It has taken 33 years for me to speak up — 33 years to find the courage to tell what happened to me. There hasn’t been a year that has passed that I have not suffered emotionally and mentally as a result of what happened so long ago. My abuser was like a father to me. His wife, I called Mom. They were, and still are, dear to my heart to this day. I forgave long ago and hold no animosity or bitterness toward them. BUT, I can no longer hold in what has caused me so much pain and mental anguish. It has only been because of the courage of others who found their voice in speaking out about their abuses, that I too, have found mine. My name is Mary K. and today, I am breaking my silence. Why? Because it’s time.
The greater the man, the greater his evil inclinations. — Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a
While there are saints who seem to have almost no evil inclinations, the Rabbis believe that a person of extraordinary abilities has more temptations and opportunities to use those abilities for wrong than do his less talented brethren. — Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Wisdom
There is so much truth to these statements! Many of us are now realizing these truths as a result of the abuses that have been endured (and exposed recently) from those who espouse greatness under the guise of “leadership” within religious institutions. Realizing that the ability to do evil lies within these people of “greatness,” we should all the more question authority, doctrines, agendas and the like from these so-called “leaders of righteousness”; proving them in all that they do. Transparency should be paramount to prevent abuse and corruption. Worshiping the the man and placing his position on a pedestal, only helps to thwart truth and transparency. It will always lead to hidden abuses and corruption. As a result, many will be defiled (corrupted) by it, and many will be victims (abused) of it. — McClaskey, Religion’s Cell
This post by a friend of mine, describes a truth that many choose to ignore and, as a result, abuses are hidden and victims are silenced. One of the places one would expect to feel safe is with people they grow to love: parents, friends, neighbors, church people, school faculty, etc. What is sad, is that we can never know who to trust when positions are elevated to a place of honor that prevents truth from being heard and believed. This quote illustrates so well this truth and depicts exactly what happened to me. I say all this not to hurt the one who hurt me, but to show that we are all human. We all make mistakes. We all have the potential to do bad things. This said, let me also say that it exacerbates the one who does speak out, when those in authority do not believe them because the position of the abuser takes precedence over the words of the victim.
In telling my story, I want to also share a letter that I recently sent to my abuser and his wife. Writing this letter helped me to unload all the heartache and mental anguish that I have harbored and suffered silently with for 33 long years. Speaking out has released me from bondage to silence and, given me freedom from the cancer that has plagued me my whole life. What is that cancer? Molestation as a teenager by the person I called Dad and, the memories of it. I have learned that I am only as sick as my secrets.
At the age of ten, my parents divorced and my whole world was shattered. At the same time, my sister went off to Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana. My Mother was dating a man the same age as my older sister. This young man treated me with contempt and went out of his way to make my life at home unbearable..
When my sister came back from college on break, all she talked about was how wonderful college was. She painted a picture of safety, fun and stability – things that I so longed for. After she went back, I longed to follow her and be with her at this wonderful place.
At the age of 13, I began praying to be able to go to Hammond Baptist Schools. Hyles Anderson College and Hammond Baptist School were owned and operated by First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. This was the place where my sister attended church while attending Hyles Anderson College. My prayers were answered in 1977, when a couple showed up at Hyles Anderson College and my sister had the wife as a teacher of one of her classes. During class one day, she was telling was telling how they had allowed students from the university where they had previously taught, to stay in their home. Knowing how badly I wanted to be where she was, my sister approached Mrs. ___ to ask if she and her family would consider allowing me to stay with them so that I could finish school at Hammond Baptist. They agreed and I moved into their home in march of 1978. I would turn 16 in one month.
Some time during that first year in their home Dr.___ began coming to my room to “wake me up” in the morning in a very inappropriate way. I asked him to stop and he told me “Well, then get up in the morning.” Then other things began to occur. I was extremely uncomfortable, confused, afraid. I did not know what to do. I told my sister about it and she adamantly told me not to go to Pastor Hyles about it. She said he wouldn’t do anything and that he would believe the person in authority. Dr.__’s position as a member of the Math and Science Faculty afforded him the privilege of being believed over me. Again, I refer back to the quote mentioned previously.
The one thing I did do, however, was to tell Mrs. ___ what he was doing to me. She told me that she had never had any reason to doubt his fidelity, but she confronted him about it nonetheless. I heard them arguing upstairs. Then, he burst into my room, grabbed me by the ear and hauled me upstairs to their bedroom. He was angry. I was afraid. He made it very clear he had had no inappropriate feelings toward me. He never apologized; never admitted to his indiscretions. He acted as if he did nothing wrong. He accused me of trying to ruin his marriage and his ministry. But I knew the truth and, the memories never went away.
From that day on, he never touched me again. I was grateful. Life continued and it was as if the whole incident and the months of molestation had never happened. They acted as though nothing had ever happened. But what else could they do? They continued to love me. They continued to help me through the challenges of life. Mrs. ___ always made it very clear that she loved me. I had no reason to doubt that love. Yet, in the back of my mind, I wondered. Were there others he had touched? Flashbacks fueled these thoughts. Were they being kind to me to buy my silence? This was another thought that parked itself often in my mind. I could not escape the thoughts. As a result, the memories and thoughts became a cancer that plagued me. I was sure at the age of 16 that what he had done to me was wrong. Yet, with life seemingly the same on the outside there was a constant war of thoughts on the inside. I thought maybe somehow I was wrong. Until I married…….then I knew beyond any doubt that his intentions towards me were very clearly sexual. I say this not to hurt any member of this family but to show that every human being has the potential to do bad things. None of us are exempt. As this man told me himself “Anyone is capable of anything”. Humanity comes with potential for good and potential for bad. The man I looked to as a Dad was no different.
Thirty-three years have passed. That’s a long time to battle the memories and thoughts that won’t go away. Surely peace of mind is the most precious gift. Recent events have caused me to look at this part of my past through the lens of honesty, allowing myself to see this all from the perspective of a victim, allowing me to admit to myself that I am a victim of sexual molestation. This meant that I had to face the fact that this man was not who I wanted to see him as, but a totally different person. I had to write and tell them how I felt about their silence and my silence. I had to…. in order to release myself from the prison of silence … the memories and thoughts. The following is a copy of that letter:
Dear Mrs. ___,
The sermon Sunday was about gratitude. The text was the story of the ten lepers. I was reminded of so many things for which I have to be grateful. I wanted to thank you for all that you have done to help me through life. You chose to take me in, put a roof over my head, food in my tummy and accept me as a member of your family. You have chosen to be available to me whenever I have needed you these past 35 years. For all this and more, I thank you; not because I have to, but because I want to. I love you for all the good things you have done for me.
There is something else I must thank you for that opens a door that I have chosen to keep closed for so long. . . too long. I want to thank you for believing me when I told you that ___ was being inappropriate in his behavior towards me, enough to be willing to confront him. I want to thank you for not initially sweeping it under the carpet and calling me a liar. I want to thank you for making him stop. He did not ever touch me again.
However, I want you both to know that I have never been okay with no apology and no admission of guilt on ___ part. He is guilty of child molestation by the legal definition. I have known this from the very beginning. I feel in my heart, ____, that you have known this yourself for a very long time. At any rate, whether you choose now to believe that he was molesting me doesn’t matter. I know the truth. It was sin, it was wrong and it was illegal. And I want you to know that I know that. I have wounds and scars from this. From his molestation . . . from no admission of guilt on ___ part . . . from being accused by him of trying to ruin his life and his ministry. . . from keeping a secret for someone who used and abused me. . . from knowing that I have been protecting a child molester for 34 years.
I have suffered flashbacks for years, which got quieter over time but have never gone away. I’m not bringing this all up now out of bitterness or for vindication. It’s just that keeping this all a secret has made me ill in body, mind and spirit and I am only now admitting this all to myself because of recent events and because I feel the support from many other victims.
I have found validation and healing in realizing that I am not alone. There are hundreds, if not thousands of us who have been abused by “faithful, humble, kindhearted “servants of God,”” and many, many by men who are and were mean, powerful and arrogant “men of God.” The day I told you what was going on and you confronted ___, he came to my room, lifted me off of my knees (where I was begging God to just make it all stop) by my ear and accused me of “ruining his marriage and his ministry”. He drug me by my ear upstairs to your bedroom and proceeded to deny that he had ever felt anything inappropriate towards me. Thus, placing all of the blame on me. I accepted this explanation because I knew I would end up on the street if I tried to put the blame back on him, and I just wanted the molestation to stop. It did, thanks to your willingness to confront it. God answered my prayer and I thank him often for that.
So, when the Schaap crime came to light, all of my buried emotions and the reality of what ___ had done to me so many years ago, came flooding back. Actually, they were pushing their way back to the front of my heart and mind as I prepared for you to come with the tour group last summer. I couldn’t figure out why the emotions were suddenly so vivid after all this time. I was physically ill by the time you arrived. Try inviting your perpetrator to stay in your home!
I am writing to you to clear the air that has been fouled with very distorted feelings on my part for way too long. I have dreamed of this moment and planned it many times. I have often pictured waiting until ___ passed away and then having a heart to heart conversation with you. I have even on multiple occasions considered approaching you and telling you that you would never have to be worried about me “spilling the beans” because I had forgiven ____. This is the kind of distorted and conflicted thinking with which a victim of sexual abuse lives. In light of recent events, it seems far more important to the victims past, present and future to put this on the table NOW.
I have come to the realization that I do not need to be right with the two of you to be right with God. Your approval has meant the world to me up until last summer when I discovered that being an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist is so wrong, at least the kind that come out of HAC/FBC thinking they can write their own rules.
Seeing myself as a child of the most gracious, loving and merciful Father has given me a new found liberty that I was never allowed to partake of under the system of works that is perpetuated by preachers and teachers that call themselves servants of God while either molesting children themselves or covering up for someone else who does. YOU KNOW that I KNOW personally of many cases of abuse . . . sexual, verbal, emotional, all under the guise of spirituality, which puts spiritual abuse at the top of the list. I no longer feel the need to get my security from a system that operates this way. Truly I have come to realize that acceptance and approval by you and FBC/HAC is not a very secure source of security. My security comes from my relationship with my heavenly Father who loves me regardless of my ability to meet any requirement set out by a religious system.
I have forgiven both of you long, long ago. Though I’m not sure that either of you have ever felt the need for that. As I said before, my emotions conflict over this because if I choose to see you as God honoring, honest people you would have to feel the need for my forgiveness. And yet, neither of you has ever asked. I don’t say that with a vindictive spirit, only to clear the air. I love you, ___, for all of the ways you continued to show your love for me after I told you the truth.
Just to be very clear, let me summarize why I am writing you this letter:
- To let you know I appreciate your willingness to believe me in the beginning.
- to be sure that you understand that I know what ___ did was a crime. And I understand the implications and results of covering up his crime.
- To let you know that I am willing to speak on behalf of victims of crimes committed and perpetrated by FBC/HAC. This is not a threat, just a clarification.
- This has not changed my position in Christ. It has only served to bring me to a greater awareness of my true positiion in Him, of His unconditional and unbounded love for me and everyone else that He created.
I have lived with this for over 30 years and all I ask of you is that you acknowledge that I am speaking the truth of what happened. If you remain silent, I will take that as your acknowledgment that it happened.
Secure at last in my Father’s Love,