I recently read an incredibly sad article about a 13 year old boy who was abused by his uncle. He had loved this uncle and looked up to him. His uncle took him on a campout in a tent and then began sexually abusing him. The uncle was living with him at the time, helping his mother at home. His uncle threatened to hurt him if he told him mother. So....he never told.....until he was older and found his voice.
Because of this article, I felt I needed to have a chat with our six-year-old daughter (and soon will with our nine-year-old son). Here is our conversation:
M: Hey sweetie (I was tucking her into bed). I know sometimes I don't always listen to you very well. I get busy and it takes a long time for me be able to answer you. Did you know that I want you to still be able to tell me anything?
A: Yeah. I love you.
M: I love you too. If you ever need to tell me something really important where your heart is hurting, you just tell me it's REALLY important (because she always tells me what she needs to say is important).
M: Has an adult ever told you to keep a secret?
A: Yeah. You did when we bought daddy's birthday present.
M: Right. Did daddy ever find out about it.
A: (Giggles) Yeah, we gave it to him for his birthday.
M: We did. Did you know that secrets are like that? Good secrets are when we are going to tell someone about them at a certain time, like a birthday. Some secrets, when a person doesn't want you to ever tell are not good secrets.
A: I would tell you if someone told me something bad and I shouldn't tell you.
M: What if the secret was something you felt you did? Would you still tell me?
M: Even if you feel like you did something bad, I will always love you and want you to tell me. I am here to help you figure out how to make things right. I want to know.
A: That's good because I love you.
M: Remember when we talked about appropriate touch?
A: Yeah. I will tell you if someone touches me inappropriately.
M: Good. What if that person was someone you love?
A: I would still tell.
M: What if it was your grandma or papa or grandpa or grandmommy? Would you still tell?
M: Good. These people love you and probably wouldn't hurt you, but I want you to know that I want to know if anyone touches you inappropriately.
A: Okay. I wouldn't want to be touched inappropriately. I would tell them to stop.
M: Good. And if they don't stop what do you do?
A: Come find you or daddy as soon as I can and tell you about it.
M: That's a good idea. What if that person told you that if you ever told me or daddy they would hurt you or hurt someone else you love like Z (little brother)?
A: I would still tell you.
M: I know you could feel scared and upset if that ever happened to you, but I want you to know that even if someone tried to threaten to hurt you, daddy and I would be able to find a way to protect you as long as you tell us, even if it's someone we love.
A: I understand. I love you.
M: I love you too!
This was a hard conversation for me because I don't want her to ever think other adults are scary or bad. She didn't seem to be upset at all. She seemed to understand that I was just letting her know that if certain things happen, she can absolutely come to me, no matter what it is. Hopefully, this was because I was praying for the spirit to speak to her. We have to be careful not to make children afraid of people in general, but also give them the tools they need to speak up if necessary. Now, I just need to find an opportunity to talk with our older son about it.