It’s been 14 months since I started my job at the Advocacy Center doing child sexual abuse exams. The job has been everything I imagined it would be and more. As expected, it’s been challenging, depressing, fulfilling, and fascinating all at the same time. I’m learning new things about child sexual abuse on a weekly basis. I’m learning why some victims take forever to make an outcry. Why that victim retracted his outcry. Why that woman defended her boyfriend when she knew he was abusing her daughter. Why that child is going back to that home. How the detectives investigate these crimes. How the detectives got those deleted photos/texts off the perp’s cell phone. What the difference is between sexual assault of a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child. When that perp will go to jail. How long he will stay in jail. And that the folks of McLennan County don’t go easy on convicted child sexual offenders. Thank you jurors!
What I didn’t expect from this job was the occasional spontaneous welling up of tears and emotion that overwhelm me at the most random times. And I am NOT an emotional person!! Today, it hit me in Sunday School class when they asked for our prayer requests. A few months ago it was when I walked into my weekly, much-needed happy hour with girlfriends and someone asked “How’s it going?” It just happens. Tears start forming and they don’t stop. Hugs from friends make the tears flow faster. The incident a few months ago was accompanied by a sensation of “Oh crap, I can’t get a deep breath, something’s pressing on my chest, why can’t I breathe????”
The stories that these children tell—unthinkable, unimaginable, unbearable—what do I do with them? Most days, I leave the Advocacy Center knowing these kids are getting help, treatment, therapy, healing, and restoration from the AMAZING intake coordinator, forensic interviewers, case managers, therapists, counselors, social workers, etc. working at the agency. Back in December though, I had just had a week where two children (under the age of 8) had tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. Confirmed STD. And yet they made no outcry. They were not ready to tell their story. Can you imagine the burden they carry? I’m sitting here bawling my eyes out and having a mini panic attack at happy hour, and I’m not even living the story they tell. These kids are living it. Suffering it. Enduring it.
Children who are victims of sexual abuse are obviously at increased risk of both short and long term psychological and emotional effects. Victims of child sexual abuse have higher rates of eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks, self-harm (cutting), and suicidal thoughts & attempts. Recovering from child sexual abuse is a process that can take months or years. Obviously, when the child doesn’t make an outcry, that process is delayed until s/he is ready to move forward. Until then, we stay ready to listen. Ready to help.
As for me, I’ll be fine. Those spontaneous emissions from my eyes? They dry up. The pressure feeling on my chest? Squeezing hugs from friends somehow make the pressure go away. What can you do? Hand me a cocktail and then another. Say a curse word (thank you today James W.). Make a crude joke about STDs. Run 8 miles with me. Do something to make me smile or laugh and the moment will pass. Remind me why I took this job. Pray for me and I’ll be fine. Thank you to my family and all my Nancys, Shelleys, Ashleys, Jamies, Erins, Adriannas, Kellys, and Lindsays who did those things for me in December, today, and everyday.
What about the children? They become SURVIVORS, not VICTIMS. What can you do for them? Watch for the emotional and psychological signs. Pay attention. PRAY PRAY PRAY for them. SUPPORT SUPPORT SUPPORT the Advocacy Center. We can’t keep providing services to these young survivors without your help. Make a donation today at www.advocacycntr.org. Make a difference. Save a child. Be a part of the change.
Thank you, and as always, empower your kids and stay safe!
Soo Battle, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this website/blog is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the relationship that exists between you and your pediatrician or doctor. Please contact your doctor for medical advice and/or treatment recommendations specific to your child.