My Complicity in Child Sexual Abuse

The following is an excerpt from Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife:

I’d like to be able to say my husband alone will have to answer one day for the terrible wrongs, but I was complicit—the queen of cover-up until the very last months of our marriage.  Midway through our marriage, after he had been arrested and dismissed as minister in Woodstock, we moved to Crown Point, Indiana. Here he was able to get another small church and enroll at a seminary that kept him away from home three days a week.

During this time we arranged to have thirteen-year-old Deana live with us as a foster daughter. I had read books and articles on foster care and believed this was a good time in my life to help a child out while she was in transition. Deana had come to our home with a few clothes in a plastic bag.  When she left on June 24, 1977, more than a year later, she had stylish outfits, a bicycle, a sewing machine, a set of luggage, and several hundred dollars in a bank account. The caseworker had raved about what a great foster family we were. 

She left with a lot of stuff—and also with a big secret.

A week earlier, when my ex-husband had been away at seminary for three days, I had looked out the kitchen window one afternoon, and noticed our older neighbor who often paid Deana for odd jobs, patting her on the behind and behaving in an inappropriate way. I called her in, saying I had something for her to do. Actually, I was headed to the food-mart a couple of blocks away across the highway and I wanted her to stay close by with Carlton napping. But my main point was to tell her to never let a man treat her the way our neighbor just had.

She retorted that every man is that way. “He’s no different than anyone else.” I was indignant. “How can you say that? Can you even imagine Dad doing that?” There was a pause. No answer. And then she burst into tears, telling me how he had come into her room at night—more than once. Deana had lied about things before, but this was no lie. My brain shut down. I was in shock. I don’t even know if I responded to her. I didn’t know what I was doing. I had my money and I headed out to purchase milk. The next thing I knew was the sound of brakes and blasting of a semi-truck horn. I was crossing the highway on the way to the store.

Poor Deana, I wasn’t there for her. When my ex-husband returned home, I confronted him with my certainty, and he finally admitted it. My rage that had been building knew no bounds. There was no physical violence, but never before or after had I ever felt or unleashed such virulent and deep primal wrath. Otherwise, that period in my life is little more that an awful blurry stain of filth and regret.

She did not report him, nor did I.  I was the adult. She was the kid. My reasons were not to protect my husband.  My feelings of anger against him were unbounded.  I did not report him because I knew he would be arrested, lose his job—our only income—and probably be imprisoned up to fifteen years.  How would I manage with a two-year-old son?  But mainly I didn’t report him because I wanted to shield myself from the humiliation of facing family, neighbors, church members.  I didn’t report him for selfish reasons. I was protecting myself and no one else.

The Bible church minister who imagined himself to be a “marriage counselor” told me that I had done right in this situation—that my submission to my husband was submission to God and that I should feel no guilt. He lied to me. What I did was terribly wrong. I was complicit in this crime.