By Barbara Klugh
Although our Lenten series is about sexual abuse in the church, my childhood experience was much more common. One in five girls and one in ten-to-twenty boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. I was sexually abused by my maternal grandfather for seven years, beginning when I was three until he died when I was ten. I’m telling my story in the hope that someone else will find healing, too.
Why did I never tell my parents? I learned in therapy that it is common for children to protect their parents from these terrible secrets. In my child’s mind, I couldn’t tell my mother because my grandpa was her father, and she would feel so bad. I couldn’t tell my father because I was convinced that, if he found out, he would kill my grandfather and go to jail.
By the time I went to therapy I was married with children of my own. Therapy helped me to come to terms with my experiences, and I recommend it to anyone who is suffering from past (or present) abuse, whether sexual, physical, or emotional.
I became a Christian at age 52 and was baptized and confirmed here at Grace Church. I began to read the Bible passages listed in “Forward Day by Day.” One day I read Mark 14-16: Jesus said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” Immediately I felt a loving warmth, which I now call the Holy Spirit, infuse my being, and knew that, at my very core, I was not defiled—I was clean and, no matter what, God had planted a seed in my heart that was indestructible.
Jesus took on the world’s violence and sin by his death on the cross. And, as his followers, often we, too, will suffer unfairly from the world’s violence and sin. Yet I learned that my memories of childhood abuse were easier to accept when I recognized that God was—and still is—protecting my immortal soul through every adversity. My Lenten prayer is that all people will realize that God’s presence and protection are with them always.