A mother talks to Providence Foundation philanthropy officer Mary Sullivan about how Alaska CARES helped her son and family following revelations of his being sexually abused. Now an advocate for Alaska CARES, which helps children after the trauma of abuse, she shares their story to let others know that hope and healing are possible.
Mary Sullivan: Can you walk us through how you found out and what you did in response to finding out that news?
Mother: Sure, yeah sure. Actually, over the course of a summer a few years ago, my son was acting out. A lot. Angry, upset, sad, just very emotional. Different than normal, and I said “You know, are you okay? What’s going on?” And interestingly he started asking me questions about relationships. So I thought that was interesting and wondered where the questions were coming from. But I let him ask his questions and answered them as best I could in a way that supportive and honest. Finally I asked “Why are you asking me these questions?” and he said, he gave the name of somebody, and said “Because he did that to me.” And it was a complete shock.
MS: And what resources did you find that you needed to help you with parenting in this new landscape after your son starting disclosing this stuff?
Mom: I called the police first and let them know. They said they would send just an officer over. It was very simple too. They actually called me and said, “We’re here” so I could go out and meet them. My son never knew. When they did contact us, it was a very nice process of how things were handled and dealt with. So, we went to Alaska Cares, which I had never even heard of before this. And investigators talked to us. People from Alaska Cares spoke to us and my son was in the room. Again, it was handled gracefully and graciously by the people at Alaska Cares.
Some people worry, I think is the right word, that if you, if you share this kind of stuff then you’re going to be defined by it and you’re not. You’re not defined by it. And he is not defined by it. And that’s something too, that we talk about a lot. Is it yeah this happened, cause there are days when says “Well I’m the one that went through this.” You know “I was sexually abused.” And it’s like, yes you were, and you’re also incredibly smart, and bright and loving and kind and funny and you try and look at all those positive things that, um, you know to help him remember to see those. Because it doesn’t define him. It’s one piece of him. It’s a thread of, you know, his story, but he’s a lot more than that.
MS: Absolutely. What, what would you like to say to your son? Is there anything you’d like to say to him?
Mom: I think I’d say the things I try to say as often as possible. Which is… you’re gonna get me choked up… Um, but that he is strong. He is incredibly brave. He has a super bright future ahead of him and he’s such a good, good person. And I try to remind him of that. I think he struggles with, I should say, feeling like he is bad. Or he did something wrong. Or he, in some way, deserved to be hurt. But that’s not true, and I try and make sure he knows that every day. Because he really is good. So…I’m just really proud of him.
MS: I am too and I’m so proud of you and it takes a really compassionate person to use their trauma to help heal others. So thank you so much for the honor and the privilege of allowing us to be here and hear your story and to share it.
Hear Me Now is a partnership with the Providence Institute for Human Caring, StoryCorps and Alaska Public Media to record interviews with patients, family and caregivers. Storytelling and listening have proven clinical value, and are keys to whole person care, which addresses emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial comfort, as well as medical needs of patients and those who care for them.