Every Sunday morning the gospel music would be blaring from the TV, but not drowning out that dreaded wake up call, "Rise and shine, give God the glory!" that her father would belt out while banging on the door of her room. He was always so adamant about arriving to church on time and sitting together as a family. But, things were not always as they seemed.
Every head bowed and every eye closed -- except hers. Coming from the left, she heard "Amen!" and from the right, "You're telling the truth!" Then she focused her attention on the pulpit where stood this man uttering words to God. She so desperately wanted to see the man that everyone else saw, but as she continued to look ahead, what she saw never changed. This man was her father, the pastor -- her abuser.
"It was so unfair," the girl thought to herself, that he had a place to hide, but she had nowhere. She couldn't even hide "in" Sunday mornings because she knew that Sunday mornings would inevitably become Sunday nights.
She would kneel to pray that he would not come into her room, but he did anyway. He would lie next to her and touch her or have her to touch him. He would penetrate her body and tell her that it was what God wanted. That He was pleased with the "special bond" that she shared with her father. He had ingrained in her that children should always obey their parents so that they could have a long life. She did not want to die young, but sometimes she felt that death would be an escape from her father as well as from the guilt and shame that tormented her daily.
For six years she had no voice. She felt as though she had been silenced by the words her father preached on Sunday mornings. Her spirit had been wounded by the hypocrisy that she experienced on "Sunday nights," but one day, at the age of 16, she could be silent no longer.
She told someone she trusted and that someone told the authorities and the man who had sexually abused her for years was finally stopped.
Permission was granted to reproduce this content. This excerpt is an abbreviated and slightly modified version of the life story of a survivor that I know personally. She is working on a memoir. "Sunday Nights" part of the title. It is not meant as a literal reference to Sunday nights, but it is a metaphor in a sense, and also used as an oxymoron.
It is my hope that you are uncomfortable with what you had read. This crime continues in our communities because we are too afraid to talk about it. We refuse to confront it, and when it is exposed, we choose not to believe it. But the perpetrators are not afraid to groom and rape your children. This story is real. Not just the words above, but the reality of child sexual abuse by fathers and men who call themselves ministers and pastors. This is the story of hundreds of girls and boys, women and men.
Child sexual abuse at the hands of those under the guise of "man of God" is not some distant idea. It is a very present and horrendous reality that is destroying the lives of children who you teach, who you sit next to in church, and who you coach. To be blinded by titles, charisma and prominence is to fail to protect the children in your community and even in your own home. Just ask the mother of the young girl whose story you've just read.
Contact columnist LaTonya Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.