Steps you can take to avoid – or end – sexual abuse

I’m scared. I’m frightened for you kids out there. I read your letters and ache with your problems and right now I’m depressed.

I thought the pressure on teens in my generation was bad enough, but it’s worse in yours.

“Instant Gratification Isn’t Fast Enough,” read the picket sign carried by a teenager in a cartoon. That seems to be today’s motto. But why pick on teenagers, when adults are living the same way.

Once upon a time it was considered wrong or at least frowned upon to have sex outside of marriage, and abortions were illegal and dangerous. Some people did it anyway, but at least it was not condoned.

Those who had big plans in mind for their futures were careful to control their physical urges and wait for marriage. It paid off not to have any so-called skeletons in your closet.

But today, even adults have more pressure on them to throw aside conventions and go for whatever feels good. Important, long-time relationships, both among families and friends, are tossed aside, destroyed for the pleasures of the moment.

Anything goes, it seems. Sex before marriage and sex among marrieds with those they’re not married to. Sex among those of the same sex is out in the open, being pushed as normal conduct between consenting adults. What’s next?

Some of you young people already know. And, tragically, it’s nothing new to you – you’re the victims. For many of you, you can’t remember when sexual abuse started, you just know it’s being done to you. Others remember all too well.

“I’m a 15-year-old female. When I was 14 I was molested by my father for several months. Seven months ago it ended, but I still cry myself to sleep at night. I also have an emotional problem.

“I still get nervous when he’s around me. I used to fear him, but then the fear turned to hate. I never felt so much hate for one person. I know one of the Ten Commandments says, ‘Honor your mother and father,’ but how can I honor someone who has raped me physically and mentally?”

This woman wrote to us anonymously, asking for an article to be written to help her and others.

Kids, I’d like to tell you that all adults are your friends that they’ve always got your best interests in mind. But most of you already have enough street smarts to know better.

We’ve all seen the newspaper articles, the warnings on television, the colorful books illustrated to explain to little children how to say no to adults. It’s sick enough to think about, but that’s the world we live in. Sexual abuse is not uncommon. Tragically, many young people today are being molested sexually. You are not alone.

The trauma of sexual abuse

Why don’t you put a stop to it? You know why. Some of you are protecting people who are abusing you because you fear the consequences of telling.

Maybe they’re close friends of the family or relatives – maybe, as in this young woman’s case, even parents or stepparents. Maybe you truly love and care about them and you wouldn’t want to hurt them.

It’s too bad they don’t feel the same way about you – or the others they’ve abused or will abuse in the future. For many of these people, it doesn’t stop with one child or teenager. Once they begin, they find it almost impossible to stop – even when they want to.

Another reason for not trying to put a stop to the problem is that you may feel guilty. You may feel you asked for it somehow. The person who is hurting you may even claim it is your fault. That’s ridiculous. All of us need love and attention – no matter what age we are. That’s just part of being human. That doesn’t mean others have the right to take advantage of that deep-felt desire to be loved and cared for. You may have asked for some affection, but you didn’t ask for abuse.

What is sexual abuse? It comes in many forms. It can be someone exposing themselves to you or asking you to expose your body. It can be touching or fondling you in sexual areas of your body or forcing you to touch him or her in the same way.

It can be a passionate kind of kissing or holding that makes you feel uncomfortable. Encouraging you to look at pornographic material is sometimes done to condition your mind for what follows. And, of course, sexual intercourse in any form or fashion.

Make it stop

People who take advantage of you in this way are stealing your self-esteem, warping your emotions and perverting your first sexual experiences. They need to be stopped.

How can you stop them? Tell your parents about any sexual abuse or attempt at it. If one of your parents is the abuser, tell the other parent. If your parents won’t help you, and, unfortunately, this can be the case sometimes, go to a counselor you trust at school or your minister at church, the local authorities and the police.

If one person won’t help you, go to another. Whatever you do, don’t stop until you find someone who will act to help you.

Your future happiness and success in life are at stake. You can’t let sexual abuse go on without suffering severe emotional and sometimes physical damage.

Don’t be fooled by people who say they are doing what they are doing to you because they care for you. They may even describe your relationship as a “special” friendship.

If they truly loved and cared for you, they would care about your future. They would want to make sure you will have a happy marriage and successful family life. They would be protecting you from abuse, not abusing you.

Others may threaten to harm you or someone you care about if you tell. These type of people need to be reported to the police, and as soon as possible, before they can carry out their threats.

You are important. Your future life is important, too important to be ruined by the selfish, irresponsible desires of others.

What about those of you who have friends who’ve told you they are being sexually abused? What can you do about it?

Have them read this article. Encourage them to go to someone immediately – again, a parent, a trusted counselor or minister. Offer to go with them if that will help. Tell them keeping quiet about sexual abuse often means further abuse and lasting bad feelings about yourself.

You need to talk to someone or you will find it almost impossible to get over the anger and confusion you feel. And unless and until abusers are reported, they can’t get the help they need to stop hurting people.

Right now, get a pen or pencil and write down on a piece of paper the date you are going to get help. Let it be today. Don’t be a victim any longer.

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Sheila Graham ‘Youth’

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