In the many times I have spoken to different groups about sexual abuse, be it law enforcement, professional therapists, child advocates, child abuse prevention specialists, youth groups, church groups, whoever, I invariably get three questions. First, what signs did you exhibit? Second, How can I protect my own children? Third, what stopped you from telling anyone?
The truthful answer to all three questions is I don't know. I don't have one answer that will keep every parent in the know and every child safe. I wish I did. I really wish I did.
As for right now, I am wanting to sorta answer question #3. Every person and situation is totally different but this was my experience.
When I think about that time I just want to scream at that little girl to shout it from the rooftops. I can see now that he is nothing but a coward and he was terrified of me. But I was young, only 12 when he started, and I just didn't have the perspective that I have now.
It would be very easy to say there was a threat of violence but there wasn't. he was much more subtle and manipulative than that. Months before anything ever happened, he began treating me specially. I would be with one of his many daughters and he would single me out for a joke, a treat, whatever. Previously, he was abrupt, even scary to me. But suddenly he was treating me like a friend, earning my trust. He would even show up at my school and take his son and me to lunch.
At the same time he was doing similar things for my parents. He was gave them deals on dentistry, asked them to join his scripture study group, asked them to have dinner, etc.
At the time the abuse started, he held a high rank in my church (bad people can be found in every religion), was my dentist, was a great family friend, the trusted dad of my friends, and had even given me a job washing instruments at his office. So imagine my confusion when he first kissed me. I mean, he was skip, my friend! He wouldn't do something wrong, would he??
As the abuse progressed from kissing to more, I tried my best to make it all right in my head. But at times I just couldn't reconcile it with what I was feeling, and then I would avoid him or pretend that I was too sleepy, or flat out refuse. That is when the guilt trips started. He would refuse his kids things they wanted and his look was enough to let me know it was my fault. His kids soon learned that if their dad was happy, they would get stuff and I was the key to his happiness. Sometimes he would seek me out to tell me about his sadness or inability to sleep and let me know that I could change all that. As a 12/13 year old it was too much to handle. Once, I even told him that I just felt it was wrong. It seemed to me that what he was doing was against church doctrine not to mention that I was feeling horrible.
His answer makes my skin crawl, even 20+ years later.
He told me that it was God's plan for a man to love a woman this way. We knew each other before this life and were meant to be together.
See? Skin crawl.
To a little girl, this made no sense but he was a grown up and had a high calling in my church. He must know better than I did. Right?
Also, at the same time, he would tell me things like the way I walked, or the way my mouth moved when I talked, or even my innocent like of babies, were a huge turn on to him and he could not control himself. I remember trying to pay attention to and change things.
In my head, this was adultery and that was a sin right up there with murder. By admitting it to anyone...catastrophic to a little girl.
I remember praying and praying for forgiveness and for him to stop. I didn't realize that I had NOTHING to be forgiven for.
Eventually it did stop and suddenly I found strength I never knew I had to keep it stopped. I know that I was blessed to find that strength at that time.
There is a lot that happened after that day but that's for a different day. After all of those yucky memories, I need some cookies!