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SEXUAL ABUSE & Breaking the Silence

- Adeeba Folami -

It's 2007 - the start of a new calendar year but it won't be such a "happy" one for thousands of innocents who will become victims of CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE. No, it won't be such a "happy new year" for young people who had sexual fondling, assault, molestation, incest or rape forced upon them last year and will continue living with that warped reality in 2007.

Statistics and survivor stories show that most perpetrators of CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE are male and are well known to those they violate. They are fathers, step-fathers, grandfathers, mother's boyfriends, brothers, uncles, Bible toting-quoting ministers, teachers, coaches, babysitters, neighbors and family friends.

It is said that 90% of child sex assaults/molestations go unreported which means the figures of 1-in-3 girls, and 1-in-5 boys represent only the tip of the iceberg as far as the number of actual cases.

What about your daughter or son? Niece or nephew? Student? Godchild? Grandchild? What is their "status" - do you know? Do you know how to detect the signs of abuse? Will you increase your awareness of this issue and exercise greater care about not leaving the children under your guardianship in compromising situations? Advocacy groups like Darkness to Light,, define these as "one adult/one child" situations which if eliminated, or greatly reduced, would minimize opportunity for CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE. This is one of their "7 steps to Protecting Our Children."

Groups like the Nation of Islam (NOI) go so far as to admonish members of their women's class not to leave their children - particularly young girls - alone with any males. Yes, this even includes fathers, brothers and other close relatives. This admonition has been in place at least since the 1950s and was reportedly issued by NOI leader Elijah Muhammad after he became aware of the stories of women members who were struggling with after effects of sexual abuse they suffered as children, (prior to joining the NOI.)

That practice may have been successful in preventing sexual abuse of children within the NOI but evidently the momentum did not carry over into the larger Black community based on the pledge Black men were asked to make at the 1995 Million Man March. At that largest gathering of Black men in recorded history, called for by the NOI's Minister Louis Farrakhan, participants were asked to make a multi-part pledge which included this vow pertaining to CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE: " I pledge that from this day forward I will never engage in the abuse of children, little boys or little girls, for sexual gratification. For I will let them grow in peace to be strong men and women for the future of our people."

Yes, this issue affects the Black community as well as all others but sadly, there are few outlets that approach strategies for dealing with the specifics of being Black in a historically biased, color-conscious society and, at the same time, being a survivor of sexual abuse. One issue compounds the other creating a result that is unique amongst abuse survivors and is not often addressed by therapists, advocates and organizations fighting against CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE.

This was one of many points brought to light in Melba Wilson's book "Crossing the Boundary: Black Women Survive Incest," (1993, Seal Press). Stereotypes regarding the sexuality of Black men and women have made this topic "taboo" amongst many who have learned not to "air our dirty laundry" before the public. Yet abuse continues generation after generation in "our" families and as history has revealed, SILENCE is one of the key factors that keeps the cycle of CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE in motion.

As author of this article, I stand with the growing number of Black women and men survivors who have reached the point in their lives where they have declared "IT'S TIME TO BREAK THE SILENCE." This must be done if our future generations of boys and girls are to have their God-given chance and right to know what it is to grow up mentally, emotionally and physically healthy and free of the life-long emotional scars that are left in every case of CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE. These scars manifest in the form of trauma, shame, guilt, hopelessness, confusion, depression, inferiority complex and so much more that are dumped on the shoulders of young victims and which they battle to overcome for much of their lives thanks to uncaring, self-centered, insensitive and perverted perpetrators of CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE.

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