Oh… The Children

by Elena Aluskak

I remember my childhood; many sweet, happy memories. Memories where I am expressing happy schooldays, fun outdoor activities as well as moments where my mentality was put down by peers or other, to my parents – without second thoughts. My parents had given me permission to talk about ‘anything and everything’, by example. I felt free to express my “normal” thoughts and “regular” on-goings. Those are wonderful memories and today I talk about these happy recollections to my family; grandchildren, children and my husband.
But… there was a subject I did not talk about…neither did I hear it anywhere; school, from Elders, family and from my parents. I experienced it and my friends did (I later learned), but we never, ever talked about it. It was something kept within. It was cried secretly over…it was a shame – self shame and even guilt. It was degrading and more hurtful than name calling or ‘sticks and stones’…and it affected every ‘stage’ of life. I finally came to realize the silence was giving ‘it’ power to overtake.
And that is why I have willingly and wholeheartedly have added ‘it’ to my vocabulary. This “new” topic is about abuse and in particular; child sexual abuse. This subject, when one understands the importance of not keeping it “under the rug” anymore will openly and without shame, include it…as part of the instruction that falls under the do’s and don’ts of our culture.
It is important that we talk about it…give permission to talk about it…our children need to hear it, we need to hear it. Talking about it helps to prevent it. Talking about it can help a generation heal…can help a generation to thrive positively as it should.
Child sexual abuse is not part of anyone’s culture, nor does it fall under anyone’s tradition. We have come from many different cultures but one thing we understand is; our children are treasured. We start to love them when their tiny bodies are forming within us, as mothers as well as fathers. Our families begin to love them when news goes out to them that there is going to be a child born soon. Isn’t that something? And when we love our children we don’t hide anything from them…anything and everything that we feel they need to be aware of; for prevention or grasp and know what to do, is addressed.
Our culture tells us, “ciutengyullratnek ayagnirluki – begin when they acquire an ear …” to start talking to them, meaning as soon as a child can hear your voice and especially when they can comprehend what you are talking about.
This essential consistent conversation of prevention and awareness leads to a healthy life; not just to whom it is addressed to but to the generations ahead of them. The cycle of hurting has to end…it has done enough destruction to our children and to our families. And together we can end it. Not thru shame or guilt but through the love we have for each member of our culture, for this will empower us to stand up and face any intimidations that may be a stumbling block for us…
Elena Aluskak is the Outreach Coordinator/Child Forensic Interviewer for Irniamta Ikayurviat, a child advocacy center in Bethel Alaska. April is Child Abuse Prevention month.