DEAR ABBY: My grandfather died today. He was outgoing and loving, a pillar of the church and did much for our community. Everyone respected him, but they were unaware of a dark family secret. Until I was in my late 20s, no one in our family would talk about the fact that Grandpa was a pedophile (child molester). He molested members of our family -- myself included -- and God knows how many others.
There were excuses why no one in the family would discuss it. Denial was a means of coping, and some of us rationalized, "That was a long time ago; why bring up the past?" Grandpa eventually found himself facing charges of molesting a young neighbor girl. The outcome? He ran from the law to another state where he lived the rest of his life. Our legal system lacks the funds to pursue a pedophile in another state.
The one good thing that resulted from Grandpa being "officially" charged was that our family finally started talking about it. In my gut, I always knew there was something wrong, but I had buried the past so completely that it took several years before I was able to admit it -- even to myself.
There are mothers who know that their husbands are molesting their children. I hope my experience causes others to come out with the truth. Were you molested by a parent you now allow to spend time with your children? You alone have the power to protect them. The problem doesn't just go away.
The first step is to TELL someone. Remember the shame belongs only to the pedophiles, not the victims they violate.
Adults must teach children to protect themselves, and it's never too late to start. You can't remain silent and protect your kids. You must make a choice. -- LIVING IN GOD'S GLORY AND GRACE
DEAR LIVING: Two of the most damaging results of sexual abuse are the shame and isolation felt by the victims. Healing cannot begin until the facts are brought out in the open and discussed among all the parties involved.
The National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-422-4453, provides information and referral for victims and family members. Telephone crisis counseling is also offered. Your local mental health society can recommend therapists specializing in counseling for those who were molested as children and still harbor the bitter memories.
Counseling helps victims work through their painful memories so they can finally be put to rest.