Out of nowhere she screamed and cried. Her brother flew by me in a blur.
My small kitchen resonated her shrill screams, making my head swirl with confusion and irritation. Something must have troubled her, but what? And could she, please, stop screaming so loudly?
“Sweetheart,” I said, trying to talk in a loving tone, not an irritated one. “What happened? Can you use your words, so I can know how to help you?”
Gasping for air with her eyelids nearly touching her eye brows, she yelled with great force, “He hit me!”
Still heaving and wailing and turning here-and-there, trying to find safety, she screeched one more time. “He hit me!”
Reaching out my arms, I pulled her close to me.
“It’s okay, honey. I’m right here.”
Her head settled upon my chest, cradled by my left arm. My body budged each time she sobbed.
“Sweetheart, where did he hit you?” I asked while searching my memory. She was standing right in front of me when it happened, and I don’t remember seeing a thing.
“He hit my bottom!!” she bellowed, her face turning that blue-ish-red-needing-air kind of scream.
“Oh, sweetheart…” I said, trying to pull her back into me.
Her foot moved backward, moving beyond my reach. “I hate people touching my privates!!”
There it was.
My heart leapt up into my throat. Did she just say what I thought she said?
I went there. I remembered being touched. I remembered wanting to say stop, to say no, to scream, “I don’t like people touching my privates.”
But I didn’t. I couldn’t.
Then the Lord opened my eyes. My daughter was standing before me saying the very things that I was not able to say! Praise GOD! Thank You, Lord, for showing me that my husband and I have been teaching her well.
Her screaming and sobbing no longer irritated me, but soothed me into a calm, grateful, tender mom, who held her tightly and praised her for speaking out.
Later I spoke with her almost five-year old brother to discuss appropriate touch. He explained to me that he wasn’t trying to touch her bottom, but, rather, he was trying to tag her as they had been playing a hide-n-seek-smack-tag game.
His rationale comforted my heart as I reiterated the importance of being aware of our own and of others’ bodies.
Until later that evening after the kids had gone to bed.
I began thinking through the encounter, and my daughter’s words stung me one more time.”I don’t like people touching my bottom.”
What did she mean by ‘people’? Did she misspeak or has there been others who have touched her like this that I didn’t know about?
At the bathroom sink brushing our teeth the next morning, I brought it back up.
“Sweetheart, yesterday after your brother hit you, you said that you don’t like it when ‘people’ touch your bottom. Has anyone else ever touched your bottom?”
“No,” she said as-a-matter-of-fact with toothpaste froth bubbling around her mouth.
“Well, you know that if anyone ever does that you can tell Mommy, right? And that if they ever say you’re supposed to keep it a secret, you can still tell Mommy, right?”
My questions didn’t even cause her to flinch.
“Yeah,” she said, switching her toothbrush to the hard parts in the back of her mouth.
For me, this was another fingerprint that the Lord gave me showing me how He continues to heal me, to strengthen me, to give me voice, to teach my children to voice.
This grace empowers me to continue day after day to trust in Jesus’ ultimate gift: His life for mine.
And He speaks to my heart, reminding me There is no shame in speaking the truth.
Speaking the truth is not always easy.
Asking my daughter if others have touched her was not easy. Speaking the question forced me to think about my past, process it, pray about it, and then articulate the question.
Talking about sexual abuse is rarely easy.
In fact, mentioning sexual abuse, period, stirs up that I-might-throw-up feeling among survivors or that I-think-I-just-walked-into-the-wrong-conversation feeling among non-survivors.
The reality is keeping the conversation silent does not a thing for us as individuals, for us as a community, for us as a church, for us as a nation.
There’s too much at stake to remain silent.
At least there is for me. I have a daughter and two sons. I have to superpowers to protect them from any and all harm.
But, by golly, I will keep this conversation open and active within our home, within my community, within my church, within this nation–as the Lord wills.
Too many hearts are at stake. Too many hearts suffer alone. Too many hearts fear the truth.
Again, there is no shame in speaking the truth.
What’s your next step?
In what way might the Lord be calling you to engage in the conversation of sexual abuse? What fears prevent you from speaking up and speaking out? Take those fears before the Lord and ask Him to show you how to take the next step toward speaking the truth without shame.