This is a copy of an interview I did for my blog talk radio show with OABI with artist Michal Madison.
What are some prevention tips for parents to protect their children from child abuse?
Julie, you and I are both huge advocates of teaching Children how to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse – and that’s extremely important for them to learn – but it’s no substitute for adult responsibility. We make sure children wear seat belts. We walk them across busy streets. We store toxic household cleaners out of reach. Why, then, would we leave the job of preventing child sexual abuse solely to children? Parents need to learn the facts about child abuse — learn the signs — listen to and believe their children!!! So many children are screaming out for help about what is going on & parents are ignoring it because they think “this could not possibly happen to my child!”
Children tell us in a lot of different ways that something very wrong is happening to them. If they don’t tell with words they will tell through behavior: wetting their beds, or peeing their pants during the day; being terrified to go to sleep, waking up screaming from nightmares. They often regress to more babyish behavior. They don’t want to be left alone. They’ll develop asthma or stop eating, start crying hysterically about going to the babysitter, or develop a precocious interest in sex. They may act seductively to get things they want and this is only the beginning of the list for young children!
So please, if you are a parent — educate yourself! There are many websites, books, and resources available to you! Don’t dismiss what is going on with your child! Really listen! It may not always be sexual abuse — but finding out the reason behind their behavior as soon as possible can save your child from years of pain! Please always believe them! The percentage of children who make up abuse stories is so minuscule it’s hardly significant.
What age should parents begin to talk to their children about this issue?
As soon as they are born! If abuse can start at birth, as it did with me, so can prevention! and Julie, your book “Some Parts are Not for Sharing” is the perfect book for parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, to start reading to infants! Every time you teach your child about protecting themselves, you are empowering them to face an abusive world! You are empowering them to Tell! To Break the silence immediately!
Is anyone completely safe from childhood abuse?
Absolutely Not! No one is safe from Child Abuse! Child abuse has no boundaries!! It happens in wealthy, middle class & poor families; all races & nationalities, in every country, in every part of the world. It happens in alcoholic homes & sober homes. Homes that DON’T believe in God and those that are very conservative and religious! It Can happen to Any child, Anytime, Anywhere! No one is immune to child abuse! No child is immune to sexual assault!
What are some thoughts around silence and childhood sexual abuse?
If we break the silence — we break the spell and put the abusers out of business! Like you’ve said Julie — abuse can only continue in silence! If we Break The Silence — The Abuse has a far greater chance of being Stopped!
What advice do you have for someone who is being abused and is under the age of 18?
Talk! Talk! Talk! Talk until someone believes you! Find a trusted adult & do not stop talking about it until you have been helped! No matter what the abuser threatens you with, find someone safe you can tell & Talk! & Tell them exactly what is going on! This is NOT your fault!
Domestic Violence is a cousin to child abuse. Do you agree?
I totally agree! Child abuse grooms you for domestic violence! I grew up in child abuse & domestic violence was the most natural next step! It’s not what I wanted, but it’s what I was used to — & we naturally gravitate toward what we know & are comfortable with! whether we like it or not!
What has been the most surprising aspect of domestic violence for you?
It’s prevalence! It’s everywhere — just like child abuse! Happening to people you would never imagine! & not just women — men are also victims! Oh my gosh and the horrifying effect it has on children! Children should never have to witness Domestic Violence & what is that crazy number? 8 million 800 thousand that do every year? That’s out of control!
Give some reasons why women do not tell?
Survival! When you are in that situation you are truly in survival mode — fighting for your life. Often telling is the last thing on your mind. Brainwashing is a major part of all abuse & you start to believe there is no way out, that you will be killed if you tell or if you leave! You don’t think you’ll be able to survive on your own and you’ll put up with things, you would never accept in any other situation!
There are other reasons: not wanting to admit that you chose the wrong person, etc… but to me even that is a survival tactic. Domestic Violence so destroys your self-esteem, it’s so hard when you are being treated like scum & told you are nothing, that realizing you are brave enough to say, “Gosh, I made a mistake. I’m going to pick myself up & move on…” Just isn’t in your psyche… Not telling is purely survival!
Describe the cycle of domestic violence?
There are three main phases: Tension Building; The Explosion & The Honeymoon. The Tension Building Phase is a time when in a normal healthy relationship things like emotional upsets or financial issues would be talked about & dealt with — but in an abusive relationship there is no equality & the tension just escalates, a lot of verbal abuse happens during this time. I always felt like I was walking on eggshells, holding my breath, because, well, if he doesn’t like the way I was breathing it could cause an explosion!
The Explosive Phase is where most of the Physical Abuse Happens & often if you don’t get out in time this phase can eventually be fatal! Seriously!
If you survive that phase, the abuser starts dating you again — The Honeymoon — apologizing profusely & giving you gifts, promising you it will never happen again! They can sound so convincing and you desperately want to believe it! Not a good combination! But inevitably the tension builds & the cycle begins again! For me, the honeymoon never even lasted two weeks!
What is the best way to deal with domestic violence if it is happening to you?
GET OUT! Leave! Walk away! Just Get Out!
Give some tips or advice for someone who is thinking of leaving a domestic violence situation?
Be careful! You need to make a plan if you can! This can be the most dangerous time!
The YWCA in a lot of states has great confidential guidance and plans, to get you out safely!
But sometimes, the only thing you can do, is what I did. in a moment when you are alone, pick up your purse and your children and walk out the door! Get to a safe place! & DO NOT GO BACK!!!
I promise you can make it on your own! I know it sounds impossible at this moment — but you will find angels reaching out to help you get back on your feet! You do not deserve to live in hell! You are worth so much more than all you are being put through & if you have children — please think of them! Please get them out of this mess as soon as possible!!!
Is it possible to heal from childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence?
Absolutely! It takes work — first we crawl, then walk, run, and finally learn to fly! You must believe in yourself & take the healing process into your own hands! Only I can heal myself! I remember just before leaving my 2nd abusive husband, visiting with a friend, who was single, free, confident and happy! I thought what am I doing to myself — staying in this horrible situation where I am not loved and I’m miserable! It’s not like I was just instantly healed, but a light turned on inside me!
Child abuse & Domestic Violence tell you, you can’t make it on your own — which is a HUGE lie! Healing comes when we embrace ourselves, start taking care of ourselves, & doing for ourselves what we’ve always wanted someone else to do for us, but have never received! Every day I tell myself, Michal Madison, you are stronger than you think and braver than you feel — embrace life — embrace the healing!
If more people were educated about domestic violence would it be less prevalent?
Absolutely! I believe that the more we are educated others and ourselves about Domestic Violence & Child Abuse, the less power it will have in society. The more we will be empowered as individuals to walk away & not spend years getting beat up emotionally, financially, spiritually, physically, sexually! Julie, That is why I believe in what you are doing so very much with your books! Educating children is one of the best places to start! But we as adults must educate ourselves as well! Education & Prevention go hand in hand!