Archive for July 13th, 2010

I working through a series on feeling responsible for the child abuse you endured. The series begins here .

Now, let’s discuss the second truth — Saying no is not an option for a child.

If you are not a parent of a young child, you might not fully appreciate just how helpless a little kid is. My nine-year-old son does not have the option of telling me no. When I say that it is time to go to bed or that he must sit at the table at a restaurant, the matter is not open for debate. He is not my peer who can tell me, “No. I would rather stay up until 11:00 p.m.,” or, “No, I would rather run in circles around the table.” I am the parent (the authority figure), and I have all of the power. If he does not obey me, I have the power to take away his toys, a play date, etc.

I also have the power to spank him, beat him, or pretty much do whatever I want with him (not that I do, but I could) because I weigh three times what he does. He cannot overpower me. He is a faster runner than I am, but I can still corner him. Even if he tries to flee in public, numerous adults who outweigh him by three or four times will catch him and return him to me. I provide the food, the clothing, and the shelter. At age nine, he cannot simply move out, get a job, and support himself. He is 100% dependent upon me. The cost of dependence is a lack of freedom. I have the power, so he has to do what I say.

So, let’s say I decide to take advantage of his vulnerability (as my abusers did). Honestly, what can this little boy possibly do about it? Unless I am leaving marks on his body, who is going to believe him? For that matter, who is he going to tell?

Let’s say he believes that he has the option of saying no. How is he going to enforce the “no”? I weight three times what he does. I can pick him up and force him to do anything I want. What power does a little boy have? He has none whatsoever.

In fact, my son does try to tell me no, and he is a strong-willed child. Some children are passive, but my son is not. He is, frankly, bullheaded (like his mother!), and he has been known to dig his heels in over some of the most ridiculous issues. None of the issues are serious like protecting himself from an abuser. These are issues like not wanting to pee in a toilet (when he was three – he knew how to use a toilet but simply did not want to). He can be very stubborn and fight me over issues that he is simply not going to win. I ultimately win these battles of wills because I am the adult, and I have all of the power. If my confident son, who has never been abused, cannot win a battle of wills with me, why do we child abuse survivors believe that we, as insecure, shame-filled abused children, would have had the power to win a battle over keeping our bodies safe?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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