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Silent Sorrow | Guest Post

*Note: I am honored that Jo agreed to write this post for my Quivering Daughter readers. This is a painful subject not addressed enough throughout Christendom and particularly, among conservatives.

I am Jo: a survivor of sexual abuse and a fundamentalist childhood. I am many things in my current life: a wife, a lover, a friend, a photographer, and writer but I am defined by my history, just as we all are, to some degree. I write about my experiences at "Finding Her Way" in the hope that someone else will find their truth to avoid creating a history like mine.

Childhood sexual abuse is a taboo topic, to be never spoken about in polite society. And often, not even among family members and those you love the most. If you are a fundamentalist daughter, this pressure is increased ten fold. Silence is golden is a fundamentalist family, and complete obedience and respect is demanded. To question an adult's actions is the ultimate in disrespect and disobedience: to the point where your very faith is questioned.

Sadly, childhood sexual abuse thrives in silence. As the daughter of paedophile, I grew up knowing all too well the powers of silence, manipulation and fear. Living, breathing, haunting fear. As a fundamentalist daughter, I also grew up knowing the power of the threat of being labeled as disobedient or disrespectful: and thus, a member of one of them: the worldly, the unsaved, condemned to hell for eternity.

But equally, I knew in my heart what my father had done to me was not right: not in the eyes of God or men. My father was highly respected and active in the church, and I knew that no real action would be taken, if I was to turn there for help.

So, I chose to speak up to the government authorities, and have seen the many and varied impacts my choice has had on my life. In many ways, me speaking up was just as traumatic as the actual abuse. My case was severely mishandled by the authorities from start to finish. My family (both immediate and extended) was destroyed, never to be reformed as it was.  My father never served his full sentence (which was small to start with), and now lives in a major city close to schools, parks, pools etc.

So I am well aware as to why people remain silent about their abuse, and keep it tightly wrapped up inside, never to be spoken of again. I can also understand why people don't report their abuse to authorities.

However, I am firm believer in the power that lies in revealing the truth. It is an incredibly powerful thing to speak up when you, as both victim and survivor, are ready.  In my case, the timing may have been wrong for others, but for me, I was at breaking point: I no longer wanted to play the happy family. As it was to turn out, I had to play the game for another 2 years: thanks to incompetent authorities, and a father who was an expert at manipulation and trickery. Those 2 years were sheer hell: I had been promised that if I would speak up, I would never have to see him again. Instead I saw him night and day for the next 2 years. The church did nothing in those 2 years: indeed, it operated a very successful cover up of his actions.

But the actual act of speaking out to my close friend M? Was completely priceless. To be validated and told that yes, I was speaking the truth, and that yes, it had happened to her too is/was an experience that changed my life totally. Yes the 2 years after were hell, but ultimately? When I left home (after which he was finally charged), I could hold my head up high and know that I had done the very best job that I (as a teenager) could do. In saying that, I have a few recommendations that I would make to others that come after me, and that I wish someone had told me.
  • Do have a "safe house" option for after you report (trusted friends, family etc) . You may not (regardless of what anyone may tell you) be removed. So plan ahead, and be prepared to put that plan into action yourself.
  • Be prepared to be deeply questioned, doubted and ignored, particularly if you have a very well presented family image. The bigger the image, the harder it will be to get someone to listen. Be prepared to tell everything to people who appear not to care. And be prepared to tell it all, in every horrible, horrifying detail.
  • Remember that by your actions you may save others that may be abused after you. If someone does molest/abuse/rape you, chances are that they have:
                   a) done it before to another child,
                   b) will do it again to another child,
                   c) or has done it before and will do it again.

  • And above all, talk, talk talk. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. What you find out might surprise you. And if someone does try to "shut you up", talk louder. You are doing the right thing.
  • If you are a parent (or any adult), believe your child if they tell you something. Why would your child, any child lie about something so horrible? Particularly if that child has been trained from a young age that lying is a terrible sin, and has little or no knowledge about sexual behaviours? Watch your child: is he/she acting out? Showing an unusual knowledge/obsession of sexual acts/touching? Is an adult showing a particular interest in your child more than usual (ie: at a public event the adult prefers the company of the child, not the adults)? Trust your intuition, both as a parent and as a person. Only 10% of offenses are carried out by strangers : so it isn't the scary bogey man you need to be afraid of: it is the people you know.
Every situation is different, and these points won't apply to everyone. But if one person can use what I have learnt, then this post would have fulfilled its purpose.


  1. Thanks for sharing Jo! Although I never was brought up in a fundamentalist home, I too suffered abuse, though not from a family member. But the silence was horrible. My knowledge of God was from my father's catholic faith. I thought God left me and my parents would disown me if I told them. Yes, more people should know!

  2. Jo, thank you for presenting a clear and concise post on this horrific problem. I am 55 years of age, and I REGULARLY am told by women of my age and younger of childhood sexual abuse. I think I know more women who experienced this that I do those who have not. I'm not sure why, but God seems to bring them into my life.

    I have a couple of resources to share with you and with others.

    One is Dr. Dan Allender's book, "Wounded Heart". This excellent book helped me and others in my family deal with this, but I suggest having someone to go through it with....It's best to have someone who can help as you walk through the past.

    Another is Jan Morrison at www.treeofrest.org, author of "A Safe Place."

    Also, Chonda Pierce has an amazing testimony of this kind of childhood abuse as a pastor's daughter.

    I was stranger molested, myself. Never told my parents. The first time I told anyone, it was to my fiance when I was 20. I know that's small compared to the daily abuse of a father. Nevertheless, Satan worked OVERTIME at using it to keep me from God. Satan didn't count on God's overtime in overcoming his evil influence.

    Again, thank you for sharing these deep things from your past.

    God Bless you,


  3. This brings tears to my eyes- YES! THE CHURCH IS TOO SILENT ON THIS ISSUE!!!
    Thank you for sharing your experience-your breaking the silence will help others locked in that torture.

  4. Greetings,
    Where to start? I am a mother of five children. I was forced away from my children from spiritual abuses and the misuse of 'authority'. This misuse was then used to sexually exploit my 'obedient' daughters.
    We are flying this week to a sentencing hearing for the children's father. Many, many pleas went out the to the church by me, the wife, and no one heard me or stopped this man. My submission was the only reply to the damages being done in our 'fundamental christian' home. Please see: Peaceandsafetyinthechristianhome.com.

    Abuse is not addressed in the churches,most often. If I had been believed by the ministry, and not told to submit, then my two daughters would not have been molested. I was left alone to find 'secular help' who rarely understands the 'spiritual' dynamics of the fundamental homes.
    I was 'crazy' in the churches and 'crazy' in the secular realms and for a three year interim, had no one to go to for help. While he was sexually abusing my daughters and abusing my children, in the 'name of God'.
    I am so thankful for the Shepherds Voice that can be heard from Quivering Daughters.



  5. This post breaks my heart. And I want to direct others to it. However, I have a question. Your first bullet point is unclear to me, and I imagine your intent may be unclear to others, too.

    What do you mean when, in speaking of having a safe house option, that "You may not . . . be removed" and "be prepared to put that plan into action"? Who may not remove you from where? The authorities may not remove you from your parents' home (even though you ardently wish they would--because you are truly in danger)??? Or, if you make it to your "safe house," it would be illegal for someone (like your parents) to remove you from the safe house??? Or . . . . (????)

    And maybe you could clarify a bit more about what, exactly, you mean when you speak of a "safe house." Is there a kind of place that is, legally a real safe house? Or are you referring, "simply," to a kind of "secret" house where (hopefully) no one can find you (in case the authorities are unwilling to remove you from your (unsafe) parents' home?

    I hope my questions make sense to you. . . .

    Again, thank you for a most important post.

  6. Many thanks for all the supportive comments, and shared stories.

    John, when I was referring to a "safe house", I was referring a safe place, out of the parent's/abusive adult's home. I would recommend family members or friends.

    The facts are children (or the abusive adults) are not always removed from abusive homes (I wasn't) and returning to that situation (particularly straight away after making a report) is traumatic and a huge upheaval to say the least. Thus why I would recommend coming up with another housing option (planning ahead essentially) for the days and even weeks after you report, in the event that the abusive adult (or you yourself) is not removed by the authorities, or your immediate family has a bad reaction to you revealing the abuse.

    Essentially, I am saying that you should keep your options open "just in case".


  7. Thanks Jo for talking about this difficult experience. I was sexually abused by a neighbor but my older bro got the worst of it. We were age 5 and 7/8.

    It's hard for me to understand how my mom could be so ignorant or blind that something was different. My older bro & I didn't speak of it for years. But he sexually molested me between the age of 7 & 11. It shut me down until I became a Christian @ age of 18. I have found much emotional healing thru the Lord Jesus and He has used so many as a vessel to make that happen. Again, thanks for bringing to light this terrific situation. Hugs!

  8. I have two friends from fundamentalist homes. Both were molested by strangers. In both cases, the fact that their families were Christian fundamentalist worked against them getting help, rescue or healing. One daughter was told she was just seeking attention. She had bulimia, was cutting herself, was depressed and withdrawn, feeling suicidal - textbook reactions to unresolved, unvalidated trauma. She kept trying to talk to people about it - classic cries for help. Her father told her she was trying to get mileage out of it. He refused to let her go for counselling because 'so many counsellors are 'ungodly', and 'all she needs is the Bible'. The other daughter was expected to suck it up and not make a fuss, until finally her younger sister, who had also been molested, went to the police. Against the wishes of their parents who felt they were bringing shame on their 'good Christian family', they went to court and secured a conviction against the abuser (who by that time had been free for 10 years, to abuse others). The obedience and subordination of these daughters, and making sure they had a 'good attitude', mattered more than their healing, more than stopping the perpetrators.
    - JEB

  9. Thanks you for sharing.I am also a victim of CSA,and a fundamentalist childhood.I've been wanting to blog for a long time, but been afraid of hurting my sister who's still in the group.You girls are so brave to share though, I think I should do likewise as part of my healing.Blessings Desalie.

  10. Desalie...I am so sorry for your pain. Don't rush the sharing part but as the Lord guides you, it can be very helpful and healing to break the silence. May He comfort and strengthen you. {{hugs}}

    JEB, what a sad story. :-( It breaks my heart on behalf of the thousands of girls who experience this without anyone to see, to hear, to help. I wish I could help. :-(


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