the inalienable rights of children
- To hold adults accountable for abusing them or allowing abuse to
- To enjoy the same legal and constitutional rights adults enjoy;
- To have a guardian advocate oversee the work of the system for
- To have legal matters pertaining to their protection heard by a
judge other than the one hearing their parents' divorce case;
- To have their case heard by a judge trained and experienced in
the full effects of child abuse and child development;
- To hold an accused parent responsible for proving visitation would
be good for them, rather than hold the protecting parent responsible
for proving it might cause harm;
- To see their convicted abusers punished under the full extent of
the law rather than have sentences mitigated because the victim was
a child or family member; and
- To be examined by doctors and experts who have extensive experience
and training in child-abuse issues.
Copyright 2002 Rights.
I was sixteen and already fractured when Aldo crept
into my room one night. A paradigm of paternal concern, he gingerly
closed the door behind himself and waited patiently on my seventeenth-century
His shower-damp hair dripped onto the shoulders of his thick white
bathrobe and his eyes leaked meaning. I had some instinct that all
was not well with my world (pitching and tossing as it was through
unsettled seas), and was not as surprised as I could or should have
been when he eased his rump onto my mattress, assuring me that he
fully understood my sadness and how I must miss my murdered dadda
and how upsetting my hormonal changes must be, little treasure that
I was ...
- from The Pure Weight of the Heart,
by Antonella Gambotto
recognizing the damage
By Ellen Fein and Laura Davis
People have said to me, "Why are you dragging this up now?" Why?
WHY? Because it has controlled every facet of my life. It has damaged
me in every possible way. It has destroyed everything in my life that
has been of value. It has prevented me from living a comfortable emotional
life. It's prevented me from being able to love clearly. It took my
children away from me.
I haven't been able to succeed in the world. If I had a comfortable
childhood, I could be anything today. I know that everything I don't
deal with now is one more burden I have to carry for the rest of my
life. I don't care if it happened 500 years ago! It's influenced me
all that time, and it does matter. It matters very much.
- Jennierose Lavender, 47-year-old survivor
The long-term effects of child sexual abuse can be so pervasive that
it's sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly how the abuse affected you.
It permeates everything: your sense of self, your intimate relationships,
your sexuality, your parenting, your work life, even your sanity.
Everywhere you look, you see its effects. As one survivor explained:
It's like those pictures I remember from "Highlights for Children"
magazine. The bicycle was hidden in a tree, a banana was growing from
someone's ear, and all the people were upside-down. The caption underneath
said, "What's wrong with this picture?"
But so many things were disturbed and out of place, it was often easier
to say, "What's right with this picture?" Many survivors have been
too busy surviving to notice the ways they were hurt by the abuse.
But you cannot heal until you acknowledge the areas that need healing.
Because sexual abuse is just one of many factors that influenced your
development, it isn't always possible to isolate its effects from
the other influences on your life. Is your selfesteem low because
you were an AfricanAmerican child raised in a racist society? Because
you grew up in a culture that devalues women? Because your mother
was an alcoholic? Or because you were molested when you were nine?
It's the interplay of hundreds of factors that make you who you are
The way the abuse was handled when you were a child has a lot to do
with its subsequent impact. If a child's disclosure is met with compassion
and effective intervention, the healing begins immediately. But if
no one noticed or responded to your pain, or if you were blamed, not
believed, or suffered further trauma, the damage was compounded. And
the ways you coped with the abuse may have created further problems.
Not all survivors are affected in the same way. You may do well in
one area of your life, but not in another. You may be competent at
work and in parenting but have trouble with intimacy. Some women have
a constant nagging feeling that something is wrong. For others, the
damage is so blatant that they feel they've wasted their lives:
As far as I'm concerned, my whole life was stolen from me. I didn't
get to be who I could have been. I didn't get the education I should
have gotten when I was young. I married too early. I hid behind my
husband. I didn't make contact with other people. I haven't had a
rich life. It's not ever too late, but I didn't start working on this
until I was 38, and not everything can be retrieved. And that makes
me very angry.
The effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating, but they do
riot have to be permanent. As you read this chapter, you may find
yourself nodding your head -- "Uh-huh, me too" -- recognizing, perhaps
for the first time, the ways in which the abuse affects your life.
Look at the following lists and ask yourself how you've been affected.
Such recognition will probably be painful, but it is, in fact, part
of the healing process.
When we ask, "Where are you now?" we describe the range of effects
that survivors of child sexual abuse experience; this is to help you
look honestly at the impact of abuse on your life today. The lists
are not a diagnostic tool and are not intended to serve as a way to
determine whether or not you've been sexually abused.
Some of the effects of child sexual abuse are quite specific -- such
as intrusive images of the abuse while making love. Others are more
general -- such as low self-esteem or difficulty in expressing feelings
-- and can be caused by circumstances or events other than child sexual
abuse. It is important to be aware that physical and emotional abuse
can also lead to many of the symptoms listed here.
If you recognize your own problems in the following lists but ate
unsure whether you were sexually abused, don't feel you need to label
yourself as a survivor before you're ready. Take care of yourself.
Get support. Work on healing from the experiences you're sure of.
And trust that over time your history will become more clear.
self-esteem + personal power
When you were abused, your boundaries, your right to
say no, your sense of control in the world, were violated. You were
powerless. The abuse humiliated you, gave you the message that you
were of little value. Nothing you did could stop it.
If you told someone about what was happening to you, they probably
ignored you, said you made it up, or told you to forget it. They may
have blamed you. Your reality was denied or twisted and you felt crazy.
Rather than see the abuser or your parents as bad, you came to believe
that you did not deserve to be taken care of, that you in fact deserved
abuse. You felt isolated and alone.
© 2002 Ellen Bass
The Courage to Heal : A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual
A favorite Dolphin Research Center program, allowing people to enter
the dolphins environment and participate in a playful, structured
swim session with the dolphins. Participation in educational workshops
completes the experience. The program costs $135 per person and requires
advance reservations. Minimum age is 5 years old. Children ages 5
- 12 must have an adult in the water with them for the swim. Understanding
of spoken English is required.
Reservations can be made the month before you wish to swim. Call the
reservation line in Florida on (305) 289-0002. For a reservation schedule
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Absolutely no reservations will be accepted by mail,
fax or electronic mail.
Copyright 2002 Dolphin Research Center.
Pain in the present is experienced as hurt. Pain in the past is remembered
as anger. Pain in the future is perceived as anxiety. Unexpressed
anger, redirected against yourself and held within, is called guilt.
The depletion of energy that occurs when anger is redirected inward
creates depression ...
The emotions that frighten us are the complex ones, because they overwhelm
the natural release mechanism. You cannot simply release guilt or
depression. They are secondary formations that arose once you forgot
how to release hurt ...
Music is metabolized in the same way as narcotics in that it creates
the release of endogenous narcotics in the body. Exhilarating music
creates natural anti-depressants in the body.
Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, by