Originally posted: November 8, 2009
The film “Precious” resonated with me on so many levels, as an educator (I’ll write about that later), as a black woman, but most importantly as a sexual abuse survivor. Precious was raped by her father starting at the age of 3, and he impregnated her twice. Her mother also abused her sexually, mentally, emotionally & physically. Sexual abuse is a silent epidemic in our community. In fact:
1.-1 out of 4 girls (and 1 out of 10 boys) will experience a sexual assault before their 18th birthday.
2.-75% of all reported sexual assaults on children are committed by someone the child knows and trusts.
The movie Precious has a very vivid scene that actually shows the rape happen. For me, anytime I see or hear about sexual abuse, it causes me to flashback to my own experience. I was in sixth grade, 12 years old when my virginity was stolen from me by my mother’s boyfriend at the time (75% of abusers are known & trusted). I experienced many of the symptoms that victims experience (unusual interest/avoidance of all things of a sexual nature, nightmares/insomnia, withdrawal from friends, family, feeling of being damaged/dirty, seductiveness, secretiveness, unusual aggressiveness, etc.)
That one experience caused me to instantly go from being a confident, motivated and overall optimistic girl, to a withdrawn, self-conscious, anxious shadow of my former self (the anxiety heightened whenever an adult male was in close physical proximity to me or whenever I was directly addressed by an adult male). In High School, it translated into me pursuing boyfriends who were much older. I’ll never forget being 16, and dating a 24 year old with 2 kids (which I think had something to do with the sexual assault but also not having a father while growing up)
So how does a girl get her soul back? For me, I expressed myself artistically through art (mostly poetry & journaling). Surrounding myself with people who valued and praised me in non-physical/non-sexual ways and the most useful thing that I ever did was to talk about it in public forums. After winning a Children’s Defense Fund “Beat the Odds” Award, I talked about the statistics & my experience in my speech (through tears) and each time I shared my story and little girls, young women & older women came up to me afterwards to tell me that they experienced sexual abuse too, I held my head up a little higher and eventually I started volunteering with different organizations to help young girls who had been abused. Silence is deadly when it comes to sexual abuse, and to be silent about it and how frequently it occurs is to empower the perverts and pedofiles that perpetuate the abuse.
Like Precious, I eventually valued myself again (remember, most abusers talk about how worthless you are, especially when they are afraid that you’re going to reveal the abuse) and that wouldn’t have happened without family, teachers and friends who listened & helped to put the shattered pieces back together.
Ironically, both Oprah Winfrey & Tyler Perry were sexually abused, and both were executive producers. I am thankful that they had the courage and the intestinal fortitude to create a movie like Precious. Tyler Perry also addressed it briefly in his film I Can Do Bad By Myself. We have to break this silent epidemic and what better way to do it, than to throw it into the face of American popular culture and mass media?
For more tips on prevention and treatment, please go here:http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/child_sexual_abuse.