Once upon a nightmare

EDITOR’S NOTE: AFA Journal knows the writer of this account and is confident in its veracity. We are protecting the privacy of the writer and have used pseudonyms for persons in the story.

AUTHOR’S NAME WITHHELD

September 2019 – “I don’t want to talk to them. Please, don’t make me. It was a joke. I didn’t mean it, don’t tell.” Once upon a time, those words came from a five-year-old girl, my little sister Mia.

Once upon a time, she was abused.

Once upon a time, a man took the innocence of this precious child.

Once upon a time, my world changed forever.

It was a typical Sunday morning. I was donning one of my usual hand-me-down dresses and preparing for the natural chaos of the morning. Our routine involved packing kids in their “Sunday best” for the challenges of the day. My sister Alexis and I were starting to dab on perfume and lipstick, hoping to catch the eye of one of the preacher boys.

“We’re going to be late,” Dad yelled from the door.

The fact of the matter was, a family of eight is always late. No matter how hard we tried, we were going to be late. I hated being late. I hated missing the early drama of the day.

I hated being one of eight, most days. As we loaded into the messy van, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Finally, we’re on our way.

____________________
That night my parents and younger sisters stayed home from church, though it raised no alarm. Mom wasn’t feeling well, and she knew we would bring home enough drama to keep her entertained for the night.

Later, when we approached Mom’s bed, something was different. She had tears in her eyes, and a solemn tone creaked through her voice.

“Kids, I have to tell you something,” she said.

My mom has always been my rock. She had excelled in anything she put her mind to. When she panicked, we all panicked. I searched the room for a safe place, trying to hide from whatever was about to spill out of my mom’s mouth.

“As you know, Mia has been acting strange. She’s been terribly mean to Beth and Emma. Tonight your dad and I had a chat with her.”

Mom had a faint tear welling in her eyes.

A chat? Where is this going? A chat with her? She’s five. What drama has she concocted?

“I’ve caught on to her actions as of late, and we talked to her,” Mom continued. “Kids, we found out that she has been sexually abused at church. She informed us someone took her into a room and proceeded to ‘poke’ her.

“They threatened her not to tell. They told her she was trash and would never be worth anything.”

In that instant, our world changed. Everything my family had known began spiraling out of control. As required by state law, our church reported the issue to the proper authorities. In the coming weeks, our parents were interviewed by more than one police department. But Mia was little. She didn’t want to talk about this crime. Who could blame her?

Thus, there was no further investigation by the authorities.

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Two years later, Mia was seven. She had been in a wreck and was temporarily stuck in a wheelchair. She sported a bright American flag cast and knew she ruled the world. Now, much of her time consisted of watching old movies and ordering the rest of us around.

After deciding we would burst if we heard a Disney soundtrack one more time, Alexis decided to look at the church directory for embarrassing pictures of her friends. Mia decided to look with her.

“I don’t like that couple. He used to poke me when I was little,” Mia insisted.

“Mia, are you sure about that?”

“Yes. When I was in Sunday school. Back when I was a baby.”

Alexis’ face turned pale.

She had to tell Mom.

We had a name! And finally some hope that the criminal would come to justice.

____________________
“I don’t want to talk to them. Please, don’t make me. It was a joke. I didn’t mean it, don’t tell!” Mia screamed at the top of her lungs.

But after we had a name, my parents were legally required to report the incident to the authorities. We were then referred to DHS. They requested a personal interview.

This scared all of us, especially Mia.

When we told her she was going to have to talk about the situation with the police, fear flooded her face. My precious sister, the queen of our world, quickly started streaming tears, drenching her Ariel nightgown.

“I didn’t mean it. Don’t tell them I told. Please.” Her plea sent a chill down my spine. She begged as she reached for my hand.

“We’re here,” Dad said, pulling into a parking space.

“Hold my hand and don’t let go, please,” she cried, as we walked into the DHS building.

“I’m afraid.” She teared up again.

“You have to tell them the truth so they can stop him from hurting other girls.” I tried to comfort her.

I let go of her hand and watched them wheel her into the interview room.

My heart sank.

____________________
The wait was agonizing. I wondered what they were saying and why they were saying it. All I knew was that I needed my sister, and she needed me. Yet, we were isolated in two different worlds separated by a glass door.

At last, the door swung open.

She was crying more than before. I felt my mom’s face redden from behind me. Mia rushed into her arms, sobbing.

“They kept asking me about you and Daddy!” she exclaimed. “They wanted me to tell them everything, but I couldn’t remember some. Why did they talk about you and Daddy that way? Why did they ask if you did it?”

Again, officers apparently did not consider Mia a credible witness. For her sake, our parents didn’t press charges; she had suffered enough already. Her abuser was never charged for the horror he inflicted on a young child’s life.

So there it ended. Justice was never served.  

Advocating for victims
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every nine minutes, child protective services substantiates or finds evidence for a claim of child sexual abuse. Ninety percent of child victims know their predators and three out of four adult victims know theirs.

The church and the culture must move forward to protect the innocent and seek justice for the victim. Proverbs 31:8-9 admonishes, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The story in this feature does not end satisfactorily because justice was still elusive. Fortunately, however, young Mia, now age 11, is in a family of strong faith. The writer told AFA Journal, “Mia didn’t receive justice, but she doesn’t remain captive to fear. Instead, she celebrates the fullness of God’s love in her life.”

▶ Learn more about how to prevent sexual abuse in the church and how to minister to victims of abuse at caringwell.com.
▶ Learn your state laws governing sexual abuse at RAINN.org.
▶ National Sexual Assault Hotline (free and confidential) 800-656-HOPE(4673).