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.