I don’t want to know any more than necessary.

That’s what the voice inside of my head keeps telling me. It’s what Joseph keeps saying. It’s what every set of eyes begs when they learn of our nightmare. We want to use vague words and euphemisms to describe the horror faced by all four of my children.

They were abused.

Their innocence was stolen.

They are living in a nightmare.

And these things are all true, but they each fall short of the truth. Our family is learning that in order to heal from trauma, in order to move forward, in order to look evil in the face and not faint back from shame and fear we must bring everything into the light. Joseph and I have a new motto –

If they were able to experience it, then we are able to hear it.

The forensic interviews were the first step in truly putting this to the test. After each child finished, Joseph and I went into the small room adjacent to the interview room where the CC televisions videotaped each of our young ones. We listened as the detective and interviewer disclosed the details shared during the sessions.

My heart still aches remembering the moment when any illusion that this was all just a horribly misunderstood game of “doctor” was dispelled. Even now, I can feel my heart race and my skin grow clammy as I recall the words used to describe the experiences at the hands of their perpetrator. Asher’s small, dismissive comments about the ways Drake threatened, humiliated, and physically overwhelmed him. The pain in Georgia’s words as she explains the ways she was raped. Olivia’s determination to understate and gloss over the shame heaped upon her by physically abusive threats. Nathan’s naked fear that openly acknowledging the worst of the abuse must clearly define him as a sexual predator; following in his brother’s footsteps, if for no other reason than Asher being his only brother, and therefore somehow determining the course of all male children in the family.

The anger and grief they lived with is terrifying to me.

Joseph is ill and can barely look Asher in the face. We have to do the interview in two different appointments so that the siblings are kept separate from one another. Asher is becoming agitated that he is not being allowed to see Georgia or Olivia or Nathan. He keeps asking about them. He doesn’t understand. We don’t understand.

But pieces are starting to fall into place. Asher’s shift from bright, open, tender boy to insecure, hostile, and contrary the summer he turned 7 wasn’t about his reading – like we thought. It wasn’t about the kid in his VBS that was mean. It was about so much more. There are many signs of abuse that we can now recognize with the benefit of hindsight. Asher became transfixed by fire and played with it inappropriately whenever he could get the chance. We resorted to locking up all matches and lighters but he still found ways to get to them. His wild, almost manic-depressive behavior suddenly fit with the horror he was living. We are praying that so much of the ugly and the fight inside his heart towards the end was the conviction of the Holy Spirit that what he was doing to his siblings was wrong – period.

The other children have clear marks of abuse. One time Nathan took Asher’s goldfish out of the bowl and set it on the dresser where he watched it die. Asher was so upset, and I remember we were stupefied by Nathan’s actions. But I also remember that we didn’t discipline Nathan. In God’s mercy, we were able to see that this was a symptom of a much larger issue. Even though we didn’t know what the larger issue was, we did know that Nathan was desperately trying to communicate something. We talked to Asher about Nathan’s anger and what would possess an otherwise very sweet boy to kill his older brother’s pet fish. “Things like this just don’t happen, Asher!” Joseph exclaimed. We told Asher that he was hurting his relationship with Nathan and if he didn’t work to fix it he might wake up one morning and find that it was gone.

The words echo in my heart today. Gone.

Georgia has anger that knows no limit. Olivia is a broken shell. She barely makes eye contact. Savannah and Ginny walk around like ghosts. The toll is so great I fear we may never be able to pay it in full and remain alive.

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
-John 8:31b-32