While I think that line of thinking suffers horribly from tunnel-vision, it is a topic that needs to be addressed, and since then, I've been considering how to address it.
If I were talking to a group of children, how would I tell them that someone in their family--an uncle, grandfather, aunt, grandmother, brother, dad, or mom--might try to sexually abuse them? What would I tell them to watch for? What indicators would I give these kids that are warning signs?
How would I tell these souls that I hope are still innocent and trusting that the very people they trust could be monsters who want to hurt them in ways they can't imagine?
What I told my children:
NO ONE has a right to touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
If anyone tells you not to tell your Daddy or me something they did or asked you to do, please tell us because that person is probably doing something they know they shouldn't or you shouldn't, and we need to talk to them.
Keeping secrets about birthday parties and Christmas gifts was okay, but you never have to keep secrets about anything that makes you feel bad.
If someone tells you to do some
thing Daddy and I said not to do, don't do it and please tell us about it.
I never put a defined group of people in the mix. It wasn't so much stranger danger as it was reality that some people are just evil and manipulative. Honestly, we had to protect our children as much from our parents who had total disregard for us as our children's authority and flat told our children to lie to us and retaliated for not being given free reign with our kids after blatantly attacking our values and said lovely things like, "When you realize your parents don't really love you, you can come live with me."
Sure strangers concerned me, but I realized that "harming a child" didn't just come from molestation, sexual abuse, or physical abuse. I have seen far too many people who were never "inappropriately touched" who had all kinds of psychological scars from parents and family members who demeaned, controlled, manipulated, and neglected.
I've seen too many adults still trying to figure out how to create a healthy family after growing up in a home where one parent used the children against the other.
I've seen too many adults trying to find some kind of value in themselves because some parent, teacher, pastor, family member, or friend of the family said something that ripped that person's heart and esteem right out.
I've seen people far more damaged by the people who should have protected them than by people who never had a name.
The idea that I perpetuate or allow family abuse of any kind by pointing out how to prevent other abuse and trauma is absurd to me. However, I think these people have a point. Abuse of all kinds is far more pervasive within the family than out. I think they are incorrect about the idea that discussing other kinds of abuse gives it freedom to run amuck. What gives it freedom to run amuck is the denial that it happens at all.
What gives abuse of any kind the freedom to run amuck within the family
is the denial it happens at all.
In The Philadelphia Story, Uncle Willy is "a pincher". Everyone knows it. Everyone knows it is offensive. Everyone knows Uncle Willy should keep his hands off women's butts. People even talk about it, some with simple acknowledgement, some with disgust. This is what I want to know? Why didn't anyone talk to Uncle Willy? Why didn't one of those women have the gumption to turn around, slap his arrogant face, and tell him to keep his hands the hell off her butt? Why didn't one of the men cold cock him and tell him a rich predator is still a predator whether he is touching on the outside of clothes, under clothes, or in an orifice?
Uncle Willy wasn't a pincher because the police were busy catching rapists. Uncle Willy was a pincher because no one in the family said no to being pinched.
In real life, maybe it isn't pinchers. Maybe it is someone who makes "boobs and butts" comments. In my family, there was this thing during family get togethers where the uncles made comments about the "butts or boobs" of growing nieces. The parents said nothing. The ladies said nothing. Finally, one day one of my uncles made a comment about how college had made my butt bigger, and I turned and said something like, "Do you have any idea how stinking warped it is that you even look at my butt? I mean, it's not enough that you're married and looking at some strangers butt. Nope. You're married looking at MY butt. That is freaking sick."
The room went silent. I never heard another butt comment.
Someone in the family has got to say this is sick and warped! Someone has got to say enough is enough! Someone has got to risk pissing off everybody who would rather live in warped silence than healthy honesty.
It only stops when someone refuses to let it continue.
Another reason abuse within families happens and continues is because those who are supposed to protect fail at their post. I have had conversations with several people who were sexually assaulted by family members. Events ranged from touching to penetration. I rarely hear anyone say they were assaulted only once. When it is in the family, it tends to be repetitive and go on for years.
Of the people I know who endured such abuse and told someone, only one adult actually defended that child and removed her from the abusers reach. Did you get that? ONE.
The others who told?
A few were simply called liars and told this stalwart of integrity would never do such a thing. One was actually beaten for making up such a lie. Another told me, they found out later, the mom who had called them a liar had actually been abused by the same person.
The ones who were believed were told:
--Forget it happened.
--The abuser really didn't mean it.
--If they told, it would make the other parent mad.
--One was told just to give it time. The grandparent was old and would die soon, and it wouldn't matter.
--Several were angry because it put them in an awkward position and if they tried to talk to that person all it would do is make that person mad at the adult for bringing it up.
--One who was sexually abused by her mother told her dad who said if she told, people would think she was sick and a freak and wouldn't want anything to do with her, they might even put her in the hospital because she was sick.
--A common response was that they had somehow caused it and deserved it.
--Really, we don't want to create bad feelings and mess up our happy family, do we?
Once again, it isn't warning about the predators outside the house that allows this abuse to go on for years. It's those who should be protecting and could be protecting who aren't who allow it to continue.
Personally, I think if an adult knows about the abuse and does nothing, they are as much of an abuser as the one acting it out. Those who don't tell are acting out of selfishness. They are protecting their comfort zones, their financial statuses, their acceptance. They are sacrificing these children and young people to protect their own lives, and that is criminal. At best, it is negligence and association to a crime.
While we can argue culpability all day long, the real issue is the abuse--whether it be sexual, physical, mental, or emotional. How does it stop?
IT STOPS WHEN SOMEONE STANDS UP AND SAYS ENOUGH!
It stops when someone says, "I'd rather live the right way without you than the wrong way with you.".
It stops when someone has the courage to realize their family is made up of people, some of whom may not be nice and good.
It stops when that person has the courage to say, "You have the right not to live in fear, guilt, or shame caused by what someone else says or does. I choose to believe you. I choose to defend you. No matter what it costs me."
Domestic abuse of any form is not perpetuated or allowed because someone acknowledges there are those outside the family who will do harm if they are allowed to do so. Domestic abuse happens when people within the family live in denial that even people they love can do evil things and don't stand up and say no when those people carry out those acts.