Believe Your Kids

Everyday at my job I listen to kids talk about what may very well be the worst moments of their lives. It is a moving experience to watch the bravery they show by disclosing such personal, traumatic details to someone they’ve just met a few moments ago. It is an honor to get to meet these amazing young people and to offer them help in their healing journey. Especially when there are so many cases where myself and my coworkers are the only ones who believe them.

Most people assume that hearing these gruesome stories of physical and sexual abuse must be the hardest part of my job. That’s definitely what I thought when I first got hired. However, since then I’ve learned that there are even more difficult things to confront. Even more sickening than the abuse for me, is learning that the child’s own parent does not believe them, does not support them, chooses their abuser over them. This is a much more serious and impactful betrayal. I simply cannot stomach these “parents.”

Just recently a case went to court for sentencing. The perpetrator took a plea and our therapist went with the child to the sentencing. She came back to the office afterward to report that the mother went to support the abuser. The grandmother of the child even spoke on his behalf, actually cried, said she loved him and that she knew he was a good man. In the months leading up to this trial, the mother basically abandoned her child. She pressured her to recant her discloser of the abuse, belittled her, threatened her. Even after the boyfriend confessed, plead guilty, and was sentenced, the mother stayed by his side.

After the sentencing, the mother posted a huge pile of garbage on Facebook accusing the detective and CPS worker of lying on the stand and blaming her daughter for her own abuse. She drug her daughter, as well as the father who stood by her, through the mud for everyone to see. She implied that the daughter deserved it because she was sexually active at 14, accused the father of being addicted to meth, said her own daughter was dirty and diseased and a liar.

As if it wasn’t bad enough what this girl had to suffer through for five years of her childhood, now she must face the abandonment and betrayal of her own mother as well. What makes it even worse is what I know from the research I’ve read about child abuse. Most of us assume that these types of experiences leave scars no matter what. We agonize at the thought that these children may be forever changed and damaged from what has happened to them. However, the research shows that there is still hope for these wonderful kids. More impactful than the events themselves, is the response the child gets when they finally disclose. Children that are believed and supported by others in their family and community find resilience and strength in the face of adversity. They heal and become stronger for it. Unfortunately, children that are dismissed, ignored, not believed, punished, blamed, etc. are more likely to suffer negative mental health consequences from their abuse.

This makes perfect sense to me, and I always tell the decent parents this information. I offer them this knowledge as encouragement and to acknowledge the significant contribution they have already made to their child’s wellbeing by simply being there for them. To be taken advantage of and hurt by a friend, relative, or other known person is bad enough, but then to have that wound torn even deeper by the rejection of you own mother, father, or caregiver, the very person you look to for love and protection, is unthinkable. To be set adrift in an unsafe world with no safety net, no loving hand to guide you, that is the most harmful thing you can do to a child.

No matter how many times I see this happen (and it happens quite a lot) I never cease to be amazed. Who could be so cruel, so heartless, so callous toward their own flesh and blood child? Apparently a lot of people. I’m writing this post today to bring awareness to this disgusting phenomenon. If a child ever discloses something like this to you, BELIEVE THEM. Understandably a lot of people don’t know what to do if their child or another child in their life tells them something atrocious like this has happened. The only thing that you need to do is listen, make sure they are safe, then report it to the proper authorities. Don’t ask questions, don’t dismiss the child, just thank them for trusting you enough to tell you. Because it is such a beautiful gift to be a child’s confidant. Please don’t be another person that harms this child by denying their experience. Know that by simply being there for the child and believing them, you have given them something to hold onto, you are already helping them heal.

And to the parents out there that betray their own children, you have no right to call yourself a parent. You are a monster just as much as the person who abused them is. You don’t deserve to be any part of any child’s life. If it were up to me, you would face charges as well. You have done unspeakable, irreparable damage to an innocent child and I hope you suffer every day for that. I hope you are eaten alive by the shame of what you have done.

Child abuse: Everything you need to know to keep your kids safe

Withholding Happiness

How we talk to ourselves is so important. Even though it can feel silly, talking yourself up can make a huge difference. Even though I have been trying to be more aware of my self-talk and frame things more positively in my own head, it is still very difficult. It’s hard to tell if it’s even getting any easier. The main thing I struggle with is feeling like I’m just lying to myself.

For most of my life I was a pessimist, but thought of myself as a “realist.” I wasn’t being negative, I thought. These are just the cold hard facts of reality. Only in the last few years have I truly embraced the idea that there is no hard cut reality. Two people can experience the same thing and describe their experiences completely differently. Neither one of these people are delusional. Both have just viewed the situation from a different perspective. Both interpretations are equally valid. I was just choosing to focus on the negative side of most things, rather than the positive.

It is really hard to escape that pattern of thinking. Some part of me still feels foolish for trying to focus on the good in every situation. When I try to repeat self affirming mantras such as I am worthy, I deserve to be happy, I deserve love, I am enough, some inner part of me quivers with revulsion. It is quite sad to realize that it’s because I truly don’t believe those things. It has always been easier for me to say everyone deserves to be happy, than I deserve to be happy. When I imagine anyone else not believing they deserve happiness, it breaks my heart. Yet somehow when I am the one that feels that way, it seems logical and true.

I know that a lot of people have a hard time speaking kindly to themselves at first. We are so used to being our own harshest critic. I’ve heard that it takes time and persistence. I hope that’s true. I just worry about that small voice in my head that counters every attempt at trying to speak lovingly to myself with a whispered “liar!” I hope someday that voice in my head will disappear or at least not bother me as much.

I realized as I was meditating the other day, that this self-rejection is part of the reason it is so hard for me to be present and enjoy the moment. I truly feel that I don’t deserve to enjoy the moment. If I had to put it into words, my brain is telling me: “You are not good enough to relax. If you don’t keep hassling yourself constantly, you are going to keep being awful, or even become worse. You can rest when you are a better person.” No wonder I am anxious and distressed so often. My soul is restless because I am constantly resisting who I am. I am always rejecting myself.

It is truly bizarre to look at the double standard I have set for myself versus others. Sometimes it helps a little to try to imagine a friend or even a stranger telling me they feel and think these things. That makes it easier to comfort myself, because no one should have to feel they are unworthy of love and happiness. And that includes me! Are you listening, brain? We deserve love and happiness too, god damn it! Everyone does. Even though they aren’t perfect, even though they have major flaws, even though they have done terrible things. And I say “even though” instead of “even if” because we are all human and we are all imperfect. We have all done things we are ashamed of. None of that disqualifies us from a life filled with happiness and love.

So even though it makes me squirm inside, I am going to keep speaking lovingly to myself. I am hopeful that it will get easier and that one day I really will believe the kind words I’m offering.

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