Last night I had the luxury of getting together with my friends for margarita's at one our favorite restaurants. After the usual exchange of chick banter someone brought up the recent Oprah show where Tyler Perry the screenwriter/actor was a guest. I myself hadn't seen the show because I don't have DVR to record Oprah or anything that comes on during work hours for that matter. Don't get me wrong, I love Oprah, I just don't keep up with her every move. Nevertheless, the topic of Tyler Perry's appearance was so strong that it forced me to read the transcript on the web today.
In this episode, Tyler Perry opens up about being molested by three men and one woman as a child. His account was so disheartening to read. Couple it with the fact that his father was physically abusive towards him in a very violent manner to boot. I'm sickened to read that one child can endure such abuse - not just one molester but four! He speaks about his mother being his saving grace, but I want to know where his mother was during those abuses. I realize that we cannot watch our children 24/7 but how does this happen to one child? How do we protect our children from these pedophiles that seem to be all around us? This story touches so close to my heart because I know people who have been molested and these horrible experiences may be triggers to negative sexual behaviors into adulthood.
On a positive, I do think it's wonderful that so many people are coming out to voice they are survivors versus victims of child molestation. The CNN news anchor Don Lemon spoke about his abuse recently as well. I believe that honesty by public figures helps others realize that they shouldn't feel shame and that good can come from their hurtful testimonies. I feel these stories empower our children to come forward with their own accounts early. We need to be talking about these sorts of things with our kids. I read somewhere that a lot of pedophiles who know their victims, groom them before the full fledged attack takes place. It is important that we teach children to speak up and to confide in their parents when something may be taking place that they feel might be inappropriate. They need to know that we will always be here to listen, to protect them and to not judge them.
From reading Tyler Perry's story the really sad part is that he speaks about feeling shame because he got an erection when one of the men touched him. This is such an important part of his account because he probably felt scared to talk about it because of how his body responded - he may have felt guilty because he was confused why his body had communicated something that his young mind didn't want to be happening - a physical sign of something he attributed to a pleasing feeling. This is actually along the lines of what led my friends and I to this discussion to begin with. One of my friends who is a kindergarten teacher and also a mother mentioned how common it is that her young students touch their private parts. We also both commented on how our own young babies will even touch their private parts during diaper changes. The fact that these areas are meant to be sensitive from birth and that pedophiles can take advantage of an area that children themselves are exploring and have a right to do so with their own bodies is unforgivable. This is why it's imperative that we talk to our kids the right way and I'm still trying to figure out when the time comes how I will do it myself. I think a lot of people teach children that their private areas are to be hidden and shouldn't be touched and that may be why certain children feel shame to come forward if they are being molested. I'm sure that these pedophiles strike fear in their victims as well, but as a person who seeks answers, I'd like to know why a child wouldn't tell a parent that they are being molested. I feel that it's a difficult issue to teach a child how to be conservative about covering their parts without somehow communicating that we cover our parts because they are bad. I think this is the biggest issue. Young children touch their bodies unabashedly because innately there is really nothing wrong with it. We then tell them that it's improper to do that without really saying why. Children are literal and they don't read context clues they take our words for what they are so what are the words you have used to communicate this very important message?
I would be remiss to write this and not point out what I think is a really important part in the prevention of molestation. There are too many mothers and fathers choosing to do other things instead of watching their own kids. Parents need to be held accountable for the care of their children. I realize that with the high statistic of children being born outside of wedlock, there are many single parents attempting to date or maintain sanity by keeping a social life, but we must be careful who we leave our children with. Yesterday my son's father and I made a pact over child care. I know it's a difficult tight rope to walk because you don't want to over-protect a child to the point of stifling their intellectual and emotional growth, but you need to know who is watching your children at all times. Sexual abuse occurs in an instant but it scars for life.