The response to the video on suicide and depression was overwhelming! If you have emailed me and I’ve not answered yet, I will get to you. Thank you so much for your patience. Abuse and depression and suicidal thoughts go hand in hand and that is just one more reason why we must do our part to stop child sexual abuse from happening!
If you are new to this blog, please begin here. This is my story about being married to a practicing pedophile for almost forty years without knowing it. This is my story about abuse and how we can recognize the red flags that something is wrong. This is my story about how we can work together to help prevent child sexual abuse as well as adult mental and physical abuse.
By this time in our lives, John and I were separated, he had his first job as a “manny”, and he was searching day and night for a full-time live-in job taking care of children. He was a determined man!
As he was doing this, he continued to shine in church, in the community, and with the children. I wish I could say that John was the town drunk, or was the man who neglected his children because he was too busy to give them love or attention…… but I can’t say those things. He was a good dad. Actually, he was a great dad! And, when we separated, it seemed like he became an even better dad! He spent quality time with the kids taking them out to breakfast on Saturday mornings. He took long nature hikes with some of the adult boys. He called the kids who were living away often. He bought cards and sent them to the kids — cards for no special reason except to tell them that he loved them.
He was also a stalwart citizen in the community. He volunteered his time at local churches handing out food to those in need. He made visits to the sick and elderly. He sang in the community choir. He went to basketball games to cheer on our school’s team even when we had none of our own boys on the team. He was the man our small town called on to lead prayers at community dinners!
And, church. Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you how involved he was in church! He was a traveling preacher similar to the times when churches had no money to pay their preachers. Yes, John was the preacher who traveled to congregations that had just lost a preacher, or who had no money to pay a preacher. He’d preach a sermon and Bible class for little or nothing in exchange for a hot meal and time with a family who needed the love and attention of a pastor. Word got around, too, and he was never without a place to go on a Sunday. Most times, he spent the entire weekend with a church family.
Add to that the fact that he often cooked his specialty meal of mile-high lasagna and his home-baked brownies — foods that every kid and adult loved to eat. He would hand deliver the meals to their homes. He was a glowing example of what a fine Christian man should be! What a treat to have a hot meal delivered to you just because someone cared!
But….there was one glitch to it all. His wife was not part of his life. I had somehow gotten the courage to stand up for myself. And, when I did, he left me, but not without the forceful warning that, “I will never divorce you!” He was going to make certain that I was the one who initiated the divorce — not him!
As I look back on this period of separation, I can see that John was brilliant!!! He had a well thought out plan. I journaled my thoughts all through this time and I recently read back over some of what I wrote. “I don’t understand John. He’s like two different people. It’s as though he’s going out of his way to prove himself — to prove how good he is all the while making me look like I’m a despicable person. Everything is so wrong, but how do you make something like this right? Who would ever believe me if I said there is another side to this man — an evil side to him? Nobody — nobody would ever believe me.”
And, so I kept quiet. Very, very quiet as John became more and more involved in family, church, and community. His light was shining brightly!
What usually happens when one person shines brightly happened to me. I became the one whose light went out. I withdrew from people. I pulled away from my children. I stopped going to church. I kept to myself. I stayed long, late hours at work to avoid the emptiness in my life at home. I was suffering from abuse, but in a way that I didn’t understand. This was the abuse of forced separation.
John told everyone — and I do mean everyone — how brokenhearted he was over our failing marriage. He said he just didn’t understand me, but he was willing to wait for me. He told some of the kids he was so depressed that he was going to drive his car off of a cliff or into a tree and kill himself. He said he cried constantly over our separation.
Oh, I’m sure it was an embarrassment to John for a while to say that we were not living together. But, the dark light was easily cast on me. I was the one who was pulling away from family, church, and community and that was definitely made known to others by John. In fact, just recently someone said, “I never knew what to believe from John. He said how much he loved you, but he sure was trashing you to others.”
I never asked what that meant. I walked away crying. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all, and this was one of those times.
So, what does any of this have to do with pedophilia? What does this have to do with child abuse? What red flags are here that I didn’t see?
1. John was two different personalities, but he knew with certainty that he had people so fooled that I would never attempt to say otherwise. In other words, he was banking on me keeping my mouth shut about his abusive treatment of me. And, he was correct. I didn’t say a word! I knew, without doubt, that nobody would ever believe me!
2. John was working very hard to build up the trust of people all around him so that he could easily get to children. *Note: When he was a traveling preacher, he used to say that young children flocked to him. He said, “I love those little munchkins so much! They need a role model like me!” Due to privacy issues I cannot say any more than this, but you can read between the lines as to what happened with some of those children.
3. John’s words didn’t match his behavior. A truly despondent husband would be trying everything possible to make amends with his wife. He never made one attempt!!!
4. John was always studying people and he knew that our children were suffering from our separation. If he came off as the great father, the great preacher, the great community member, then it only left one conclusion for the kids. “Mom isn’t great. Look what she’s doing to dad. She’s killing him.”
He knew how children of divorce and separation suffered and he banked on having complete control of our kids and how they thought about me. It worked.
5. John was working day and night to stay in control of a very bad, very emotional, very difficult situation — the break-up of our family. And, he proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he was in control.
His control was grossly misinterpreted as him being a “man of strong, unshakeable faith.” And, that’s just how he had it planned.
John had an agenda, as all predators do. That agenda was to control, manipulate, and eventually molest children. Why? It’s a power thing. The more I read, the more I understand that it’s not about the sex as much as it is about control. In my reading, I’ve come to understand that the control gives a “rush” — a “high” — to the perpetrator knowing he has that kind of power.
There is no way that I, or anyone, could have put all of the pieces together at this point, BUT there were definite signs that something was very, very wrong. There were conflicting things being said and done by John, but he crafted his words and deeds in such a way as to make him very believable and trustworthy.
And, that’s just how pedophiles work!
So, what should you do as a parent? How can you keep a careful eye on your children? How can you keep your children safe?
Two things come to mind immediately:
1. Talk, talk, talk to your children from a young age up about safe boundaries. Please shed the fear and embarrassment of talking about their bodies. As parents we must teach our children age-appropriately about setting boundaries! If someone dares to try to overstep those boundaries, then your children must know that they can come to you and you will believe them and keep them safe.
2. Stop buying into the myth that everyone who goes go church or acts nice is actually a nice person! In other words, stop being so trusting of everyone!! If you get a gut feeling that something isn’t right, it probably isn’t! Trust your inner instincts. And, don’t place your children in the safekeeping of people without setting very clear boundaries and YOU be the one to call them out and test them on those boundaries!!
This isn’t all we can do, but it’s a beginning. We’ll talk about how to be more proactive in the weeks to come. The bottom line is this: There are predators all around us and they are counting on your trust. They are counting on your child keeping quiet. They are counting on you graciously handing over your child to take to the movies, to take out for candy, to take to a ball game in order to give them some free time alone with your child.
Pedophiles are liars. Pedophiles are good at what they do! Pedophiles are the least likely people you would expect to be molesters!!!
Let’s do everything in our power to continue to educate and become empowered. We must be vigilant. We must be advocates for child safety! We must do all we can to protect our children!
Thank you for caring! Thank you for sharing!! Thank you for being a voice for our children!
Next week in our continuing story, we will learn about a critical turning point in the life of an abuser. The information that will be shared is perhaps the most important information that has been shared to date.
If you are in need of a speaker to help educate parents and church leaders on how to keep your children safe from predators, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .