Tragedy to Triumph: How a Child’s Bravery Helped Put Away a Rapist
I’ve been in the child protection business for 11 years and a mommy for 8, so there’s not much that fazes me. I’ve always had what my mom calls an “iron stomach”—I’ve had stomach flu exactly once, and food poisoning never—and remain completely undaunted by the spectacular range of grossness that comes with being a parent (which I’ll spare you by not enumerating here, because I’m sure you already know it).
Green around the gills
But every once in a while something comes along that makes me feel physically ill to think about. Like this news story from last week. It’s short and won’t take you long to watch, but here’s the gist: A dad went to pick his five-year-old daughter up from day care and essentially interrupted a teacher in the midst of raping her.
Like I said: physically ill.
And I’m sorry I’m sharing the proverbial wealth—you are now most likely also nauseated, or enraged, or quite possibly both. But there’s a method to my madness.
Because as horrifying and disgusting as this story is, it actually contains an absolute triumph, a triumph we need to celebrate: This little girl reported.
The power of telling
I don’t know if she had ever had any sort of personal safety lessons, or even any overt teaching from her parents of the sort my organization, Committee for Children, suggests—what I do know is that somewhere along the line, her dad has made it clear to her that she can tell him anything.
And that’s precisely what she did. And then she told the police after that. And that’s why this particular child rapist is in jail: because he chose a victim who had the words and the courage to tell her daddy what this man did to her. She didn’t keep it a secret. She didn’t worry that she’d get in trouble. She told.
Doing the right thing
So although this story still nauseates me, I also find it strangely affirming, because it tells me I’m doing the right thing. It tells me that talking to my daughter about which touches are safe and which aren’t, telling her never to keep secrets and that I won’t be mad if she has something scary to tell me, reminding her that no one is allowed to touch her private parts except to keep her healthy, is the right course of action.
Because these conversations, awkward and uncomfortable though they are, let her know that if someday—oh, I can hardly bear to type the words—someone molests or rapes her, she can tell me. And I will get her help. And then I will stand by her side while, just like that daddy and daughter in the news story, we brought her justice.
Teaching your kids to tell
If you aren’t having these conversations with your kids, there’s no time like the present. Here are some short videos and articles that show you why and how to talk to your kids about sexual abuse. You could be giving them tools that can turn a tragedy into a triumph.