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A Young Girl Recovers from Sexual Abuse

In May of last year, my three-year-old daughter was sexually abused by an adult. Both my husband and I had worked hard to create a safe, thoughtful, intentional environment for her—but despite our best efforts she had that experience.

My daughter was raised in RC and had access to discharge from the time she was born. She was openhearted, friendly, confident, and sociable; loved play; and often sang to herself when she woke up in the mornings. After the abuse she was angry and scared and insisted on wearing many layers of clothes, even in the middle of a heat wave. She didn’t want to leave the apartment to go play with other children and stopped singing to herself in the mornings.

In order to stay thinking while helping her recover, I had to have many Co-Counseling sessions. I was able to move from feeling guilty and self-blaming to realizing that, as long as we live in a male-dominated sexist society, little girls can’t escape sexual violence. I realized that my role as a mother was not to raise her in a bubble1 but rather to give her the tools to be able to notice this form of violence, name it, ask for help, not go quiet and secretive, and, most important, discharge the effects.

In my sessions I looked at my own chain of memories of sexual violence. I worked on discouragement, and how female bodies are good and not the cause of women’s oppression. I also practiced my tone of voice and choice of wording, so that I could go back to my daughter and use a tone that was benign and genuine when reminding her of her power, the goodness of her body, the goodness of people around her, and the fact that no one would want to hurt a female child unless he had been hurt himself and didn’t get a chance to have the kinds of sessions she was having.

I had to work hard to contradict the secrecy and feelings of irrelevance about sexual exploitation that had been installed on me as a female. When my daughter told me what had happened, my first “thought” was that we should keep it quiet and not tell anyone. My second was that it was not important. I had powerful sessions at a women’s workshop contradicting these recordings.2

My husband and I did hours and hours of daily special time3 with our daughter. We gave her opportunities to show everything, as we played and played and played, and followed her lead.

I also set up a number of special times with her close female RC allies. When they came over to play, my daughter liked them to help her fight the “grumpy guy” (she assigned me that role), who did not go down easily. Of course she and her allies won every time. The “grumpy guy” (who embodied male domination, classism, sexism, and young people’s oppression) was squished, thrown around, beaten, and walked all over, and my daughter and her allies walked away laughing victoriously.

I also created opportunities for her allies to talk about times when someone had touched them intimately without their permission and how it made them feel. My goal was to contradict secrecy patterns and offer my daughter a model of being open about negative sexual experiences.

I told my daughter that I would go back with her to her school (where the event happened) and confront the person who had abused her. She cried and cried about how she was never going back there again. I cried with her, while insisting that she might want to consider going back, that the person who had acted out his distress was not going to win—that she was. My goal was not to get her to actually go back but to give her an opportunity to confront the struggle in her mind and discharge the isolation, fears, and feelings of powerlessness and wanting to give up. One day she did decide to go back to school to see her friends, whom she had missed. I stayed there with her the whole time.

It took her a few months, with lots of help from her parents and allies, to bounce back from the experience.4 A few weeks ago my husband and I noticed she was singing to herself again one morning, and her voice was music to our ears. Last week we noticed that her joy in play was back.


Reprinted from the RC e-mail
discussion list for leaders of women


1 In a bubble means completely protected.

2 Distress recordings

3 Special time is an activity, developed in RC family work, during which an adult puts a young person in full charge of their mutual relationship, as far as the young person can think. For a specific period of time, the adult lets the young person know that he or she is willing to do anything the young person wants to do. The adult focuses his or her entire attention on the young person and follows his or her lead, whether the young person tells, or simply shows, the adult what she or he wants to do.

4 Bounce back from the experience means recover enough from the experience to be herself again.

Last modified: 2020-07-02 14:27:35+00