The news exploded this week with the revelation that 19 Kids and Counting star Joshua Duggar molested 5 young victims when he was just 14 years old. It was reported that his victims were touched inappropriately while they slept.
When I first read the news a thunderbolt of nausea overcame me. I felt sad and sick and heartbroken.
Because I know all to well the pain of sexual abuse.
And the story was all too familiar.
I hesitate to tell my story, but I know that the Devil dances in the dark and I will not give him that much freedom in my own life.
When I was a child our family lived on the Central Coast in California. We would frequently make trips to my grandparents house in Southern California. I loved going to their house. Grandma was warm and soft. She made the best food. Her love was the sweetest. Grandma was full of compassion and love for everyone she met. Her home was a safe haven for all who entered. Grandpa worked hard at the rock plant making cement. He was full of jokes. He "stole our noses" and "threw fits" on the floor. He built a tree house for us grand kids in the back yard.
The cousins would come over to Grandma's house when we'd come to visit. They were my favorite friends. We'd camp out in Grandma's living room and have slumber parties on those weekend visits.
The front door was frequently left unlocked. My uncles, who where both teenagers at the time, frequently had guests coming and going in the night. It was not unusual for them to entertain guests on the weekends.
Late at night I was asleep in the recliner in the living room. One of the late night guests had stopped to make a phone call on the telephone right beside me. After he hung up the phone he lingered.
And he touched a little girl inappropriately.
And I squeezed my eyes shut and squeezed my legs shut and prayed he'd go away.
And He did.
And I never saw his face.
I was eight years old.
I know all too well the terror of being a victim. Fear takes over. I know all too well the shame that covers like a bucket of ice water poured over your head. Shame is cold. Little girls shiver, but they can't ever get warm.
Nothing is innocent anymore. Everything is dirty, but won't come clean.
In the morning I felt the overwhelming need to come clean. I knew I had to tell someone what happened. I sat at the kitchen island while my Grandma cooked Roman Noodles. Somehow I found the language to tell her someone had touched me.
My memory of what followed is foggy from there.
I remember my Grandma yelling at my uncles who didn't know what had happened. One of them said I was lying.
I remember my mom asking me again what had happened. I showed her how I had been touched and I felt dirty again. Mom told me I didn't have to talk about it to anyone.
I didn't talk about it again for 9 years.
My child mind thought no one believed me.
I buried down my fear and shame. I tried to forget the feeling of strange hands on my body, invading my peace.
I started asking my parents to check the doors at bedtime, to make sure no strangers could come in at night. It is the scar that remains. I still check the doors at night after everyone has gone to sleep. I can't sleep until I know I'm safe.
It wasn't until I was going through a recovery program for compulsive over eaters when I was seventeen that I would feel the need to talk about it again. One of the 12 steps involves taking an inventory of life. I could no longer ignore the shame and fear that kept me cold and dirty for all those years.
One a car ride home from a recovery meeting it all came out like vomit, sick from my stomach.
"I remember," I cried to my mom. I told her about all the memories of eight year old me.
"I thought you forgot about that," she said. I know she hoped and prayed I'd forget.
I told her how I felt like no one believed me.
But mom turned the lights on and helped me see the truth. I heard her story. I felt how grieved she was that she couldn't protect me. She told me about how my dad drove straight there and searched for the person who hurt me. I never knew.
As we talked something strange started to happen. I started to feel warm again. I forgave my parents who I thought didn't believe me. Like a hot shower I was revived to life again.
"I hope that man knows Jesus," I said though hot tears. "I hope he never hurt anyone else again."
When I said those words I felt peace. I forgave the man who had hurt me. I can't explain how it is possible that anyone could forgive such a horrible act on a child. I did forgive. I was set free.
Another thing happened when I was eight years old. I accepted Jesus as my Savior. In the years that followed I had developed a personal relationship with God that changed everything. I had grown in love with Jesus and the gift of Grace I received. It is a love that surpasses understanding.
I know all too well the unbelievable Love of Jesus that helped me forgive beyond understanding.
When I read the news about the Duggar family and their stories of forgiveness because of their faith in God I know it is true. I know because I have forgiven.
And their stories of forgiveness and life change are beyond understanding.
So it is with the Love of God.
Does forgiveness mean the person's actions are accepted or excused? NO! There is NO excuse for such actions. Ever, ever, ever!
My healing came through forgiving the unforgivable. I only hope that others can be healed too.
I pray that the victims in this case have found healing as well.
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. " Ephesians 3:16-19