Daughter was sexually abused in her birth family. Because I am serving in a very small town and Daughter has had so many problems, including a number of psychiatric hospitalizations, we have been very open about her history. I figure it’s better to have people out their armed with the truth than to allow the rumor mill to create stories to fill in the blanks. People have generally been supportive and understanding because they know some of the reasons behind Daughter’s challenges, which is good. That was what I had hoped would happen. What I didn’t anticipate, though, was that I’d become a magnet for all the people in the community who have the pain of sex abuse in their families.
I have heard stories from all ages. They know I understand their pain. There have been times when I’ve felt like everyone I come in contact with has sexual abuse somewhere in their past of in their family. There are times I feel like I see it everywhere I look. It seems that death often brings the pain of incest back up in powerful ways. While every family deals with it differently, it always impacts the entire family.
I remember dealing with a family where I knew 2 generations had been victims of one man. His wife never wanted to know all the details, and never understood how bad it had been. Her children loved her, and sought to protect her from the terrible truth. When she died, there was a display board at the funeral home with pictures from her life, including several of her school pictures. When I looked at those pictures, I felt a wave of horror. These were not the smiling pictures of a happy child. There was fear and a certain watchfulness preserved in those pictures. I knew the look on her face. I’d seen that look on my daughter’s face many times.
Understanding dawned. I understood why she hadn’t wanted to know all that had happened. I understood why she hadn’t been able to deal with it. I understood, and I grieved. There were at least 3 generations of victims in that family. I began the conversation with those who have not been able to deal with their anger and pain. It is a conversation that will continue. Hopefully the conversations will help end the cycle.
If any good has come out of Daughter’s suffering, it is that I have become a magnet, a safe place for others to come and face their pain. I wish I weren’t a magnet. I wish there wasn’t a need for magnets. But there is, and I will listen, educate, and grieve.