Letter to a Parent by a Secondary Survivor
If you are a parent and have found this post while desperately seeking help for your child, this is for you. Regardless of if your child was abused once or endured years of abuse, regardless of if the nightmare occurred yesterday or was years ago, this is for you.
I know your pain. I, too, am that parent. I know that sharp, stabbing, relentless, shocking pain that brings you to your knees. I know too well the exact minute that changed your life forever, the minute you learned that your child, your precious, loved, sweet child, was a victim of sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse happens. Unfortunately, everywhere. Where it is least expected. Through the darkness of night and in the bright light of day, sexual abuse is happening – in every neighborhood, in every town. The harsh reality is, even in the closet of families, the best of homes, sexual abuse occurs.
We considered ourselves the most protective of parents, never leaving our children alone with anyone but the most trusted friends and family. We continually instilled “stranger- danger” to our children, as soon as they were young enough to listen. We did not know then, nor ever, ever, thought we would have to know, the ugly truth. The truth that 90% of children who are victims of abuse know their abuser well. At least half of young children who are abused are done so by a family member. I was suddenly faced with this horrible truth, and something I never thought I would so intimately know.
So now, you feel this ugly truth, too. You too may feel as if it is drowning you, pulling you to dark depths from which you think you will never rise. I know the questions that keep you up at night. They kept me up, too. Nightmares of questions for which you have no answers. How can I help my child? Will our family ever recover? How can I discuss such an ugly truth with my child? And the blinding, numbing, anger… why did this happen? To us? How could this possibly have happened? How do I have a healing conversation with my child when I am hurting so badly? How do I discuss with my young child … one that doesn’t even know the word “sexual”- what has happened to them?
Will I forever feel the need to guard my child as a fragile flower, shielded, isolated, and unable to have trusting relationships with anyone, ever again?
You may think, as I did, that you cannot possibly handle this. But I am writing to tell you, you are wrong.
Surviving sexual abuse is not a death sentence. It does not need to be a lifetime of pain and worry, even if it may feel like that now. You may begin to think, as I did, that life will never be the same. That I can tell you, is true. Life will never be the same as it was before the abuse. But, Prevail can bring light back into your life. They can give you hope.
If you are feeling suffocated from the weight of your worry, stop… breathe. Breathe in knowing that now you have found Prevail.
This path you choose to take can forever change not only your child’s life, but yours, too. With Prevail’s help, your child will heal. Through your child’s healing, you too will heal. Yes, you are beginning a journey you never asked for. But Prevail can equip you with the tools you will need along the way. They will teach you how to talk to and best support your child. And, if you allow them in, the knowledgeable, caring experts at Prevail can be your guides on this journey that you never, ever thought you would travel.
I know this because many years ago, I began that same unwanted journey, and I want to tell you: You are not alone. Your child is not alone.
There will be moments when you will think you’ve got this- when you feel like you can finally hold your head above water, gaining the strength to slowly move forward. But, perhaps when you least expect it, a wave will come crashing down and pull you back under. The pain may return. Triggers will happen. You may feel yourself and your child drowning again. Do not let that pain take away the joy of today, as I regret that I did. You still have your child next to you. You now know their truth and can protect them. Love on them; treasure every minute with them. And please allow yourself to understand, you cannot save your precious, hurting child, until you can save yourself. Let Prevail help you.
Each time a wave comes crashing down, with each trigger or set-back, you and your child can grow stronger. Prevail can be your lifeline as you come up for air. Prevail can pull you to safety, and help you create your own lifeline. As your child grows, matures, and moves through life, Prevail can give you power to rise above the waves.
And then… eventually, finally, your head will rise above the water, and there it will stay. You are stronger than you ever thought possible. You can help your child recover. And through that, you can recover, too.
I shudder to think about where our family might have been had we not found Prevail. Through Prevail’s parent and child support groups, our family learned the tools we needed to create our own lifeline. We learned how to talk to our children, how to advocate for our children, and the best ways to help them.
Prevail patiently guided us, pulled us to safety, and taught our family how to not just survive, but to thrive in the wake of abuse.
Take it from me, seek help early and seek help often. Know that you cannot take the journey alone. The amazing and expert advocates at Prevail can guide you along your unwanted journey. They can help you help your child, and through your child’s recovery, you will heal, too.
You WILL rise above it all. While recovery is a lifelong process, you will see that your child is not a fragile flower after all. With the help of Prevail, both you and your child will become bolder, stronger versions of who you were before abuse changed you forever.
Like a lighthouse in a storm, Prevail guided us out of darkness on a horrendous journey we never imagined we’d take. Let them guide you, too.