We rationalize that it happens occasionally and sometimes makes the
papers. Yet, in a room of 100 people, as many as 20 to 25 of them
likely will have been victimized by this most insidious form of
child abuse. Why don't we know this? Because those who have
experienced this trauma often are shamed and silenced in a variety
of emotionally manipulative ways by their perpetrators or families.
Mother taught us it's not polite to air our dirty laundry. And what
could be dirtier? That was my own mom's phobia. So she became a
co-dependent accomplice to my father's incestuous abuse of me,
beginning when I was only 2.
My daddy taught Sunday school, went to work every day and brought
home his paycheck. He did not drink to excess and used no drugs. He
served on the church council and enjoyed a good sermon on faith. He
also beat my brother regularly. My brother can't remember a time
when Daddy ever smiled at him. On the other hand, I was Daddy's "dollbaby."
I developed alter personalities to cope with his abuse and hid the
painful memories deep within my consciousness.
I don't know when it stopped or exactly how many other little
girls he abused, but I do know some of them. When I finally
remembered, it took nearly nine years and a load of money and effort
for me to heal. I could not confront my dad because he already had
died. Anyway, abusers often don't believe they are doing anything
We all are affected in some way by child sexual abuse, and it
costs taxpayers a lot of money. The estimated numbers of victims
(25-30 percent of girls, 17-20 percent of boys 18 and younger)
should horrify us. And those numbers don't include child neglect and
The great majority of sexually abused children are violated by
someone they know -- generally, someone the child has been taught to
love and respect. It may be a parent or other relative, teacher,
clergy person, Scout leader, coach, or neighbor. The abuse is
perpetrated by someone who has power over the child. Too often, it
is the person who eats meals with the child, puts the food on the
table and the clothes on his or her back, and takes the child for
[to top of second column]
Why do perpetrators do it? They do it because they can, often
because of dysfunctional patterns from their own childhood. In their
warped egos, they view children as objects that they can own and
control. Abusers may threaten the child ("I'll kill you or your
mother/sister/brother if you tell," or "Your family will leave you
or stop loving you"). They tell the child anything at all to gain
What can we do to help victims and lower the $94 billion annual
cost of child sexual abuse? First and foremost, become aware of the
children around you. Carefully report any abuse you suspect, even if
anonymously. If you are a victim or co-victim, get out. My friend
made a sad choice. She killed her abuser and is now in prison.
Various recovery organizations, ministries and counselors exist
to help. Books can help. Law enforcement will investigate, and the
legal system can prosecute. It's not easy, but you can survive and
even thrive, in time.
You need not feel ashamed for being a victim. You are not the bad
person. You are a lovable, worthwhile contributor to humanity. You
are alive, and you can help someone else.
Please join me in making people aware and in preventing or
stopping any abusive behaviors you may observe or suspect. Get the
help you need or help your child get it. The earlier the
intervention, the better. But it's never too late. The return on the
investment is fabulous. I know.
[Linde Grace White]
Linde Grace White, a retired special education teacher, is the
author of "Dollbaby: Triumph Over Childhood Sexual Abuse." Her
e-mail address is
Click here to respond to the editor about this