What I’m doing to protect my kids from sexual abuse

Religion News Service – Rhymes with Religion

Boz Tchividjian | Jan 29, 2016

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to connect with an amazing woman after she stepped forward to share about being re-traumatized by her former church after reporting being sexually abused as a minor. What amazed me about Natalie Greenfield is that she did not back down or succumb to silence when her former church leaders attempted to publicly malign, demean, and intimidate her. Instead, she continued to speak and boldly expose the ugly truth, knowing that her actions would attract the continued ire of a religious institution attempting to save face. Natalie’s words and her life have become a source of great hope and inspiration to many watching abuse survivors around the country who still suffer in silence, shame, and fear. I am very grateful that our paths have crossed and am privileged to call Natalie Greenfield a friend and a hero. – Boz

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of growing up to be all kinds of different things. I wanted to be a ballerina, a veterinarian, a cowgirl, a famous singer. I wanted to fall in love and get married when I was thirty and have a couple of kids, but first I wanted to do everything else. As I got older I realized more than anything I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to write songs and travel the world singing them. I wanted the world to know who I was; I’m a born performer and being on stage felt like home to me.

All of that changed when I was thirteen years old and met the man who targeted me, groomed me for months and then sexually abused me for almost 2 years, destroying the remaining years of my childhood. I lived in the prison this man built around me, I cut myself off from friends and family and I wore a smile to disguise my pain. The abuse finally ended when I was sixteen years old. I hid the abuse for almost 2 more years before speaking out about it, and when I did speak up I was abandoned by my church community and burdened with even more shame. Healing from longterm childhood sexual abuse and the subsequent shaming I experienced has been a life consuming challenge.

I’m now twenty eight years old and married to my best friend, we have three incredible children together and a fourth on the way and life is full and joyful like I never knew was possible. Still, I know what the child sex abuse statistics are and I can’t help but worry my own children might be hurt the way I was. The truth is, most abuse happens at the hands of friends or family members – people who are already in positions of trust and familiarity. It’s also true that most parents of abuse victims will tell you they never saw it coming.

From the moment I saw my first positive pregnancy test I knew I had to be equipped and educated to protect my children. I also knew I needed to equip my children so they could protect themselves when I wouldn’t be able to shield them from the dangers of the world. Honestly, the task felt downright overwhelming until I realized I’m not the only parent who cares deeply about this very thing. Granted, not many people I had access to eight years ago were talking openly about sexual abuse, I longed for conversations that would help me normalize my own healing process as well as educate me for my future as a parent, but I discovered that when I began to speak openly about what happened to me and what I was experiencing as a result, some of the stigma began to fade just a little. Since breaking the ice and beginning to talk about my abuse and shaming, I’ve spoken frequently and openly about the topic and it’s been hugely helpful for me not only when it comes to processing my thoughts about the abuse but also in teaching me how I can help protect and educate others.

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