Recently, as I’ve read information about the Bill Gothard accusations (which can be found at www.recoveringgrace.org), I’ve done some more research about child predators (either accused or convicted) within the church. This reading has lead me to a church in our area, where a scandal took place in October/November. Actually, the pastor from this church has been accused of sexually molesting girls many years ago in a different state, but has since disappeared. There were news stories about these incidents several months back when we didn’t have broadcast television, and yesterday I was able to view them over the internet, as well as read the girl’s stories.
This shook me, since my family visited this exact church almost two years ago. Thankfully, a church member made it quite clear that our youngest child wasn’t welcome in the sanctuary, or we possibly would have visited again. This church also has a Christian School that I considered enrolling our children in once they reached kindergarten age, but we chose to homeschool instead.
What struck me about the girl’s stories that I read was that they were able to gracefully share without divulging the exact, horrid details. I began looking into sexual abuse statistics and realized that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused by the age of 18. (Reference) That number is huge! Most girls will never talk about the abuse, because of either embarrassment, fear or shame. Although quite different, I have a story to share too. The only people that know about this at the moment are my husband and daughters, but if speaking out might help one girl, then that’s what I should do.
During most of my school career, I rode the school bus. Starting in the third grade a boy one year older than I began inappropriately touching me. Almost every single day. I didn’t just sit there and let it happen, but would fight back. We lived in the same neighborhood which was at the end of the bus route, so he would wait until most people were off of the bus. I never sat in the back or front of the bus, but near the middle to be with my friends until it was their stop. The bus driver never knew, or if she did, she never said anything.
When this began happening, it was just way too embarrassing to tell anyone! Instead I declared that I was no longer going to school, but planned to be homeschooled. (Homeschooling wasn’t very popular in the 80s, but one of my mom’s good friends that lived in our neighborhood homeschooled so I was familiar with it.) I actually would pitch a fit until my mom said that I could stay home. A few times my mom would drive me to school after the bus left and I would basically hyperventilate in the car until she drove me back home. She thought it to be normal, but what is normal about a third grader acting this way? Finally after a little more of a week of this she promised to take me to a New Kids on the Block concert if I went back to school. She won.
The abuse continued for two years, until I was big enough to really defend myself. One time I kicked him out of my bus seat with such force that a pencil from my book bag jammed into my leg. (Ouch. I actually still have a spot of lead which I guess embedded into my leg as a permanent reminder.) I don’t feel the need to divulge any other details or even a name, since he passed away about 10 years ago from cancer.
While I have many other “public school experience” reasons as to why we homeschool, and even more importantly, Biblical reasons, this one is at the top of my list. This wasn’t some older man that I was left alone with, but a kid basically my age. This isn’t just a “bus problem,” (while I would strongly advise against putting your child on a school bus), but could happen essentially anywhere where there is not direct, attentive, competent adult supervision. This was in a good, suburban Atlanta school district.
The fact of the matter is, as mothers, we cannot actively protect our children as we should if we send them to school without us five days a week. There are obviously many other places that we need to be watchful of our children as well, such as within the church, around older relatives, and even with mixed groupings of friends. Unfortunately, we live in a digital age where pornography is readily available, and young children are exposed to such and curiosity is aroused. This easily leads to abuse among peers. A school where the student/teacher ratio is high, and a parent isn’t there to keep watch is a prime place for abuse to occur. Many times I have been accused of being overprotective, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If something seems off with your daughter, please take note of it!! Most girls will not directly speak of their abuse out of fear and embarrassment. Please do not blow off any hints that something might be wrong. Statistics show that this is happening to many of our daughters.