Under the Bandaid
When my children were young, I attended a workshop in another city. I left my children in the care of others while I was gone. Daddy was home at night, and my capable neighbors helped out during the day. My five year old daughter took a spill from her brother’s bike while he was pumping her around the neighborhood. Our son and his friend put a bandaid on the scrape and carried on.
When I returned home a few days later, the leg was still tender and my daughter resisted walking on it. Fearing that the leg was broken I made a doctor’s appointment. The doctor removed the bandaid so that an x-ray could be performed and we both gasped in horror at what we saw. Those well meaning boys had not thought to clean the wound and had covered up a messy sore. A nurse carefully cleaned the area and even picked rocks out of the raw flesh. Several adults including my darling husband had inspected the bandaged leg, but no one thought to lift the bandage and see what was underneath.
Since the wound was several days old and badly infected serious measures had to be taken. Antibiotics were administered topically, orally, and even with a needle. The wound had to be soaked and rebandaged several times a day. I was to call the doctor immediately if anything worsened. A follow-up visit was scheduled for the next day. There was grave concern.
The danger could have been averted if an adult had looked deeper and taken appropriate measures to stop the damage. Under the cover of a bandage a serious infection had grown and threatened my daughter’s leg.
When a child has been abused, the damage is not always easy to see. A cloak of secrecy covers the abuse just as a bandaid can cover an infected wound. Secrecy is the abuser’s best friend. The abuser depends on secrecy to carry out his or her works of darkness. The secrecy is enforced through threats, guilt, presents, or flattery.
The child often keeps the secret out of embarrassment, worry, guilt, fear, or confusion. Parents may contribute to the secrecy by ignoring warning signs. Sometimes a child comes forward and is not believed or even blamed. Most parents believe the child, but are often unsure about what to do. They may be tempted to minimize the damage and encourage the child to move on without proper validation and support. Under cover of secrecy the damage can grow and fester into a nasty infection.
We can make a difference.
1. Know the warning signs of abuse. If anything doesn’t feel right, check it out. Notice things like unexplained sadness or fears, withdrawal from friends and family, change in sleeping or eating habits, nightmares, bedwetting. In teenagers suicidal or self injurious thoughts may be present. Teenagers may have a sudden dislike for the opposite sex. Some teenagers may turn to drug abuse or promiscuous behavior.
2. Build a trusting relationship with your child. Be a safe person for your child to talk to. Create opportunities for talking things over. Talk about all sorts of things, serious and not serious. Be a good listener. Let your child know that he/she can talk about anything with you.
3. Model modest behavior for your child. Model appropriate dress. Help your child to understand what is normal and natural. Teach correct principles. Be sure your child understands what inappropriate touching is and what to do about it. Teenagers need this dialog as much as young children do. Give clear guidelines without creating panic. Knowledge is power, not fear.
End the coverup. We need to start talking about sexual abuse. Get yourself some tools and open the lines of communication with your children. Protect and empower those you love by giving them information and tools. Download the free Parents Guide on this website. Print it out and become familiar with it. Print an extra for a friend. April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month as well as Child Abuse Prevention Month.