Steps toward healing: Thin Places by Mary DeMuth

Listening to Mary DeMuth read her memoir, Thin Places, was a cathartic, spiritual experience. Her story of healing was like balsam to my soul.

When Mary is five years old, two neighbors—brothers who are boy scouts—rape her repeatedly. When she finally gets the courage to tell her babysitter, she thinks she will be safe. The abuse continues the very next day. Her babysitter never tells Mary’s mom, but little Mary thinks she has, which means she thinks her mom is okay with what’s happening to her. It is only when her family moves away that that the abuse ends.

Mary talks about how her experience of extreme childhood sexual abuse eventually becomes a “thin place.” From her introduction:

“I myself am a thin place. The Celts define a thin place as a place where heaven and the physical world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. Thin describes the membrane between the two worlds like a piece of vellum, where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal. Not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond. Thin places are snatches of holy ground tucked into the corners of our world where if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity.”

Her difficult childhood includes a mother who is divorced three times and a father who dies when she is ten. She is neglected and surrounded by drug abuse. Her mother cannot be trusted. She is an only child who hides in her room, making herself as small as possible so no one will notice her.

She tries very hard not to cause trouble or make any noise, hoping she will be loved.

In her youth, she is a people pleaser to the extreme, hiding her identity behind being the person she thinks others wanted her to be so she can be accepted and part of them.

When it comes time for boys to notice her, she alternately longs for their attention but is terrified of them.

Because Mary reads her own story, it is that much more immediate and real, as if we are sitting at a table, talking over cups of coffee. As her story unfolds, I am transported to a thin place—a place where I can get a glimpse of heaven, where I can see what it’s all about.

I see myself in her as a teenager, then in college—desperately longing for the attention of boys but utterly terrified at the prospect of getting close. Come close. Go away. Come close. Go away. That awful ambivalence.

She talks about having a “mark.” Once you’ve been abused, you have a mark on you that attracts other predators. She hopes the mark will go away after she gets married, but it doesn’t.

When my childhood sexual abuse came to light when I was 19, I felt more sorry for my brother than I did for myself. How embarrassing for him. He was just curious, after all. I didn’t want to cause a big fuss. I wanted it gone, and quickly. I didn’t want it to have happened. My parents were angry with my sister for bringing it up. I didn’t want them mad at me. Did I let everyone off the hook or what?

From my journal entry on January 2, 1989:

“My sister and I had a heavy talk. She asked me about something she vaguely remembered—something about my brother being in my room when I was little and she remembers feeling sick inside—but she didn’t know what to do. I told her about what had happened. I’d been used when I was little by my brother. Sick. Molested? Yes. But it’s something I’ve put behind me and I don’t think about it much.”

I go on to write about trust issues with men. But that was it! No further exploration. I thought I had dealt with this at age 27 when I briefly went to counseling—which I recently realized was cut short because I had met my husband. I was in blissful la la land, so happy that I didn’t need counseling any more.

Here I am at age 42 and it’s gushing out of me in my fiction, out of my mouth, in front of a detective.

As I look back over the past 20 years as an adult, at the choices I’ve made, at the mistakes, at the relationships that have come and gone, Mary’s story ties things together for me in a long, cause-and-effect chain. Her memoir explores how abuse affected her life. It is a story of redemption and healing, which she discusses further in Even Those With Family Secrets Can Be Set Free.

“I am living testimony that it’s possible to heal from the past. It’s possible to be so completely healed from what went on back then that others would never know you walked that path of pain. That’s the beauty of Jesus and His ability to heal. My life verse [1 Corinthians 1: 26-29] affirms this kind of personal transformation. I was nothing—a neglected girl who wasn’t wanted—yet God chose me to show how well He can transform a life.”

If you are a victim of childhood sexual abuse, please read Mary’s book—or better yet, listen to her read it to you.

Let understanding and God’s love wash over you.

Then let the transformation begin.

Leave a comment


  1. You’re on your way to helping that “one person” be set free.

  2. Oh my goodness, her story is like a rock in my stomach.

    I’m relieved to know that you have places of support to turn, and that you are offering your own outreach to others in need.

    • Thanks Kathryn!

      Mary’s story is horrific, but she truly finds the beauty among the ashes. Her transformation is nothing short of miraculous, and she helps so many people today in ways far beyond issues of sexual abuse.

      I am so loved and supported today. My husband is my champion and my Heavenly Father promised He’d keep me safe. If only others could be so fortunate… I think those are the only reasons why I can look deep into the abyss at this time in my life.


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