I love Mary DeMuth. And I don’t mean that in the lame say-it-but-don’t-mean-it way. She was my roommate when we were in Haiti together in 2012, and she is genuine, whole, brave, loving, funny, and smart. And her morning alarm was a song by Elvis Costello. She has written a very important book and I am so honoured to share my space here with her hard-won wisdom today. 

 

 

As a sexual abuse survivor, I’ve heard my share of insensitive comments. I’ve also talked to enough victims to be able to gather some of the most damaging words here—all for the sake of those who truly, truly want to be loving, sensitive and helpful.

My intention in writing these is not to shame those who want to help, or make them walk on eggshells. Instead it’s to help friends and family members of victims best love and understand the sexual abuse recovery journey.

One. That was so long ago, why can’t you just get over it?

In this case, I simply ask, “How long did it take you to ‘get over’ the death of a loved one?” Sexual abuse involves grief—the loss of innocence, the shame of sexual violation, the removing of living life free. I’m not sure we ever “get over it.” We grow. We heal. We process. But there will always be that grief.

Two. Are you sure it happened?

Telling is the hardest thing to do for a sexual abuse victim. While there are people who make up stories, err on the side of belief. Believe me, none of us wish we had this terrible story to tell. And yes, we’re sure it happened.

Three. If you talk about it so much, you’ll never heal.

Processing is important. There will be times when a victim spends a lot of time talking. This is part of the process. It won’t always be so. Offer your understanding. Listen. Ask questions. Making snap judgments about someone’s healing journey and how long it “should” take only makes them want to quit.

Four. You know that song, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Or it makes you weaker, jumpy, more fearful, less trusting.

Five. I could never go through what you went through.

What this communicates is that, in a way, you’re glad it didn’t happen to you. Which is completely natural to feel. But it also makes us feel like we’re marked somehow, and we’re left with the very real truth that it did happen to us.

Six. That perpetrator must live with such awful regret.

Maybe. Maybe not. Sociopaths and psychopaths don’t process regret or shame like others. They tend to blame society, their upbringing, and even the victim for their violations. A sexual predator is redeemable, but their pathway to health is long and excruciating. One article that truly helped me understand how many predators process “getting caught” was a recent one by Boz Tchividjian.

Seven. That’s how men act. It’s normal.

This is one of the most demeaning things anyone can say about a man. Men aren’t enslaved to sexual desire unless they choose to be. Men can act nobly, honoring the women in their lives. They will not die without sexual release.

Eight. So and so forgave her abuser; it was easy.

While forgiveness is an important part of the healing process, it is not simple or easy. And it can take years to get to a place where you choose to forgive. Telling us how easy it was for someone else makes us feel like the path of healing we’re on is the wrong one.

Nine. It’s just sex.

Unwanted sexual touch is violation. It’s not just sex. That’s why there’s a difference between consensual and non-consensual sex. One is an act of choice and love. The other is predatory and criminal.

Ten. But was it full sexual abuse? He just leered? That’s it?

Dan Allender in his book The Wounded Heart shares that healing from sexual abuse is difficult no matter what form it takes. Don’t minimize someone’s journey just because it doesn’t fit with your idea of violaton.

Eleven. Was the perpetrator drunk? Were you?

The fact is this: one person chose to violate the will and dishonor the NO of another. This is a criminal act, regardless of the state of inebriation. If someone murdered another while drunk, that state of drunkenness does not excuse the crime.

Twelve. Well, what were you wearing?

Sexual predators prey on people, regardless of what they are wearing. I have not had this question leveled at me because it would be ridiculous. I was five years old when I was assaulted. I wore a kindergartener’s dress, corduroy, with pants underneath and patent leather shoes.

Thirteen. Did you flirt? What did you expect?

Flirting is different than asking to be violated. In the case of date rape, it makes sense that flirting went on because it was a DATE. But a date is not a precursor to unwanted sexual touch.

Fourteen. Why didn’t you tell me before?

This is not about you. It’s about the victim. Don’t place a guilt trip on someone if it’s taken her a long time to tell you. Telling is a HUGE risk. Many people are violated a second time because the people they tell don’t believe them, blame them, or flat out walk away.

Fifteen. Hmmm, but you look normal.

Looks can be deceiving. Inside the mind of a sexual abuse victim is all sorts of chaos, shame and worry that the secret will define them the rest of their lives. We may look “normal,” but we struggle to heal, to believe we are worthy to take up space on this earth.

Sixteen. Just stop thinking about it.

Flashbacks and triggers happen when we least expect it. Many victims suffer from PTSD and cannot control the sudden thoughts that invade.

Seventeen. It could have been worse. (Insert worse sexual abuse story here).

This is not helpful. Everyone has a unique story, and no matter what level the sexual abuse, it is very real and hurtful to each individual. Don’t minimize one person’s story by sharing another.

Eighteen. Oh, I understand totally. (No, you don’t).

Unless you’ve walked the sexual abuse path, don’t say this. And even if you have, no two people will process their abuse or heal in the same way.

Nineteen. You sure you didn’t make this up to get attention?

This is demeaning and utterly dismissive. Err on the side of belief and empathy rather than misinformed judgment.

Twenty. Well, why didn’t you (insert thing you should have done here)?

No one can walk in the abuse victim’s shoes. No one knows exactly what could or could not have been done. Looking back, I did everything I knew how to escape those neighborhood teens who sexually assaulted me for a year. Some of those things worked; most didn’t. And in the middle of violation, most victims are so typically shocked and taken off guard that there’s really no way to have a “right” reaction. Besides, the abuse happened, and saying there had been a way for the victim to escape is just heaping further shame.

Twenty-One. This was part of God’s plan, so you’ll have to make your peace with it.

I don’t even know how to respond to this. I have a strong belief in the sovereignty of God, but I must be honest: I still wrestle with why He didn’t protect me as a small child. I know as a parent, that if I knew my child was being exploited, I would have stepped in. So I still wrestle with God’s ways, and I think I always will. I still love Him. I’m utterly grateful for the healing He has wrought. But I don’t really understand why I wasn’t protected.

marydemuth-headshot-square

I’m humbled and grateful to be here today. A huge thank you to Sarah for allowing me to share my heart. A little background. I’ve shared my sexual abuse story in the last few years, but I haven’t always been so open. Initially I kept it silent for a decade, then over-shared, then went silent another decade. The healing journey hasn’t been easy, but it has been good.

About a year ago, I sensed God wanted me to be bold in sharing about sexual abuse. I wrote “The Sexy Wife I Cannot Be” on Deeper Story, which went crazy (so many comments), followed by “I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife” on Christianity Today. The overwhelming response to those two posts prompted me to write Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse.

The book proved too risky for publishers, so I decided to crowdfund it, which turned out to be an amazing success. I cannot believe that now I can hold Not Marked in my hands, and also offer it to you. What’s unique about it: It’s written from the perspective of a survivor. It doesn’t offer cliche answers. It’s honest. And my husband shared his unique journey of how to walk a loved one through their sexual abuse.

In which we are learning the unforced rhythms of grace :: my If:Gathering devotional
In which we plant gardens in South Africa
thank you for sharing...
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  • Christiana

    Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself Mary! Even though I know you don’t have an obligation to educate us (I can’t believe people actually say some of these things! It goes to show how ignorant we are about abuse.) your honesty is so helpful. And so needed as we are beginning to learn as a society how best we can help survivors. Thank you.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I agree. Society is getting better the more this is out of the darkness and discussed in the light.

  • Jenn Baerg

    Thank you for Mary for sharing I think i’ve encountered most of these and I still am baffled by the things people say – although maybe I’m “lucky” my PTSD does for some quickly eliminate the “it’s not that bad.” I’m am going to bookmark this for the Pastoral Care and Ethics class I’m TA’ing hopefully we can begin to help teach society, especially in those in positions of care that it isn’t just “easy to forgive” or “get over.”

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, bookmark away, Jenn. And I also feel we forget that many abuse survivors suffer from PTSD.

  • Tryinmama

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Just knowing that these things are frequently said is healing. Not only do others say these things but you tend to say these things to yourself. I find relief in reading the answers to myself. So, thank you.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yes, I’ve said them to myself too. I need to give MYSELF grace!

  • Lindsey

    Thank you for this. Would you mind, perhaps, helping us with what language TO use? What has been most comforting? Made you feel most loved?

    • Mary DeMuth

      The best thing I’ve encountered is simple empathy, validating it, crying alongside. The other is simply this: asking questions, not to feed your curiosity, but simply to pull out a story for the sake of the other’s healing.

      • Lindsey

        Thank you!

  • O, Mary! I can’t imagine this was an easy book to write but important things are rarely easy.

    P.S. I love that your morning alarm is an Elvis Costello song. Which one? 🙂

    • Mary DeMuth

      It’s so funny because now I don’t even remember! Old age!

  • Mary…thank you for being willing to be brave…brave first of all to face your own pain…but even braver to put that pain out into the public arena so others can also walk out of the darkness into the light…I know this doesn’t come without a price…no greater love…laying one’s life down for a friend…blessings to you as you love others to freedom.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Thank you, Ro.

  • These responses reveal a good deal more about the people speaking them than the people they’re said to. Some of these, like “that’s just how men are” either demean men or dismiss the pain of abuse, probably both.

    Thanks for sharing these. They’re another strong reminder that when someone shares something painful, it’s better to listen than to talk.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Listening is so very important and POWERFUL.

  • Rebecca Erwin

    You words are always encouraging. The words people said to me early in my recovery have their own flash back process. Things like my Grandmother, “Well I was raped and I got over it, why can’t you” and in relation to an ex “Well, you were there too…” I have to stop, answer those statements and again walk through validating those memories for myself. When I read Job, how his friends attempted to comfort him then Job’s process with God, it really helped take the sting out of those words.

    As for God’s “will”… I struggle with this too. For me I found freedom in Open Thiesm as opposed to Sovereignty defined as absolute control. So instead of walking away from God because he “willed” it or “allowed it,” I walked away from that theology. God makes everything to His good. I rest in that.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I am angry (now) at your grandmother for saying that. Such demeaning, unvalidating words. I’m sure she meant well, but ouch.

      • Rebecca Erwin

        Not sure if she meant well for me. This is her reoccurring statement since we exposed the secret 20 years ago, she said it to my sister a few years ago. She simply wanted her reality to continue and her family stay together. She had favorites in the family-it was obvious. I used to be angry about it, now I am just sad. Her own scars mark her present and make her a very difficult person for me to be around. I don’t see her at all. I don’t feel the need to. In order to heal, I had to move on from her and any hope of familial love or relationship.

        Every time it comes up and I feel betrayed/angry with her I hear Jesus saying, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” He grants me peace.

        • Mary DeMuth

          Grandma needs to live in the truth! Heavens! I can see why you’ve created a boundary. She doesn’t sound safe.

  • Lora Williams

    Thanks so much. I experienced horrendous abuse as a child, and one of the worst things people can say to me is how normal I look or act. They have no idea the energy and work I’ve put into “looking normal,” and it’s been there to cover agonizing pain. I’m 45 now, and I’m beginning to live more genuinely, authentically as myself in the world and less as if I were someone else. But that has been a long, hard journey, and it does not in any way help to have it minimized by pointing out how I appeared to be.

    • Mary DeMuth

      That’s a great point, Lora. Being “normal” is a long, long process of healing.

  • Mary, thank you so much for writing this thoughtful piece. While I haven’t experienced sexual abuse, I have heard quite a few of these not-so-helpful one-liners as a result of my father being very abusive towards my mother growing up. I have PTSD now, because of that, and often don’t talk about it because people minimize the experience (“It could’ve been worse”) or don’t believe me or try to over spiritualize it, which ends up making God sounds like an abusive monster.

    Anyway, as a friend and relation to many sexual abuse victims, I greatly appreciate this piece because I never ever want to be the person who, when they tried to open up, made it worse. Thank you for sharing.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Kelsey, I agree, these 21 things are things we can say to anyone who is dealing with a trauma or hurt.

  • Alia_Joy

    I have had some of these things said to me by very well intentioned people. Most commonly I think is why didn’t you tell anyone sooner? I’ve come to understand now that I’m a mom, these other moms really wanted to know if they would know something was going on if their children were ever sexually abused. I think it’s common to believe you would see the signs or that your children would tell you if it happened but the statistics would say otherwise. Shame is a heavy burden for anyone. While it still hurts when someone says that making me feel I’m culpable for not stopping the abuse by telling my parents, I realize some parents just don’t know how to ask how to protect their children. I think we can have a better dialogue about this stuff and learning the language to deal tenderly with someone is something we all have to engage in. Thanks for your brave and tender heart, Mary, and your willingness to talk about these things. Shame is a burden easier lifted and removed together.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Alia, great to see you here, and thank you for the comment. One of my relatives said that to me, in a condescending tone. I finally stood up for myself and said, “I will not listen to you talk any more about my sexual abuse until you read a book about its devastation.” Most people NEVER tell. The fact that I did is pretty dang amazing!

  • Thank you for this. As a survivor I would as three that, personally, were the hardest to take. 1. Maybe it was meant to be a compliment. 2. Times were different then. (this goes with: they were doing the best they could for the times) and 3. You must have been mistaken. (my answers are: uh NO, uh NO and uh NO)

    Bless you for your open heart and your courage.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I hate the “times were different then.” Ick.

  • Terri

    Thank you so much for that last item where you shared a little of your struggle to understand God who didn’t protect you. I have struggled with that so much. I’ve talked with others and gotten the “God has to let bad people have free will as well as good people” and stuff, which I understand intellectually, but I’ve questioned, as you did: If my kids were being abused, I’d put a stop to it. I would never let that continue, not for any reason. So am I a better parent than God? You’re not supposed to say that; you’re not supposed to say a lot of things. But I’ve been through abuse that no one is supposed to go through, either, so here I am. I don’t think I will ever understand that lack of protection of a little child, or accept it, not in this world. Perhaps in the next, when he gets what he deserves and I know he won’t abuse any other children.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I hear you. I am there with you, Terri.

  • Paula McLane Jennings

    Being a survivor too (as you already know as I’m on the launch team) I have heard most of those too. And boy do they hurt. Especially when they are being said by someone you love and trust. Like your Mother or a best friend. I thank you so much for being so brave and stepping out and writing Not Marked (and Thin Places). Over the 30 years I have been trying hard to ‘deal’ with my rapes and sexual abuse I have read many books but none that offered the healing yours has. And as I too have PTSD from it and am suffering a lot of flashbacks at this time, I close my eyes and draw myself to the healing image you shared in your words at the end of the book. Those tears, That touch. They make all the difference in the world. Thank you Jesus. And thank you Mary for sharing it. That image is making all the difference for me.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I’m so very glad, Paula.

  • Ayla

    Okay if I didn’t already love you to that max that I could love anyone, I love you more for this. Man o man can I relate. Concerning my childhood abuse experience and having only really begun to deal with it this past year, I’ve heard that I need to get over it because it was a long time ago and that talking about it all the time will only make it worse and that I’m being a martyr and having a pity party and oh the one that stings the most is that I need to forgive my mother for knowing and not doing anything about it because she was doing the best she could and she was probably a victim too whose mother probably responded the same way. There is always so much more to someone’s story then an outsider could possibly know or understand and it just amazes me that people choose to express their opinion concerning someone else’s experience with such conviction that that’s the right way to look at it. For me my mother’s silence wasn’t just that, it was the onset of a continually victim-perpetrator relationship with my Mom, sisters, and everyone else who was controlling and abusive in different ways but I was so drawn to because of that initial abuse experience at 3. I spent years drowning in the aftermath of my sexual abuse and I know it will take a lifetime of healing and grieving and processing for me.

    And no we won’t ever “get over it” this side of Heaven…and I’m okay with that…

    Thank you for this friend.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I’m so sorry you walked through this, Ayla. And honestly, I truly, truly don’t understand why a mom would NOT protect her child. Something is terribly wrong with that picture.

    • Guest

      I was terrorized and molested between the ages of 6 and a half and 10… When I was finally ‘saved’ from him (or so I had hoped I had been) I was brutally beaten, with all sorts of verbiage I didn’t understand and told never to speak of it… EVER… this all by my mother.

      Later in life, after years of silence… at 22, and following an incident that left me crying in a closet wondering what the heck was wrong with me… I realized I HAD to talk about ‘IT’, warn others in the vicinity of my brother and that I needed emotional help and counseling…

      I was advised, by friends and family, to go to my mother first and let her know, that I needed to get it out in the open that I couldn’t remain silent anymore and that I didn’t necessarily blame her for her reaction, even though it turned out to be the wrong reaction (‘as it was a different time back then’ families didn’t air their dirty laundry anywhere, not even in a ‘shrinks’ office), but I needed help and hoped she could help me through it… first off by reassuring me that she didn’t blame me or hold it against me, as I was the victim.

      When I took their advice and told my mother these things and requested her support… She got angry for even bringing it up and proceeded to tell me I must have ‘enjoyed it’ and that is why I didn’t ‘tell’. I ran out of her house crying, suicidal and feeling more lost, alone and traumatized than ever.

      Decades later, after many bad relationships and counseling… my mother has come into her 80’s and was experiencing ‘fainting spells’… she thought she was not long for this world and called me to come and help her get her belongings in order.

      Once again… the ugly subject came into the forefront as she was now housing my perpetrator. (Yes, my older brother was now living with her. He hasn’t been welcome most anywhere else and needed a place to stay) She took him in. (He’s in his late 50’s now). When she told me all about how important forgiveness was and that it was time for me to ‘get over it’ and ‘let bygones be bygones’ we opened that can of worms…I reminded her she had told me, long ago, that she blamed me and told me I enjoyed it.

      She vehemently denied it… and then proceeded to tell me “of course I blame you… for not telling me… you hurt me deeply because you didn’t trust me enough to come to me. I would NEVER have let something like that happen to ME… NOT EVER!! How do I KNOW??? Some old guy once lured me into an outhouse when I was little, to ‘show me something’ he unzipped his pants and I bolted… IMMEDIATELY I ran home and TOLD my parents and my father ran him out of town… we never saw him again. You KNEW I would have protected you… you just didn’t ‘hate’ what was happening to you enough… you didn’t trust me and I can’t believe you want to replay what I see as the most traumatizing moment in MY life!! Even when I told you I never wanted you to speak of it ever again, you have brought it up again!! Thanks a lot!!”

      To hear her, it is all about her and HER trauma alone! I have come to the sad realization she is going to take it to her grave that I ‘wronged’ HER. I betrayed HER. That I didn’t dislike what was happening enough to me to bother to ‘tell’ HER.

      Proposing she may have reacted wrongly by building a giant wall between her and ‘IT’ and walling me in with ‘IT’ may not have helped but exacerbated MY trauma was a slap in her face and perceived as an ‘evil’ ruse to get her to admit to something she took no part in and was wholly innocent and right in her violent reaction.

      She denied what she had done, only to reiterate that was exactly what she had done. Color me confused and STILL traumatized. I just turned 50 and here I am… still a mess, still hurt… still hiding in closets when life gets too intense. No amount of therapy can make me ‘all better’… it can only help me not blame myself.

      I only figure that… had my mother not beat me, sworn me to silence, berated and blamed me for all these years… I might, at least, FEEL closer to ‘normal’. People think I am ‘normal’ and ‘well adjusted’…

      I am sorry to admit it… but a huge part of me is still that little girl, in need of a kind and understanding mother. I am still hiding… and from time to time… still trying to find solace, peace and a sense of safety tucked away (in the fetal position) among the winter coats and shoes.

  • Claire

    Thank you, Mary.
    Especially for #21. I have struggled long and hard to make sense of why God didn’t protect me from sexual abuse as a child and I’ve never really been able to come to
    terms with it. It’s SO helpful to hear someone else say that! When I first
    began trying to process the years of sexual abuse I survived, I confided in a small
    group of Christian friends that I was struggling to understand how God could
    see what was happening and not do anything to stop it…for years. My friends
    tried to help by saying things like, “It’s the unfortunate consequence of
    man’s free will,” or “Look at how God is able to use you now because
    of what you went through growing up,” or “We can’t know the mind of
    God, we just have to accept that His way is the best way,” or “There
    is so much evil in the world but that doesn’t change who God is.” I know
    my friends meant well, but what they said left me struggling with even more
    guilt and shame for not being able to set aside the hurt I felt that God didn’t stop it. I felt like a bad Christian on top of the shame I already felt about
    the abuse. I still struggle with that, actually.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I hear you. And I validate your feelings. I still struggle with it too, and I don’t know how to process a loving God with what happened to me. I am farther along the road, but sometimes there’s that little niggle of WHY didn’t He step in?

      All this to say, YOU ARE NORMAL.

      • Claire

        Thank you so much for saying that. It’s very helpful to hear. I’m relieved to know I’m not the only Christian survivor of sexual abuse who still struggles with WHY.

        • Mary DeMuth

          It’s such a common struggle, but so few voice it.

  • PJ DiBenedetto

    I’m speechless! You are SO on target! Thank you! I am going to buy your book!

    • Mary DeMuth

      PJ, thanks for your very kind words. As you might imagine, releasing this book is so very scary to me. And out there. And vulnerable. I’ve been battling a lot, so I’m grateful my words have blessed you.

  • Dorothy Miller

    Almost 2 weeks ago I wrote a blog that “told” my story and has brought a flood of healing I did not even know I needed from people who read what I agonized over while writing.
    I can not say thank you enough…I am just starting my whole healing journey myself and your points are so relevant and right on target! Thanks for putting it into writing for the world to see.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Dorothy, you are so very brave. THANK YOU for sharing your story. Amen!

  • pastordt

    Thank you for listing these out so clearly, Mary. I am grateful for your voice, strong and sure and clear.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Thank you so much.

  • Angela Ramey Cornett

    Thank you for this. It’s been 22 years since I told about my sexual abuse (two years after it ended…approximately 7-8 years after it began. I am 34 now.) and my abuser was allowed to walk away. I am estranged from that side of my family now. Most still call me a liar and refuse to acknowledge me in private or public. I still get vibes about certain men when I am in public…especially when I am with my three young daughters (just last weekend, we were in a store with my bf and a man started staring at my daughters and smiling. He then started talking to my bf and I took my girls and went away and texted my bf that we weren’t comfortable around his “new friend”). I still lock all the car doors and make myself unnoticeable if I am alone in a car in a parking lot. I still call my girls in from playing outside if I see someone walk past on the sidewalk that gives me a bad vibe. My girls have all had the stranger danger and good touch/bad touch talks at least a few times, but I still don’t trust the world. I am over two decades past this abuse, but I am nowhere near “past” it. I would like to get ahold of this book somehow. Maybe it can help me. Thank you again for writing this.

    • Mary DeMuth

      It’s all a process, often lifelong, as we walk out our healing. I’m so sorry you had to go through this, particularly with your family. You are so very brave to TELL and then separate.

  • JustAGirl

    I have a thought on the part about “God’s will.” First, I think that is horrible terminology because He would never “will” that to happen to His child. But the other side of the coin is that he will not stop someone else from making their own choices. That man made his choice when he abused you, and God will surely deal with that man. Unfortunately, none of our actions occur in a vacuum, which means that if someone makes the choice to be a sexual predator, there has to be a victim somewhere. I trust in God’s judgement of those who violate others and cling to his love for me to help me heal.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Yeah, I still struggle with it. I am well aware of the argument involving free will, but it still really stinks that I had to be a predator’s prey.

  • Jenn

    I so appreciate this post. I am raising a teen who was not ours for the first part of her life and who suffered immensely before she was ours. Thank you for more insight into her.

    • Mary DeMuth

      I’m glad it helps a bit, Jenn.

  • Thanks for this, Mary. Maybe your next post on this could be titled, “Things not to say in public when discussing child sexual abuse.” At work one day when it came up (in the news I think) that a 14 year old was sexually molested, a coworker commented, “She will never be right.” (emphsizing the word never)

    As a survivor, my heart fall when I heard those words. There are probably survivors in nearly every group where we’re talking about child sexual abuse. Maybe just re-titled this post… at least mentally.

    • And regarding 16, truth. I was inspired to write a short poem after a trigger/flashback while it was still fresh in my mind. It was recently posted on patheos.com here:

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2014/01/you-know-how-sometimes/

      • Mary DeMuth

        You so captured that.

        • Thank you, Mary.

    • Mary DeMuth

      Wow. Ouch. I remember some friends talking about the ideal spouse for their child, and my heart sunk. I never would’ve been considered “right” for anyone’s child based solely on my abuse story. Thankfully, Jesus intervened! He can do amazing healing.

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  • What a hard, but important, work you are doing, Mary. Your choice to pick bravery and, through Christ, use your voice to free is beautiful. Celebrating you and your book; your words are needed!

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  • MaryKaye

    I would add a twenty-second: “Think of the harm you’re doing to your abuser/the church/the family/the community by acknowledging that this happened/calling the police/pressing charges.”

    No one has a duty to protect an abuser from the consequences of their behavior. And a pretty facade bought at the cost of tolerating abuse has no value.

  • Sarah

    I’m not sure where I stand on the sovereignty of God, after what happened to me happened to me. But I’m glad to hear that you do, but that you also don’t understand why you weren’t protected. Thanks for your honesty.

  • Lori Tintes Hartmann

    You have no idea how you have blessed me on this Sunday morning. We found out on Friday that the man who sexually abused our little boy and our grandson, broke his probation and is now back in jail and will likely now serve his sentence in prison. This man is my brother in law. Early last January we found out that he had been sexually abusing our sweet boys. In our home. Our son was actually our grandson that we are raising as our own. So lets me honest, this boy had already been through enough hell in his little life. Our other grandson, and is sister and his mom were living with us at the time the abuse took place. We spent all of last year in court, counseling appointments, re doing our home to make it “feel better” and ended with us accepting a plea agreement to keep our boys from having to testify(they were 5 & 7 last January) in court. Which meant he got out for time served which was all of 11 months. As long as he kept to the strict rules laid out for him to follow for the next 5 years. While I don’t regret not putting our young boys through that, it left all of us feeling like he got away with barely a slap on the hands. I have prayed and cried out to God to protect any children from him ever since he got out. Our little guy is still in counseling and he still locks the doors of our house because he lives with fear of him. So it’s an understatement that we jumped up and down with joy and relief, when we received this news that he was back behind bars.

    As I read each thing on you wrote on this list, I cried because it reminded me of what was said to us. Instead of saying to our little boys, “How long are you going to let this bother you?” or ” Do you think you should talk about this so much” they say it to us. Reading this made me want to write a post “What not to say to parents of children that have been sexually abused”. You would not believe the things people said to us. No, you probably would. Everything you wrote here is so spot on. Here we are a little more than year later and we are still dealing with the fallout. And people want to know why the hell we aren’t over it and why don’t we stop making such a big deal out of it and then maybe the boys will just forget about it. Yeah. It hurts and it ‘s a damm lonely road we are on. We have had the help from a sexual assault center thankfully. They have been our rock. Your words came to me as such a blessing. I am sure I will be back to read them again. Bless you on your journey and thank you , thank you, thank you for sharing your story so that I could be encouraged by your words. XXOO

  • WordGirl

    What a wonderful list. Thank you, Mary. I especially appreciate no. 10: “But was it full sexual abuse? He just leered, that’s it?” Those words have been asked of me, and they’ve made me feel shamed, insignificant, and deserving of all the pain I’ve endured. The man on the other end of the leering, among other disgusting actions and words, was my pastor, and while I was an adult at the time, I felt paralyzed, like an exhausted and hopeless moth trapped in a spider’s web. His leering made me feel like an object rather than a person created in God’s image; his sexual ‘jokes’ made me feel dirty. When I finally gathered strength to call him out to his superiors, I was first advised to “own up to [my] part in this.” My part? What, trusting him because he was a pastor? Believing that he couldn’t really mean what he was saying – again, because he was a pastor? It took the threat of a church trial before he was suspended of his pastoral duties. There are still people in my life who cannot understand what this man’s seemingly innocuous words and actions did to my soul. But it was full sexual abuse, and the effects are long-lasting.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    Saying “Oh well, it was just part of God’s plan” about every bad and broken thing comes dangerously close to denying that we live in a broken world. If there is no difference between evil and God’s plan, then what is the Christian story even about?

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  • Hannah Sachs

    I adore this. Thank you for speaking out about such an important topic, Mary. The church sometimes is so blind to the fact that these damaging ideas about sexual abuse affect not only women outside the church, but women inside it as well. The body of Christ is meant to be a community of healers of the wounded who are not afraid of the messy parts of life, not a group of band-aid dispensers. Such pat answers are simply glib ramblings that leave no room for God to work in brokeness. Injustice, abuse, and pain exist, and it’s only when we fully recognize their darkness that we can fully allow the light to penetrate into those places.

  • Thank you for this, Mary.
    It’s so important to talk about the way we (sometimes well-meaningly, sometimes not) hurt each other with our words, and how we can do better.

  • Janelle

    Thank you for this post! As a sexual abuse survivor, the best thing someone can do is sit and listen and cry with me; and if you have this story in your past and can share, please do so. I need to know I’m not alone, share your struggles and fears, and continue to point me to our only hope — Christ. The most painful comment made to me was, “at least it was just 2 boys, instead of 12”. I was hurt to the core by that comment. The worst lies are those I told myself: It was my fault one of the boys committed suicide (I told him he didn’t deserve to live–the week before he killed himself), I should be over this by now (it happened over 20 years ago) and no “good” Christian woman has my testimony.

  • Ann

    Thank you. Everyone is not ready to speak out and some never will. I am grateful for each voice. Sady, all sexual predators are not redeemable. And, all victims do not live to become survivors. I applaud you

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  • Ian Mitaxa

    I am trying to put down my feelings to sexual abuse which was forced upon me as a 6 year old boy by a youth. He subsequently was sentenced to a penal institution. I had no part in that conviction as I kept it to myself. I told my wife what had been done to me. But she was the first person I had mentioned it to. The perpetrator is more than likely dead by now. But even though I was unable to see him face to face at any time after the abuse, I have for given him I still remember but it does not hurt any more.Some how at the time, it may seem strange but looking back it may have been like a ‘rite of passage’. I know this is totally wrong. But I truly feel that as a Christian I had to forgive him. I was an adult when I came to this position. There is a great deal of news attention at present and I want to help others who have been subjected to this wrong. I am not a psychiatrist or a specialist in thisfield but I feel that I may be able to help in some way

  • Red

    It wasn’t a song that said, “what does not kill you makes you stronger”, it was Nietzsche. And, ironically, Nietzsche died of syphilis, which takes a very, very, very long time to kill somebody.

    Oh, and it rots the brain, too. As a matter fact, the whole book “Thoughts Out of Season” was written when dearest Friedrich was going through the quarternary stage, in which the infection destroys the brain and affects cognition. Moral of the story, listen to nothing that Nietzche says, especially in this context. And tell people who like to quote him that they are just listening to the insane ravings of a depraved maniac who died of a venereal disease.

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  • Meredith DePercy Moreland

    I was terrorized and molested between the ages of 6 and a half and 10… When I was finally ‘saved’ from him (or so I had hoped I had been) I was brutally beaten, along with all sorts of verbiage I didn’t understand and told never to speak of it… EVER… this all by my mother.

    Later in life, after years of silence… at 22, and following an incident that left me crying in a closet wondering what the heck was wrong with me… I realized I HAD to talk about ‘IT’, warn others in the vicinity of my brother and that I needed emotional help and counseling…

    I was advised, by friends and family, to go to my mother first and let her know, that I needed to get it out in the open that I couldn’t remain silent anymore and that I didn’t necessarily blame her for her reaction, even though it turned out to be the wrong reaction (‘as it was a different time back then’ families didn’t air their dirty laundry anywhere, not even in a ‘shrinks’ office), but I needed help and hoped she could help me through it… first off by reassuring me that she didn’t blame me or hold it against me, as I was the victim.

    When I took their advice and told my mother these things and requested her support… She got angry for even bringing it up and proceeded to tell me I must have ‘enjoyed it’ and that is why I didn’t ‘tell’. I ran out of her house crying, suicidal and feeling more lost, alone and traumatized than ever.

    Decades later, after many bad relationships and counseling… my mother has come into her 80’s and was experiencing ‘fainting spells’… she thought she was not long for this world and called me to come and help her get her belongings in order.

    Once again… the ugly subject came into the forefront as she was now housing my perpetrator. (Yes, my older brother was now living with her. He hasn’t been welcome most anywhere else and needed a place to stay) She took him in. (He’s in his late 50’s now). When she told me all about how important forgiveness was and that it was time for me to ‘get over it’ and ‘let bygones be bygones’ we opened that can of worms…I reminded her she had told me, long ago, that she blamed me and told me I enjoyed it.

    She vehemently denied it… and then proceeded to tell me “of course I blame you… for not telling me… you hurt me deeply because you didn’t trust me enough to come to me. I would NEVER have let something like that happen to ME… NOT EVER!! How do I KNOW??? Some old guy once lured me into an outhouse when I was little, to ‘show me something’ he unzipped his pants and I bolted… IMMEDIATELY I ran home and TOLD my parents and my father ran him out of town… we never saw him again. You KNEW I would have protected you… you just didn’t ‘hate’ what was happening to you enough… you didn’t trust me and I can’t believe you want to replay what I see as the most traumatizing moment in MY life!! Even when I told you I never wanted you to speak of it ever again, you have brought it up again!! Thanks a lot!!”

    To hear her, it is all about her and HER trauma alone! I have come to the sad realization she is going to take it to her grave that I ‘wronged’ HER. I betrayed HER. That I didn’t dislike what was happening enough to me to bother to ‘tell’ HER.

    Proposing she may have reacted wrongly by building a giant wall between her and ‘IT’ and walling me in with ‘IT’ may not have helped but exacerbated MY trauma was a slap in her face and perceived as an ‘evil’ ruse to get her to admit to something she took no part in and was wholly innocent and right in her violent reaction.

    She denied what she had done, only to reiterate that was exactly what she had done. Color me confused and STILL traumatized. I just turned 50 and here I am… still a mess, still hurt… still hiding in closets when life gets too intense. No amount of therapy can make me ‘all better’… it can only help me not blame myself.

    I only figure that… had my mother not beat me, sworn me to silence, berated and blamed me for all these years… I might, at least, FEEL closer to ‘normal’. People think I am ‘normal’ and ‘well adjusted’…

    I am sorry to admit it… but a huge part of me is still that little girl, in need of a kind and understanding mother. I am still hiding… and from time to time… still trying to find solace, peace and a sense of safety tucked away (in the fetal position) among the winter coats and shoes.

  • Meredith DePercy Moreland

    I failed to mention in telling of my ‘after’ story that I used to hide in my parent’s closet to escape from my older brother… he never found me when I was able to hide there.

    I also failed to thank Mary for her bravery and her story… along with all the other injured souls here. My prayers and thoughts are always with you all and all those like us. God DOES listen and God DOES care.

  • Meredith DePercy Moreland

    I was terrorized and molested between the ages of 6 and a half and 10… When I was finally ‘saved’ from him (or so I had hoped I had been) I was brutally beaten, with all sorts of verbiage I didn’t understand and told never to speak of it… EVER… this all by my mother.

    Later in life, after years of silence… at 22, and following an incident that left me crying in a closet wondering what the heck was wrong with me… I realized I HAD to talk about ‘IT’, warn others in the vicinity of my brother and that I needed emotional help and counseling…

    I was advised, by friends and family, to go to my mother first and let her know, that I needed to get it out in the open that I couldn’t remain silent anymore and that I didn’t necessarily blame her for her reaction, even though it turned out to be the wrong reaction (‘as it was a different time back then’ families didn’t air their dirty laundry anywhere, not even in a ‘shrinks’ office), but I needed help and hoped she could help me through it… first off by reassuring me that she didn’t blame me or hold it against me, as I was the victim.

    When I took their advice and told my mother these things and requested her support… She got angry for even bringing it up and proceeded to tell me I must have ‘enjoyed it’ and that is why I didn’t ‘tell’. I ran out of her house crying, suicidal and feeling more lost, alone and traumatized than ever.

    Decades later, after many bad relationships and counseling… my mother has come into her 80’s and was experiencing ‘fainting spells’… she thought she was not long for this world and called me to come and help her get her belongings in order.

    Once again… the ugly subject came into the forefront as she was now housing my perpetrator. (Yes, my older brother was now living with her. He hasn’t been welcome most anywhere else and needed a place to stay) She took him in. (He’s in his late 50’s now). When she told me all about how important forgiveness was and that it was time for me to ‘get over it’ and ‘let bygones be bygones’ we opened that can of worms…I reminded her she had told me, long ago, that she blamed me and told me I enjoyed it.

    She vehemently denied it… and then proceeded to tell me “of course I blame you… for not telling me… you hurt me deeply because you didn’t trust me enough to come to me. I would NEVER have let something like that happen to ME… NOT EVER!! How do I KNOW??? Some old guy once lured me into an outhouse when I was little, to ‘show me something’ he unzipped his pants and I bolted… IMMEDIATELY I ran home and TOLD my parents and my father ran him out of town… we never saw him again. You KNEW I would have protected you… you just didn’t ‘hate’ what was happening to you enough… you didn’t trust me and I can’t believe you want to replay what I see as the most traumatizing moment in MY life!! Even when I told you I never wanted you to speak of it ever again, you have brought it up again!! Thanks a lot!!”

    To hear her, it is all about her and HER trauma alone! I have come to the sad realization she is going to take it to her grave that I ‘wronged’ HER. I betrayed HER. That I didn’t dislike what was happening enough to me to bother to ‘tell’ HER.

    Proposing she may have reacted wrongly by building a giant wall between her and ‘IT’ and walling me in with ‘IT’ may not have helped but exacerbated MY trauma was a slap in her face and perceived as an ‘evil’ ruse to get her to admit to something she took no part in and was wholly innocent and right in her violent reaction.

    She denied what she had done, only to reiterate that was exactly what she had done. Color me confused and STILL traumatized. I just turned 50 and here I am… still a mess, still hurt… still hiding in closets when life gets too intense. No amount of therapy can make me ‘all better’… it can only help me not blame myself.

    I only figure that… had my mother not beat me, sworn me to silence, berated and blamed me for all these years… I might, at least, FEEL closer to ‘normal’. People think I am ‘normal’ and ‘well adjusted’…

    I am sorry to admit it… but a huge part of me is still that little girl, in need of a kind and understanding mother. I am still hiding… and from time to time… still trying to find solace, peace and a sense of safety tucked away (in the fetal position) among the winter coats and shoes.

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  • Jack

    Thank you. I don’t even remember the sexual abuse that happened to me, but I have the scars – physical and emotional.

    It happened when I was an infant, and my abuser made a deliberate choice to do it so early because I wouldn’t be able to say “no”.

    Some man (at least I think they were male – I was so young), supposedly a doctor, held me down (at the request of my parents no less), and, and it hurts to write this, forcibly removed part of my genitalia.

    Since then, when I tell people who I feel about it, I get dismissive comments such as “but they only did it because they didn’t think it was wrong”, “you should forgive your parents”, “get over it”, “stop talking about it”, “can’t you just forget about it?”, “your penis would have looked gross if the foreskin hadn’t been removed”, “there are more important things to deal with”, “it’s not a big deal”.

    I have the physical scar and have suffered quite a few physical problems, including erectile dysfunction now I’m a lot older, but it’s the emotional scars that bother me the most – and every time I have to use lube to help me “enjoy myself”, I’m reminded of it so I can’t even do that. I had to use it with a few of the women I slept with (because of the physical pain caused to them if I didn’t use it, and the pain to me at times – not that lube made much difference to either of us), and it caused terrible thoughts each time as I learned that most guys in the world don’t have to use lube as their foreskins provide a gliding action and lubrication during sexual activity.

    What’s more important that the fact that someone strapped down a defenseless baby, secured the baby’s arms and legs so they couldn’t struggle free, laughed, probably sexually stimulated the baby (http://www.ratical.org/ratville/MGMprimer.html), then took a sharp knife or a clamp and removed part of the baby’s genitals whilst the baby struggled, or/and screamed or/and cried, or went into a state of shock like many victims of sexual abuse have?

    Even now, decades later, my parents won’t apologize. I feel so hurt, and it is so difficult to emotionally heal as every time I take a shower, I’m reminded of the abuse 🙁

  • Monica

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I was sexually abused as a child by my uncle. He is one out of 4 brothers and they are very close so, they have now accusede of lying. The wife of this man is going around and talking to all of our family friends. It is very hard. He also sexually abused my sister and it made it worse for her now that I brought it up. My whole family is known around Hemet as this amazing family so they didn’t want me to openy mouth and now that i did they dont want us around. It is hard.

  • Matt

    “Looks can be deceiving. Inside the mind of a sexual abuse victim is all sorts of chaos, shame and worry that the secret will define them the rest of their lives. We may look “normal,” but we struggle to heal, to believe we are worthy to take up space on this earth.”
    I really like this quote. Despite all of this healing I wrestle with my worth everyday of my life. There are days when I feel like the trashiest slimiest sleaziest thing that ever crawled on the earth. Thankfully not everyday though.

  • PurpleTantrum

    One of the things I heard was, “You knew what you were doing was wrong.” I was 8

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  • virginia

    thank you and your warm smile, it is an encouragement to be better.

  • Lilian

    I actually HAD the question about what I was wearing, even after I told them I was 12 when it happened.

    I told them: A brown T-shirt with a dog on it. But it went on for 4 years straight, so..a glittery top saying; ‘girls’ and a blue T-shirt with puppies as well. What about it?’

    The person responded; It might’ve been the top that made him (teacher, aged 62) do this.’

    I’ve heared so many things…people claiming I was lying, claiming I was looking for attention, people that asked me if I liked the sexual abuse, since I wasn’t crying while I told it.

    People “joking around” while saying; ‘Omygod, you’re so gross, you even had sex before I did..’

    People saying I was filthy and ‘already-touched’ and should do certain things to be able go to heaven again.

    Or they choose the perpetrator’s side and tell him everything I told them. Everything, including several personal details. Or they tell them to others, that inform me, later on, they had masturbated to it.

    I’ve gotten SO picky to whom I tell this to. Even some managers and principals (at age 12) blamed me for it. Literally. For hitting the 65-year-old teacher when he touched me. ‘You can never hit a teacher!’

  • Anne-Marie Wiesman

    Great Info! Thank you for the work you are doing to raise awareness:)

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