Child Abuse

Chelsea’s video is tough, real heart-wrenching and spirit-dampening. Since its release on December 7, it has gone viral and the last time I checked, it had hit over 300,000 views.

The story of Chelsea is that of a strong mother. A mum who chose justice over sentiments, courage over silence and healing over hurt.

It is the story of a home-schooling mum who is a certified professional in the intervention of cases on abuse and also runs a business.

Chelsea’s first and second children- ages 7 (boy) and age 3 (girl) have never been in a daycare, with a maid or any form of stranger. They are always, always within their mother’s eye view or with close family and friends- except of course, when they retire to bed at night into their various rooms.

And this is the time tragedy, lurked in the corners, struck.

One odd evening of October 7, 2017, Chelsea and her family- husband and children were off to her in-laws for the night. Soon as everyone went to bed, the little girl was heard screaming. Mum assumed it was a nightmare and asked dad to go get the girl so she could come sleep with them.

Fast forward to morning and all hell broke loose- it happened that one of the in-laws had violated the poor, innocent 3years, old girl. Not only that, the 7-year-old boy mentioned that this blood relative had done same to him consistently for 2 full years… since the first time he spent the night at grandmas and continued to do so whenever he came over to their house for the night. If the young lad had the audacity of this erroneous crime on the first night, something tells me this boy isn’t his first victim and this may be a recurring behaviour pattern that needs all the right kind of intervention to break it.

This story is real and it’s from a real place of pain. What are the learnings? Several.

One, we can no longer pretend this is not happening closer home. We cannot cover up for the perpetrators of this gruesome act. We cannot rub our kids of their innocence and deny them of freedom to be, do and grow with normalcy.

Two, parents need to be open and talk about privacy, private parts and abuse with our kids.This is a duty we owe our children.  I know that there’s the tendency to be too busy (or intimidated) to take the time to talk to our kids about maturation education, safe and healthy touch and just about every other aspect of parenting and child development aside wake up, pray, go brush, take your bath, dress up, eat, go to school, do your homework, do your chores, be kind, be polite, don’t fight etc. You need to break the silence! Now what skills, tools and techniques have you acquired for these?

I recall when one of our daughters started breasting at quiet an early age, within our own space, my spouse and I used to make jest about how she was showing physical signs of maturation so early!

During the holiday however, we made her see a specialist doctor who prescribed some tests just to be sure her hormones were in order.After all the medical examination which all showed normalcy, I took the learnings.

One, my daughter still had the innocence and carefreeness of an 8year old. We therefore needed to be more deliberate about privacy matters and age-appropriate maturation education with her.

Two, as a growing up adult, I had near cases of abuse. So I take the learning from that awkward encounter as God’s Favour to help me help my kids (and others) see the telltale signs. For example, I tell my daughtersthat someone may seem like casually putting hands on their shoulder while the ulterior motive is an indirect attempt to touch their breasts. They must be at alert and we rehearsed how to respond to that.

Every opportunity is an avenue to test, check, learn and relearn. Right under the roof at my office sometimes ago, one of the other kids who came for summer classes had said to my daughter: let’s play bom-bom game tomorrow. She came to tell me. Casually, I asked her- what does that mean? How do you play bom-bom? Innocently, she replied; ‘That he will look at my bom-bom’. Again, without any emotion or uneasiness, I asked; do you mean your private part? Yes, she responded. Has he said that to you or anyone before? She replied in the negative. ‘So what did you say to him?’ I inquired further. ‘Don’t you know it is not good to touch or look at other people’s private part?’- She replied. I hugged her and said a prayer for her. I reiterated again about the need to keep one’s hands and eyes away from other people’s private parts and to shout or tell like she did, if she experienced anything close.

And yes, I also hugged myself and thanked God who is helping me in raising a daughter that is free enough to discuss what went unusual in her summer class.

The simple truth is that as parents, it’s a necessary skill in today’s world to master the art of good conversation and build rapport with our childrenso that we can connect and engage better at all levels. We must be deliberate in encouraging open and honest lines of communication.This implies openness, determination, straightforwardness and a friendly, non-intimidating atmosphere. This will encourage them to feel free to do same with us.

Always listen to and trust your intuition. That was one of Chelsea’s advice and regret. She had her suspicions. She had observed that something was misplaced and affecting her son’s self-esteem. She was beginning to feel uncomfortable about her in-law coming for sleep over.As a mother and certified professional in handling cases of abuse, she knew well that most of the culprits are people we usually entrust our children to. Those who are close and have free access to the kids. She mentioned to her spouse. But for lack of evidence, she didn’t dig deeper.She let it go…What are you getting unease about? Can you dig a bit deeper and beam your searchlight to focus more on those spots for further clarity?

It is important we expand our knowledge base with time and be deliberate about creating avenues that will lead our kids to be internally motivated, internally responsible and above all, to develop an internal moral compass of right and wrong.We can never be there all of the time to keep them protected, especially from perverts lurking around or even innocent children who have fallen victim of abuse and think it to be ‘normal’. We therefore have to give them tools to decipher right from wrong with or without our presence to intervene. Think about it: If Chelsea, with her lifestyle status as a homeschooling mom could have at-risk children, how about the average you and I who spend several hours daily away from our children and often entrust them to nannies, house helps, drivers, teachers, neighbours, gatemen and a host of others?

Being prayerful and real life story sharing is paramount. Our kids need to watch Chelsea’s video perhaps it can be the spring board for further discussions & enlightenment.

For every family battling with this kind of struggle, one of the best things you can do is to speak up, seek help and seek justice. Take the time to talk to your kids about safe and healthy touch. Follow your instincts if you feel something just isn’t right. Don’t ignore the possibility of child-on-child abuse. Encourage and share open and honest lines of communication. We can’t protect them from everything, but we can be their help and support if/when things go wrong.

Chelsea’s kids are safe now. Charges have been raised against the offender.I believe God wants to use this case to heal so many undergoing such and have gone numb, clueless and too afraid to talk because they do not want to rock the family boat. Heal our world. Protect our kids. Speak up and seek justice irrespective of whose ore is gored.

As you go off your business and the kids remain on holidays, do you feel secure that they are playing safe? When you are back, are you asking questions about what transpired in your absence? Do you promote openness and a non-intimidating environment so the kids can be completely truthful with you? These are skills you need as a parent in today’s world. These are skills you need to learn!

God protect us and our loved ones and may He heal, help, support and protect Chelsea and her family at this difficult time, aamyn.

Indeed, with every difficulty, there’s ease…

 Meanwhile here is an helpful article on the responsibility of your child’s school on this issue by Hogan Injury

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