Friday, November 09, 2007

What That Sounds Like

What does an open, honest and relatively unemotional conversation about child sex abuse sound like between a mother and daughter? I found out yesterday morning.

My mother mentioned how a friend of mine from high school always looks so sad when she sees her around town. I told her that she's a sad person who had a rough childhood. There was rampant incest in her house that everyone knew about but nobody did anything about. Being in that family and surviving what she went through would make anybody sad.

So starts the conversation. You see, when I was a very young girl (toddler through kindergarten), my babysitter was the lady across the street. I was over there all the time when my mother was working or busy. It was the lady, her husband, her two sons and her daughter. The oldest boy was in high school during that time frame, and he was a sex predator.

"Stuff" happened that was very traumatic and disgusting and upsetting, and I've been through lots of therapy and some spiritual exercises to overcome and move beyond the past. I'm healed, I'm fine. I can talk about that stuff now without getting upset.

My mom and I mainly talked about what the warning signs are of children being sexualized too early. We talked about how it could have happened right under the neighbors' noses in their house without the parents really knowing (you turn a blind eye to ugly things you don't want to deal with). In a roundabout way, we talked about how it could have happened under my mother's nose without her knowing and how she's not to blame. [An eerily similar circumstance surrounds my sister's childhood, taking place in a different neighborhood with different people. Nobody realized or acknowledged that abuse at the time either.]

We talked for over an hour, dissecting the idea, analyzing it. She was sitting in the dining room, and I was in the living room nursing Anna. There was space between us physically, and also emotionally, which is probably why we could discuss an intense subject without getting upset and judgmental.

Ironically, earlier that day I had watched a TV show where they mentioned off-handedly that honesty is always best in families, and it's the only way to really have healthy relationships. At the time, I thought it would be nice to have honest relationships within my family where people actually talk about things rather than just tacitly accept and move on.

When everything that happened in my youth came out of hiding when I was in high school (and had a nervous breakdown), we never discussed it as a family. My mom and I talked a little bit about it during therapy sessions, but otherwise, we just chalked it up to history and moved on.

After having such a healthy discussion today with my mom, I have a new dream. I wish all of the adults in my family could sit down together and talk about these issues. I don't need sympathy or apologies for blind eyes. I want them to be educated about how stuff like that occurs, and how people can be open about these issues without dwelling on them. I want them to know the warning signs of child sexualization and child sex abuse, and I want them to learn some ways to keep the lines of communication open with children when it comes to difficult subjects.