The following is an excerpt from the new book, Pure In Heart: A Memoir of Overcoming Abuse and Passing Jenna’s Law, by Jenna Quinn. In the passage, Jenna talks about the painful realization of when she and her mother first learned about the warning signs of child sexual abuse at the hospital where Jenna received her sexual assault nurse examination. Jenna’s book addresses how we can prevent and protect children from the devastating effects of child sexual abuse.
As I was escorted back to a private room, Mom and Dad were shown to a small room where they waited alone. Back in the examination room, a total stranger was about to analyze my private areas. The examination room seemed to get smaller by the minute as the nurse asked me to change into a hospital gown. When the nurse walked back in, she said something that made me feel a little better. “It’s a good thing you told. You’re brave to be here.” I nodded, took a deep breath, and muttered, “Thank you.” Lying on the table staring up at the bare, white ceiling, I tried to relax as much as possible while she proceeded with the exam. “OK, now on to the hard part, just try to relax.”
Finally, after what felt like an incredibly long period of time, my examination was over. The nurse walked with me back to the waiting room. Mom immediately placed some reading material on a nearby coffee table and stood to greet me. It was a small, cozy-feeling room, and empty except for us. I was looking at the door, ready to walk out, when Mom touched my arm and said, “Wait a minute Jenna. I want to show you something.” She retrieved her reading material from the table and pointed to a rack of pamphlets on the wall. “You won’t believe what I’ve been reading.”
That’s when she handed me a small pamphlet, with one single sheet listing the symptoms of child sexual abuse. I was astounded and couldn’t take my eyes off that little sheet of paper. “Jenna,” Mom said, holding the pamphlet before my face, “at one time or another the past few years you have shown almost all of these symptoms. I can’t believe it. If I only knew the information on this little piece of paper, I could’ve saved you sooner from all this. I’m so ashamed and embarrassed I didn’t know.”
She started to tear up. “Where have I been? Where has everybody been?” She explained that in her twenty years of teaching she had never seen any literature in schools that helped teachers identify sexual abuse.
Mom retrieved several copies of the pamphlet. She gave me my own copy, which I folded and stuffed into my purse. After all these years, I still have that list of symptoms tucked away in my bound journal. Below is an updated version of warning signs and possible indicators that a child who is a victim of sexual abuse may display:
DARKNESS TO LIGHT’S STEWARDS® OF CHILDREN
|• Blame themselves for the abuse||• Live in secrecy|
|• Feel guilty or dirty||• Feel trapped|
|• Feel hopeless||• Forget things that have happened|
|• Fear even healthy affection||• Feel tremendous shame|
|• Feel angry and disconnected from others||• Hate themselves
|• Feel that others don’t really know them||• Deal with chronic depression and anxiety|
|• Feel like they will never be OK||• Put themselves in dangerous situations
|• Doubt that they can take care of themselves||• Get in trouble to show how “bad” they are or to call attention to their trauma|
|• Have illnesses and body sensations that are traumatizing||• Fear being close to others, even in friendships|
|• Feel powerless||• Be afraid of being “found out”|
|• Experience memories, pictures, smells, and sounds that are re-traumatizing||• Feel fearful even during times that are “safe”|
|• Startle easily||• Have nightmares or fear going to sleep|
|• Feel abandoned by parents and family||• Lost hope and trust in other people|
|• Feel unloved by God||• Feel they aren’t worthy of being loved|
Jenna’s new book, Pure In Heart answers the uncomfortable questions people have about child sexual abuse: How can a family not see the abuse? How can a child keep silent for years? What resources and skills can we teach to children to help them prevent or end abuse by speaking up? It also detail’s Jenna’s journey to healing and the passing of Jenna’s Law, which authorizes grants to eligible entities for increasing evidence-based or informed training on sexual abuse prevention education and reporting to teachers and school employees, students, caregivers, and other adults who work with children.
This book is not just a memoir; it’s also a training tool with prevention as the hallmark. Accompanying the list of warning signs given in the book is a list of resources for counseling and prevention education. In Pure In heart, Jenna also discusses her experiences at the Children’s Advocacy Center and how beneficial the services were for her and her family. She provides insight into her darkest trials of trauma and through the road to health, happiness, and victory. This book inspirationally addresses child sexual abuse and shows the reader, with sensitivity, how predators work. With actual court impact statements, this book gives the reader a clear picture of how sexual abuse begins, progresses, and affects so many innocent lives. Jenna wrote this book intentionally to raise awareness about child sexual abuse and with hopes of true healing and freedom for those who have been victimized. Jenna inspires survivors to reach out for supportive help, and know that they are not defined by their past.
Jenna Quinn is a child sexual abuse survivor, author, and the force behind Jenna’s Law. Jenna’s Law was the first child sexual abuse prevention education law in the United States named after a survivor and requires that each school district adopt and implement a prevention policy that educates students, teachers, and parents on the likely warning signs of sexual abuse. With a master’s degree in communication studies, she is a sought-after speaker who has traveled nationwide, sharing her unique and inspiring story with legislatures, law-enforcement, abuse-prevention groups, schools, communities of faith, nonprofit organizations, and the general public for over twelve years. She has participated in both local and national radio, television, and news programs, and she has dedicated her life to preventing child sexual abuse through education and legislation. Learn more here.