I should start off this week by saying some of this content may be triggering. I now know that I should have preceded my column last week with this warning and I am sorry that I did not. Being that I have never openly spoken about my abuse, I did not think about it being necessary. I know that now.
Overwhelmingly the response I received last week was well taken. Although I was baffled by how many people came to me after the publication expressing that they too had experienced similar situations. I am glad that I was able to reach those, and I hope that by continuing to share my story that it will help in my healing journey, as well as others. That was honestly my entire intention. I am sorrowful that so many people (young and old, men and women) experienced traumatic situations, but at the same time I am relieved to know that there are others out there, many of whom I know personally, that are now aware we can lean on each other for support in the future if we ever need it.
I did receive one comment asking how this pertained to being a mother or parenting. I know that I strayed from my usual content regarding those subjects, and I did not touch on this in my last column, but going through some of the things I did as a child most definitely affects my parenting and my motherhood journey, so I just wanted to take some time today to touch on that, then next week we can get back to the not so heavy stuff.
I may have experienced sexual abuse over 20 years ago, but it is something I carry with me every day and something that weighs on my mind any and every single time my children are out of my sight. Any given day that I am dropping them off at school or an extracurricular, I find myself praying to God to please protect them. I pray for Him to protect them physically from accidents and from people who wish them harm. I also pray that He will protect them mentally and spiritually, as well. I pray that they have the chance to remain innocent for as long as possible, something that got taken away from me way too soon.
My oldest is now 9 years old, almost the same exact age I was when my abuse began. There is no possible way that I cannot consider that. I know that I cannot protect them all the time, but what I can do is use my knowledge, experiences and research to give them a better shot.
I began speaking on this subject with Emerson as soon as I thought she was old enough to hear and understand me, which was about 3 years old. Her father and I split up when she was about 6 months old, and we began sharing custody of her right about that age. I used to cry myself to sleep every single night knowing that I could not be there to protect her. The worst part for me, along with just being away from her at such an early age, was knowing that she was too young to speak up or even understand if something bad happened. It wasn’t that I thought her father could not care for her. He has always been a very active, caring and responsible father. It was just the fact that I had zero control.
When she was old enough though I opened this line of discussion with her. We did not make the whole conversation about sexual assault, but about safety in general. We talked about her body, not keeping secrets and reassuring messages that she would not get in trouble if something were to ever happen.
I now have these same conversations with my four-year-old and I will have the same ones with my youngest in a year or so. These conversations can be challenging. They are not always comfortable, but they are crucial.
As the girls have gotten older, we have revisited the subject and I feel pretty confident that they would confide in me if something did ever happen, God forbid. But they would not ever know that they needed to if we did not have those discussions.
I encourage every parent or guardian to consider having these hard conversations with your children, no matter their age or gender. I do not want you to think that I am lecturing you, but in the world we are living in today, you cannot be too guarded when it comes to protecting your little ones.
Rainn.org has an abundance of information when it comes to speaking with your child about sexual abuse as well as warning signs to look for. It also serves as a 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline that is free and confidential.
(Paige Nash is a wife, mom, digital journalist for Webster Parish Journal and publisher of Bienville Parish Journal.)
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