I’m about to embark on a very personal topic: Molestation and Sexual Abuse. If today is not a good day for you, it’s okay. This is your opportunity to feel free to stop by another day.
If you are still here, my prayer is that you read with your heart and eyes wide open. And although it is lengthy I pray it emboldens you to speak up to protect our kids. This is my story.
Her words still ring in my ears even though it’s been just about 36 years since she spoke them. Her name was Grace and she was my counselor when the long-repressed memories of my own molestation began to surface.
Although I’ve eluded to it many times here at Our Place Called Simplicity – it’s time. Like so very many of you, I also was a victim of sexual abuse.
So why am I opening my heart and making myself so incredibly vulnerable by sharing this part of my story? It’s really simple.
I care about you and I care about your children and your grandchildren. My sexual abuse was a very painful subject for my mom so out of love for her, I have not shared at Our Place Called Simplicity about it. But now that she is with Jesus, I proceed by the grace of God.
It was 1984 and in the midst of blissfully waltzing through life as a young mom, I saw something happen which triggered a sickening flashback. As this tiny scene appeared in my mind, my heart began to race, I broke out in a sweat and almost instantly threw up. The flashback was one of my many repressed memories which would eventually come out of the dark subconscious of my mind.
With that first flashback, my once peaceful and carefree life suddenly screeched to a halt. My life instantly became one of reckless emotions as the painful reality of what that flash of a memory meant. I couldn’t get out of where I was fast enough. Our oldest was with me and I grabbed her and left immediately.
Over the next weeks and months one by one, the memories snuck up on me without warning. Slowly I began to remember everything. Initially I was taken back by such shock and disgust finding it unfathomable to realize that this male relative whom I had trusted for all these years (and even revered) had done the unspeakable while betraying me. Eventually I would remember memories of my entire childhood being a subject of sexual abuse by him. As seemingly unbelievable as it was, the long-tucked away memories were very explicit. And no, it was NOT my father who molested me.
The disgust, terror and shame felt like I was drowning as I grappled with how to admit this even to myself let alone my husband and eventually to my closest friend. I was truly terrified Dw was going to leave me when he found out. That might not make sense to many, but it is actually quite common because of the shame. Also, remember back in 1984 no one was talking about sexual abuse.
Over the next weeks which turned into months my sleep became fitful and filled with nightmares and my days included devastating panic attacks as well as a paralyzing all-pervading fear that overwhelmed my soul. It was undoubtedly the most difficult season of my adult life. I truthfully wondered if I would make it.
Obviously the enemy of our souls wants us to live in shame, filled with secrets, fear and emotional devastation. But dear friends, God has a better plan! He is the healer, deliverer and He is so astoundingly faithful.
So began my journey of truth to healing and complete wholeness. It was only my relationship with Jesus that sustained me during that time. Truly only Him. He wasn’t my “crutch” – He was my “life support”.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!
Some may wonder how anyone could possibly repress memories and although it is quite rare, it is an actual psychological occurrence where traumatic events become stored in the subconscious and blocked from the conscious.
I have pondered and prayed about all of this over the years and researched much and personally, for me, I am convinced that God in His great mercy, knowing the circumstances of my home, gave me the ability to block out the traumatic sexual abuse so as to be able to cope with other devastating abuse that I was also enduring in my young life.
But I must interject here…our astoundingly faithful God is a compassionate Father who hates abuse. His plan was never for any of this. Not ever! Yet sin entered the world with the fall of man and we live in a very painful, broken world where we often suffer the horrific consequences of other people’s sinful choices. Hear me again: Our loving God hated what was done to me and if you have been victimized as well, He hated what has been done to you. And He is the only true healer of victimization.
Many years ago I read that repressed memories of molestation are likely to surface when that person’s oldest child is the age that they were when the sexual abuse began. Based on that, I guessed that it had started when I was very, very little because of the age our oldest daughter was when my flashbacks began.
And to confirm that, a few years into my healing, Dw approached this relative to ask him when he began to molest me. Without hesitation and definitely with zero remorse his words were chilling, “Right after she turned a year old, I hated her.” This fact now supported the theory as our oldest was just over a year old when my flashbacks began.
Molestation is real and with the ever increasing sexually-saturated and pornography-laden culture we live in, we have to be on high-alert at all times to protect our children. There is a very real war raging for the destruction of our kids so we must have a battle plan!
Not too long ago there was a post in our community FB group by a man who who had been a teacher looking for tutoring positions. He was also advertising that he would be happy to babysit to allow parents a night out. Thankfully, someone did a background investigation into him and he was actually living here under a new name but had had many convictions in the midwest for sexual molestation of minors. He had actually gone to court in Phoenix to have his finger print clearance records expunged.
His ad for babysitting was especially telling as he specifically said he would like to babysit boys around the ages of 8-12. It was infuriating to read what else he wrote.
But do not be deceived, both men and woman can be molesters. They are found in all socio-economic backgrounds, professions and stations in life. There is no profession exempt! The man who sexually abused me was pictured in the Buffalo News receiving an “Outstanding Citizen” type award while he was also sexually abusing me.
Many years ago I asked my counselor, “Grace, who can I ever trust to be with my treasures?” She spoke very slowly, “Linny, do not ever leave your kids with anyone that you are not crystal clear as to the provision for them. Do you hear me? C-r-y-s-t-a-l c-l-e-a-r. Crystal clear!”
Her words still echo in my soul. Crystal clear.
Over the last 36 years I have stayed home from many allegedly exciting events because we did not have someone that we were “crystal clear” about to watch our treasures. Ever-so-slightly-murky doesn’t cut it. Crystal clear.
And honestly looking back on the last 37 years of having treasures at home, I can’t think of one amazing event that I have missed. Do you know why? Because not one party, not one concert, not one night out, not one date night, not one gathering, not one church service, not one fancy fundraiser, not one anything is more important than the safety of our treasures.
Many years ago while pastoring in Virginia a couple visited our church. We had never seen them before. They looked nice enough, but we didn’t know them at all. That day they took an instant liking to one of our daughters. I mean like “over the top”. They did have two children with them but they were not our daughter’s age. In my heart I felt very unsettled with how much they were fawning over her.
They then questioned, “Can she come home with us for the afternoon?” Even though her eyes pleaded with me to say “yes” without hesitation I responded, “No not today.” Our daughter begged and it wasn’t pretty but my answer was still “no”. I was not in any way “crystal clear as to the provision for our daughter” so the answer would always be a resounding “no!”
Listen friend, my job (and yours) as a parent is not to make some other family, adult, friend, relative or teenager feel good in any way by saying “yes” nor is it my responsibility to be concerned that I might offend them if I say “no”.
About that time our oldest son pulled me aside and said, “Mom, you’re not letting her go, are you?” I told him I was not and he literally let out a huge sigh of relief. The situation did not feel good to him either.
The next week they showed up at church with gobs (and I do mean “gobs”) of gifts for our daughter. They again asked if she could come home with them. The answer remained, “No”.
The next week they brought more gifts and again asked and I still said, “No”. Was I being mean? No, I was being a responsible parent who was not “crystal clear” about them. I did not owe them an explanation nor was I obligated because of the gifts. You don’t owe anyone either. Our job is to protect our kids. Period.
They didn’t ask again after that. Did our daughter miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime? Definitely not. In the grand scheme of things she doesn’t even remember them. Were they molesters or just well-intentioned folks who were very zealous? I have zero idea but I do know that I was not crystal clear and that’s all that mattered.
When we were pastoring in Colorado a woman approached me outside the doors one Sunday before our second service. I had never seen her before. She asked (while pointing) “if that little girl over there was our daughter”. I said that she was and she then told me that she wanted “to set up a day to take her to get her hair braided – my treat!” I thanked her for her kindness but assured her that our daughter actually likes her hair best without braids, but “thank you anyway”. She came the following Sunday and asked again. I again declined.
Shortly after a sweet friend at our church came to me. She had seen the woman talking to me. My friend questioned, “You do know she’s a Registered Sex Offender, right?”
No I had not known. But I did know that I was definitely not “crystal clear” about her….and based on that alone there was no-way, no-how that our daughter would be going anywhere with her regardless if it would be “her treat” or not. No thanks. Nada. Never.
Our next door neighbor at the first home we bought in Phoenix was a parole officer for Registered Sex Offenders. One day we had a long talk while watching our kids play out front. She commented (on her own), “Sex offenders are unable to be rehabilitated.”
And before you argue with me about what she said, please stop. She’s a professional dealing every single day with Registered Sex Offenders. She was not a politician trying to get my vote. She was merely telling me like she saw it. If you see it differently, that’s okay. I valued her opinion greatly and it coincides with very easily accessible statistics.
Also, always keep in mind that there are billions more sex offenders than ever get caught. The average pedophile has 260 victims in his/her lifetime. Let that statistic sink in.
Three personal friends of mine were all molested while being driven home from babysitting when they were young teens. They did not live in the same city so, no, it was not the same man. Molestation is everywhere. And just because our kids become teens does not mean they are not vulnerable.
So what do we do?
Here’s one practical thing that I do when the kids and I go shopping. The girls, of course, can go to the restroom with me while the boys wait together outside our restroom for us.
But what about the boys? We personally know a young man who was molested/raped in a store bathroom. He was 18 at the time when a male adult attacked him. As you can imagine, it was very traumatic and had enormous ramifications.
So here’s what we do…as soon as my boys were too old to go with me into the ladies restroom, I decided to do the following: First, they check to see if anyone else is in the bathroom. If anyone is in there, they all wait. If it is empty, they all go in together. At that point I am right outside. If any man goes in while they are in there, I wait about 30 seconds and then give a good ol’ kick to the door and it obviously flies open and makes a great bang! I then question loudly and boldly, “Are you guys okay?”
Yes, I am *that* mom and I don’t care. And to this day my teen boys don’t get mad, embarrassed or even annoyed with me. They know I am watching out for their good.
Remember: Crystal clear.
Lastly, I will also share what we began doing when our oldest was just a wee little girl. As a parent, realizing that I had never told a soul while I was being sexually abused all those years, I had to have a plan. I prayed long and hard.
Personally speaking, there were many components that kept me in silence, of course, starting with fear. Fear that no one would believe me (after all he was “such a model citizen”), fear that I would somehow be in trouble, and fear of my future as he told me repeatedly “if you ever tell you will have to go into foster care”. Yes, my fear kept me in silence.
So in our home here’s what we do. When our kids were wee little ones, we began to talk openly about molestation (and we still do). We have always spoken very clearly, “If someone ever says___________ or touches you in any way that makes you even slightly uncomfortable you immediately come tell mom or dad. It does not matter if the person is one of our friends or someone we are related to or someone we seem to really like or if they go to our church or anything else. We will always believe you. We will never ever, ever be mad at you. Anything they threaten will not come true. In fact, we will drive you to a store as soon as you tell us and you can pick anything out in the store. Anything at all!”
When describing what someone might ask them to do, we are very specific and have always given several examples of what a molester might say or do. We do not mince words and we do not use “cute” terms. In our home a penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina as well as everything else. It is all called exactly what it is named.
The kids all know that I was sexually abused for many years. No, they don’t know deep details (no one does), but they know the truth, they know who sexually abused me and they know that secrets bound my heart in fear and they know that Jesus healed me. I speak with them openly and freely about it all.
Now some might think it is not okay to tell a child that they can go pick out a toy or whatever because that would encourage them to lie in order to get something And what you do is your business, but we have done this for 36 years and I can tell you that it was only “used” once.
Years ago we had several close friends and their families over to watch the Super Bowl. In the midst of the festivities, one of our daughters came down the stairs with “the look”on her pale-from-fear face. I knew the second I saw her that something was dreadfully wrong. Instantly I jumped up and met her in the kitchen and trembling I questioned, “Whaaaat happened?”
With zero coaxing she began…
They had all been playing in the bedroom when the oldest boy (who was also very tall and imposing and several years older) had told her to “_____________”. She had left the room immediately and came straight down the stairs to tell me. I was so proud of her! She had stood against an older boy and basically said, “Heck no!”
It was Super Bowl Sunday night but you can bet the next morning we were sitting in the parking lot of Toys R Us waiting for them to open. What she picked out still makes me smile.
Each of our kids have heard that story many, many times and they know that they are safe telling us, that we will completely believe them and they also know that we will have their backs – no matter what.
In closing, I will share soon the healing journey the Lord took me on. It is a journey of grace, hope and truth encased in God’s astounding faithfulness. I can honestly say that God has used my heartache and pain for His good (Romans 8:28).
I have shared my journey speaking publicly over the years before many large crowds. In His grace, each time after speaking the Lord has allowed me to minister to throngs of women and men who were also victims of molestation. He has been so good to me and I am forever grateful for His healing in my once very shattered life. Oh how deeply I love my astoundingly faithful Lord!
Remember: Crystal clear.