Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Prescription for Terror

Posted by Anonymous (as always, no relation to previous Anonymous posters. )

If you'd like to use this space to vent or rant or tell the stories/secrets/confessions of your dangerous maternal (or paternal!) mind, send me an e-mail and you too can enjoy the refuge of the Basement...


I’m telling this story here in the basement because, in many ways, it isn’t truly my story to tell. And to break this kind of confidence, in as public a forum as my own blog, would surely consign me to hell. But it all weighs heavily on my mind, so here it goes.

When we were kids, my sisters and I went to a pediatricians group with three doctors, Dr. A, Dr. B, and Dr. C. for the sake of argument. Dr. C. was the slightly overweight, nice guy who you always hoped to get. Dr.s A and B were both tall, slim, with glasses and thinning hair and easily confused in our young minds. To this day, I don’t know that I could tell you with confidence which was which. As a child, I was often on the ‘overweight’ section of the charts. One or both of these doctors gave me a hard time about it every time he saw me. Again, I couldn’t say for sure.
Shortly after I moved away from home, my younger sister called me and asked me a strange question. “Did anything unusual ever happen to you at the doctor’s office when we were kids?” Unusual how? Just anything that seemed weird or made you uncomfortable. Once she asked, I remembered an incident (or maybe two incidents, but I think it was all the same visit) where either Dr. A. or B. felt my breasts and pulled down my underwear to ‘look for pubic growth’, which, yes, made me uncomfortable, but I was always uncomfortable at the doctor. I was overweight and about 12 and some guy is looking at me in my underwear. But it wasn’t anything I ever thought to mention to anyone. But it did seem strange. I imagine this might be called ‘being fondled’ or some such term today. I don’t feel scarred by the experience but it shouldn’t have happened. The truly scarring incidents happened to my sister. She was molested by one of our pediatricians over a number of years. And it broke my heart to hear those words. It planted in me a mighty rage with no real outlet. But it didn’t happen to me. It is her story, not mine. And she is the one who has grown beyond it into an incredible woman.

But now that I am a mother, I think it breaks my heart in a whole new way. And it also terrifies me. I know my mother thought she was doing her best by us by bringing us to a reputable practice. You have to entrust your children to others all the time. But I am haunted by the thought that someone could hurt my child in this way. I don’t belong to a gym where I live because the only one with child care only has one adult in the room with the children. I have no faith in that situation. I need to find a new babysitter and I feel like no matter how carefully I interview, the danger is still there. Someday, my baby will go off to school for hours at a time and I know that I will worry. I know every parent has these concerns. I’m just struggling to find the balance between safety and obsession.


*HBM sticking her nose in here, because this post raises such huge issues and questions: what are YOU doing, or will you be doing, to protect your children from abuse? What CAN we do?

**Irreverent Mama has followed up on this topic


Anonymous said...

My husband was abused by his brother... for years. His mother never caught on... he never said anything. I worry every single day about something happening to my children... it is part of living in an age of information... some days it sucks.
I am so sorry for what happened. So wrong, on so many levels. Thinking of you and your family tonight....

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear of what happened to you and your sister. My mother was molested by her father for many years and it scarred her deeply. You never know who will have this sickness and try to hurt your child. The only thing you can do is be aware, ask your child questions, and pray that nothing will happen. Chances are nothing will. ((hugs to you))

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear that this happened to your sister. It makes my stomach turn to think of adults abusing children this way. I'm watching a friend of mine deal with similar demons and it makes my blood boil.

Because of what my friend is going through right now I think about this a great deal in terms of my own children, and have actually started talking to Julia about who touches her body, especially her vagina. She has to grow up and she has to experience the 'world', but the more educated she is, the better. At least that's what I tell myself.

Anonymous said...

Oh god, how awful. I'm so sorry.

I have two friends who are clinical psychologists and care for children who have been abused. They have given great advice as to how to educate children about what is okay and what is not.

I will e-mail them to get book recommendations again, but in the meantime, a wonderful book that I seem to have been recommending all over the blogosphere is "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin de Becker. Extremely helpful resource in this area.

I think we all have had experiences as children where adults treated us in a way that just wasn't "right" and we couldn't put our finger on why it bothered us, but now as adults, we realize what happened. That's why I think it's so important to empower our children to say NO when someone touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, even if it is someone in authority (such as a doctor).

Andrea said...

Adults taking advantage of children in such a way just burns me to no end. To hear of someone in a position of authority, be it a doctor or a priest or a police officer or family member, abuse that authority and hurt someone else is so distasteful that, were it to happen to my child, I don't know if I have enough restraint to keep from bringing the smackdown.

I'm learning that the only way is CONSTANT VIGILANCE, going into the exam room with my son, talking to him about what's appropriate by people with whom he must interact, teaching him to be watchful, and knowing who he is around, even down to a short trip to the restroom at a fast food joint. The hard part is not making him paranoid, and I'm already thinking about this when the boy is only two. Teachers, other students, family members, you just never know who might be a predator. The main thing I want to do is tell Gabe he can talk to me and his father about anything, and if someone makes him uncomfortable, I hope he'll trust his own intuition enough to say something. Figuring out how to teach that as a parent is something I am already trying to formulate.

DD said...

It's a very fine line to walk when trying to explain to our children that their bodies are nothing to be ashamed of yet we try to enforce privacy. I haven't figured it out, I doubt I will especially when it's the most important, and that's when they are young.

I'm so very sorry that both you and your sister have a memory, even if fuzzy and aged. The majority of the abuse may have happened to your sister, but it ultimately affects the entire family one way or another. So, yes, it is your story as well.

Irreverent Antisocial Intellectual said...

I usually comment anonynously here, but can't do that today. I'm so very sorry you're struggling with these memories, so sorry you had to go through it, so sorry you have to put it into your life today. You are not crazy for thinking about how to protect your children, know that. And because it is a topic all parents needs to think about, I've done something I hope HBM will tolerate.

You see, before mommyhood, I spent some time in the heads of sex offenders and I've posted some thoughts on my own blog for anyone who wants to read abouy my thoughts on protecting your kids. I'd list them here but would take over the whole blog and I also don't want to subject anyone to it who doesn't want to read it.
So, for anyone interested, here's the link:

Anonymous said...

I love the anonymity of this site - so thanks HBM.
I've been there - not with a doctor but with a youth group leader. I think the description of "not right" fits - and it does haunt me. I mean it can happen anytime anywhere.
As a mom it does scare me - where is my child and who is with this child.
From my experience, I had very protective parents who just had no way of knowing. And they couldn't have. So, I worry about that.
To answer HBM's question - I just have learned to trust people and question everything. That being said, I also would never leave my child where I am not comfortable. I see my fear coming out in things like I chose a public daycare vs. homecare just to be sure (not knocking homecare or nannies in any sense - it's just my thing). I also have been really choosy about babysitters and tend to only go out when I know that others (i.e. my neighbours/friends can sort of check in)

Anonymous said...

From someone who has lived with the nightmares since I was seven years old thanks to my grandfather, my thoughts go out to you. I'm so sorry for what you and your sister go through. In answer to HBM, it is also important to create a relationship with your child that they feel completely comfortable coming to you with any and everything. A parent should stay vigilant about everything.

Anonymous said...

When I was adopted as a child it was for many reasons, including repeated sexual abuse by my mother and the people in her life at the time. Thankfully, I don't remember the incidents themselves. What I do remember is therapy, lots of pointing at dolls to learn to distinguish what touching is considered right and not right.

I find myself as a mother questioning more than ever before how my mother could have done those things to me.

Currently I try not to think of all the terrible scenarios that will run through my mind when my baby is school age. I tend to overcomplicate everything, and always imagine the worse happening. I don't know if I'll ever trust a sitter, or even friends, to be alone with my daughter. As of now she's only ever been babysat by a married couple, never by an individual male or female.

Other than being very paranoid all the time I plan to instill in my daughter a strong sense of pride and privacy. And above all I hope to always make her comfortable enough to talk to me about anything that may happen.

Mama en Fuego said...

I am so sorry to hear of what happened to you and your sister. I hope that both of you are seeking professional counsiling. A violation of trust like that can leave deep scars, even if you don't really remember the incident clearly. Perhaps your lack of memory is part of your minds defense mechanism.

If you don't want to see a professional and you don't feel comfortable sharing this with a trusted and understanding friend I would definately encourage you to keep "talking" about it with us.

Sending you a big hug and an understanding shoulder to lean on...

Miguelita said...

I am so sorry to hear what you went through and especially at the hands of a doctor, who is usually in line right behind teacher - police office - in who kids are told to trust/go to with a problem.
I guess nothing is sacred anymore.

My kids are only 15 months and yet I worry about this all the time. One of the reasons they went to a big daycare center was for the sheer safety in numbers aspect. The place is very wide open and they encourage parents to stop by anytime to visit.

I never went to see the doctor without my mother in the room until I was at least 15 or so. This is a reminder to me that I will do the same with my kids.

I am already hyper-vigillant with my nieces and nephews. Now only the 15 yr old goes to the public restroom alone and even then if he is gone longer than 90 seconds I am at the door knocking. Too much? Maybe, but I'd rather deal with embarassing my nephew than having anything happen to him.

I plan on being very frank with my kids about bad touching and what to do if it happens. I will also tell them that the kind of people who do things like that will want to keep it a secret and will also probably tell them something bad will happen if they tell anyone but that they can tell me anything and nothing bad will ever happen. My parents were very frank with us about what happened to kids who got into a strangers car, etc. as kids. It scared us, but we were aware that bad people existed and knew what to do to avoid them.

SUEB0B said...

Hey HBM, I gave you some link loooooove over at

Granny said...

One of the pediatricians here recently lost his license (or had it suspended - it may not be permanent yet).

So far as anyone knows, the kids weren't molested but no mother was safe in his office.

Everyone knew it and still it took at least 12 years; the time I've lived here up to a year ago before any action was taken. Meantime, he went merrily on.

I don't know why there weren't more official complaints. (There were several). Most of the women just found another doctor. Perhaps they were frightened or thought they wouldn't be believed.

And I don't know why it took my state so long to act.

Anonymous said...

I had a bad experience as a child as well. It made me hyperprotective of my daughter. There are some really wonderful programs out there now that help parents to build in the skills and awarenesses a child needs in order to know when and how to seek help. One great program teaches kids, "There is a little voice in your head that sometimes tells you that what is happening around you feels wrong. It is important to listen to that voice, because if you think that something is not right. it isn't.

Anonymous said...

I was abused by my dads best friend, one of our cousins, a boy from school and numerous other boys. Is it bad that I can no longer remember all of them, that I have blanked out their names and faces? Probably but it's how I cope.

The only thing I can think of telling you is to teach your kids very very very early what good and bad touches are, to tell them that they can tell you anything.. anything at all and you WILL NOT get mad at them, that you will believe them and to also tell them that no matter what anyone says, what threats they may tell them that you will keep them safe. That is all I can think of that may help.