April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Across the nation, survivors of abuse are being recognized, and awareness about abuse is being raised. Child abuse is a serious issue that affects many people. More advocates are needed.
Today was definitely a day. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did. Usually, I can go to school and escape home problems, but today it seems that they all just ran together. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I am BEYOND stressed out . . . Today someone saw some of my marks and then told someone else, and someone else, and then people began to stare. I thought that I was doing a good job of hiding them, but I guess not. Then to make matters worse, I was called into Principal Miller’s office for questioning. I’ve never felt so humiliated in my life, or scared. Here’s how it all happened . . .
7:45 a.m.: I walked into school. I was wearing my black Nike dry fit leggings, shirt, and a jacket. I used to wear jeans, but when I sit down and they brush against my bruises, it’s really painful, so I just wear comfy clothes. I had on my necklace, earrings, and then my new watch that I bought. It’s big enough to cover up my scars but not look too weird. So I walked in, went to my locker, greeted the girls, and proceeded to my first class. I was exhausted because Chris had me up all night cleaning the kitchen because of one dish that was left in the sink. He said that I was a lazy slob and that I needed to learn a lesson, so he made me wash ALL the dishes in the house before I could go to sleep. Luckily, my first class is English, so I took a small doze. Everything was fine, until lunch.
12:15 p.m.: Sigh. I go in the lunchroom (with my lunch, of course — school food, ugh) and sit with the squad. I notice Jazz looking at me weird and in my head, I’m like Why? We have always had a great friendship, so I shot her a text message: “What’s up?” No response. So I text her again: “What’s up?” This time, she let me have it!
“So I feel like something is going on with you. You don’t answer my texts, you don’t hang out anymore, and every time a male teacher walks towards you, you flinch and looked scared. Not to mention, you only wear dry fit and leggings. I feel like something is going on with you and you are not telling me. What is it? We’re best friends, if we can’t share, what’s the point???”
I knew at that moment that I would have to tell someone, at least Jazz. I mean she is my bestie. But how could I tell? How could I tell her that for the past six months, my mother’s boyfriend has been hitting, punching, pushing, and verbally abusing me. How could I tell her that I’m embarrassed and ashamed and scared? How could I tell her that I felt like a part of this was my fault because I always have something going on at school (or at least that’s what Chris says), I always dress inappropriately, and I stress him and my mother out. I’m basically ruining my family. How do I tell my bestie all of that? The questions were very short-lived because the next period was when the unthinkable happened.
2:00 p.m.: I was standing in the hallway at my locker and a few girls were standing to my side snickering about me. This was normal, because it’s high school. I ignored them, but then I saw Jazz walk over to them and say, “Hey, leave her alone. You don’t know her!” The girls and Jazz exchanged a few more words, and then the girls walked away. Jazz then comes over to my locker and says, “Okay, what’s going on?” With my head down, I replied “Nothing!” She then grabbed my wrist and that was the end — she saw a bruise. “ Chelle! What is this all about?!” She looked at me with these loving, sad eyes and asked me to tell her what was going on. I explained to her everything that had happened, and then she said that we should go to our counselor, Mrs. Simon. After some hesitation, I went to her, with Jazz by my side.
It’s been one month since I went to Mrs. Simon, and I’m so glad that I made the decision to disclose to Jazz and her that day. Chris is out of my mother’s house and in jail serving time for abuse. My mother and I are also in counseling. I am slowly gaining my confidence back. One of the first things that my counselor told me when I started sessions with her was that none of this was my fault and that I am strong simply because I told. She is helping me transition from victim to victor, and while I know it will take time, I truly trust the process. If anyone is in this situation or knows someone suffering abuse, especially teens like me, I encourage them to speak up. It is a great feeling to release!
The short story that you just read is based on real experiences by many victims of abuse. Working in the field, I hear these stories often.
What do you do if you suspect abuse?
Suspicions of abuse can come in many forms. The main forms are behavioral and physical marks or indications. Behavior changes such as withdrawal from social interactions, depression or sadness, and even anxiety are indicators of abuse. Physical indications include marks, bruises, and even broken bones. If any of these are noticed and abuse is suspected, the best thing to do is refer the child to a school counselor, teacher, or other resource official that knows the process of helping.
What do you do if someone discloses abuse to you?
The main thing to remember if and when someone discloses to you about abuse is that it takes a lot of courage to speak against abuse, especially as a victim. It is important that once someone discloses, you act as a support and as an advocate, supporting and encouraging them without being too aggressive or invasive. Accompanying them to a helping professional is critical. Once that is done, they will still need support and patience. Healing is a process, but in the end, your friend will be happy that you were in their corner helping them come back into the light.