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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Support Groups » telling children about your abuse

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Author Topic: telling children about your abuse
Nailo
Activist
Member # 26390

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HI! This is my first thread in a looong time.

Recently I babysat a very bright 6 year old girl for 10 hours a day for about a week and a half, and it got me thinking about when I have children. I definitely don't want to repeat the same mistakes my parents made with me, and I am lucky enough to have found a man who I know will be a much more respectful and (correctly) loving father than mine was. However, and I know this is thinking waaaay ahead of myself because pregnancy isn't even in the plans for the next decade or so, but I have been wondering- what would I say if my child asked me "why have I never met my grandfather?". Or, along those lines, "why don't you want to see your father? What did he do?".

If there's one thing I admire about how my mother raised me is the fact that she never told me "I'll tell you when you're older" about anything. But with this, I would just have no idea how to begin to explain the pain and anger and sadness, and all the rest of the snowball that happened because of living with my father and what he did. It was hard enough even for me to admit to myself that I had been molested. To think of the possibility of explaining to your child!

If anyone here has gone through this, first of all- hats off to you. Second; how did you do it? How did your child handle it?

Posts: 410 | From: Dallas, TX | Registered: Dec 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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This isn't about sexual abuse (that I know of), but might be useful to you.

I actually had two parents who both survived very extreme physical, emotional and verbal abuse, and they handled communicating with me about it VERY differently.

My father was always very open with me about the abuse from his stepparent. My mother didn't ever tell me a word (and I have to be honest and say that endangered me: I, too, had to live with physical and verbal abuse from her parents a couple summer sin a row, and if I had known they were abusive, or been protected from going, it would have been one less abuse in many in my life I would have had to weather). Some of that difference I think was both an awareness issue and a loyalty issue. My father was better educated, for lack of a better word, when it comes to what abuse was compared to my mother. My father's family was also dead by the time he told me, and again, in his case it was a step-parent, not an actual parent. In other words, despite the fact that I will never fully understand why my mother felt such loyalty to two people who treated her (and her siblings, and me) so terribly, intellectually I understand that conflict, as well as denial. It took my mother many, many years to really snap out of that, and a second husband who was very abusive to me and who I suspect was also abusive to my mother.

With my father, it wasn't like it was disclosed to me in one big admission: it was distilled over many conversations about his childhood.

Had my mother chose to keep us from her parents for our safety and in order to keep from being around those people herself, while I don't imagine it would have been an easy conversation, I think for a young child, something as simple as "Grandpa hurt me a lot and I worry about him hurting you," or "Grandpa touched me in ways that hurt me or made me feel very unsafe," is as good and clear an opening as any. I think when talking to children about delicate topics like this, it's just a matter of working out what's age-appropriate at the time. As time goes on, they grow and start asking questions which give us cues as to what other information they want and are ready for.

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Namida
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Take this from someone who's been told by a parent (only after my grandfather beat me up with a plank of wood, 5 years after, and after dozens of times she let us go camping with him) don't go into detail, for the love of god just leave it at "he did something very bad and I want you to not experience that". As of last week I've been given a fully detailed account of every family member's sexual abuse and basically it's not pleasant. I'm sure what you went through is worse but this is bad enough.

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And still the beds are burning, burning in our sleep.
Take me away from everything I see.

Posts: 66 | From: Australia | Registered: May 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
orca
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 33665

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I wouldn't entirely agree with not going into detail. I think it tends to be an individual thing in terms of what the person can handle hearing (which will depend on their own experiences). I know at 14 I would have been really traumatized if my mother had told me all of the things she'd been through in one sitting. At 19, after having experienced abuse myself, it was helpful in some ways for my mother to talk to me about the abuse she'd been through herself. It explained to me why she'd always had a problem talking about certain things, and why she felt very passionate about certain things. It also helped me to feel less alone in what I was going through. She never told me everything in one piece, or even in a short time span, but over the years, expanding the story as she felt I was capable of understanding it, and maybe also as she was capable of saying it. I think in many ways it has strengthened our relationship, too.

It also made a difference, though, that it was her ex-husband (who no one has seen in decades) she talked about, and my deceased grandfather, rather than someone closer to me and living. My father, I strongly suspect, has been abusive towards her, but of that she never speaks, and I doubt she ever will until he dies (which is the same thing my grandmother on my mother's side did).

I think you just have to take those discussions slowly, as Heather said, and only say as much as they ask, or as much as you think they can handle (and as much as you can handle, too).

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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nixieGurl
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 19081

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I think for me, I would find it hard to tell kids about what happened, but at the same time I think it is important for their own safety that the know things like this happen and to be aware of it but also not to scare them or anything. If I were to do it I would just tell them in simple words that someone hurt me and it is not safe to be around that person because he is not very well or something along those lines. I dont really think detail is necessary when the kids are young, although I dont think sheilding them from everything is healthy either. Like for me most people around where i live say that I am sick and went after the man who hurt me and wanted him to do it, apparently that is easier to accept.
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Alice
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Hey Nailo,

This is something I've been thinking about too, lately. My son is almost 2, so it's a ways off. At this point in time I haven't been comfortable talking about the abuse with *anyone*. I agree with the above comments about waiting until they are ready, using their level of maturity as your starting points. Also, because it's so hard for me to talk about, and so far my child appears to be pretty sensitive so far, when I start to get anxious about this topic I tell myself that we can do family therapy, where we can create a safe and comfortable place to talk about this important but so difficult subject.

As a side note, I'll be in college soon for becoming a teacher, so it's also comforting to know that by the time this subject comes up I'll have child psychology classes and whatnot under my belt which I imagine would help with the whole not-traumatizing your child thing. Something to look into for you, in the future. [Smile]

Posts: 1180 | From: WA | Registered: Apr 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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