What I want you to know about my husband's sexual abuse

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by an anonymous reader.

My husband, K, was sexually abused by his older cousin throughout the course of several years in his childhood. To go into anymore detail would be trespassing on my husband’s story, which is his to tell. What I can write about are the realities of child sex abuse, and our story of struggling to bring forth the truth when it is not always wanted.

I found out about the abuse when my husband and I were engaged; he was in the process of “re-remembering” and told his parents about it for the first time. They responded poorly, with an emphasis on it having taken place in the past. Plus, they said, “people change”.

My husband’s extended family is very close; we were expected to go to multiple family events and celebrations where the abuser was present. We smiled, pretended everything was fine. Although it pains me to write this out, we even went to the abuser’s wedding. At the time, we truly believed we were keeping the peace in the family by doing as K’s parents wished.

Throughout the next four years, we learned some more details: that K’s younger brother was also abused by the cousin, and that at least one more member of the family was approached as well.

We started looking into statistics on child sex abusers, which shocked us out of any tenuous “peace” we had maintained with the family. Most child abusers do not stop at abusing one or two children--according to the National Institute of Mental Health, the median number of victims is 117. At some point, we needed to face the facts that revenge or justice or peace were not the real issues. Protecting innocents was.

Several weeks ago, my husband reported his abuse to DHS and the local police department, thinking that it would be best to at least raise some red flags if his cousin ever got a background check. Instead, he got visited by detectives who want to prosecute the abuser, and are encouraging my husband to testify.

It’s a strange circle of events that we are still struggling to wrap our heads around. All semblances of peace will no doubt be shattered. My husband will face persecution for refusing to stand back and stick his head in the ground. He will lose any last shreds of approval from his father, from his aunts and uncles. He will stir up the pot, dig up the muddy leaves and moldy remains, of sin and brokenness that have remained unaccounted for.

But he will do it. For his younger brother, for himself. For all the other victims that are out there, shamed into silence, allowing abusers to do so much more harm.

In America, we like to view child sex abusers as lone wolfs, one-offs, weirdos in trench coats luring children into their van. The reality is that over 85% of children are abused by someone they know and trust. They are usually the charmers of the family, the ones nobody wants to believe are capable of doing what they do.

This is why, year after year, we all act shocked when the big-time coach or the head pastor is found out. We don’t want to believe it is the beautiful and the successful, the gregarious and engaging, that can be the predatory ones. But until we come face to face with this reality, these stories will continue to make headlines.

For my husband and I, there is relief in knowing that a light will be shone on the great evil his cousin did, and that there will be precautions put in place so that it does not happen again. And we trust and pray that this light will permeate every aspect of our lives, and of our families. We don’t want to live with our hands over our ears, with a forced smile on our lips. We are ready for the light, for the darkness it reveals, and for the redemption that the Truth always brings.

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