Doubts and frequently asked questions
What do we mean by childhood sexual abuse?
One way we have of defining it is: the irruption of adult sexuality in the life of a child or adolescent without the maturity to understand the fact, nor having the capacity to consent due to a difference in age or authority. Sexual abuse against children is a huge abuse of power.
Here we share Ms. Lopez's definition:
"It is considered Sexual Abuse against children to involve a child in sexual activities that he or she does not fully understand, to which he or she is unable to give informed consent, or for which he or she is developmentally immature and unable to give consent, or in sexual activities that transgress laws or social restrictions".
Lopez, María Cecilia. Sexual Abuse. How to prevent it, how to detect it. 1ed. Buenos Aires. Paidós. 2010
Is there any way I can tell if a child is being sexually abused?
Due to the high frequency of this crime, Maria Muller repeats a phrase in her presentations: "before any change in the behavior of the child or adolescent, THINK about Abuse...".
In our experience, many of us wondered: How did no one notice? How did none of our adults notice our many signs? How did they not believe us when we spoke?
What is the frequency of ASI?
According to a report of the Council of Europe: 1 in 5 children and adolescents suffer from CSA before the age of 18. Between 70 and 85% of them know their aggressors. In our experience, this statistic is verified on a daily basis: there is no place where we go to share our testimonies in which, after listening to our stories, adult survivors do not approach us and tell us that they have suffered this crime at the hands of their parents, uncles, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents, stepparents (http://adultxsporlosderechosdelainfancia.com/el-maravilloso-efecto-multiplicador-de-nuestros-testimonios/).
For more information: Abuso sexual en la infancia: guía para orientación y recursos disponibles en CABA y Provincia de Buenos Aires. Authors: Bianco, Watcher, Chiapaparrone, Muller. GuiaASI2015
Why do we call ourselves survivors?
Because the trauma of CSA is comparable to having been in a war or concentration camps. We know that many of our colleagues suffer from suicide, accidents and addictions.
That is why we use the name survivors, although many of us like the name militant or activist better. We know that first we had to recognize ourselves as victims, to then move towards feeling like survivors and then activists and militants.
Isn't it better to forget the abuse than to be reminded of it all your life?
We know from our own experience that forgetting is not possible. In fact, many of us spent decades trying to leave behind and forget, but we could not. We began to unpack the heavy baggage we carried on our backs when we were able to talk and recount our memories, in an empathetic and loving environment.
What should I do if someone tells me he/she was sexually abused:?
Listen attentively: for some reason the person chose you to confide a secret that he/she has been carrying for years, listening attentively is a healthy reaction.
Perceive what you are feeling while you are listening (pain, anguish, fear, stinging, shame, rejection, etc.), but don't say anything in haste. Don't panic, childhood sexual abuse is a horrific experience and it is normal to have confusing feelings and thoughts.
Do not try to give answers that invite to "solve" the problem.
NEVER say: "this already happened", "forget it", "why do you come here after so many years to talk about this", "turn the page", "this happened a long time ago...", "are you sure? "are you sure?"
I believed in the veracity of the story
I allowed the person to cry or express his or her feelings.
Sometimes a hug, an attentive look and listening is enough.
Keep in mind that you are attending one of the most important steps in the healing of the one who chose you as a listener.
If, due to ignorance, surprise or fear, this situation has already happened and you were not able to behave with the responsibility it requires, there is always time to discuss the matter again with the person you trusted. For those of us who have been abused, the greatest harm is done by silence. Your gesture of returning to the subject, after having raised its importance, can be very important and liberating.
Do you think it is possible to forgive the abuser?
We do not believe that it is possible to forgive by will alone. If a colleague wants to and can forgive his/her aggressor, we are happy for him/her, but it seems to us more important and urgent to recognize oneself as a victim of a crime and to feel empathy for the child we were than to make an effort to forgive the adults who harmed us.
What are the symptoms of CSA?
The signs and symptoms of survivors of childhood sexual abuse are multiple, with physical and psychological indicators that vary according to the age and developmental stage of the victim.
As adult survivors, we are surprised that no one around us has suspected our suffering, since most of us have had multiple physical and behavioral symptoms that went unnoticed by family members, teachers, doctors.
In the case of children the ways of telling us what happens to them is varied, they do it through drawings, stories, games and many times they tell us with words what happens to them! The problem is that we adults do not know how to listen!
That is why it is essential to have an adult society willing to become the protective village. Every adult/adult of good will can be the one who raises the alarm and can be the adult protector who can change the fate of that child or adolescent.
We invite you to read:
Lopez, María CeciliaSexual Abuse. How to prevent it, how to detect it. 1ed. Buenos Aires. Paidós. 2010
Is it possible to be happy after being abused?
Of course we can! We can love and be loved.
It is possible to live in peace knowing the pains that we bring from our childhood. What has hurt us the most is silence, shame, not having been protected or understood. When we speak and are listened to we can assume ourselves as victims of a crime, we were children and adolescents betrayed by those who were supposed to take care of us. When we experience that we were neither guilty nor responsible, our recovery begins. As Boris Cyrulnik says: "an adversity is a wound that is inscribed in our history, but it is not a destiny".
What activities does Adultxs for Children's Rights carry out?
Adults for Children's Rights carries out a permanent task of making the crime of sexual abuse visible by sharing our testimonies with society. We also offer the community a weekly Peer Solidarity Meeting, so that any adult who has suffered this injustice, or is accompanying a child or adolescent victim, can share his or her experience in an anonymous and empathetic listening environment.
Adultxs por los Derechos de la Infancia has a monthly training space since our beginnings in 2012 where we share theoretical tools, specialists visit us, we read, we think, we draw conclusions, we learn to question the society of which we are part. This activity is open to the community and free of charge. Because to change a reality we must first understand it.
Why is it so important to make this crime visible?
As adult survivors of the crime of sexual abuse in our childhoods and adult protectors of child victims in the present, we feel the deep conviction that it is our obligation to offer our testimonies of pain, struggle and hope to contribute to give voice to the children and adolescents who today are suffering this injustice, and to the many adult victims and survivors who are still silenced and isolated. Silencing and concealment are the main accomplices of this crime, as we know. Our lives are a living example of the damage of silence and of the resilience tool of collectively breaking the silence.
What is the peer solidarity group about?
It is a space where we meet weekly to share anonymously, empathetically and in solidarity, our experiences as adult survivors of this crime, and protectors of child and adolescent victims in the present. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our meetings are virtual, giving the possibility to share the meeting with colleagues from all over the world.
And we verify, week after week, with great joy, that with our simple resource of sharing the word, the feelings of loneliness, isolation and shame that caused us so much damage are dissolving; becoming a formidable collective experience, easily replicable.
What is resilience?
For us, it is a daily, everyday condition. Every day we strengthen our resilience when our stories of pain are used to try to change the fate of today's children. When we accompany a child to a trial, when we lovingly welcome a new companion...
We know that resilience is built in social discourse, that is why we strive to give a hopeful message when speaking in the mass media and we try to make society understand that when we speak pessimistically about the victims, we are giving a prognosis to the victims and survivors who are listening. Resilience is taught, it is multiplied. The society of which we are a part has to learn to receive its wounded and wounded. Who better than us to teach it, to show it, to experience it?
We are infinitely grateful to those who have shared their findings with us, such as Dr. Boris Cyrulnik, who brings us light and hope to continue our collective journey.
Does the concept of family need to be changed?
We believe that family is the one that loves, cares and protects
We believe, as Ulloa says, that the family has three characteristics: food, shelter and good treatment. We believe that the family is the territory of tenderness.
Therefore, sexual and physical abuse, violence, indifference, coldness, and lack of love are not family gestures.
This assessment is fundamental when defending the integrity of a child or adolescent. Especially in incestuous sexual abuse. Knowing that the adult aggressor is the one who broke the bond, for this reason we no longer call the abusers father or mother, but parent.
What we have to defend is the concept of childhood and the obligation we adults have to "be family" to the human offspring, whether or not we have blood ties. As our dear Alice Miller says, we must modify the fourth commandment: instead of "honor your father and mother" we must honor our sons and daughters.
Why are we fans of peer-to-peer meetings?
We often find ourselves enjoying the pleasant surprise we feel when we attend a meeting among peers. In our case, we are united by having been sexually abused as children, by being mothers or adult protectors of a child or adolescent who is suffering from this injustice, or simply by being a committed and sensitive adult.
The truth is that when we meet another human being who went through the same traumatic experience, first, it is easier for us to take off the backpack of "shame" and silence that we usually carry.
Once we are able to speak or simply listen attentively to what our peers say, the other miracle happens, which is to be able to name the multiple emotions that we have been experiencing for years.
The other, others give a name to what I feel. And they do not judge me. That gives place to my emotion. It validates it.
It is through this experience that I feel understood, contained and lighter than before I arrived.
Now I know that there are some who had the same thing happen to them that happened to me.
And I see that these companions also feel or have felt fear, shame, helplessness, hatred, loneliness and so many other things like me.
And when I listen to a colleague, I "feel" what he/she is telling. There I know or relive feelings of anguish, compassion, deep empathy for that other person who is suffering so much. And that partner helps me to experience emotions: I feel pity and love, feelings that I never allowed myself to feel for myself.
The group behaves as a true healing resource, because it "names" what until then was hidden.
In the group I can talk and cry my eyes out about something that happened to me when I was 4 years old, even though I am 80 years old today, and no one will tell me "it's over", "you have to look forward", "you have to deal with it again", "aren't you going to forgive", "when are you going to forget? Each one of us has many anecdotes in which even professionals have told us that we should "turn the page" or that we should forgive our abuser or his accomplices.
When we are in the group, our peers know that we cannot forget that we have carried hatred and contempt for ourselves because we were not allowed to hate or have contradictory feelings towards our responsible adults. Generally speaking, we were forced to keep silent and hide our feelings.
My colleagues don't judge because it's the same for them as it is for me.
The peer-to-peer encounter is a space filled with empathy and genuine compassion.
What gives peace is to be able to talk about pain in a gentle way.
We don't like to talk about healing. We like to talk about peace, empathy, compassion, solidarity, tenderness, justice.
We like to talk about how we know each other a little more each day and the more we know, the more we learn to love each other and to look at each other with tenderness. The ways or reactions are no longer "crazy". We know that they respond to painful emotions and that this pain was born from something concrete: the adults who were supposed to protect us hurt us and most of the time we did not find any other adult to ask for help, and when we were encouraged to do so, they did not take care of us, did not believe us or pretended that our pain did not exist.
For years many of us kept our childhood pains a secret, many of these pains gave rise to multiple behaviors (distrust, lack of self-esteem, self-harm, anorexia, addictions, etc.) and multiple physical symptoms (phobias, panic attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, etc.). It is time to start letting go.
When I meet a peer and allow myself to feel and "name" my emotions, I can, perhaps for the first time, see that there is no risk in feeling and talking about what I feel.
I can talk and feel and there is no more risk.
How do I contact Adultxs for Children's Rights?
tel: +549 11 69729541
Facebook: Adultxs por los Derechos de la Infancia (Adults for Children's Rights)
YouTube: Adultxs for Children's Rights