This is a topic not addressed enough. Child victims often know their perpetrator. Among cases reported to law enforcement, 93 % are known to the victims; 34% are family members, 59% are acquaintances and only 7% are strangers. Out of the yearly 63,000 sexual abuse cases substantiated, or found strong evidence, by Child Protective Services (CPS) the perpetrator was most often the parent.
o 80% of perpetrators were a parent
o 6% were other relatives
Most parents feel that discussions regarding sexual abuse and how to keep from being assaulted should be done in the home, not in the school. The only enlightenment I received regarding sexual abuse was being the victim, raped by my father while I lay sleeping in a bottom bunk, my rosary under my pillow. Many years later he was to attempt to justify our incest relationship, saying, “”A lot of fathers and daughters have this kind of relationship. It’s really quite common. They do it in the Appalachian district all the time. ” With 80% of perpetrators being the parent why would we ever think it was okay for the parents to educate their children on child sexual abuse? Unfortunately, the parents who are innocent would feel it was a mark against them. Even the perpetrators don’t think it’s child sexual abuse. They have a hundred and one excuses, like my father did, to explain it all away.
At the time I didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t even know what the word incest meant other than I had seen it in the Bible somewhere. Nevertheless, his words terrified me. When I look back at that conversation I wonder that a father who loved his daughter, the daughter he delivered in the middle of a snowstorm, the daughter he adored could come to such a justification.
Unfortunately, his words were correct. A lot of fathers and daughters do have such a relationship, albeit it begins with assault and is never done with the permission of the daughter. Most of the time, especially in younger children, they have no idea what is going on. They feel terror if they don’t submit and once it happens shame creeps into the victim’s emotions, a deep and hidden shame. They only thing they know is it is their fault. It must be. In my case, I screamed for help over and over. I didn’t know what was happening. Although I was thirteen I was a very young thirteen, one who thought you bought babies at the hospital. That’s what my parents had done with my baby sister. My mother, a heavy sleeper, came into my bedroom as my father stood in the doorway, his robe clutched tightly closed. In response to my sobs and my entreaties for help, my mother told me I had a nightmare. I hung on to her as tightly as I could and she kept saying I had had a nightmare and to go back to sleep.
When people who have never been sexual abused hear such stats as the ones above they are appalled that what they see as a lie can be perpetrated. They even think that it must have been the victim’s fault. She probably encouraged her perpetrator. When I confronted my ex-husband about the sexual abuse he had perpetrated on two of my daughters he at first denied it then made the statement. “Okay so I did but it was their fault.” They were four and five years old. When I reminded him of that he shrugged his shoulders like it had nothing to do with him. At the time he was hooked up to oxygen – in between the chain-smoking he did – and only the knowledge that he was about six weeks away from an agonizing death, alone and friendless, kept me from killing him. My youngest daughter had been raped at gunpoint while she worked at a fast food place. That made four out of four victims in my family.
I had not learned of my ex-husband’s sexual abuse until I was in recovery. My daughters said I was suffering so much abuse from him that they didn’t want to make my life worse by telling me what was happening. The guilt, the agony, the deep heartfelt torment still eats away at me on a daily basis. My daughters have moved on, but all three were at one time in domestic violence relationships. I don’t know if I can ever move on. What do you tell yourself when you unknowingly put your children in harm’s way? Even had I known about child sexual abuse I would never have believed that a father or a step-father could be the perpetrator.
Sometimes I feel like I live on a different planet than most of the people I know. The biggest percentage of them would never believe that a family member or friend could do this. And most people are not comfortable in hearing it. My husband and I recently traveled in our motor home to my home town, a small village in the Midwest with a population of about 350 people. All of my friends and classmates gathered to see me. I was talking to one of them, describing how I used to yank carrots out of the ground from our garden, rub the dirt off on my jeans and race like hell for Rae Creek, my forested sanctuary about a half mile outside of town. He said he wanted me to tell my story to all of my friends. “Listen up everyone, would you like to hear Margie’s story?”
It appeared to be okay with everyone and so I did. I didn’t know how many had already heard it. I didn’t know how many were shocked and upset about my revelation. I don’t even remember what all I shared. But in my heart, I felt that more people need to know how this goes on in so many families. I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I love that little town and everyone in it. One day I tried to imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t lived there. In that little town, I experienced my greatest tragedy. In that little town, I experienced my greatest joy. I am so grateful for their friendship. If the price I paid in that town was high, the good that I received so far surpassed any abuse.