After years of deception, the ugly truth comes out.
by Jeannie Moore
The day started off like any normal day for me. I met my husband, Jerry,* at our favorite restaurant for lunch. We discussed the children’s program we both were involved in at church. We briefly talked about my classes at the college and funding for the next year. I deeply loved Jerry, my daughter, Faith, and my life.
However, all that was about to change.
After we finished our lunch, I returned home to study for my math and science classes. In a year, I would have my degree in education. In the meantime, I loved substituting, especially at my daughter’s school.
Around 3 p.m. Faith came into the house and said, “Mom, a social worker will be here in a little while.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Mom, Dad and I have been keeping secrets from you.”
I started imagining the worst while thinking that surely I had to be wrong. However, the look in my daughter’s eyes told me I was correct. Fear, anger, and denial raged through my mind.
Jerry came home about that time. He started shoving things out of the way as he tried to get to Faith. My daughter and I hurried out the garage door and into the van, and I took off before he had a chance to stop us.
I wanted to run from the problem; I didn’t want to hear the truth. In fact, I was afraid to hear it. Yet I felt guided toward Faith’s school. The principal, whose opinion I respected, met us at the door.
“What is happening?” I asked. “Please tell me I’m having a nightmare.”
The principal said, ” Faith’s teacher showed a video concerning improper touching. Faith started crying, so the teacher came to get the counselor and me. By law, we had to report it to Social Services.”
Questions and anger
Learning that my husband had deceived me and had molested my daughter made me feel as if my heart were ripping apart. How could this be happening to me when everything seemed to be going so well? I believed Jerry loved me; why did he hurt my daughter? And how could this happen without my realizing it? Why hadn’t I noticed the evidence before?
Anger raged through me when I realized that Jerry was a sexual abuser. I grieved knowing that while I spent long hours at the library, he had been abusing Faith.
Telling the truth
The social worker talked to Faith for several minutes before she allowed me to join them. She asked, “Are you aware of what has taken place? What do you think about it?”
“Faith told me that she and her dad have been keeping secrets from me,” I answered, “but what kind of secrets?” Tears poured down my cheeks, and I felt as if I were going crazy.
The social worker asked Faith to tell me the truth.
“Mom,” Faith said, ” I am so sorry. Please don’t hate me. The video made me realize the way he touched me wasn’t right. I felt so dirty and bad. I couldn’t help crying.”
I gave her a gentle hug and said, “I will never hate you. It’s not your fault. You’re just a child; he used you. I love you, and I always will.”
The social worker gave me three choices: Believe my child and prosecute the abuser. Believe my child but stay with the abuser. Or disbelieve my child and deny the abuse.
For me, there was only one choice: stay with my daughter and prosecute the abuser — my husband.
Having made that decision, I had to find a place to live, and I had to figure out what we would do to survive. I asked the social worker to call the safe house for abused women. The people who ran it allowed us to stay there for 30 days.
All through that month, depression, fear, and disillusion harassed me. We couldn’t find a home because we had filed bankruptcy a few months before, and most of the apartments — even the low-income ones — demanded a credit check. So though we were victims, we faced homelessness.
Jerry was placed in jail for 24 hours and posted bond. While he was incarcerated, my oldest daughter and some of the church members went to the house and packed as many of our personal items as possible into the van. When Jerry was released, he came to the college while I was in class and took the van, robbing us of our personal belongings.
Though a policeman helped us recover the van and some of our items, it added to my daughter’s feelings of insecurity. I had a hard time convincing her that she was safe, because I didn’t feel safe. I felt violated, betrayed, and used.
Taking my child to court wasn’t easy. Many times we’d show up, only to have the trial postponed. Sometimes we sat there for hours before we learned that nothing was going to happen.
When the trial actually began, the defense attorney made me feel that I was to blame for the abuse. “Didn’t you and your husband watch X-rated movies?” he asked. “Didn’t you leave sex-related magazines around where Faith could see them?”
“No,” I answered. “I am a Christian and try to live like one. I didn’t know my husband had those things.” Still, I asked myself, Why didn’t I check all the movies we had in the house? Why didn’t I know?
The more questions the defense attorney asked, the more confused I became. I knew I loved my husband, but he had deceived me.
The hardest part of the trial was listening to Faith testify. Though the defense attorney was hard on me, he was even harder on her.
Among other questions, he asked, “Do you love your stepfather?”
Faith answered, “Yes, I do.”
Then he asked, “Do you realize you’ll be sending him to prison?”
Faith started crying. “I don’t want him to go to prison. I love him.”
As I saw the grief in my daughter’s face, I wanted to drop the charges, but I knew I couldn’t. My husband had to be tried; otherwise, he would be free to hurt other children.
After all the horrible proceedings, Jerry was sentenced merely to probation. The shock of knowing he is out there to hurt another child is difficult for us to handle.
We’ve moved to a different city now, and Faith is attending a different school. She had to leave her friends and has struggled to make new friends and keep them after the trauma she has experienced. At times she doesn’t act her age: She talks baby talk or sucks her thumb to alleviate stress, but the other students don’t understand. They call her names or use put-downs.
To this day, some of our relatives don’t accept Faith or want her around. They say she’s a poor example for other family members. And some of them say, “It happened such a long time ago. Why doesn’t she get with reality?”
Worry and forgiveness
I worry about the future. Faith’s “loving” stepfather told her that he was taking care of both of us sexually. His rationale will make future relationships difficult for her. And I often wonder, Will I stay a single parent? Can I ever trust again?
Forgiveness is a large part of our lives. Learning to forgive daily is the only key to our staying mentally healthy. It doesn’t mean that what Jerry did was right or that he should not be punished. It means we choose to not let the event continue to control our lives. We have to forgive, or else hatred will consume us. Unless we release the hatred, vengeance, and evil thoughts, they will ruin our lives.
Ups and downs
My daughter and I struggle with post-traumatic stress syndrome: nightmares, inability to concentrate, difficulty in trusting others, and babylike behaviors. Sometimes we have days when we’re awash in anger toward the perpetrator and others, but we realize we have to let these go.
Finding normalcy after the betrayal of sexual abuse has been difficult, but each day we make the decision to forgive and go on with life. Knowing we have each other is the greatest blessing for both of us. We find there is life after trauma.
*Not his real name.