Did you know that some victims of child sexual abuse prefer to confide in teachers rather than parents? Even those from “good” loving homes?
No one knew
Up until today, few know this.
My teachers were the first safe adults to learn that I was being raped by people my mother and family members both knew and trusted.
Unfortunately, my homeroom teacher, Mrs. Hiliard* and my teacher who taught me for the second half of the day Mrs. Robin*, interpreted the signs and the situation entirely wrong.
They knew me as Tonya with the stricter than a preacher mother. I still wore ponytails when other girls were wearing their hair loose and free.
I wore glasses that covered half of my face, chap stick for lip gloss, and three different decades of attire except for the one that we were currently in-the 1980’s.
So there came a time in seventh grade that a rumor floated that I was engaging in a particular sexual act with men.
I trusted a girl who I thought was my very best friend. My first one. She was not.
Before that my teachers who saw viewed me as the obligatory nerd that was part of every class so they were visibly stunned. Mrs. Hilliard asked me if the rumors were true.
I told her the truth.
Yes, I did do what they were saying that I did.
However, she did not ask me if the activity was consensual.
That would have made all the difference. I was forced—when I was a very little girl.
But even while I was talking with her, I was only 13.
I didn’t say anything more. I was a “talk when you are spoken to” kind of kid when it came to adults. Obedient.
Also, I didn’t have words yet for what was being done to me. I know that what she had heard disgusted her and shattered her world, but that wasn’t even a portion of what had been done to me.
So I walked away from her just thinking, I have told an adult, she will know what to do.
She learned me
She didn’t. Every time that she looked at me it was with a look of disgust. She never wanted me close to her desk again.
She had jumped to a couple of conclusions.
- She assumed that the activity was consensual. It was not.
- She assumed that it must have been with some guys from around the way. In fact, the activity did not involve any boys or men near that school. It didn’t involve any boys or men who were currently residing in our city.
For years I was so angry with those two 7th grade teachers. I mean yearssssss.
I was angry with most of them. The students, the ex-first best friend, etc.
But then knowledge and healing on purpose changes your entire worldview.
Had I not done that, I would have been of no use to Survivors that I served later.
There came a time that I worked with young people in crisis who were being sexually abused.
I’m telling you that this work is so treacherous.
Young people have hair-trigger reactions. For real.
I often felt as if I was deactivating a bomb set to go off any second. I was simply trying not to cut the wrong wire.
When teens are in crisis, the goal is to assist them in coming up with someone that they feel safe in telling about what is going on with them.
Sounds so simple.
Well, not when they are off in a corner sneaking to talk to you, while watching for parents, siblings, and the noisy dog.
They are terrified. They are terrified every minute of their lives. They are terrified that you are writing down what they say. They are terrified that you will tell someone.
So you have no time, but you have to make time.
They must tell someone. You can’t say that. You have to be persuasive and empathetic.
With a child or teen in crisis.
You suggest people who love them. (you hope).
They panic! I mean lose it!
They are afraid to tell mom. They are afraid to tell dad. They are afraid of the aftermath. They are afraid of the unknown.
Now you HAVE to get them to tell someone one. They can’t handle this alone.
Teachers to the RESCUE. Again.
For school-age children, teachers are considered to be trustworthy people that victims of #child sexual abuse can confide in.
For students on campus, some professors are considered trustworthy.
To children, including college students, teachers may be safe space, even in cases when another teacher may be the abuser.
5 Things That We Can Do to Help Teachers
2. Support teachers.
3. PAY teachers.
4. Train teachers in ALL abuse response.
Keep that training current, ongoing, and ever advancing.
PAY them for their time to be there.
PAY them for having that knowledge.
PAY them if they assist other professionals via training.
5. Give teachers smaller class sizes. They are often the first to notice signs of abuse even when it is not visible to the eye.