In the months that followed, right up to present day, the incident still comes into conversation and receives many mixed responses. From my best friend dropping her phone in shock when I told her, to the parent who told me they don’t want their child near mine because of what has happened to her, here are the most extreme responses we have experienced:
1. The member of my own family who told me that it was all my fault, that I obviously allowed X to do what he did, and that I didn’t deserve my daughter and should kill myself. This was a conversation that genuinely happened, and to this day has not been resolved.Situations like this are bound to cause strong, volatile emotions in everybody involved – for obvious reasons – and sometimes people need a target to take those emotions out on, even if the target is completely the wrong one.
2. The parent who told me that they did not want their child near my child, because of what had happened to her. My daughter chose the silent moment at a birthday party, right before the candles get blown out, to announce X’s abuse to the room. I have never actively discouraged her from talking about what happened because it is important that she understands that she did absolutely nothing wrong, and did the right thing by telling me
about it. However, this day in particular I was completely unprepared for the announcement. A room of roughly thirty children and their parents stared at me in horror, more than one of them moving their children away from my daughter, two of them scrambling to lock the door to the venue and call the police, believing that the incident was ongoing. After I explained to them that the situation had all been dealt with, and that X was behind bars, but that I could not tell my daughter not to talk about it, one of them very sternly told me that they wanted our respective children to have no more interactions – they did not want their child exposed to what mine had gone through.
3. The people who imply that my daughter is irrevocably damaged because of what has happened, or that she will be afraid of men, or better yet, will be gay, because of what has happened. These people may not mean to be, but they are ignorant. Despite the fact that she has suffered something so horrific at such a young age, my daughter is still an extremely outgoing, confident and strong individual. She will chat to ANYBODY, male or female, regardless of what X did, and has just as much potential as the next kid, thank you very much. As for the gay comment, abuse does not turn people gay, you don’t become gay. You either are, or you aren’t, and whether she is or is not, I won’t mind in the slightest as long as she is safe and happy.
I certainly don’t expect people to know what to say about the situation, and I do try to keep it under wraps where possible because let’s face it: not everyone needs to know that information, and there are much more pleasant topics to cover. However, sometimes it needs to be discussed, like in the birthday party example above, and I do so wish that there was a textbook response sometimes.
As grueling as it is to have it brought back up, I have found that this experience has had such a huge impact on our lives that it simply cannot be brushed under the rug. I have to explain to the dentist that if my daughter gets upset, it might be best to stop – and why. I have to explain to parents of new friends that she might mention it to their children. It does not just ‘go away’ after a few days (or weeks or months), and I have decided that the
only way to manage that is by taking control of when and how I broach the subject.