Sexual Abuse Prevention…The Dreaded Question

By Jennifer Hillman

Now that we have addressed the subject of denial, we can move to the backside of your folder. If you remember, I asked you to write the word ‘paranoid’ on the back of your folder and cross it out. I feel like this is a word that gets mentioned a lot when discussing child sexual abuse and it’s a word we need to define as we move forward in our discussions.

According to Wikipedia, paranoia is defined as: “a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself (e.g. “Everyone is out to get me“).” I feel blessed because I have had the opportunity to witness true paranoia in people in my life that I love. During the times that I witnessed paranoia, it felt like a curse; however, after having my second baby and experiencing paranoia for myself, I realized that I was blessed to have witnessed it so that I had the ability to move away from those dangerous thoughts quickly.

The day I felt powerful paranoia, will forever be sketched in my mind. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was holding my precious baby girl that was a little over 24 hours old. I was exhausted, to say the least, and a little overwhelmed at the thought of going home to take care of an infant and a 10-month old.  I was trying to nurse my sweet baby and she was having a hard time. So, I asked a nurse if she could get the lactation specialist in to see us. The nurse quickly got defensive and said, “She has already been in here to see you and said you didn’t need anything.” I felt like I was going crazy, but knew that no one had been in to see me. I kindly said, “No one has been in to see me, please let her know that I need her.”

The nurse walked out quickly and I got up a little angry and was looking out the window. Another nurse came in and touched my shoulder. I jumped and she said, “You seem a little angry, is everything okay?” I explained the story and told her I felt like the nurse was implying that I was lying. She let me know that she was the lactation specialist and was sorry that she had signed off on my chart when she truly hadn’t been in to see me and that there was a mix-up. For a few minutes I felt like she was lying to me and wasn’t who she said she was. I felt like, they were out to get me. After a few minutes of sitting down and talking to the nurse, I felt my stress levels come down and knew she was the lactation specialist, after all.  It was at that very moment, that my brain switched back to “normal” mode and I immediately knew that I experienced true paranoia. It was a very scary feeling once I returned to my normal thought process, but it was a relief that I was able to recognize it for what it was.

The greatest blessing in seeing other people in my life experience paranoia and having experienced it myself, is that I can distinguish between feeling truly paranoid and feeling legitimate strong instincts. This is crucial as the mother of two precious babies to stand firm when I have a legitimate instinct and hear the ugly and devastating words that follow…are you paranoid? I can easily say, “Absolutely not.” My hope is that you are able to cross out this dangerous word on the back of your folder and distinguish between the two. I am not here to make you paranoid. I am here to simply raise your awareness so that you are more prepared to protect all children from sexual abuse.

Jennifer Hillman is a licensed speech-language pathologist, producer of the AWARD-WINNING educational DVD, “The Five B’s”, mother of two and an active advocate and speaker for sexual abuse prevention education in the home, churches and in schools.

For more information on this topic and the AWARD-WINNING educational DVD on empowering children about body safety in order to prevent sexual abuse, go to