#metoo moment has kindled a fire in us. The social media is ablaze with rage fanning emotions of frustration and hatred from both sides, including those who are blessed with no such scars. Imagine what happens to those who are reliving their horrors. Imagine all those suppressed subconscious memories being released and the abused are now facing new unprocessed narratives. Suddenly all the nightmares begin to re-materialize. The monsters and the battles come alive. They can no longer be chalked aside as mysterious metaphysical beings but realistic reminders of mortal trauma.
“It took me 20 years to share my #metoo narrative with my mother. I remember telling her as she was holding my then week-old daughter in her arms. Struck by the three generations of the divine feminine and still flooding with maternal hormones, I then made the firm decision to be bold by having a heart to heart with my mother. I so wanted to protect my baby girl from the cruel unsafe world. Still filled with shame and fear I made myself vulnerable to my mother as I disclosed one of my deep dark hidden secrets. As I shared my narrative I felt thirteen again. Away flew my composure and matured dignity. I felt raw and exposed sitting before my mother sharing a piece of my past. I heard my words echo. My heart throbbing like a distant drum beating a familiar rhythm. My uncontrollable sobs drowning my thoughts. Heavy and burdened by the past I sank into the chair. Through the renewed grief filled echoes I heard “there is nothing I can do about this. You should have told me then.” As her words sank in I felt betrayed. I was distraught.”
So very often we miss the signs of our loved ones in pain. In Jessica’s case (name changed with permission to maintain confidentiality), those around her seemed oblivious to most of the signs she exhibited. Her nonverbal signs that were vital red flags screaming “Help me, save me” were overlooked. Jessica was a victim of repeated child molestation and physical abuse in a joint family system. Growing up her silent cries for help were brushed aside by labels of “moody” and “problematic” child. How does one recognize a child’s silent cry you may ask. According to various medical professionals and law enforcement there are three types of child abuse; physical, sexual and emotional. Physical abuse is mostly visible in the form of bruises or cuts. There are also those where a child can be placed in harm’s way such as throwing objects at a child or holding a child under water. Sexual abuse not only includes physical contact but also exposures to sexual content like sexting, flashing genitals or telling dirty jokes. Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior which directly includes ignoring, shaming, yelling, criticizing including witnessing such behaviors.
Focusing on the #metoo movement, let’s talk about subtle and obvious signs of sexual abuse that parents and caregivers should pay attention to. Most common symptoms are social avoidance, depressive mood or mood swings, sudden change in behavior or eating habits, increase in headaches and stomachaches, isolation, lack of general interest, drop in grades, poor hygiene, sudden change in body weight, excessive sleeping including suicide ideation.
Often an abuser is known to the victim. An abuser may use psychological weapons as verbal abuse such as criticism, direct or indirect death threats, shaming and/or religion. An abuser may also use physical abuse such as punishment rationing food. I understand this can be scary. Being vigilant and asking the right questions can empower your child. Be mindful of your own emotions prior to addressing your concerns with your child. Remember traumatic experiences equal active distress. Be gentle. Listen. Get professional help when needed. Keep children safe. Stop child sexual abuse. Help your child grow into a healthy successful adult.
Caroline Fernandes is a holistic integrative psychotherapist & a wellness life coach.