The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book "Exodus from Zion".
Warning: This post contains graphic descriptions of abuse.
Outside our summer programs of VBS and choir, most of the time my siblings and I played with the other kids on our block. Ryan and Justin were my brother’s age. Unfortunately, Ryan was usually grounded due to his grades, and Justin was a bully. I remember once when Justin punched me in the side of my head and my brother beat him up for me. My sister was best friends with Bonnie who lived across the street. Justin’s little sister Lindsay and I had a strained relationship. We were the only girls our age on the block, but we fought a lot. If she didn’t get her way, all too often she’d pull out her trump card: “You’re not my friend anymore!” Finally one day I’d had enough and told her, “Okay, so don’t be my friend already.”
When I turned 7, Pam Kirby, another girl our age, moved into the house across the street from Lindsay. We were competitors for Pam’s friendship. I used to wait in my front yard for her to get home from school, so I could race down to her house and beat Lindsay for the chance to play with Pam that afternoon.
My siblings and I were always told not to contradict our elders. Since we were usually at home and under Gig’s thumb, this really meant that we were not supposed to disagree with her. This is a fine technique for indoctrinating unquestioning followers, but a terrible method for nurturing autonomous, capable future adults.
I started going to Riverhills Christian School in second grade. I loved my teacher and had friends in my class. My cousin was in my class, my brother and sister were in older grades, and my mother taught the high school computer classes. I did well in most subjects, especially Reading and Bible Study. On Wednesdays we had Chapel service, and the girls wore dresses to school.
One Wednesday afternoon after school, I went over to Pam’s house. Her father answered the door. He didn’t live with them, but often came for extended visits. He told me I could come in to watch TV and wait for Pam to get home. I know it was a Wednesday, because I remember the blue and white striped dress I wore, with the wide white lace collar. He sat me on the couch beside him and after a while began to touch me. I had no concept of “inappropriate touching” or molestation at that point in my life. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to let him do the things he did to me, and he sensed my confusion.
I think he must have deluded himself that this was a mutually consented act, and that I was somehow enjoying it. I remember him asking me once, as he licked beneath my underwear, “Does this make your stomach tingle?” For some reason, him asking that was more horrific than what he was actually doing. I could almost deal with the horrors of what he was doing, but to be asked to enjoy them was too much to bear.
It went on for about a year. He grew bolder with time. Once I remember he took Pam, Lindsay and me to the grocery store, and fondled me in the car on the way, and as I rode in the cart. He took us out for putt-putt golf, and found excuses at every tee to grope me.
We weren’t supposed to come out of our rooms after “lights out” at night, and somehow I managed to repress these events all day each day, until bed. My lifelong affliction of nightmares and insomnia began at this age. After months and months of what I now know to be sexual abuse, I finally broke the taboo, and called my mother into my room after bedtime.
I told her what had been happening. Her first response was, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” I didn’t know how to explain that I forgot each day, or that I did not want to contradict my elders, or how complicit I felt in his sins. The next morning she had the police come out to get my statement, and I have always been extremely grateful for the kindness and gentleness of the officer I spoke with. He brought a photograph of his own daughter, who was about my age, standing outside washing his car in her bathing suit. He asked me to point out where I had been touched on her, which was infinitely easier than gesturing on myself.
I went for my first-ever medical procedure then – a full gynecological exam. I’m sure it would have been difficult no matter what, but the added fear and uncertainty of having no prior experience with doctors, and being convinced they were agents of Satan, didn’t make the process any easier. My mother and I went to speak with the state attorney’s office. I remember them telling me that essentially they did not think I could win a prosecution. They said a jury would not understand why I had kept going back there, when I knew I would be abused again. It felt like a conviction of guilt against me. It was my fault. My fault I hadn’t told; my fault I had gone back; my fault I had told him he made my stomach tingle.
The state did offer to at least pay for group therapy sessions for me, and I attended those once a week after school for the remainder of my third grade school year. I sat in a room full of girls between the ages of 7 and 9 who had all gone through what I had. Most of them had sisters in the groups that met before and after ours, of 4 to 6 year olds, or 10 to 12 year olds. I began to see how lucky I was that my abuser was not a family member, or a foster sibling or father. That most of these girls had to continue seeing their abusers, even after they’d mustered the courage to tell someone, and there was one girl in particular who had told three separate adults before someone finally believed her. That therapy was priceless, and gave me an early appreciation for the healing power of talking about things that I might not have gotten otherwise.
Once I had told the police, they spoke with Pam and her mother. Soon the whole neighborhood knew what I was saying. Justin, Ryan, Bonnie, and Pam – none of them believed me. My brother and sister lost friends out my confession. No one could understand why I was making up such stories, and after all, he seemed like such a nice guy. Only Lindsay never doubted me. I have always believed that he must have abused her also. She and I were not close. We barely spoke to one another, and we usually played at Pam’s house separately. But she believed me. I urged her to come forward and say that the same thing was happening to her; I thought surely then the state would push for a full trial and prosecution. But she cried and told me she could not do it. She believed me, but she couldn’t do it.
That summer, once my mother finished her courses and her dissertation, we moved away to Iowa. At the time I thought we were going so far in order to escape Pam’s dad, but I learned years later that my mom was really trying to get us away from my toxic grandmother. I cried so hard when I learned she would not be coming with us.