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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 06/21/2012

Child sex abuse: One parent’s story

The Jerry Sandusky trial is on the verge of conclusion, bringing with it an intensified focus not only on the issue of childhood sexual abuse, but also the need to recognize it.

The coverage has prompted victims in other cases to come forward, helping them find new courage to speak up and out.

It also has likely prompted countless parents to think twice about ignoring suspicions of a problem.

This week, a Washington mother whose daughter was sexually abused shared her story with me.

Her daughter was 14 when the abuse began and is now a 17-year-old survivor who is so concerned that others might also be suffering in silence, that she is working on a book about her experience.

Because of The Post policy to not name the victims of sexual abuse, I have left the mother and daughter’s names out of this post.

Below, the mother shares her parental perspective on how she discovered the abuse and worked through the aftermath.

The mother’s suspicions were first triggered when “my normally bubbly child had become withdrawn. She didn’t want to see or talk to her friends or me. Her grades dropped so low that her school wanted to hold her back a year.

Then, came the first of what would amount to three suicide attempts.

After the third visit to the ER, I told my [my daughter] we weren’t leaving until she told me why she wanted to hurt herself. Her answer changed both of our lives. [She] told me that the pastor of our church had been sexually abusing her.

Shock, anger and pain instantly consumed me, but I knew I had to support my child and do the right thing for her. I immediately took [her] to the local police department to report the abuse.

Looking back, the pastor had groomed [us]. I trusted him as a father figure for [my daughter]. So, I didn’t sense anything unsafe about him spending time with my daughter and even buying her gifts. He was the pastor of our church. I thought he just wants to be a blessing to us.

After this experience, I learned that parents can protect their children from abuse. It takes knowing the risk factors and the grooming techniques predators use.

I also know that child victims of abuse can heal. [My daughter] received counseling from Safe Shores, a non-profit that provides services to children and their families affected by abuse.

Today, [my daughter] is looking forward to a bright future. She’s focused on school and has been on the honor roll since she began therapy. I’m looking forward to sending her to college.

[She] has found her voice. She wants to encourage other girls in her situation and let them know, like she knows, that what happened to them is not their fault and that they can heal from abuse.”

Related Content:

Sandusky, Horace Mann, Manassas & sexual abuse: Has the culture changed enough?

Jerry Sandusky trial: why victims need anonymity

Penn State abuse scandal and what parents can do

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 06/21/2012

Tags:  Child Abuse

 
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