What If?

WHAT IF

The six-year-old awakes, cloudy-eyed and confused. Someone is touching her. Her mommy told her that no one should ever touch her in those places, the places her bathing suit covers. As soon as her eyes flutter open, the babysitter flusters away, and she is left feeling shame. But she has no words to say why or even understand what the boy did. All she knows is that fear has entered her heart, her home. And she feels dirty.

That week her mom notices something is off. The normally carefree daughter is either subdued or she bursts in anger at small things. And when her mom mentions she is going out again with Dad, and that the babysitter will be there at four, the girl says, “I don’t want you to leave.”

“Why, honey?”

Tears wet her face. “I don’t want to tell. I’ll get in trouble.”

But the story spills out. And the parents feel the weight of innocence robbed. They nurse intense anger and worry about their daughter’s heart. They cry. A lot. They immediately research local counselors who have expertise in childhood sexual abuse. They make an appointment.

They call the boy’s parents and recount what the boy did to their daughter. The conversation goes something like this:

“Your son touched our daughter while she slept.”

Long pause. “Well, she was asleep, so how can we know that was even abuse? I mean she won’t really remember it, right?”

“Sir, she has remembered it, and she is frightened. My next phone call will be to the police.”

“Why would we want to get the police involved in such a small matter between friends? How about this? We’ll have our son go over to your house right now and he’ll apologize, say he’s sorry. Believe me, we’ll make him do this.”

“He is not allowed to ever step foot in our home.” The father’s voice both trembles and grows louder. “Do you understand?” He fights to keep control. He is his daughter’s daddy, the one who swore to protect her when she yelped her way into the world.

“Wait, wait. Don’t be unreasonable,” the boy’s father says, measured. “We’ve known each other a long time. Let’s go to the pastor and work this matter out together. I get that my son made a bad choice, but it’s not abnormal for a boy to explore. He’s like all of us were at his age—curious.”

The girl’s father feels the bile erupt in his throat. “Curious teens don’t touch little girls who are asleep and defenseless, and you know it.”

Long pause.

“Hello?”

Still no words.

“Listen, we can certainly discuss this with the pastor at some other time, but right now I’m hanging up the phone and calling the authorities.”

Click.

He exhales, then dials the police station.

If you’re a victim of sexual abuse and want to start the road to healing, consider picking up:

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