Sexual Abuse—From Hiding to Healing

Written by Karen Carlson


How would you react if you discovered, to your horror, that your child was sexually molested?  Before we delve into this scenario which seems to be far too prevalent in our society, we might want to refer to 1Corinthians 4:5 which says that when the Lord comes, He’ll bring light to what is hidden in the darkness. Too many families have unthinkable, painful secrets that have been swept under the rug.  Secrets that are so heart-wrenching, so heavy and so dark that hiding those secrets and preventing them from emerging into the open becomes a priority.

This is a true story about a family that kept a tragic secret hidden for 18 years.  The good news is, the darkness eventually came into the light and as God would have it, the family wrote a book concerning their terrible ordeal which was intended to, hopefully, help others in similar situations gain insight, strength, hope and healing.

The Family:

They were an all-American family—the husband was a successful medical doctor and highly-respected medical journalist, happily married with two children, a daughter and a son.   At the time this story began to unfold, it was 1993– the daughter was 6 and her brother was 4.  It was at this time that innocence within this home was completely shattered and robbed.  As the story develops, imagine in your mind’s eye that the daughter, Katie, has approached her mother who had just returned home from a meeting.  Katie had revealed comments to her mother about the male babysitter who had agreed to watch the children that day—comments that were odd but not immediately recognized as having red flags written all over them.  It wasn’t until the very vocal 4-year-old blurted out words and details that could only have come from the mouth of a child who had been subjected to sexual activity no child, at any age, should ever know.

When very young children are able to relay facts of a sexual nature, in detail, virtually any counselor or psychologist will proclaim that sexual descriptions from the mouths of babes are not, normally, figments of those children’s imaginations.  In this case, both children, independently of one another, confirmed what the other sibling had to say.   Both children had been sexually molested by the teenage boy who was the family’s part-time babysitter and was the son of a good friend.

The Next Step:

Katie’s father confronted the babysitter concerning all the stunning, numbing details.  The sitter reacted with extreme anger and rage; and it was then that the father felt, and knew in his heart, this young man was, truly, guilty of a most heinous, unthinkable crime.   As a family physician, the father was legally required to report the offense, which he did, but there was a nagging thought in his head:  We live in a very small town where everyone knows everyone.  How will we handle this?   Within a few days, investigators were convinced the children were telling the absolute truth.

The Denial:

When the father of the teenager was informed of the situation by Katie’s dad, he became extremely agitated and began to verbally attack both of Katie’s parents.  He didn’t believe, for a second, his own son could be even remotely capable of such an accusation.  The sitter’s father accused the children of makingthe entire story up; and even threatened to drag the doctor’s professional reputation through the gutteras well and see to it that the doctor’s children would become suspect in this small community as mean-spirited hellions who were wickedly imaginative.  Not only that, but the babysitter’s father went on to warn the doctor’s family that his defense attorney would call the children in as witnesses who would be subjected to aggressive questioning and grilling during any legal proceedings.  Dad and Mom were terrified!  What were they to do?

Life As Usual:

The children’s mother would scrub Katie and her brother during bathtime as an attempt to “cleanse” her children of the filth they had been subjected to.  At the time, mental health professionals in their area encouraged both parents to refrain from talking about the incident with their children.  They suggested, “Just leave it alone.  The children are doing fine.  Dont rock the boat.”  Over-bathing her children and mentally covering the incident with a heaping helping of silence and a generous portion of denial would work for now.   And outwardly, for almost 20 years, Katie’s parents kept the darkness a secret, hoping that it would just go away.  For a while it seemed to.  For 18 years, life became overtly normal; life was ‘good’; life went on. That was until….

The Truth Rattles The Cage:

Katie was almost 24 years old when the entire incident ‘just came to her’ one day while she was listening to some of her favorite music.   It hit her like a brick, out of nowhere.  The dust-covered secret that was supposed to be forgotten and buried consumed her thoughts; and the graphic, painful memory of that horrible day, flooded her head like a tsunami.   Katie struggled with the memories and to her surprise, felt an irrepressible urge to share the incident with Jesus, for the very first time, in her journal.  Katie didn’t share her ‘revelation’ with her parents, but after several weeks had passed, Katie made the decision toshare what was in her mind with her best friend.  In-spite of the powerful images that kept playing in her head, Katie was still wondering if all this had really happened.  A part of her wanted to believe that since she and her family had managed to live their lives ‘normally’, that this incident had been all blown out of proportion.  Katie even toyed with the idea that perhaps, just perhaps, the event was something that never, ever took place.  Continued denial seemed so comforting.

With that being said, may I point out that the trauma of sexual abuse towards a child can follow that person throughout one’s adult life.  At times, the mind will suppress part of the details or even all of the details to the point where the entire incident is so blocked and so covered, it’s as if the person has no recollection of the incident at all.   The subconscious mind remembers everything and has all the details neatly stored away, while the conscious mind can go on with life as if all is normal and acceptable–thinking all is good in the world.  At times, certain triggers can open the floodgates and the internalized ugliness will pour forth, sometimes years or decades after the incident occurred.  This is what happened with Katie. Though with her, there were no apparent triggers—the suppressed thoughts just suddenly engulfed her.–but on with our story…

Katie, even now as a mature, young woman, was feeling very responsible for what had happened, even though, logically, she knew she was not to blame.   Katie finally did tell her parents and brother, some months later about her renewed memories and how they were haunting her.

Katie’s family was, and still is, a strong Christian family; and after some very successful Christian counseling, was able to finally come to grips with the demons that had been lurking in the recesses of their minds for 18 years–an entire family, agreeing to allow the demons to lie in wait, hoping they would never move to the forefront.

Katie’s father had this to say once the veil had been lifted and the darkness was forced to flee:  Secretsbecome a cesspool that ferments, regardless of how good ones intentions may be.   Its not until we have the courage to face our demons and expose them and wholly give our fears to God that we can even begin to think about healing.  We chose a very compassionate Christian counselor that a friend from churchhad recommended.  It was the best decision we could have possibly made.  By truly giving our pain and our fears and our trust to God for the first time in 18 years, and seeking the counsel of our therapist, we finally began to heal.  We cried and wept openly; and boy, did it feel good!  For 18 years my wife and I pretended that life was OK; but we were lying to ourselves, and worse yet, to our children.  But I can say with transparency and utter conviction, that life IS good now!  REALLY good!   The realization that we shouldhave turned to Christ in the first place is now 20/20 vision.  We, all of us, can shine light on dark secrets where hope and healing really do take place!

1 Corinthians 4:5 – “…the Lordwho will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart…”

Ephesians 5:13 – “But everything exposed by the light becomes visibleand everything that is illuminated becomes clear.