At five years old, she was the cutest and sweetest child. A flaxen haired beauty with clear blue eyes. But don’t let her innocent look fool you, she didn’t take any crap off anyone, especially her twin brother. I can still hear her voice echoing through the house as she screamed his name when he took something that belonged to her.
One of my favorite memories of her is when she’d put her Barbie in her brother’s toy truck and send her flying across the yard. She wasn’t a girly girl at all. I cleaned as much or more mud out of her clothes as I did her brother’s.
She was full of life and laughter. We called her “Sister” and her smile could light up any room. She lit up our lives as well.
I was accustomed to hearing the trampling of their little feet through the house while I was sitting at my desk in the office off of my bedroom. It was my cue that all was right in our home. When I heard screams or crying I’d rush to their aid or they’d run to me screaming “Momma!” I knew what to expect most of the time.
But on one particular day, I was disturbed by the silence that had gone on too long.
I hung up the phone in my office and walked into the den. I called their name, but no answer. The back door came opened and her twin brother ran in.
“Where is your sister?” I asked with concern.
He told me she was playing hide and seek with my 13 year old son and our cousin who lived just down the road.
This angered me. A few weeks before I’d caught the older boys in the bathroom with the younger kids. The cousin was putting soap in my younger son’s mouth. I’d told them then to leave the younger kids alone.
Sister came in the back door alone. I asked her where she’d been. She said hiding in the storage building with her older cousin.
Her twin brother went to his room. Something inside of me was screaming that something was very, very wrong.
I tried to stay calm. But inside I was starting to shake.
I asked her what she was doing in the building. She said again playing with the cousin. She seemed perfectly fine. She wanted to take a bath. I ran the water for her and sat on the floor next to the tub.
I had thought the bad feeling would go away, but it didn’t. God encouraged me to ask more questions. His prompting has never been more clear.
Still shaking on the inside, so much so I could barely sit still, I asked her again what her and the cousin had been doing in the building.
I’ll never forget her words that sent my heart to my stomach.
“He takes care of me.” She said in her innocent voice from the tub filled with bubbles.
I feared the worst. I made myself stay calm, but an uncontrollable anger was rising in me. I took a deep breath and continued to ask her details of what they’d done in the building.
She spoke in such simple words, “He unzipped his pants and put his thing in my mouth.”
I told her to continue taking her bath and walked into the den struggling to keep my sanity. Her twin brother was in his room. I didn’t know where my oldest son and his cousin were. I called my husband who was down at his shop next to the house. I can’t even remember what I said.
The following moments are a blur. I remember my phone ringing. My friend from another town called me out of the blue. She said my name had come to her mind. She told her husband she knew something was very wrong and she had to call me.
I walked on the porch, told her what happened. Remember throwing a bottle of Windex against the door. She told me she was so sorry. She said she’d pray.
Later, the kids were in bed. I’d managed to calm down. We called the cousin back down to our house and confronted him outside.
He was only 14. I knew it was possible that he may have been abused himself if he’d done such a thing. He’d spent a lot of time at our home. I remember holding him when he was a baby. My oldest son had stayed at daycare with him. His Mom was my friend. In months prior to this, he’d walked into my office and told me he’d become a Christian. We even took him to church with us at times. I had cared about and trusted this young man like he was my own son.
In these moments my heart felt like it was being ripped apart. But my husband and I made the decision to ask him first about what he’d done and give him an opportunity to confess.
I told him what my daughter said he did. He continued to shake his head no and deny it adamantly.
It was my five year old daughter’s word against his.
My husband took the boy home and talked to his Dad, who said he’d talk to his son.
I talked to a counselor friend who told me to report the incident. It was the stupidest decision we ever made not doing so.
The boy’s father had called in a pastor friend to talk to his son. That pastor declared that he believed the boy was telling the truth and had not abused our daughter.
We didn’t have much faith in the authorities handling the situation. I’d reported an incident several years back involving a friend. An investigation was done, but my friend had continued to stay in an abusive situation. Also we were concerned that our daughter would have to talk about this to a stranger and we were concerned about the whole family being upset with us and would think she’d just made it up.
We went to our former pastor for advice. He encouraged us that maybe she’d forget it happened. He also downplayed the incident by saying, “Boys will be boys.” I was livid and screamed at him. He told me he’d just made that statement to “calm me down.” I realize now that was just another evidence of his manipulation.
I don’t know why we listened to him but we did. My husband and myself grew up in abusive homes. My husband’s family was always in the middle of some kind of chaos. He’d tried to tell his older brother what the cousin had done, warning him to keep his daughter away, but he didn’t believe us either. My daughters own uncle didn’t believe her continued to allow the abusive cousin to stay with his son and daughter overnight.
It seemed no one believed my little girl. I was devastated, wrecked and very, very angry. The boy was never allowed around her again. When my husband’s brother drove down to our shop with the cousin on the back of his truck more than once it was a declaration to me that what happened to our daughter didn’t matter. My husband was boiling on the inside, too but at the time he didn’t know it. He put up a gate at the end of our drive to keep his brother and the boy out.
I so desperately wanted out of that town, that I remember pounding on the wall one night screaming out to God to get us out. Finally we moved.
Things normalized a little bit for us. We had prayed our little girl would forget. She might have pushed it out of her mind temporarily, but it was still very much there.
What we didn’t know was that her world had ceased to become safe for her. Our little girl was lost and afraid. Her kindergarten and first grade teachers told us she’d hide when she’d get upset about something. She was withdrawing from other kids.
I told the teachers about what had happened. They gave her the extra comfort and attention she needed to get her through those years.
We’d thought we’d gotten through the worst, but in December of 2012 the nightmares came.
I thought it was just the small prep school mentality that caused my daughter to feel isolated and alone. I kept thinking she’d make friends and it’d get better, but it didn’t. At a birthday party, a girl who was supposed to be her friend kicked her in the stomach. A couple of weeks later this same girl and others were picking on my daughter in the fifth grade telling her she needed a boyfriend.
My daughter went to the top of the slide to get away from these girls. They continued to pick on her from the ground about needing a boyfriend. My daughter got so angry she kicked and lost her balance and fell from the slide. It’s a miracle she didn’t break something or have a concussion. She fell flat on her back, but from all of the x-rayd and MRIs her body appeared fine. But she was far from fine.
In February of 2013, the bullying at school continued the closer it got to Valentine’s Day. Our little girl shut down.
I’ll never forget the day I got her from school. She didn’t want to talk. She didn’t want to eat. She got in bed and just slept. I took her to the family doctor and the psychologist. But she just kept getting worse.
Her depression became so severe she developed psychosis. She was seeing scary things, hearing voices and could barely sleep.
In March of 2013, she was hospitalized for two weeks. I thought we were going to lose our little girl. We were in the middle of a nightmare that never seemed to end.
We thank God for the hospital and doctors at the children’s hospital that stabilized and cared her and us back to sanity. They were a gift from God.
We went back home and our daughter finished out the year in home school.
In the summer of 2013, she remembered the abuse. She told her psychologist and finally the incident was reported when she was 12 years old. The authorities interviewed her and did an investigation, however nothing could be done. Her abuser was now an adult. Because he was a child when it happened it couldn’t even be put on his record. He’d already been put in jail twice for stealing.
But once the truth was out she began to heal. And God has brought her a very long way.
As Valentines approaches this year she’s having a rough time. I’ve had to go get her from school twice, because the anxiety is so bad.
But the darkness is finally out in the light and I can already see God’s healing hand at work transforming the darkness to light.
As I write all of this, I’m so angry at all that was stolen from my little girl’s life. The lively, beautiful little girl that screamed at her brother, played in the mud got lost after being abused that day. From that point on she’d look around the world wondering if it was safe.
I told her yesterday in the car I was so proud of who she was. That she didn’t need to be afraid to just be herself. I reminded her of those days when she played trucks and screamed at her brother and her sweet smile that lit up a room. In that moment, time seemed to stand still. She stared at me quietly, understanding in her eyes and then she smiled that smile. My heart melted.
I thank God that our little girl lost is finally finding her way back home.