One survivor’s story:
Her name is Anya. She is smart, kind, eloquent, beautiful, philanthropic, pro golfer and a survivor of childhood sex abuse. She is sharing her story to break the silence and to raise awareness to prevent others from suffering sexual abuse.
A man, a friend of the family, slowly over time groomed her starting when she was 9. He helped the family out by offering to take Anya golfing while her parents worked. Every time he visited with her he brought her gifts of her favorite foods and candy. She trusted him, as did her parents. Over time in their car rides together this man began to talk with 9-year-old Anya about a man’s body and a girl’s.
Although Anya had never had conversations with her parents about her body, safe touches and unsafe touches, secrets and boundaries, instinctively she felt something was “strange” but she did not know yet that this was crossing a line of personal safety.
The abuse went from verbal to sexual abuse, often occurring in the car. She didn’t tell anyone as he abused her for 6 months. He did not “hurt” her and she was so confused as she loved this man. On one hand he cared for her, brought her things she loved and spent time with her. On the other he sexually abused her. Her confusion also stemmed from her body. The touch sometimes felt good. Our bodies are programmed to respond to touch and therein is where Anya’s and many children become confused, uncomfortable, nervous, and they have inner turmoil over the abuse.
Ayna had feelings of being ashamed. She did share her secret until this man abused her in a way that made something snap inside her. She immediately ran from the man directly to her father to report. Even while she was telling her father about the abuse, the abuser said she was lying. Imagine the courage it took Anya to stand strong to an authority figure. She was scared but her father believed her immediately. This gift (and it is a gift) of her father’s utter belief in Anya’s story became the strength that would start her healing.
Anya Alvarez has become our spokesperson for KidSafe Foundation as she believes that if she had a program of prevention education at a young age she would have recognized that something was not right very early on and would have spoken to her parents about it sooner. Anya has joined forces with KidSafe sharing her story in the hopes that together they can prevent child abuse.
Last night at a presentation they provided together at Boca Helping Hands, parents asked amazing questions. Anya clearly had an enormous impact. We want to share the main points:
- Start at a young age (4) and talk with your children about their bodies, boundaries, safe and unsafe touches and secrets.
- Empower children that their bodies are special and belong to them.
- Empower your children that they have a voice and can say “NO” if something does not feel right or is uncomfortable.
- Tell your children they can talk with you about anything and you will not be uncomfortable with what they say.
- Listen and remain “poker faced” no matter what they say, so communication does not break down.
- Do NOT use the terms “good touch” or “bad touch.” It is too confusing as sexual abuse can feel good. Use Safe Touch and Unsafe touch.
- Reporting is crucial and adults need to trust their instincts and always err on the side of protecting children.
- Disclosure: always believe your children if they tell you they were abused (they will often tell indirectly). It is so rare for children to lie about abuse and your belief can make them feel powerful and give them strength to start their healing.
- Tell your children it is never ever their fault if they are abused. It is ALWAYS the abuser’s fault.
- Counseling immediately is important. Not just for the survivor but for the whole family.
Anya’s final words, “Don’t treat survivors as victims and become overprotective of them.” It is common for parents to want to put their child in a bubble when they have been hurt, but Anya says this can make a child feel more alienated then they already feel.
KidSafe and Anya are on a mission together to prevent child abuse. They believe that 95% of abuse and exploitation of children can be prevented with education. Please join us on our mission and share this blog with your family and friends and together we will break the cycle of child abuse. You can watch Anya Alvarez on the golf channel on May 14 2012 starring in The Big Break.