Content/Trigger Warning: This episode discusses issues of child sexual abuse. Some listeners may find the content of this episode disturbing. Please do not listen to this episode if this content will be disturbing or triggering for you. If you are a victim of childhood sexual abuse, or you want to report abuse, please utilize the following resources:
- National Children’s Alliance | www.nca-online.org |1-800-239-9950.
- Darkness to Light’s Helpline | 1-866-FOR-LIGHT
- ChildHelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline | 1-800-4-A-CHILD
April is Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month — a time to educate, advocate, and hear/share the stories of child sexual abuse victims.
My niece Ango, this week’s guest on The Ascend Together Podcast, became a victim of sexual abuse beginning at the age of 10 — a story that unfortunately carried on until her later teenage years, weaving a dark and expansive web of control, manipulation, and toxicity within her own family. Her story has taken years to unfold, and recovery from her abuse has been a long and confusing process for everyone involved. Today, Ango works to educate others about the reality of child sexual abuse as well as advocate for victims past and present.
In part one of this two-part series, Ango shares how her story unfolded. She explains the grooming process, the elements of trust and loyalty in victim-abuser relationships, and how children are not the only victims in stories of child sexual abuse.
It’s a raw and powerful story, and it must be heard.
A Story of Child Sexual Abuse
When she was 10 years old, Ango’s stepfather began grooming her. Ango describes the grooming process as slow, and “at her own pace.” Her abuser was patient. Despite the atrocities he was capable of behind closed doors, on the outside, he was charming and well-loved by their friends and family. He was unassuming, he covered his tracks, and his abuse was calculated. In this case, the grooming process began with seemingly innocent acts — a slight touch, extended time alone, a dark room.
Eventually, it progressed toward more overtly sinister acts. Ango explains the grooming process as a means of relationship-building between the abuser and the victim, which is precisely what happened to her. However, as her abuse worsened, she didn’t grow fearful of being harmed. Instead, Ango began to feel as if her relationship with the man she trusted most was strengthening. A common feeling experienced by child victims of abuse.
Ango shares exactly how her story unfolded. She describes the relationship she had with her abuser, and how many children who are sexually abused share similar experiences. She explains how her story unfolded over the years, and how the abuse she experienced affected her loved ones, her mental health, her ability to form friendships, and so many other facets of her life.
Eventually, her abuse ended and she shared her story with her mother, but the process was difficult, conflicting, and weighed heavily on her. Although the abuse has ended, the effects have stayed with her and her family to this day.
Far too often, and in all forms of abuse, outsiders take to blaming the victim. Questions like, “Why didn’t you let the abuse stop? Why didn’t you seek help sooner?” and “Weren’t you too old to let this sort of thing happen?” place the injustices of a crime, and the responsibility for taking action on the victim. In many cases, these victims’ understanding of right and wrong has been manipulated by their abuser. Victim-blaming is undoubtedly harmful to the victim’s understanding of their trauma.
Ango experienced victim-blaming (and to this day, continues to) in her own story. She explains just how detrimental victim-blaming can be to the victim’s recovery process and the process of seeking legal justice. In this episode, Ango talks about the mental and emotional trauma that children experience with sexual abuse, and how complicated it can be to understand the ways in which this sort of trauma affects their psyche.
Loved Ones Are Victims Too
One in four girls, and one in six boys has been a victim of sexual abuse before the age of 18. Only 10% of abusers/pedophiles are strangers to their victims. So, what does that mean? The vast majority of child sexual abuse cases take place with abusers who are familiar to the child. Often, abuse happens right under the noses of friends and family members.
Loved ones are oftentimes victims as well in these cases. They are manipulated by abusers to have a skewed understanding of the situation. As a result, they are pitted against one another and often left to deal with long-lasting mental and emotional trauma. Ango explains that, although we all need to do our best to be aware of the signs of child sexual abuse, we also need to give victims and family members grace when they fail to recognize the signs in their own households.
More in This Episode
In this episode, Ango is vulnerable and honest about her personal experience with child sexual abuse. We talk about how abuse sends waves throughout families, the process of seeking justice, and the unexpected mental and emotional effects long-term manipulation can have on a child.
So, what can we do to prevent child sexual abuse? How can we support and advocate for the victims?
This episode is part one of a two-part series. Stay tuned for Part Two next week, where we’ll discuss Ango’s recovery from her abuse, how it’s impacted our family, and for more information on child sexual abuse education and advocacy.