About six months ago the Lord seemed to whisper that I needed to share on the topic of protecting our children (and grandchildren) from molestation, sexual abuse and those who would want to exploit them. But I didn’t get it done.
But today’s the day and this is our story. And I’m about to be gut level honest.
In case this all makes you uncomfortable, I’m sorry. But the truth is that some of our kids will in one way or another be exposed to sexual abuse, molestation or those who would want to exploit them and this is a topic that we need to talk about.
As in all posts, if you have different ways of doing things – awesome! We do life the way it works best for our family and we’ve done it this way for the last 32 years of raising our children. It’s worked well. And as I said, this is our story.
There are all kinds of statistics on the web regarding exact numbers. I can say this – it happens often. More often than anyone would ever want to believe and the raw fact is that most children never admit it’s happened to them. They cover it up and pretend it never happened because of the shame and pain involved. Most often the person who molested them is someone they trusted. The shame makes it difficult to expose because of the fear of others not believing them.
So here’s the reality: Kids don’t make this stuff up. They just don’t. A person has to become very vulnerable to expose someone they trust. There is too much at stake. If someone tells you this happened to them, they’re not kidding and they aren’t doing it for attention. We double victimize someone exposing molestation when we refuse to believe them – please don’t do that!
In my own situation, which I share a bit about in Rescuing Ruby (and someday will write more in my life story) I completely suppressed the memories until our firstborn was two years old. By doing that it didn’t mean it didn’t happen. It just meant that my brain was incapable of handling the reality of all that had transpired. When the memories began to surface, I nearly fell apart. Raw truth. Only by God’s grace am I here. He is faithful.
So how do we protect our children from molestation or even an attempt at molestation? Here’s what we’ve done in our home for the last 32 years of parenting:
1. We talk. A lot. And we talk about molestation. We call body parts what they are. Cute little names don’t cut it. We are specific when we say, “If someone ever says to you….” And we name specific phrases that someone could potentially say and we name body parts as they are appropriately called. We do not mince words. We do it as a family. Did you know boys are molested at just about an equal rate as girls?? Yes they are. Raw truth.
2. We have had a longstanding reward system in place that each of our kids knows well. It goes like this, “If someone ever, in any way, asks you to do something, tries to do something to you, makes you feel uncomfortable or wants you to do anything like ______ – shout, “NO” immediately and come to Mom, Dad or one of your big sibs. The person may say that they will hurt Mom or Dad but that’s not the truth. They are lying. They want you to keep silent to protect them. If anyone ever does anything like that in any way, then we will drive you immediately to ToysRUs to buy you whatever you want. We are here to protect you and we will never, ever not believe you. And we will do everything in our power to make sure that they don’t get away with what they have said or done to you.”
Now some might wonder, “Wouldn’t a kid make something up to get something from ToysRUs?” Sweet friends, not a chance!
In fact we have now raised five children to adulthood, all are married and on their own. During the childhood of those five one of them came to me with a look on their face. I took one look at that look and almost threw up. I knew. We immediately went into a room where we could be alone and I questioned, “What happened?” This little ones of ours then explained to me what a much older visiting boy upstairs in our own home (while his parents were downstairs with us as part of a Superbowl party we were hosting) had told our little one to do. It was very sexual in nature and it was an attempt at sexual abuse. Upon the older boy telling our child to do such-n-such, our child immediately came and told us.
I was so grateful. So, so, so grateful. As awful as it was that they had been exposed to this, I was so thankful that we had already had this talk many times before. It protected them completely!!
As I mentioned, a Super Bowl party was going on in our own home. I hugged while whispering to our little one, “I am so proud of you. We will go to ToysRUs in the morning.” You can bet, at 10:00 am we were already sitting, waiting, in the parking lot of ToysRUs for the store to open. When it did we went in and this one picked out any one thing they wanted – and it brought them great joy!
We have shared that story with all of our children many, many, many times over. They know we aren’t kidding. They will be rewarded if a similar situation should ever present itself to them in any way, in any shape, in any form. They know this – we’ve got your back, you will never be in trouble, anything you tell us is safe and we will reward you greatly.
And not one of our children has ever made up a story for a free anything at ToysRUs!
[[And yes, the young man’s parents were told what their son has done.]]
So how else do we protect our children?
3. We spend lots of time with our kids. We also get to know anyone who is spending any time with our kids. Sunday School teachers, coaches, music lesson teachers, youth leaders, youth helpers, neighbors, etc.
Once upon a time one of our kids mentioned someone that seemed to be paying quite a bit of attention to them. A red flag went up in my heart. Friends, if a red flag goes up in your heart – take note!! I asked our child if I could please meet this new adult friend of theirs at the next opportunity. They were excited. Only thing was that when I went to meet the adult, I couldn’t even tell you what they looked like. They ducked my view, they tucked their eyes and I knew that that red flag in my heart was for a reason.
Folks, if someone who spends time with your children won’t look you in the eye – BEWARE!!
Come to find out, down the road, that same adult that wouldn’t look me in the eye, had charges of attempted molestation of a young person. My warning from the Lord had been accurate!! I was so thankful for His whispers of protection!
4. Our kids don’t sleep at other people’s home without us. It’s not worth it. Ever.
Many years ago, when we were pastoring in Virginia, Dw was doing a series of Life’s Struggles and one of the topics was Sexual Abuse. He asked me if I would be willing to share my story. I had shared privately before many, many times, but God had brought such healing in my life and I knew it was now time to speak publicly about it.
As the worship was drawing to a close, I remember distinctly having the thought that if I ran for the side door I would have time to get the heck out of Dodge! I wanted to throw up! Although I knew the truth of God’s love for me, I wondered if the people we pastored would still love me if I shared my story? (Another lie from the enemy, “People won’t like you anymore if you are honest about your life!”)
But by God’s great grace I hung in there and shared my story and was very vulnerable. After I concluded the service, the line of people wanting to talk and pray with me snaked its way to the back of the sanctuary and then turned the corner. One by one people shared their story…
So many had never told their abuse story before. Many were weeping. Men. Women. Young adults. So many victimized by sexual abuse. Oh the torment many are kept in thinking that they were alone or that if others knew they would be rejected. It was such a healing time.
We began a class after to walk through the healing steps. Today, I would recommend to anyone who was sexually abused in their life a curriculum written by our dear friends, Steve and Celestia Tracy. (Their daughter Abby is the missionary to the street boys of Uganda and many of you will remember us taking wedding clothes for the boys to wear at her wedding!!) The curriculum they wrote is entitled, “Mending the Soul.” It now has a student edition as well. Every church ought to have a Mending the Soul Bible study going on. So many have been devastated by the effects of sexual abuse.
As our world continues to spiral toward destruction, we have a mandate to protect our children. The effects of molestation, sexual exploitation and abuse are horrific.
But as horrific as the heartache of enduring being victimized is, sweet friends, I am living proof that Almighty God can turn yukky parts of our life into places of beautiful healing. And from the bottom of my heart know this – I would do anything, including opening up about my own private pain on a very public blog, to protect your children.
If you’ve never had this kind of discussion with your kids, please start! And include in the time together the question, “Has anyone ever done this to you before?” Cause there might even be something that they are just too scared to mention.
I plead with you – do everything in your power to protect your children. Don’t ignore the subject. Don’t pretend it won’t ever happen to your family. Pray together. Talk to them. Turn off the TV, shut down the electronics, and just talk. Talk about the hard stuff. It’s just far too important!! We have to if we love our children.
As you know friend, we share similar stories of sexual abuse. What you have written here is so important for the sake of our children and grandchildren. And for those who live with the soul wounds surrounding abuse. Bless you for your openness, honesty, and courage. Hugs and love……
I well with tears in thanks to the Lord for how He brought us together. You are such a treasured friend. xo
Just heartbreaking. Can’t imagine. I’m so sorry you lived through this, and so gad you’re keeping your children safe.
Sexual abuse goes to the very core of an individual. It changes your life forever. However, God is faithful and He heals. He makes things beautiful after horrific pain. I am grateful for His healing work in my life.
May I add to this that if any one one of your children’s friends or relatives tells them about “a time when someone touched them” (or worse) that they need to tell an adult then too. That’s what happened to me. I wasn’t the one molested, I was the one who told. I was about eight or so, maybe even younger. My friend “P” was being molested by her teenage uncle and told me all about it. It bothered me a lot and I started asking my mom odd questions that made her think it was about me. When I confessed it was “P” my mom called “P’s” mom right away. At first her mom wouldn’t believe us because my friend denied it. But my mom asked why I would make it up and where I would get these kind of details. “P” finally told the truth. It had been going on for more than a year and was getting more and more sexual in nature. Who knows what would have happened if she hadn’t told me. So please encourage your kidlets to tell if it happens to others as well.
Good point!! Maybe I will do a follow-up one day!! I already thought of a few things that I would like to add.
another point to add, teach your children not to be the abusers! by teaching them to report you’ve already taught them what isn’t appropriate, but teach about the impact abuse has on a young person’s life and how they should never be the cause for such hurt.
Definitely!! That’s a given!!
I read this through tears. Love you, Linny. Love your heart, love your willingness to be open to us, love the hope that fills you and overflows to all of us. God bless you.
Love you, sweet friend.
You are precious my friend and I am so grateful I was able to hug your neck. xoxo
You are welcome!!
When should we begin talks? We already use adult terminology for private parts: we do tell them no on shoukd touch them there but mommy daddy or dr (and we say the docs name) our babes are 5 and 2 : i was to keep them safe and aware :
We started when our oldest was 2.5 years old. Now we would start even sooner. Honestly, I just don’t think it’s ever too early to talk about screaming NO!! And as the years progress, to talk more specifically…especially anytime they are out of your care. And it’s best to do it together – both mom and dad if possible.
Loved this, Linny! Childhood sexual abuse is far too rampant in our society & is a generational curse. As a victim myself, I facilitate a weekly support group for other victims & we have a long list of gals waiting to get in. It is so important to bring the “dirty little secret” out into the Light where the Lord can heal us. We can no longer push it down within us where it just festers & destroys. We are His beloved – and Satan hates that! We have used the curriculum “In the Wildflowers” with great success! Keep up the good work! Love you & hope to see you guys the next time you come thru town!
It is absolutely a generational curse!! I love that you facilitate a group Jane!! So needed – to set people free! I have not heard of “In the Wildflowers” but thank you for recommending it!!
I look forward to hugging your neck one day!! Love you cousin!!
So glad you wrote this and so glad you emphasized that the abuser is often someone that the children/ youth know and trust. I teach in a college and it is not uncommon that the stress of college life causes students to “remember” unwelcome incidents in their past. Not to mention the abuse and harassment that happens in many colleges. Giving kids a strong foundation of what to do/ what not to tolerate/ when to speak out will help them throughout their lives! Shame has kept many a person quiet and embarassment/ denial has stopped many an important conversation. It is time to end our hurtful ignorance of this problem.
Amen Robin!! Amen!!
Thank you Linny! This is so good. We certainly talk about this in our home but probably not enough. My commitment with littles is to never let them be cared for by someone we don’t know well AND to NEVER leave them some where (gymnastics, lessons, swim lessons, rehearsal) etc. until they can tell us EVERY DETAIL of their experience (of course with the previous issues already being discussed).We realize that we only have “this much time” to teach them this foundational lesson–It is worth hunkering down to watch your kids every single time. How would you address sibling “discovery”?
I am grateful you are so proactive Emily!! That’s how I’ve always felt – I only have to do this for a “little” while, so I would rather forgo going to anything then to leave them with just anyone…and trust me, we are very, very, very, very particular….the recent case in the media of a family that *everyone* would have thought they could have trusted has proved that that’s not always the case!!
As for sibling “discovery”…Ask the LORd for much wisdom…then I would suggest having taking each on a mommy/child date and ask a lot of questions in a comfortable place…then a long talk!!
And I would keep talking to the whole crew often…
Thank you for sharing something personal so publicly, and such good practical tips. From my own traumatized childhood I was proactive with my own children, although hard to deal with when some of ours came to us already having been abused. We have also helped them help their friends. Thank you for the resource link for Mending the Souls.
I am convinced that one of the greatest things God does with our pain (if we let Him) – is to warn others!! Praise the Lord for your willingness to use your heartache to protect your children and minister to their friends. Good job momma!! And you would love MTS if you decide to use it!!
Because of your advice years ago, I am now co-facilitating a MTS through our local Crisis Pregnancy Center. That curriculum, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has brought much healing! Thanks for the post and your willingness to talk about the hard stuff!
I am so grateful that Mending The Soul has been used by the Lord to do such healing. Steve & Celestia are beautiful people who have used their own heartache to minister to others!! Love to you!
Thank you so much for writing this!!! This is an issue that the Lord has placed at the forefront of my mind since my daughter (2.5) was born. At first I felt really strange to think about it so much and I refused to leave her at all for a very long time. I don’t think I was abused (not to my knowledge anyway) but there are situations I was in as a child that are very. Strange and definitly make me go “hmm”. I want to protect my daughter and keep her safe. Thank you for speaking out about such an important issue! I really appreciate the tips too! Sometimes it’s SO hard as a parent to know exactly what to say to your child, so I appreciate it!
Liz, I am so glad that you found the post helpful. I will do anything to protect any child!! Anything!! One “rule” of thumb we have stuck with through the last 32 years – “If we are not CRYSTAL CLEAR as to the provision for our child, we will not leave them anywhere.” Crystal clear means we have zero hesitation or reservation!! We feel that this rule of thumb has helped our children understand that their safety is our priority.
Another interesting note is that some might say, “Wow you really shelter your children!” No, actually our children are very secure individuals – one lives in Africa and one serves on the opposite side of the world regularly. They are definitely not sheltered, but very confident and secure in WHO is protecting them!! Jesus Christ!!
Thanks so much for this… we have a ‘quiver full’ of little ones in our extended family and I will do whatever it takes to see that none of them ever have to go through what happened to me for years at the hands of a close and ‘trusted’ friend of my parents. After hearing one of my niece’s complaining about how overprotective her father (my brother) was, I tried to explain gently what it’s like to protect your children from evil… she was a pre-teen and pretty sure she was safe and immune. As I realized she was missing the point, the Holy Spirit gave me the words, “Honey, I know this is hard to hear, but you can’t ever be UN-raped. Once it happens, it is part of your life that never completely goes away.” She is now the proud mama of a two-year-old son and a newborn daughter. She gets it… and she’s the one in our family who passed along your post! ♡
Very wise words Diane!! It’s so true, you can never “un-do” what’s been done!! I am thankful for your vigilance. We cannot ever be TOO careful. It’s our responsibility as adults to protect little ones.
I think molestation is real. However I disagree, kids do lie about it. I h as ‘ve lived through those lies. We didn’t do anything however our adopted daughter claimed her brothers raped her. Never happened and we can prove it. Plus the story kept changing. There is a lot more to the story than we can share on here. I am just saying that kids do lie about it. They use what works to get what they want. We need to be very careful before we make or pass judgements
Encourage children to speak up. When someone knows that their voice will be heard and taken seriously, it gives them the courage to speak up when something isn’t right. You can start having these conversations with your children as soon as they begin using words to talk about feelings or emotions.
Thank you for this post, Linny. I’ll be sharing it with my husband and asking that we sit down and talk with our children soon. Would you be willing to say a few words about how to keep our kids from being offenders? I think it must be as heartbreaking to find your child was a molester as to find they were molested. How can we prevent this in our families?
The best way to keep kids from being offenders is to keep them from being victims…
BUT make special note: NOT ALL VICTIMS BECOME OFFENDERS!! Plenty of precious people were once victimized but NEVER hurt anyone! Like me! I have spent my life warning others and protecting (although victimized as a child for many years!).
SOOOO the bottom line – protect your kids. If something in your gut says, “Nuh-uh”…it’s from the Holy Spirit and don’t allow them to go there and be with that person…
Our kids are our most valuable treasures – DO NOT leave them in any situation that you are not CRYSTAL CLEAR as to the provision for them. Crystal clear. Crystal clear! CRYSTAL CLEAR!! Talk to your kids openly and often – with your husband part of the discussion too. Ask questions. Pray for wisdom. Stay involved. You never know when a predator is lurking!! Pray! Pray! Pray!!
You will never know how relevant this is at this point in my life. God bless you for listening to His gentle whispers! Thank you!
I am thankful for God’s ministering to you through the post. To Him be ALL the glory!!