How Do I Explain To My Child About Abuses That People Experience In The World?

Find out how with JD aka Jen Devine with

Jen: I’m looking at the camera.

Cathy: I know.

Jen: Hi!

Cathy: And I keep talking to you.

Jen: I know I’m like hi! I don’t think I look very much over there but hey okay.

Cathy: How do you know how to talk to your child about abuse and things that can happen to children and to people in the world?
It’s a tough topic and I’d love to hear what you share. This is J.D from or Jen Devine from and I’m Cathy Vartuli from and that…. and there’s estimates all over the place from a third to one in four people that have some kind of negative sexual experience by the time they’re eighteen. There’s….there’s a lot of evidence out…..there’s a lot of incidents of abuse, rape,

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: assault and well it’s a really tough subject I think it would be important to be able to talk to kids so that they know that they they’re not just shocked and frozen or something or if someone did approach them or if their friend brought it up or if something happened to them like

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: How do you talk to them about that?

Jen: Absolutely, and mean this is one of those subjects where I so much of what we do as sex educators is normalizing things.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: and this is one of those subjects I wish I didn’t have to normalize.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: I dream of a day where that kind of assault and non-consent and boundary violations don’t happen. That being said, letting kids know that it is not that uncommon and if someone has experienced something…. well first of all that their body is their own and they get to decide who touches it and teaching that lesson from a young age giving kids actual choice to say yes or no to things along the way. If someone then and still hasn’t gotten those messages and has been in the place of being a person who has experienced trauma, abuse, assault and often this happens sadly inside of families, it’s the most common place that happens. It’s not the random stranger on the street.

Cathy: Yeah. The stranger danger is not actually

Jen: Not actually true. It’s actually people we know and often trust and if that can.. normalizing that it can be confusing because sometimes the conflict of a person being a loving person but also doing things that feel violating in boundary

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: violating. So there can be confusion and honoring that and saying this can be harding a little confusing because there also can be pleasure and that also can be confusing

Cathy: Yes.

Jen: In the midst. In the midst.

Cathy: I….I had orgasms during my when I was abused

Jen: Right.

Cathy: as a child and it was so….I didn’t actually know what was happening.

Jen: Right.

Cathy: I was so confused.

Jen: Right and so letting a person know that that that also is normal and that

Cathy: It’s like the doctor taps you on the knee

Jen: Right.

Cathy: with the…. for the reflex to your knee moves.

Jen: Right.

Cathy: People touch you in certain ways that people

Jen: The body responds and it may be a protective mechanism in those cases in some ways and I always say you know letting a person know that it is so important if those things have ever happened to find somebody they can tell

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: somebody they can talk to. If the situation is happening in the moment which I always assume in a classroom or with parents that I’m talking to or whoever whatever community group I’m working with because the incidences are so high.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: You know one in three, one in four you know seven out of eight right like

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: depending on who you talk to.

Cathy: And then how they measure

Jen: Just to assume that that is happening for someone

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: in that place. What are the strategies they might need to use while it is currently happening? So trying to stay away from that person and….and not spend time in a place where they can have access to you, finding people who are safeties so that they mitigate that behavior from happening so you’re not spending time alone. Getting away from that person, practicing using your words in saying no.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: And….and or if in the moment if a person is able to do so physically getting away or moving away or fighting back.

Cathy: If it feels safe.

Jen: If it feel….if it feels safe. Know that

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: may not always be sometimes

Cathy: Sometimes they can make it worse

Jen: safety, this strategy

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: is just….to sadly have to put up with that because it would be more dangerous to fight.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: So that you have to talk about that carefully and…..and strategize. So finding a way to….in some way separate move away, say no. Process about it with someone; journals sometimes is the first thing, sometimes a pet is the first person we tell; sometimes it’s a trusted adult outside of our family or somebody in our family we can go to; sometimes just a friend we confided. So finding a way to tell somehow and tell over and over again until someone believes you

Cathy: Yeah

Jen: because sometimes when you’re a little kid people don’t always believe the stories that you used to tell. So knowing that they are the truth of your story is important to tell and letting somebody know that if they say “oh, that that’s probably not really well Uncle Bob, Aunt or whatever it is.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: Or Aunt Sally or whoever. Just keep telling somebody until they trust you and they promise to get you help.

Cathy: Yeah. I think it’s also important to normalize… least share that sometimes it’s really hard to talk about this.

Jen: Yes.

Cathy: There could be the fear

Jen: Absolutely

Cathy: that they’ll be angry.

Jen: Yup

Cathy: The fear that’ll ruin the family or tear it apart.

Jen: Lose….lose the relationship that you actually do care about

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: in some way. All those things are challenging

Cathy: Modelling that people are complex and they get to have good sides

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: and bad sides

Jen: Yup

Cathy: and things they’d…..we like and don’t like that I think that

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: can sometimes help.

Jen: Yeah and also I mean if it’s….I also try not to demonize or shame the person who’s doing the behavior to someone else without their permission because of the complexity of relationship.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: And also because that person like they may….I always start putting the context that they probably need help too.

Cathy: Yeah. And there’s not

Jen: They

Cathy: a lot of help out there for people in that position

Jen: They maybe do something that happens to them and they don’t really understand the complexity of why that is something they’re doing also to someone else or how it could be harmful. So trying not to demonize the person who might be causing the abuse in that situation.

Cathy: But also not letting them

Jen: But also

Cathy: have access to do and continue it.

Jen: Yeah. But if I’m…..I’m trying to encourage people to disclose in a classroom I try not to make it sound like that person is going to be punished or get in trouble or like

Cathy: Banished from the world.

Jen: That’s a bigger question. The bigger question is first let somebody know and then there’s more way more complicated decisions to make about what happens later but that person probably also needs some help.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: And so I put it in that context and my anonymous question box you know this the questions that I get that have sometimes that has been the first place of disclosure and it’s anonymous but that’s the first step.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: So sometimes people anonymously tell someone. They write a note and they put it somewhere and they say someone’s doing something to me that I don’t like and this is what it is and I can’t tell you my name yet. So who might that be? Who do you tell at school? Who do you who are the trusted adults? You know is it people at your church? Is it the people at your mosque? Is it the people in your home? Is it people in your neighborhood? Is it someone at your school? Are you a grown-up do you have an awesome therapist, do you….you know what’s who are the folks you do… to about it? Yeah

Cathy: Yeah I think it’s a really tough….tough topic and at least broaching it and letting people know that you’re willing to talk about it because I know when I was when I was going through the abuse I didn’t think there was anyone to or I didn’t see

Jen: Right or

Cathy: anyone to tell. Nobody talked about it.

Jen: And also sometimes abusers will make sure you are told that you cannot tell.

Cathy: Something and will happen.

Jen: It’s special or secret or it’s bad and you can’t talk about it.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: So there’s strategies that people use to keep you quiet.

Cathy: Yeah, so yeah. If….if you suspect something’s going on I encourage you to get help find an expert that can help you talk through these things and help that there’s some really amazing therapists out there or people at churches or whatever that could help guide you through the process.

Jen: I’m curious and you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: but I’m curious what where did you disclose and what was it that let you put voice to your experience?

Cathy: I….it was years later actually. I did try to tell

Jen: Yeah

Cathy: I did try to say once when I was five that something was happening and in my mind I was very clear about what I was saying

Jen: Are you

Cathy: but again I don’t know what

Jen: Three to five year old what is it

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: that you say. Yeah

Cathy: Yeah, so I wasn’t…. I’m not sure my mom was not happy I remember not being happy at the conversation but I’m not sure what she understood and she doesn’t remember it now when we talked about it but I was actually I was twenty-one twenty-two and I went to therapy because I was so depressed and struggling with so much shame. I thought all the abuse is my fault and I was just carrying this big load of….of shame and I went to a therapist and started finally releasing some of the shame and realizing that it wasn’t actually my fault.

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: But it was a journey

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: It was a process.

Jen: That’s important point to make to for kids, it’s not your fault. It’s never your fault and somebody who has more power than you is doing something to you, it’s not your fault.

Cathy: Yeah and it’s hard especially my abuser told me that it was my fault as a way to keep things quiet

Jen: Strategy

Cathy: Yeah, it was a great strategy because I was like oh crap! I’m making

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: this person, this adult do this horrible thing. I’m….I’m a bad person

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: and I carried that for a long time. So, I think

Jen: Thanks for sharing that.

Cathy: Oh sure. If….if it would help one person that’s worth sharing because

Jen: Totally

Cathy: a lot of…..there’s a lot of people out there struggling with this and I think the more we…..we can talk about it….it gives room for people to say “hey, I need help.”

Jen: Definitely.

Cathy: So, thanks

Jen: Thanks for sharing and asking that question.

Cathy: Yeah, thanks for talking about such a

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: difficult topic and thank you for being here and listening to this because it does make a difference when we start hearing it, our brain has words and pathways to talk about things in a different way and that could be a world of difference to people around you.