Rape culture is real — the words we say may be unintentional, but careless comments, lack of support, and judgmental attitudes cause great harm. Many survivors are harmed emotionally and psychologically because of the myths, stigmas, and stereotypes that are dominant in a patriarchal culture.
As parents and caregivers, we are not in complete control over what happens to our children, but it is our responsibility to protect our children by deciding which adults have access to them. Healthy relational boundaries are a necessary factor in preventing child sexual abuse. These boundaries determine and gauge the health of all relationships.
Learning about the causes and effects of sexual violence in our communities will provide understanding and strategy as we seek to disrupt the cycle of child sexual abuse. If we are to leave an impact, our efforts must be paired with prevention-focused conversations to inspire shifts in African culture.
It’s not always easy to spot signs of child sexual abuse, and there may be instances where you are uncertain whether or not it is happening. But listening and trusting your parental instincts is the key. If you are not sure whether your child has experienced sexual abuse, here are some warning signs that may help.
One day, my pastor spoke on supporting the broken. This message struck my core. Is this not what the church was meant for? I summoned all the courage left in my tiny body to tell my pastor what I had been subjected to by my perpetrators. He asked me if I screamed or if I have told anyone since. I took a deep breath and simply said no. He firmly and loudly told me that I must have wanted it, pronouncing his judgment against me.
“I am a survivor.” The first time I said those words out loud, I felt a mixture of relief and immense pain. I remember not wanting to elaborate any further, as just thinking about it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Imagine sex being introduced to you as a violation of your body at age five, and then being told you had imagined it!