LEARNING TO LISTEN TO THEIR CRIES
Ms Jan Frank (seated second right) with the Chaplaincy Volunteers Counselors at the SCED Bure.
“Sexual abuse is quite often subject that is taboo and this makes it equally hard for victims to come out and talk about their abuse.
“It becomes worst if the victim is a child because the abuse can continue for years, unabated.
“Children who are victims of abuse show signs that cry out sexual abuse; however we are just not listening.”
This reality was laid bare to volunteer counselors who work with the Fiji Prisons and Corrections Service (FPCS) Chaplaincy by licensed marriage and family therapist, international guest speaker and author Ms Jan Frank.
Ms Frank who was in the country last week as a visiting lecturer for the Addictive Behaviour Counseling School (ABCS) at Bridge House in Suva gave up her time to lecture the FPCS Chaplaincy volunteers.
A Californian, Ms Franks told the volunteers that sexual abuse can be so horrendous that victims often lock memories of the abuse away.
“Because we do not talk about sexual abuse, victims forget about the abuse in their past until their deal with the problems.
“This can be years later, I knew I was abused as a child but I did not deal with it until I was 27 years old.
“There were signs that showed me that something was wrong – I was suffering from depression and headaches.
“That was when I realized I had to get help, because I feared for my own daughters”
Ms Frank told the volunteers that victims of abuse often do not recognize or label what happened to them in childhood as abuse
“They have so normalised their upbringing that it is difficult for them to even identify that what they experienced was abusive.”
Ms Frank also said that often those that have been abused often do not know what is normal and healthy, nor do they access help from others who can teach them the necessary skills to break the cycle of abuse.
“When my own daughters were quite young, I realised I needed some help to established guidelines about what is normal.
“Having grown up in a home where I was sexually abused and where nudity was commonplace, I called a psychologist to give me feedback.
“He wisely advised that my husband and I begin teaching our daughters about privacy, modesty and appropriate sexual boundaries around the age of five.
Ms Frank told the volunteers that they must be able to hear and read the signs themselves.
However, as counselors in prison they must also appreciate their limitations and work within a framework.
As for protecting their children, Ms Frank said that it is very simple;
1. Be wary of an adult that focus too much on your child and it becomes a worry when an adult in more interested in your child than you.
2. Accompany your child on outings, especially during this festive season.
3. Be aware that there are people out there that have the predisposition of preying on children.
4. Talk with your children.
On whether the Chaplaincy volunteers were receptive to her lectures, Ms Frank said that they seem to be taking it in.
“The volunteers have been quite attentive, however I realise that what I have been saying is challenging some beliefs.
Ms Frank, who was a correctional officer for seven years, told the FPCS Media-cell that she first heard about the Addictive Behaviour Counseling School from ABCS Leaders (Fiji) Jeremaia and Debra Nakora.
“I heard about ABCS four years ago in Hawaii from Jeremaia and Debra Nakora and they convinced me to come when we met again in Switzerland, last year
Ms Frank is part of a group of guest lecturers that are volunteering their time every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from 0400pm to 0600pmto hold workshops for FPCS Chaplaincy volunteer counseling.
It is a 12 week programme that began on September 28 and will end on December 18.
The ABCS is a school under the University of the Nations, a ministry of Youth with a Mission.