What To Do When the Worst Happens: A Conversation with Zita Scott

What To Do When the Worst Happens: A Conversation with Zita Scott

They are the words that no parent wants to hear: “Momma, do you remember when you said no one is allowed to touch my private parts?” When those words left her eleven-year-old daughter’s mouth, Zita Scott didn’t want her to continue. She knew what her next words would be, and she knew that they would cause her unimaginable pain. Scott is not the only parent who has had to suffer through this – studies show that one in five girls is a victim of sexual abuse. So why aren’t as many people talking about it? Where is the support? Scott took matters into her own hands with her book, Momma, He Touched Me, Now What?. She aims to give a voice through the power of the written word to families who have been devastated by such a heinous act.

Abuse can happen at any age, but it happens usually during the pre-teen years.
Abuse can happen at any age, but it happens usually during the pre-teen years.

When she first found out what had happened to her daughter, Scott's life seemed to stop.

"My life, the moment she told me, was put on pause, and I had no clue of how to get it restarted," she confesses. "There wasn’t a battery to jump start it—there was nothing. And...there aren’t many stories about how you can get to the point where you can smile on the inside again. We can smile on the outside and be destroyed and devastated in our inner being." There was a time when it didn't seem like Scott would even smile on the outside again. She was stuck in her anger at the perpetrator, her grief for her daughter, and anger at the world for not protecting her baby girl. Recovery seemed like a sin. How could she allow herself to be happy, why did the world continue turning, when nothing would ever be the same? 

Scott had to go through several stages before she could really get back to being herself again, to being Zita. At first, she locked herself away from the world. "There’s this thing that mothers do," she confided. "They feel they need to do what is expected of me by my friends. They need to see that I’m suffering. I need to make sure they know that this has rocked my world." So she showed just how much she was suffering - she quit her job, kept her daughter from school, and showed the world that she wasn't going to let anyone hurt her again. She realized eventually that this was not the correct approach. "What I was doing was making sure that no one hurt her, but no one loved her either," she said. "We got it together, eventually." 

Zita working in her office.
Zita working in her office.

Then she started journaling to try and sort through her emotions about the situation. Four or five pages would be written each night and promptly burned - the words hurt too much to re-read. Soon enough, that became a ritual for Scott. Every week, she'd write, and every week, she'd burn the pages. The things she wrote were dark - full of anger and revenge. Burning the pages was like purging herself of those feelings. But eventually, things started getting better. She began writing with a purpose. And she began to read what she wrote. 

"I started reading what I was journaling and I was like, okay, this is good, this is better. I wasn’t where I was. I started seeing some progress," Scott remembers. "I could say, 'I’m not where I was a week ago.'" Watching her mother do all of this writing caused her daughter to assume that she was writing a book about her. Scott says, "She came to me one day and said, 'Mommy, all my friends think I’m a liar.' And I was like, 'Why would they say that, that’s a horrible thing to say!' and she said, 'Well, I told them that you’re writing a book about me and they keep asking when it’s going to be finished, and I keep telling them ‘not yet, not yet’ and so they don’t believe me.' And I was like, okay, well, I didn’t know I was writing a book, but I guess now I am." That was the beginning stage of Momma, He Touched Me, Now What? 

The 'now what?' part of the title is important - what exactly are you supposed to do when your child has been molested? Scott wasn't sure, either, but she began to find the answer through her writing. "I think that’s where a lot of people get stuck, at the point of the molestation, and they don’t realize that there is an after," she says. "That's what this book is about - it's about taking that next step...how we get back to a point where we're healthy, where we're happy, where we see a future." The book discusses how to stop being angry at everyone, how to stop yourself from constantly lamenting over the event, and how to say, 'yes, that happened,' without the pain. The child is not the only one who needs to learn how to cope with his or her new situation and move forward - the parents need help as well.

Zita's book cover
Zita's book cover

"I didn’t want her to think I was happy during this time," Scott admits. "In essence, I was doing the total opposite of what she needed." Scott and her daughter both attended therapy to help them move on from the situation. Scott's daughter bounced back amazingly quickly given her situation. The major burden for her had been lifted off of her shoulders as soon as she told her mother - after that, with a little help, she went back to being a wonderful, bright girl. It was Scott who needed just a little more time. She remembers her daughter telling her, “You know how I come into the room and you always ask me if I’m okay? I really need you to stop doing that.  Because I’m okay. And tomorrow when you ask me the same thing, I’m still okay. You need to get it together.” Writing her book helped Scott do just that - she got it together and began using her voice to help others. 

She hopes that her book will help parents who are going through the same devastating situation realize that the situation will get better. "I’m finding more and more that its not about being healed from molestation, it’s about being healed in general," Scott says. "One of the things I always want to point out is on the cover of the book, you’ll notice the black silhouette that the little girl has a pink bow on her head. That’s a symbolic message—that there’s hope. That she does have a bright future, that she does want to do great things and that she’s happy and healed." 

You can receive updates on Scott and her book through the book's Facebook page.