How It Happened to Me {My Story, Part 1}

How It Happened to Me {My Story, Part 1}

Trigger warning: This post relates experiences of childhood sexual abuse. My hearts bleeds with compassion for those who have experienced such trauma, and I wish to add no further injury to those experiences. If you anticipate being triggered by this content, you may want to skip this post.

***This is part 1 of my story. To read the rest, please click here.***

A part of me wanted to give you a neat, bullet-pointed list of how to protect your children from abuse. But, the issue of abuse is not neat or easy, and it doesn’t fit sufficiently into bullet points. I am not a counselor or an expert in the law. I am just a woman with a story, so that is where I start:

You should know that my parents are a gift, and I don’t retain anger toward them for what happened.

A devastating secret thrust them blind into a dark world. I wouldn’t have known what to do in their position. They didn’t know either, so they sought help. They were woefully under-advised and unsupported.

Because no one knew what to do. And the enemy plays dirty. He traffics in secrets, silence, fear, shame, confusion, and lies.

I was 11 years old.

He should have been a safe place. We should have shared laughter, ice cream, strawberry picking, and art projects. I trusted him.

He was haunted by a wounded past, the particulars of which I can only guess. It commanded his present. Pornography and his own brokenness gripped him and flung open the door to the upheaval of his family.

He molested me for a year. He knew it was wrong. “Don’t tell anybody I’ve been touching you,” he instructed. “I’ll get in trouble.”

He waited until I was alone. Super Mario Brothers captivated my brothers in another room. My parents and his wife engaged in conversation around the kitchen table. They never missed him when he sneaked away.

I would freeze. Detach. And then push it out of my consciousness to continue about my business of school, friends, and play. It was all my eleven-year-old psyche could manage.

 

I didn’t tell because my mind simply couldn’t process what was happening, let alone speak of it.

One day, my mom asked to see my prayer journal, a practice suggested by the leaders of our charismatic prayer community. I forgot I wrote about it in there.

She had questions, calm ones, which she asked briefly as we sat on her bed, and again later over McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

My parents confronted him immediately, and the abuse stopped. They sought further direction from their spiritual leaders.

And it is at this point, the leadership should have said:

“It is critical to protect your child. Crimes have been committed. Persons in professional positions would be bound by law to report such behavior to the authorities. Should you choose not to report it, you must not expose your daughter to her abuser any further. Because the perpetrator is family, you may feel torn and want to help him too, but your primary duty is to your daughter. Assure her of your love and her worth often. Invite her to speak openly about what happened any time she wishes. Gently ask her about it frequently in the years to come, as the effects are long-term and far-reaching. Find a good counselor for her. We will support you in these things so you are not alone.”

 Or, at the very least:

“We don’t know how to advise you adequately. We will help you find someone who does.”

Instead, they placed the weight of deciding whether or not to “break up the family” on my parents, failing to walk beside them in this storm.

They framed it entirely wrong.

The abuser’s choices, not my parents, ripped the fabric of our family apart, and it was not their responsibility to heal him. No one emphasized that.

After weighing the cost of me relating my story to authorities, my parents opted not to press charges. Under the crushing pressure to keep the family intact, with no outside support to do otherwise, my parents made some choices. They secured a baby-sitting job for me. That gave me a place to go when they visited the family.

Here’s where the memories blurr. I don’t know how long it was before I rejoined the family for visits and holiday gatherings. Months? A year?

I heard no one speak of the abuse. In the following years, I, myself, spoke to no one unless circumstances demanded it…not even to a single friend.

To be continued tomorrow…

***

Note: This is my best recollection of my history. It is an imperfect telling which seeks to illuminate both the reality of abuse and God’s business of healing and redemption. It is not an endorsement for how any given person handled the situation. Any suggestions for properly handling of abusive situations contained in it are strictly my own opinion.

***

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Photos from freedigitalphotos.net

*Although the girl in the photo resembles me, it is not actually a photo of me.

Comments

  1. There is power in telling your story and I pray God continues to heal and redeem an ugly situation into something life-changing and beautiful, like only He can do. I’m proud of you for getting to this place. And I know you’re going to help someone out there in the darkness.
    Kristin Taylor recently posted..{Behind the Scenes} From yes to no moreMy Profile

  2. Strong writing and a very brave post. I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I’m crying for that little girl as I know Jesus is too. But I can’t wait to read tomorrow’s installment. I’ve always said, “God doesn’t wait our pain.” You writing about this is another powerful proof. Others will feel less alone as God’s redemptive work shines through you. I’m praying for you today and tomorrow. And know this: you’re a giant in my eyes.

  3. You are an amazing, wonderful, child of God – and so brave.

  4. Mandy, I have no doubt your words will help others. I can’t imagine the pain you endured, or how difficult it must have been to publish this information. You have provided a simple and powerful map for the beginning of a tremendously difficult journey for a family whose child experiences abuse. Blessings, prayers, and healing for you.
    Kim recently posted..The gift that fits for Father’s DayMy Profile

  5. Oh wow, Mandy. I can’t even begin to fathom it, but I appreciate your honesty. My brother-in-law had a similar experience at the hands of an administrator in his Christian school. And the higher-ups handled it in a similar fashion. It takes brave people like you to shine the light on this problem and share a better way.

    Praying for you as you continue. Hang in there and don’t let the enemy distract you!
    Susan Stilwell recently posted..Graffiti Summer – Share Your StoryMy Profile

  6. What an honest, beautiful, BRAVE post. Like Kristin said above, “There is power in telling your story…” God called and you bravely answered. Wow. What an obedient heart you have.

    There is a reason He wants this message out there at this time – someone (probably more than one) He knows it will help. Thank you. Love you, Mandy!!

  7. Oh my heart…I’m just so proud of you…
    Nikki recently posted..Through and Through {Simple Utterances}My Profile

  8. Mandy,
    God poured strength into you, more than ever you could have known. I applaud you for telling your story. It reminds me of an experience our family endured, that I should share. Praise God for your bravery, your faith and that you are here, and whole.
    More pride and love than you know, sister.
    Keep chasing Grace and Peace….
    Chelle recently posted..It’s not that time….Elegy for a murdered son…My Profile

  9. This is a brave and beautiful post, friend. Seeing your sweet face in that picture makes my heart ache. I love who you grew up to be and how you’re turning the wounds you’ve experienced into words of healing for others. We are standing beside you as you share and covering you in prayer!
    Holley Gerth recently posted..What It Looks Like to Have a Cyber SabbathMy Profile

  10. Mandy, your tenderness and gentleness of tone are beautiful. Thank you for teaching us what good counseling looks like. At cost to you, you show how the ‘framing’ needs to be done. I am proud of your bravery. You always bless me.

  11. Mandy,

    This is one of those moments when I know you will be helping others in ways you won’t know until we stand, whole again, in glory. What a painful time in your life, and yet we can all see God glorified in who you have become and your amazing attitude of grace and forgiveness. Thank you for sharing your heart in such an appropriate and practical way.

    Much Love,
    Amber xoxoxo

    • Amber, I don’t think that you and our dreaming sisters know how deeply you bless me! It’s words like the ones you’ve left for me here that I come back to time again to reorient myself. You help speak truth back into my life when I get all turned around. Thank you so much! Love you!
      Mandy recently posted..How He’s Healing Me {My Story, Part 3}My Profile

  12. You’re so brave friend! I’m proud and encouraged by your bravery.
    alecia recently posted..I’m Not Here TodayMy Profile

  13. Dear sweet Mandy,
    I am so sorry that this happend to you. You continue to amaze me with your brave heart and inspiring faith. I can see Jeaus in this little girl that read about, just like I see Him in the mother, wife, sister, friend, woman that you are now. Thank you for continuing to share your heart & journey. Love You!!

  14. Oh my dear friend…I’m proud of you for sharing this and it has been a gift to see all of the ways God is healing and redeeming. #loveyoumandyfriend
    Kara @ The Chuppies recently posted..What Silence Says…My Profile

  15. Mandy, thank you for being so brave and talking about the part of your story that furthers the damage: how others handle it and react. No one knows what to do in situations like these. But the pain of those reactions can prevent healing from the abuse itself. So sorry you had to go through that! So sorry that you felt you had to keep silent for so long. Our situations are much different, but I feel as though I can relate to your pain a bit. My prayer is that through your writing, another parent will have a better understanding of how to handle a similar situation if ever (God forbid) their child is being hurt, so that they don’t add to the long term damage. God bless you Mandy!

  16. Sweet Mandy,
    Great that you can share your story so that you and others can heal from the truth that comes in sharing your story…may you and others receive hope, protection, and love. Jenn
    Jennifer recently posted..By a ThreadMy Profile

  17. Oh, my friend…I am so proud of you. Your bravery is going to inspire so many. Love to you.
    Mel recently posted..Behind the Scenes: The Gift of CompassionMy Profile

  18. I wish I had words…I just thank you for what you are doing. I know there is healing in the telling, but I also know that you care so much for others who may experience abuse that you’re willing to tread these very choppy waters. God bless you. It is for freedom that you have been set free.
    Elise Daly Parker recently posted..God Hears!My Profile

  19. Mandy, I am so proud of you for writing this. I know it has been journey and will continue to be. I will pray for you and listen on and offline. I can imagine what being separate from family gatherings did to you. I am so sorry things were handled the way they were. I know that sharing your story in this way will help others deal with their past and will also help families handled future (God forbid it, please) abuse in more healing ways. Love you.
    Tereasa recently posted..For the Days When You Just Want to Go to the Bathroom AloneMy Profile

  20. I am so sorry this happened to you, and that your parents received such faulty advice. Unfortunately this is the kind of advice that is still given out today by many people in leadership. I love that you included what kind of advice should have been given. You are so right that the perpetrator is the one who would have been responsible for the breaking of the family – not your parents, and certainly not you.
    Tracie recently posted..A Letter To The Girl Who Is Hurting And ConfusedMy Profile

  21. Oh Mandy. This is courageous and bold and full of bravery. My heart breaks that you were hurt. That picture of you exudes the sweet innocence that is supposed to reign at that age and I’m so very sorry. But you must know, I’m so very proud of you and giving thanks that the abuser does not win. That you are being healed. And that God is going to use your story in the lives of so many, who until now, have felt so all alone. This telling, this is holy work … work that brings light to dark places, shines hope on shattered souls, and will bring breakthroughs for so many who are broken and long to be made whole. I am praying for you as you continue to write and tell the truth of God’s great love … a love that has the power to heal and redeem even that which was meant for evil. Only He can use even that for good. Please know I am praying for you as you continue to write. With much love! xoxo
    Jacque Watkins recently posted..I Listen When You Call {Letters from God}My Profile

    • Jacque, thank you so much for your kind and love-filled words. “This is holy work.” Wow, that really struck me–because it’s easy to get disoriented and forget why I’m doing this. I cherish your prayers, and I am so grateful for the time you took to read my words, respond, and share. Just, thank you!
      Mandy recently posted..How He’s Healing Me {My Story, Part 3}My Profile

  22. Mandy, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m struck with how kind you are about the decisions your parents made. I’m sure this took work, but it’s an example to me to try to see things from others perspective instead of my own.

    I pray this story helps others.

    God bless you, friend!

  23. Reading all of these now and praying for you as you still process it all and praying for leaders in power now that are having to deal with this situation and praying, as I do every night, for my three precious treasures. Brave post friend.

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