Warning: I talk about incest and sexual assault in this post, as well as reveal some personal details that could easily be classified as “TMI.” Skip if these are trigger issues or if you’re only looking for professional book updates.
A while back, in response to an online discussion about rape, I posted a blog where I detailed how, at age 8, I was forced to watch incest followed by an attempted sexual assault. I am 41, happily married and in good mental health, yet this incident had a profound impact on me back then and some of that impact continues to this day.
When it happened, I was so young that I didn’t understand what I was witnessing, or the enormity of the assault that my neighbor attempted on me following it. I can assure you, however, at a level that transcended mature understanding, I knew that it was wrong, and though I didn’t know why, I felt as if it had somehow fouled me. It didn’t stop there. The subconscious fallout followed me into my teen years and into my early years of marriage, where, among other things, there was a particular sexual position I would not do because it triggered the memory of this incident. Over three decades later, I can’t even look at a “fainting couch” without my first instinct being deep revulsion because it was the type of furniture used for this incident. I don’t know if this is also the reason I have trust issues, control issues, can’t give a friendly acquaintance a hug without a second of mental prep, or if all those are just personality traits I would have had anyway. Some things are easy to link this incident back to. Some things are not.
It was, however, very easy to link it to my outrage and heartbreak at hearing the Duggar parents minimalize the molestation of their daughters with statements like “this was touching somebody over their clothes” although “there were a couple instances where he touched them under their clothes” but hey, it “only happened a few times” and “It was, like, a few seconds“ plus “they [the girls] probably didn’t even understand it” and “a lot of families have said that they’ve had similar things happen in their families” with the implication seeming to be, so why is everyone acting like this is such a big deal? Of course, no one needs to have an incident like mine (or worse) in their past to be outraged by this, but if you do and you hear people deny the seriousness of molestation, plus downplay the painful repercussions of it, it can cut a little bit deeper. YES, every incident counts. YES, it is traumatizing, and YES, IT IS A BIG DEAL, even if you’re so young when it happens that it takes years to fully understand what occurred.
This isn’t a political issue, although it’s being hijacked as one by some. It isn’t a religious one, either, although I’ve seen some claim that it’s non-Christians looking for a reason to attack Christians (for the record, I am a Christian.) This also isn’t about whether or not Jesus has forgiven them (Romans 13:1-2* instructs Christians to obey the laws of the land, so spiritual forgiveness, even if given, has nothing to do with societal repercussions for crimes.) This is about the seriousness of the crime of molestation and the protection of children from molesters. When people attempt to minimalize molestation and/or downplay the pain that it causes, at best it shows a deplorable lack of sympathy for the victims, and at worst creates an environment where molestation isn’t worthy of being treated as a “real” crime. However, opinions do not downgrade crimes into non-crimes, so while some have opined that what happened with the Duggar family was merely “a mistake,” the truth remains that child molestation is a serious, awful crime, and the repercussions to its victims are very, very real, and in many cases, ongoing.
If you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse or molestation, even if it happened many years ago, there is help for you. Please check out some of these organizations:
* Romans 13:1-2, NIV version: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”