World

After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

I equip my daughters to protect themselves and their bodies in ways I didn’t learn to.

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My first day watching porn was also my last. I was nine when an adult neighbor took me to a house where several of her friends were gathered. The men and women came knowing the agenda—to watch hours of pornographic videos. I was placed on a man’s lap, and the tapes were played. At one point, my neighbor asked if I “felt” anything. I said no, and the group laughed.

I remember the day now as the end of something immeasurably precious—the gift of being innocent and unashamed. I’ve often mourned for my nine-year-old self, her soul plundered and her naiveté stripped. I grieve for her and fear for my two small daughters. What images (and God forbid, touches) might be lurking, waiting to take their innocence? God help us.

We live in a country where kids’ online exposure to pornography is on the rise. Most children ages 10-17 have viewed porn one way or another; about a quarter report seeing unwanted pornography images in search results, emails, and pop-up ads. One in four women and one in six men are sexually abused before age 18. An abuser isn’t always the sinister stranger luring children from a slow-moving car. In most cases, perpetrators aren’t strangers at all, like the neighbor who exposed me to graphic videos before I even understood the nature of sex.

Ninety-three percent of child abuse victims know their abusers: 34 percent are victimized by family members (uncles, cousins, even siblings), 58 percent by acquaintances (neighbors, coaches, even pastors), and 7 percent by the stereotypical stranger.

While men are considerably more likely to sexually assault a child, abuse by women happens too. A study in 2000 found female child molesters make up 12 percent of offenders …

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