates me. Parents just need to be mindful. They should listen to their children and protect them, especially during the holidays.”
Again, it is important to protect our children. I define our as anyone’s child. It really does take a village to raise a child. It is imperative that children know how to protect themselves. They need to know how to speak up for themselves. They also need to know that adults are not always right.