A young face peered out at me yesterday on my Newsfeed. Her name was Jade. She had a heart-shaped pixie face with eyes red-rimmed. If our eyes are the window to the soul, than this 16-year old soul was deeply distressed.
Jade’s story on Facebook had been written by her friend. The language was not sophisticated but the story tore deep into my heart. Jade had been raped repeatedly by her uncle from the age of six. After years and years of abuse she finally told her family, only to not be believed. Some months later, Jade showed them evidence of the abuse and the police were called. By this time, the news had erupted at her school and she was bullied mercilessly: Slut! Whore! OMG! She slept with her own uncle! The taunts went on and Jade’s nightmare only grew worse. Finally on the 10th of November she could not take it anymore and took her own life. So that pixie face that looked out at me from my Newsfeed on Thursday morning was the face of a young girl who had been sexually abused for ten years, discredited by her family — when she had found the courage to disclose, and bullied mercilessly by her peers.
Not believing a child who discloses abuse is basically saying to them, “You are nothing. Your voice does not matter.” So for Jade, and the many others out there who continue to suffer at the hands of their abusers, I am pleading to the global community to ALWAYS believe a child when they tell you they have been interfered with or exposed to pornography. If you do not believe them, then you may be the only one they ever tell.
As a society, I know we can do better than this. Most of us are really good people, but understandably we are fearful of this topic. However, our adult fear i
s putting kids, like Jade, at risk every single day. There are young children going to bed tonight totally unprotected. They are vulnerable to grooming and the inevitable abuse. We can and must to do better than this. We have a duty of care as parents and educators to educate children in body safety. We need them to know it is okay to say to older children or adults, ‘Stop! You can’t do that to me!’ when they suffer from unwanted touch. With 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys being sexually abused before 18 and with 93% knowing their perpetrators, we just have to do better.
As I remember Jade’s face, her sorrowful eyes now etched in my mind, I wonder if she had been educated in body safety would she have escaped the years of sexual abuse, and would she still be alive today – excited about her upcoming future as my own 16-year-old daughter is.
Perpetrators such as Jade’s uncle rely heavily on children keeping secrets. If a child has been educated to tell and society has been educated to believe, then I am confident the sexual abuse of children can be stopped before it begins.
RIP young Jade x