Perception is reality. A concept I learned about in one of my favorite high school classes and a concept that has stuck with me throughout the years. But over these years, as I have been educated on and been trained in helping victims of abuse, and especially children of abuse, it’s a concept that I am having to think about with a more open mind. As I hope you all can.
For instance, think about the question: “Wouldn’t a child who was being abused tell?”
This is perhaps one of the most common questions that I, as the Forensic Interviewer, get asked. And I get it. It makes sense. If I, as an adult, was being punched or kicked I would immediately tell someone. Or if someone began to touch me in a sexual manner and I had not agreed to this, you better believe that I would tell someone. Because I’m an adult. And that’s what you do when someone hurts you.
But let’s just say for a minute that I am a 5 year old little boy. And my mom’s new boyfriend has told me that if I tell ANYONE about what happens in my bedroom at night when he touches me, he will kill someone that I love. And gosh, I sure do love my mom and my new puppy. And when I look into those scary, black eyes of his and see how big his hands are, I believe him.
Or let’s say that I am a 14 year old girl who has fallen in love for the first time. And he has promised me that we will be together forever. He tells me how beautiful I am and how lucky he is. He makes me feel like I am the only girl in this whole, crazy world. Never mind that he is the 35 year old dad of my best friend. We are in love.
What if even, I am a 9 year old little girl and I am the big sister. I have three younger siblings who depend on me. I am the one who makes sure they have food and I am the one who gets everyone dressed in the morning. Where are mom and dad? Depends. Probably passed out drunk or high, that is IF they made it home last night. And if I tell the nice lady about the bed bugs and the rats and the time dad hit me so hard everything went black, and I get taken away, who will take care of my siblings? They need me.
I have days where I interview children and they do share with me. They share about their abuse and the heartache that they have gone through. But I also have days where those little faces don’t share. Or rather, they CAN’T share with me. Because the fear is too deep, the threats are too scary, and the feelings are too real. And those are things that I can’t see and I can’t perceive
And this is where the wonderfulness that is The Dragonfly House comes into play. Because we work together as a team. We work to figure out the true realities that compose these children’s lives. We receive very specific training and education on how to communicate and how to read the signs of abuse and trauma.
So my challenge to you is this, rather than asking, “Wouldn’t a child who was being abused tell?” work together with us to figure out “Why wouldn’t an abused child tell?” Open up your mind and attempt to perceive a different type of reality. The reality of an abused child.
Kim Craver, Forensic Interviewer