When I was growing up, safety was the last thing on my mind. We didn’t lock our house, left our car running when we made a quick trip into the store, and walked everywhere without our parents. Not only was my community safe, my home was safe. There were no locks on bedroom doors, no worries about what might happen when my dad came home, or what my mom might be doing in the next room.
That is not true for every child.
She was 10 when I met her. She still possessed a child’s frame, with barely any evidence that she had begun the journey to womanhood. She looked fearful as she entered the exam room, and that fear increased in magnitude when I shut the door. I quickly explained that nothing would hurt, there wouldn’t be any shots – assuming that like most kids, her concern was about seeing a doctor. But the look on her face didn’t soften. I touched her arm, hoping to reassure her. She recoiled as if I had punched her. I saw her glance quickly at the male medical student who was with me, and I began to understand her concern. He and I had reviewed her basic info – the police report stated that she had been sexually abused by a male family member for a couple of years. She had finally told her best friend at school, who told the teacher, and now here she was.
At least from our point of view. But safety is not just a location, not just about being in a place where you aren’t harmed. It is a state of mind. It is being in a mental place where a door closing doesn’t cause your heart to race. It is being able to experience healthy, normal human touch without withdrawing. It is being able to sleep without wondering when your night is going to be interrupted.
Safety is more than separation from danger. It is finding a place where you are loved, accepted, and cherished. Where body, soul and spirit can thrive. THAT is the kind of safety we must seek to provide. After all, isn’t it what WE desire? We shouldn’t settle for anything less for these kids.