Erickka Sy Savané
“What goes on in this house stays in this house.” We drill this lesson into our kids without even questioning it because we don’t want folks knowing our business — and we all know kids can talk. However, when we impart these words to our kids we could unknowingly be doing them more harm than good.
Author and mother of two, Antoinette White, discovered this a few years back when she had an eye-opening experience with her then-teenage son. It was early morning and after spending a few days with his dad- they were divorced- he had come home to take a shower before school. Annoyed that he didn’t go straight to school from his dad’s place, she screamed, “You’re going to be late!” to which he replied, “I haven’t showered in two days!” Turns out, his father’s utilities were turned off. When she asked him why he didn’t tell her, he repeated back the same words she’d always told him: “What goes on in this house stays in this house.” So that meant not telling her his dad's business. It was then that she realized the limitations of silencing our kids about what goes on at home. But it didn’t end there…she realized that this silencing is what kept her from telling anyone that she was being sexually abused by her father from six to 12 years old.
“I couldn’t tell my mom, and I wanted to tell my 4th grade teacher, because we had a really goodrelationship, but I felt ashamed and didn’t want it to change the way she felt about me,” Antoinette recalled. Eventually, she did tell her mom, and her teacher, and it was in the telling that she found the healing.
“Telling released the strong hold and burden I had to carry as a little girl,” she explained. “It also brought me joy to know my mom and family were there for support.”
Today, Antoinette continues to tell her story of sexual abuse and healing in a book she wrote called “Who’s Protecting Me?” She also travels the US and as far as Ghana to speak to young girls on the topic. It’s so rare that they hear someone speaking so openly and publicly that they often ask her why she’s telling her story? Antoinette replies, “Because someone here is being abused and she’s not telling. I want her to know that she’s not alone.”
She’s certainly not. According to statistics:
- 1 in 3 girls will be sexually molested in the US before the age 17
- 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested before the age 17
And while sexual abuse cases are reported up to 80,000 times a year in the US, the number of unreported cases is far greater because children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened.
Antoinette has discovered that girls feel comfortable sharing with her that they’ve been sexually abused, but they won’t tell anyone else in their home, family, community or even church. So what’s the answer?
“It’s vital that we stop making this blanket statement to kids that they can’t speak to anyone about what is happening at home because kids can’t discern what really needs to be told. Give them ‘safe’ people they can talk to outside of the home like grandparents, aunts, church members, or Godparents if they ever feel afraid or if they are being harmed in any way. At home, make sure to create an environment where boys and girls feel safe and encouraged to talk no matter what the topic.”
After the incident with her son, Antoinette started talking to her kids about everything from sex and using condoms to being entrepreneurs. And now that they’re grown she’s still talking, and listening.
For more on author and motivational speaker Antoinette White, visit AntoinetteWhite.com
This article first appeared on Madamenoire.com