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Talk to your children, help them protect themselves      Send a link to a friend

To the editor:

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I applaud Debbie Thurman's article "Grappling With Child Sexual Abuse: How Preventable is It?" Somewhere along the line we MUST include education as part of prevention. Will education stop a predator? No, it probably won't, but it will make the potential victim aware that he or she does not have to tolerate the advances of a perpetrator, regardless of who it is.

I have raised three daughters and helped to raise a younger sister (whose father abused me), and none of them have been abused in any way by anyone. Why? Because from the time they were old enough to understand words, I made sure that they knew that any touching by ANYONE was off limits.

Although my sister does not know about what her father did to me, I made it known that no one, including her father, should ever touch her in a sexual way, and if anything were to happen, she was to call me immediately. With the reassurance that I would indeed believe her and would support her through it in telling our mother, she agreed. I didn't stop there. I continued to talk to her on a regular basis about it.

I did the same with my three daughters. They are now three beautiful healthy young adults, and my sister is now a mother with three children.

I have always thought that if only someone had let me know that I was not alone, or that there was someone I could tell, I could have stopped it long before. The damage was done from the start, but the healing could have started sooner.

As it was, my abuse was discovered by relatives. I was placed in a foster home for six months while we all attended counseling and was then sent back home, where the abuse resumed after a short period of time. It ended when I left home at the age of 17.

[to top of second column in this letter]

One would ask, "If you knew it was wrong, why didn't you say something after being returned home?" The simple fact is, I was NEVER told that it was not my fault; thus the guilt and shame of thinking I was causing it remained. Plus, my stepfather was not the only perpetrator. There were several. Mostly relatives, including my biological father.

Not until I became an adult did I find the help I needed, in the form of one-on-one and group counseling. The day I walked into a room where 15 other women (!) sat who had experienced similar, and in a lot of cases, worse abuse than I, did I finally learn that I was the victim.

Now, in my early 40s I am a successful, fully functioning, healthy woman. I have many to thank for that but mostly God for seeing me through it.

I know (and still think about this often) that if someone had came to my school (I graduated from LCHS in 1982) and let me know that I was not alone, I may have been able to take that first healing step sooner -- telling someone. Even more important, knowing I could tell and be believed, protected and HELPED.

It is my dream that one day we can hold a special assembly, once a year in every school, that addresses this traumatizing problem. One out of three girls and one out of five boys need and deserve this support.


Retha Odle Collins

(Posted Feb. 1, 2006)

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