It wasn’t a conversation I’d planned to have right at that particular moment, but it was a conversation I knew would need to happen sooner rather than later. The topic? Rape.
My eleven-year-old daughter is an avid reader, and my mom had given her a memoir about an American girl in Nazi Germany. My mom must’ve assumed that it was a children’s book, given the narrator’s young age, but I wondered how graphic the content was. I flipped through the book, and sure enough, the narrator tells about some of the atrocities of the war, particularly during the Soviet occupation of Germany. Violence. Looting. Rape.
When the narrator finally returned to school, her classmates were full of news about what had happened to them, to their family members, to neighbors.
“Heidi was raped sixteen times, she’s not right in the head anymore.”
“My grandmother was raped thirty-six times. She killed herself.”
“I think I might be pregnant with a Russian’s baby!”
It was heartbreaking. I wondered what my daughter thought of it, and whether she even understood what was meant. I questioned her, she admitted she didn’t understand, and I explained.
I’ve never shied away from discussing touchy subjects with her or her younger sister. I’ve told her that she can ask me anything and I’ll answer honestly, in age-appropriate terms. I started the birds-and-bees conversation when they were potty-training, and let the information develop and expand as they grow older. Here’s my reasons:
- I’d rather they get information from me than uninformed classmates or any media outlet.
- I want this to be an ongoing conversation rather than a one time event.
- I wanted to present sex in a positive light, so they didn’t get a negative first impression from whoever told them. Too many people make sex sound dirty or shameful or evil, when sex is a good, God-designed thing within the proper context.
- I didn’t want to keep her ignorant and then—wham!—overwhelm her with all the facts, all at once. I think making sex, etc., a secret turns it into this huge, mysterious, almost frightening thing that it really doesn’t have to be.
- Also, I know (from experience with friends) that sexual abuse happens. I want both of them to know that if a friend ever tells them about being abused, they need to tell me or another trusted adult. If I keep them ignorant of the basic facts about human sexuality, they might hear about abuse and not realize what that friend means.
So I’ve never shied away from awkward questions. I recently explained what an STD is to both my daughters, and I’ve explained what is meant by “homosexuality” and “transgender” to my older child, and I’ve explained why the f-word is objectionable, as well as several other derogatory terms. (I’ve usually added that they don’t need to share this information with their friends; a lot of parents have a different view of sex education than I do, and I respect that. I also don’t want a phone call from my daughters’ Christian school about how “Little C.C. decided to tell her kindergarten class about syphilis today.”)
I knew this conversation was coming, but it was a tough thing to discuss. I walked away with mixed emotions:
Thankful, because I and my daughters have never experienced rape.
Sad, because this conversation was necessary.
Fearful, because my children aren’t completely safe, no matter how much I want them to be. There are no guarantees.
Heartbroken, because too many people, even children younger than mine, have been exploited and mistreated by another person’s perverted desires.
Hopeful, because I believe in a God who can heal even the most broken of hearts and comfort the deepest of wounds. It’s a process; a lot of times, it’s a lifelong process, and one that isn’t fully completed until heaven. But there is a God who cares, and people who care, and people who want to help those affected by abuse and assault.
If you have been personally affected by rape or abuse, please get help. I cannot stress this enough: it is NOT your fault. No matter how you feel or what other people say, you are valuable in the eyes of God.
Here’s a link to a list of 10 online resources for rape survivors: