Saturday, October 10, 2009

Looking away

Reading books about child abuse and healing hurt kids is a hobby of mine. I have read a lot of books on the subject, but I have never read any books specifically relating to sexual abuse. It is such a disturbing topic to me that I just avoided by rationalizing that H and I aren't capable of handling a sexually abused child, so why bother.

I teach teenagers at church and one of our newest young teens is a foster child, and sexual abuse survivor. While respecting her privacy, we were made aware of some of her potential issues which included the terrible, yet unsurprising fact that she does need 24 hour adult supervision, should not be alone with peers or younger children, can have over-exaggerated emotional responses, and talks very openly about sex. I immediately regretted avoiding the topic, and fortunately have access to an awesome free library through our local foster care foundation that ships books directly to your home within 36 hours, so I loaded up immediately.

I'd like to say that I didn't know what to expect the first time I met this girl, but I obviously had preconceived expectations when a cute, sweet, indistinguishable teenage girl showed up to our meeting, and I found myself surprised. Surprised by her sweet, normalness? How sad.

I will admit that the first book I read was so horrific to me, I wrapped myself up in a blanket and said silent prayers to Heavenly Father that I could be able to get through this muck taking only the helpful and good, without having it damage me. I fell asleep focusing on this prayer, because if I stopped, the horrific words I had just read began to haunt me. Just two books into my newest "study" I am finding that my fear of these kids is being replaced by compassion. I just can't shake the knowledge that if these removed, clinicalized abuse accounts can get to me much, just imagine what it does to the people who live through it.

In our foster/adopt licensing classes we watched a movie about one child's experience in foster care. Before we watched we were warned by our class leader that the end of the movie contained real footage of a graphic scene of the child's eventual suicide. She asked that although seeing such things in movies was probably outside of our norms, that we refrain from leaving the room or turning away, because if this boy had to live this life (and death) the least we can do is acknowledge it. I wholeheartedly agreed with her, but didn't realize I was doing my own version of looking away when it came to sexual abuse.


Natalee said...

By educating yourself you are giving these poor children a voice. These children are so important to Heavenly Father and they need people like you to see them as they are, children of God, and not for their abuse. I don't think I would be strong enough. It's not just the subject of abuse, I just plain can't watch the news anymore.
Also, I read in an article in people magazine the other day that Elizabeth Smart is going on a mission to Paris. She said that God helped her get through those horrible days in captivity. I was so impressed by the strong woman she had become. Heavenly Father really can heal all wounds.

Court said...

Natalee and Natalee, you both have compassionate and tender hearts. I'm so grateful I get to associate with y'all and learn from your wisdom.

Liz said...

Oh how we all turn away from the ugly! And these are they among whom the Savior would be found.