Manhattan Beach And Momversation

This week on Momversation Asha, Karen, Maggie and I got to talk about sexual abuse. Yeah, lucky us.

I can’t just present this video to you without some back story. I grew up in Manhattan Beach, Califrornia. In 1974 my mother took me to The McMartin Preschool for an interview. Something dropped or broke (that I don’t recall) and I said, “oh shit”. My brother and I were not accepted into Manhattan Beach’s best school, and instead we went to the co-op nursery school.

The Manhattan Beach of my youth was a very small town.

In 1983 and 1984 my friends were questioned about abuse. There were dolls, and police, neighbors’ yards were dug up. Every parent who ever buried a pet rabbit was worried, and McMartin was whispered everywhere. My neighbor was two years younger than I, in the weeks between her “interviews” she pulled out all her eyelashes. She was twelve.

Ultimately the McMartin’s were convicted, parts were overturned, some were dismissed, and everyone’s lives were ruined. The entire South Bay lived under a shroud.

Right now the town of Lewes, Delaware will experience the same issues my hometown did. Every time you look at a child of a certain age, you’ll think, am I allowed to touch him/her… hug, handshake, wave? In addition to the unspeakable pain of the children and parents directly involved, Dr. Earl Bradley raped his hometown. He stole their ability to trust, even if he didn’t touch their children.

With that, I present to you, this week’s Momversation.


Sexual Abuse: How Do You Talk to Your Kids About It?

I would love your thoughts in the comments.

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15 Comments

  1. I’m the same.
    And my kids would not have been allowed to stay in the house I grew up in either. In fact, they are not allowed to stay in that house now! Talk about contention in the family. I care not. The insanity stops with me. Right here.

    • Oh dear. I hope that wasn’t misinterpreted. I mean my kids don’t stay at houses with a stepparent, and I had stepparents. My kids stay with my parents and stepparents all the time now, but I still wouldn’t send them to a friends house with the same situation.

      Does that make sense?

  2. I remember the McMartin Preschool Trials. I remember the news and the backlash. It’s very scary because because most abusers are someone you know. Also most abusers have been abused themselves. It is a complete cycle of violence.

    We’ve slightly told our son things here and there. He has never had a “real” babysitter and has only been overnight with my parents. He goes to a preschool where there are multiple people in the classroom going back and forth.

    I have never thought much into this yet. I think that I’m pretty pro-active about controlling the situations that my son is in, just because that is how I am.

    I had a friend in high school, she was molested by her step-father. Her mother chose to stay with him. My friend went to live with her aunt and uncle. She was one of the wildest girls in school. She was never sent to any kind of therapy or dealt with these issues. The last I heard from her was around my sophomore year of college. She had been arrested for forging checks.

    I agree, there are soooo many victims out there that have not come forward, whom have tried to ignore their pasts. But really, it makes such an impact in your life. How could you not?

  3. Amy

    I think you’re right that child molestation cases such as this one destroy the trust of the whole community. Especially since it’s the child’s doctor makes it even more terrifying, that would make me wonder if I could trust anyone! A daycare would also be a big worry to me. I’m supposed to trust these people with my children, but do I really know what these people are like? Even background checks don’t always tell the true story.

  4. My daughter is turning 9 next week. She is tall and beautiful and friendly.

    I don’t know any women, that I have talked to about this, who have NOT been sexually assaulted.

    I’ve been thinking about these 2 facts lately and it makes me feel so helpless. I want to prepare her to handle situations that may come up, but I don’t want to make her afraid. We’ve had the talk about secrets, and the talk about how important she is and that she has the right to say no, if she is not happy about a situation.

    This shouldn’t be her concern. It shouldn’t be up to her to keep herself safe. But, given that the vast majority of assaults come from people known to the kids, short of keeping them in close proximity at all times, she needs some awareness.

    This is a topic that needs to be discussed, brought into the open and it needs to be made clear that this is unacceptable. It is shameful that our society has let this go on for so long. This is a problem that needs to be tackled at the society level.

  5. Jess,
    Yes, that made sense. I’m talking about step-parents in the house I grew up in as well.

  6. That backstory is amazing. Thank God for your “oh shit”!

    I agree with what you said in the video–there are too many stories of children being abused by boyfriends and stepfathers and whoever not to be cautious. I think that’s a sensible policy. I also liked what Maggie said about secrets. When my 9 year-old was little, I started by talking to her about the “uh-oh” feeling and what to do if someone gives her the “uh-oh” feeling. Gavin de Becker talks about it in his book about keeping kids safe. It’s a good one, I highly recommend it.

  7. JD

    Father of 3 girls. I can’t say that we have had concious conversations about the topic specifically.

    I am lucky that my wife is an OBGYN and that our family has no-holds barred on discussion topics at dinner (you should see the faces from some of our non-medical field guests). I remember church one day where my (at the time) 5 yr old began giving an in-detail description to her classmates about what “fruit of thy womb” meant (complete with c-section description).

    I say lucky because it is this environment, complete with accurate terminology, actions described, etc. that has led to a much more open environment than i remember in a household that prided itself on stressing “you can tell me anything”. It seems to me that the practice of open conversation starts with not shying away from the bodily functions and names and touches at any point or for any reason.

    The guilt so many victims feel is enough of a barrier to communication, so parents need to make sure there are no other walls being inadvertantly put up between us and our children.

    my overly preachy two cents
    – @jdferries

  8. Jen

    Well, I was going to say that I feel blessed to have all boys, but really, I’m not any better off. Thanks for reminding us that we all must be vigilant as parents. If anyone has advice on how to speak to the under 4 crowd, please pass it on.

  9. Lin

    From the Wiki article you linked: “After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990”

    The McMartins were not convicted.

    • They were convicted then acquitted, it’s a blog Lin, not an article of incorporation.

  10. Julie

    I really appreciate your candor regarding your policy on overnights for your kids. In addition to being as proactive, direct, and open as we can while communicating with our kids re: unsafe situations, we also just need to minimize those situations. While I don’t believe I am alarmist, I am unapologetic regarding the safety of my child.

    My husband’s kind parents live in town, but they also have a teenage son who displays awkward social behavior. While it seems tempting to drop off my 16 month old daughter with the grandparents, the presence of her uncle gives me slight pause. That vague gut feeling is enough for me to avoid unsupervised visits in his presence. My husband respects my decision, though he wants to continue to talk with his baby brother about appropriate boundaries (for his brother’s sake). He knows that won’t change my feelings on the matter.

    As a women’s health nurse working with adolescents and college-aged women, I have seen *countless* young women who have been unknowingly exposed to predators by their well-meaning parents at various points in their lives. When I think I am being overprotective, I remind myself of all those girls and how I will remain quietly vigilant to keep my daughter “in the bubble” for as long as possible.

    Thanks again for participating in this discussion.

  11. It always shocked me when my son asked if a friend could come over after school or on a weekend and the parents just dropped them off and never came in the house… HUH? (2nd – 4th grade?) I would run out to the car and say, uh, no, we need to meet and talk. I have rules and you should too. I guess they figured cause I was a soccer coach and a Boy Scout Den mother, I was OK?

  12. I have had my daughter in some form of martial arts since she was 5 (she just turned 9). Reading this post and watching the video brought to mind that I haven’t talked to my daughter enough about this subject. She recently decided that she doesn’t want to do jiu jitsu anymore and I was very upset about her decision. Thanks for tackling this topic – very brave of the Momversation participants. Very timely for me since I’m dealing with my daughter not wanting to take self-defense classes like karate and jiu jitsu.

    One last comment – I know that martial arts alone won’t protect my daughter from a predator, but it still gives me peace of mind because the first rule of self defense is being aware of your surroundings and not getting yourself into a situation that is potentially unsafe.

    Julie Fogg
    @juliefogg

  13. I feel like I could vomit at any moment after reading about that doctor in Delaware and what he did to those children. That man is evil… just utterly VILE. UGH!

    As for discussing the subject of sexual assault or inappropriate touching with my child? We have not brought that up yet. My son is 16 months old. I am truthfully not sure when to bring up the subject.

    Personally, I am also a “bubble” type of mom. My son has never had a baby sitter, never been to daycare, never stayed anywhere else but home. I am a stay-at-home mom and when I am not with him (for hair appts., etc.), his dad is with him.

    One of us has literally been with him (or in the same vicinity, as he sleeps in his own room) every single moment of his life. I birthed him in a birthing center and he never left my sight, so not even then. I even helped bathe him afterwards. Six hours after his birth we took him home with us.

    Perhaps we are overly protective, but I frankly don’t care. This feels right for us. We’ve briefly thrown around the idea of a baby sitter, but still, neither of us are “ready” to leave him with someone else. Maybe I never truly will feel “ready”, I don’t know.

    I suppose, now that I’m thinking about it, that I will discuss sexual assault, inappropriate touching, “uh oh” feeling, etc. when/if we decide he will stay with someone other than one of us. Thanks for facilitating this train of thought, Jessica.

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