He was a leader in the church I had attended for many years, a Sunday school teacher, a councilor; his wife and I were friends. He was a man with an interest in my son that I did not question. I hoped that he would help my son through his difficult teenage years. What I did not know was that this man was a pedophile.
I share this story because people often think that horrific things happen only to others or in the movies. What my family went through felt as though it should have been some other family but it wasn’t. It was my family, my children, our lives that were turned upside down. Surviving an encounter with a pedophile is not easy. It takes the grace of God to get through, to know what to do and where to turn for help. The effects of the encounter last a life time.
Here is our story.
I was a single mom with two of my three children living with me. We lived in an apartment in a pretty decent neighborhood. My children were great. Both were active in school and church. My daughter, the younger of the two, had many “best friends” while my son did not make friends easily. I was very active in our church. I had been a member of the same church since my daughter was a baby and she was now around eleven years old. My son was three years older than my daughter. Both kids were very close.
As I said my son did not make friends easily. He seemed to be more mature than the boys his age and he did not seem to fit in. I was concerned. I thought it would be a good idea if he had a mentor. His dad was not around and I thought it would be good for him to have someone he could talk with. I cannot remember the exact day this man and my son began meeting, but they began going out to have hamburgers every now and then.
Looking back – I should have been a lot more careful allowing my child to go out alone with an adult. I should have asked more questions about where they went and what they did.
A few months passed and the man and his wife left the church unexpectedly. I was not sure why they left, but I received a phone call from the man asking me if he could continue mentoring my son. I was delighted. But there was one thing that I should have worried about. He asked me not to tell anyone at church that he was still my son’s mentor.
I was not suspicious. I knew this man. I knew his wife and his daughters. I knew his grand children. His reason for not sharing with others at church was due to a “misunderstanding” he said and that was fine with me. My son continued to go and have hamburgers with him after school. They seemed to have a good relationship.
I remember once seeing a TV show with my kids and it had to do with children being molested. I asked my son and daughter if anything like that was happening to them and I thought they both said “no”. Later, my son told me that he had not answered me. Perhaps I was not expecting any other answer and so I did not wait long enough and moved on to another topic.
Months went by until one particular Sunday. It started out like any other Sunday. My daughter had spent the weekend with a friend, so my son and I went to Church together. That Sunday the couple who were no longer at our church attended the 10:00 a.m. service. I was so happy to see them. I gave them both big hugs and asked the man not to forget my son as they had not met for a while. He assured me that he wouldn’t. There was nothing out of the ordinary for the rest of the service. My son had been in Sunday school so I didn’t know if he had seen the couple. After the service we headed home as usual.
I was in the kitchen and my son was in the living room, I think I was getting lunch ready, and I decided to ask him if he had seen the man at church. I was not ready for the response I got. My son said “I never want to see that man again”. That answer caught my attention and I asked why. My son told me that if he told me why, I would never feel the same about him again.
There are times when life seems to come to a screeching halt, when everything stops. That Sunday was one of those times. As I listened to my son, the relationship he had with this man began to unravel. What I thought was a healthy friendship was far from healthy. The day before before the man had come to our apartment. My son was frightened by the progression of the relationship and shared his fears with my daughter.
For over a year my son had been sexually molested by this man. He had even been molested in our apartment after school. He reminded me of the time I came home from work early and the man was in my apartment and how quickly he left. He did not share all the details, but what he did share made it clear that he believed that he was to blame for what had happened. He felt guilty, ashamed and confused.
As I look back, I am grateful that the Lord kept me very calm that Sunday afternoon. I hugged my son and tried to help him understand that what had happened to him was not his fault. Then, I made an appointment for us to meet with the Priest of our church. Later that evening my son told our Priest that he had been sexually molested. When I was alone with the Priest I asked him if he knew that this man was a child molester and more of the story began to unravel.
It seems that a nephew of the man had called the Priest some months before and told the Priest that his uncle had molested him ten years before. This was the reason that the couple had been asked to leave the church. The man had been told that he was not to have contact with any of the young people of the church, but because they did not believe the nephew’s story no other action had been taken and none of the parishioners were told.
The hours, days, weeks and months that followed that Sunday were filled with pain and disbelief. Many decisions had to be made concerning the next steps. By the Monday I had my son in counseling. Shortly after both my daughter and I were in counseling. I went to the library and read books on pedophilia to help me understand what we were dealing with. I read stories written by pedophiles telling of how they choose their victims and the grooming process. I called Child Protective Services and reported the molestation. A young man in that office spoke to my son about the importance of reporting the abuse to the police. This was not something my son was willing to do and by this he was regretting telling me.
A small group at my church confronted the man about his molestation of a child, but did not disclose who had reported his activities. During the discussion he told them the name of a young man he had molested, but the name he called was not my son’s name. Members of the group realized the problem was bigger than they had anticipated and after an hour the man named two other boys one of which was my son.
After months of counseling my son was ready to report the pedophile to the police. We went from our local police station where we made the report, to the detective office, looked at mug shots and learned that the man had a prior arrest for exposure. His arrest for molesting children was quickly followed by the news reports. The evening news and the morning paper carried the story as the lead story. This was very difficult for my son, my daughter and I. In time the man was sentenced to 20 years in jail and I believe he is still there.
It took courage for my son to go to the police, and it will take courage for him to put this behind him. Years have gone by and I know he still lives with the nightmare, but I trust that one day he will be free from the pain of the memories. Daily I pray for my son and for all whose lives have been affected by a pedophile. Many young lives have been ripped apart by sexual molestation. Only those who have been exposed to pedophilia fully understand the physiological and emotional damage experienced.
The question my son has asked over the years is “how could God allow this to happen to me?” I don’t have the answer to that question, but I know with all my heart that God in His sovereignty used my son to stop this man from continuing his molestation. And I know that God in His grace will help my child to heal and perhaps one day he will help someone else who needs to get on the other side of the nightmare.