From Understanding Comes Help
by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson
One night, the Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline received a call from a 16-year-old girl who was very upset. She said that her grandparents and a local child protective services agency caseworker were trying to come between her and her parents, because of a misunderstanding. The teen was hesitant to speak further; her parents told her that she shouldn't tell anyone about the situation because "no one understands."
Gently encouraged by the Hotline counselor, the girl began to open up. The caller said that the grandparents and caseworker didn't understand that her parents needed to educate her and her siblings. The Hotline counselor asked what the parents were teaching the children. From her response, it was clear that the mother was engaging in sexual relations with the boys and the father was sexually molesting the girls. The caller said that her parents were teaching them what they would need to know when they got married.
When asked how long this had gone on, the teen replied that it had always been this way. Being sensitive to the girl's intense faith in her parents' "good" intentions, the Hotline counselor began to carefully explain sexual abuse. She told the caller that, if she had grown up in the girl's home, she also would believe this was an appropriate way to learn about sex. Confused, the girl asked how else anyone would learn what they needed to know when they got married. The Hotline counselor responded that most people learn by trial and error, or talking with friends, family members or others.
After experiencing the shock of understanding that her grandparents really were trying to help, the caller immediately became very concerned about her younger siblings. The Hotline counselor and the teen discussed her options, and the risks involved—both in telling, and not telling, of the abuse. After talking at length about her difficult revelation, the girl decided to call her caseworker and disclose the truth.
Many times, the successes at Childhelp are bittersweet. There is happiness—for the girl's decision to disclose her abuse. There is also heartache, for the pain and confusion that she and her younger siblings will experience as a result of their new understanding of the situation.