Part 2: Tripping over the truth, falling on safe ground

My history as a victim of childhood sexual abuse is now on the official record. Almost 30 years after the last incident, I called a child abuse hotline and reported what happened to me.

Did you know:

  • The U.S. Justice Department reported that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be molested at least once before the age of 18.
  • 95% of all sexual abuse of children is committed by someone the child knows and trusts.
  • Between 50% and 90% of all sexual assaults on children remain unreported.

Source: Predator Proofing Your Children, by Karen Wood, Camp Alandale

I’ve heard these statistics for years and knew I was one of them. However, I didn’t grasp the fact that I had never been counted toward those numbers. Until now.

What, like the Justice Department could read my mind or something?

And why now? What kind of person betrays family like that? What had I turned into?

One who is compelled to keep a child out of harm’s way. One who must risk being discovered as the tattletale. One who must risk accusing someone to ensure a child’s safety from soul damage.

Pffft. If only I were so brave. I had to report it because if I didn’t, a detective would.

But I had told the detective my story. Some small part of me wanted someone in authority to acknowledge what had happened to me and to make sure it wasn’t happening to someone else. I didn’t know I needed that, but I did. The detective didn’t just listen. He took action. Well, he made me take action.

“You need to understand,” I told the woman on the other end of the hotline. “I have no reason to believe that my brother has harmed his children. There have been no whispers, no rumors, I haven’t witnessed anything. I’m only doing this because the detective I met with today is a mandatory reporter. He said if I don’t report it, he will. My biggest fear is falsely accusing my brother or casting suspicion on him where none should exist.”

“It may not be happening now, but it happened back then. So you’re not falsely accusing him,” she replied.

Warmth washed over me. And total relief.

After the call ended, I panicked.

This is getting too real. I don’t know if I can handle this.

I fought the urge to renege on my report, to call my brother and warn him about what was coming. But what if it’s still happening? What if? Then all of this would be for naught.

So I prayed. Prayed that the assigned caseworker would be rational and wouldn’t jump to conclusions, that she would have discernment to see exactly what she needed to see. I prayed for my brother and his wife. Oh, help them through this. Help them to communicate with each other and not make rash judgments. Give them grace to handle what is about to come.

Three weeks later, I received the phone call I had hoped and prayed for. The investigation had gone very well. There were no red flags, no evidence of abuse. The kids were okay. “If every family I worked with was this wonderful, my job would be so much easier.”

Thank you, Jesus. Oh thank you.

Is it crazy to feel just the slightest bit deflated? For just a little while, I felt like a righteous warrior on a path to save children, only to discover I had fought a skirmish against goodness. It was the best possible outcome.

But here’s the thing. The battle was also fought for me. For my damaged soul.

Several important things occurred:

  1. I am now counted among the victims. I’m no longer in the category of “50% and 90% of all sexual assaults on children remain unreported.”
  2. Several people in positions of authority perceived the abuse against me to be serious enough to take action to ensure that it wasn’t still happening to someone else.
  3. Validation. Serious, personal validation. This was a completely unexpected—and much needed—result of my research.
  4. A new awareness that, clearly, I’m not over this. I still have a lot of work to do.

Empowered and emboldened by other writers
I’ve been inspired to write about this so openly because other writers have been willing to bleed onto the page. They have impacted me with their transparency, willingness to help others by sharing what they have experienced, and total dependence on Jesus that is anything but superficial.

Mary DeMuth — Especially her memoir, Thin Places, and her ongoing growth and vulnerability on her blog. She is wise, gentle, and kind. I feel ministered to every time I read her posts.

Amy K. Sorrells — Especially her posts about the emotions brought to the surface by the Penn State sex abuse scandal and the Sandusky case. Here are a couple of those posts:

And this one, published on WordServe Water Cooler, touched my soul:

  • The honest stain of truth “Good writers touch ugly, diseased places, in order to touch ugly, diseased places of others. Good writers allow the pen to pull them. To set even one person free.”

Heather Kopp at Sober Boots — Heather is a recovering, Christian alcoholic who writes with authenticity and authority. No pat answers from Heather. She gets to the nitty gritty of her faith. Her memoir on recovery is coming out in Spring 2013.

Kimberly at Walk with Us — Kim has gone through the pain of infertility and the journey of adoption. Her raw, insightful candor inspires me to speak the truth.

As I continue to blog, my hope is that my experience will give others the courage to truly acknowledge their pain and journey toward complete, ongoing, authentic healing. To know they are image bearers of Christ, unblemished and whole.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are…
—I Corinthians 1:27-28

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7 Comments

  1. So powerful. This is the first thing I read this morning after my time with God. One of my prayers was for a nudge from Him on my writing life. I think this is it.

    I want to be a writer like you — on a mission ”To set even one person free.” What better thing to want out of the writing life?

    Your bravery in making that phone call not only set you free, and ensured the safety of children, but it’s also going to unleash many writers, I think, as they read this post. It sure did that for me.

    Thank you, Natalie.

    Reply
    • Darla, your comment gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. Other writers have gone boldly before me. If I could have an ounce of their courage, and if even a bit of that courage rubs off on others, then I will have done my job.

      God will protect you, no matter where your writing takes you. I am a testimony to that. Because of him, I am as safe as I’ve ever been to explore the ugly, beautiful mess inside.

      Lately I have rediscovered Ephesians 6:10-18 – putting on the full armor of God. It reminds me of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons showing a soldier putting on the belt of truth and the shield faith… the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit… I printed out the verses and hung it up in my bathroom to remember…

      Reply
  2. I’m glad that the news is good. You have just moved giant steps in your life, and I am so happy for the positive results.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kathryn! It was a milestone in life, that is for sure! 🙂 Feels good to have peace of mind that all is well in that family.

      Reply

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