April 1, 2021

Save the Children

I'm WillowjakMama!

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. Now it's my favourite place to be.

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A little while back there was a hashtag everywhere in my newsfeed. I’m sure you saw it too. It pulled on our heartstrings, imploring us to “Save the children.” Which is a noble idea and all, but you know… I saw it and all I could think was bullshit.

I was five when I was sexually abused for the first time. There would be three more abusers throughout my childhood, and I never told anyone. Well, not until I was 36. I told my mom about that first abuser when I was in the darkest depression I have ever experienced. I told her – which was so hard through all the shame I was feeling – and she said all the right things. She said she believed me, she was sorry, that it wasn’t my fault. She held me, and she loved me. After some time had passed, and I had disclosed who the abuser was, do you know what she said? She said, “I always wondered.”

She always wondered about him. I’m sure a lot of people did. None of them asked me a single thing, though, and no one said a word to him, either. If they had, though…? Well. That would have saved any of the children after me. But they didn’t because I guess they didn’t want to make things awkward.

When I told someone I considered a friend about the horror and tragedy I was living, having learned that my kids had been abused by a family friend, do you know what she said? She said, “That’s why my kids are never alone with any adult.” That person who was my friend fucking blamed me.

Maybe that wasn’t her intent. Maybe she was thinking about how she would feel if she were me, and she was thinking about how guilty she would have felt (which I did, by the way) and then she soothed herself by saying out loud why it would never be her. That’s a lot of maybes, though, when all a friend really would say is, “That’s awful.” But no. She took the moment to get sanctimonious and confirmed for me that this was all my fault and if only I’d been a better parent then my children would be safe. But I wasn’t, and now they aren’t. 

So what’s my point? Simply put: if we wanted to save the children, we would. We would support the victims of abuse, and we would sympathize with our friends who are living their ultimate nightmare. We would tell them they are good parents. We would not use their horror stories to justify and validate our own parenting choices.

If we wanted to save the children, we would believe them when they told us what happened to them. I can’t tell you how many kids I know who have disclosed the violence they are living through who are met with disbelief. 

The cops say, “The story is inconsistent.” 

Teachers respond, “She’s always been a storyteller, you never know what’s true with her.” 

The trusted adults whom the kids tell probably believe them but acting on that belief would rock the boat. “Just stay away from him,” they say – as if that will save a six-year-old from an adult predator. 

Heaven forbid we make it awkward for the adults. “No one helped me when I was a kid,” we say, “and I turned out just fine.”

I know a woman who was studying in school about the effects of sexual abuse on a person, and as she was reading the textbook she recognized herself. In the impact that sexual trauma has on a developing child, she saw the woman she had become. She thought that was weird, as she had never been abused. She called her mother after reading all of this to ask about it. 

Do you know what her mother said? She said, “One time, you came home from the babysitters with your pants on backwards. We didn’t say anything, though, because your father was the pastor and this would upset the congregation.” My friend said, “Are you telling me I was abused?” Her mom said that she didn’t know, because to ask those questions would have been difficult and put people into uncomfortable positions. “You’re fine,” her mom insisted.

If we really wanted to save the children, we would help parents – help mothers – get away from their abusive partners. We would have a justice system that actually cared about the safety of the child, rather than the appearance of being fair. Do you know how many children are abused physically and sexually while with their parents? Do you know how many of those co-parents knew that was going to happen and addressed it in court, only to be told it doesn’t matter? That the relationship with the other parent must be preserved at all costs?

The answer is: too many. And no one’s talking about how doing something about that would save the children. 

If we wanted to save the children, we would. We would insist that governments evolve from the patriarchy they are formed in and we would protect the children. We would protect mothers who form the overwhelming majority of those who flee. We would enact laws that value the child and protect them from their abusers. We would funnel money into programs that inform the children of their rights, we would funnel money into education and shelters and food security and housing accessibility.

If we wanted to save the children, then we would have a national, comprehensive mental health strategy.

At the very least, if we wanted to save the children then we would believe what the victims are telling us. We would be willing to get uncomfortable at Sunday supper after learning that our child’s abuser is at the table. We would shatter the silence that is construed as consent and we would save the children.

So save me your hashtags. Because we both know your next social media post will complain about taxation and greedy governments with their hands in your pockets. Once you’ve put up the appropriate, expected appearance of saving the children, we can return to our regularly scheduled numbness.

Because if we wanted to save the children, we would.

Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown

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Hi, I'm Stacey.
Welcome to the
Willowjak Blog 

My blog started as a way to document my journey to wellness, but turned into a place to be inspired by others through our collective messy & authentic stories. We chat about themes that are often ignored and voices that aren't often given a chance at the mic. Now it's my favourite place to be. 

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