Stories of Faith | Ashlynn Mitchell
Faith is knowing that healing will come.
One day my daughter came home telling me she no longer liked school and asked when it would end so she didn’t have to go back. The next day, December 11th 2012, my 4 year old told me her vagina hurt. I asked her if she had fallen on it or sat funny at school. She hesitated and said she fell on it. Then she told me what had happened with some boys at school and I asked if she had told her teacher. She said no.
Later that night I called my father-in-law, an LCSW (licensed clinical social worker) and he suggested I use dolls to have her role play what had happened at school. The next day I got dolls and my daughter showed me what happened at school. It matched exactly what she had said the day before. But then she went on telling and SHOWING me what happened when someone comes into her bed. My heart sank, hearing more information than I was prepared for.
I asked her to tell me more. Was her sister with her? Yes. I asked her if she remembered who it was. She told me the name and I asked if it could be someone else. She said no. After she answered the question, she stood up and walked out of the room saying she didn’t want to talk anymore.
My husband was out of town for work, so we got in the car and started driving 4 hours away to my parent’s house. Literally thirty minutes later she was sick. We didn’t sleep all night and by 5:00 am I took her to the ER with 104 degree fever. After she was treated and sent home, we spent the day snuggled on the couch with my parents watching movies.
I had called the police from my parent’s house and scheduled the interview at The Children’s Justice Center. The interview went well but my daughter did not disclose. Soon she began having fits of horrible anger. She would tell me she wanted to die so she would not have to think about bad things in her brain. It killed me to hear the pain and anger coming from my little girl.
Once we found out who had done this, we immediately limited our contact with those associated with the abuser. That was hard on us and it was hard on those we loved. They were left in the dark, hurt and worried but I wouldn’t do it any different. We wanted time to figure things out before the accusation came out publicly. We HAD to focus on ourselves. We had to protect our girls and make them feel safe.
This time of isolation was one filled with pleadings to God—asking for guidance and using our faith to get us through each day. I didn’t want my daughters to see me weeping, but that is exactly what I did. I wept for my daughters’ innocence, for their fear, and for the anger that filled my body. I cried every day after daughter told me about being abused. Finally, I asked the leader of our church group to come give us all a blessing. I stopped crying. My husband and I truly felt Heavenly Father wrap his arms around us, guiding us with patience and love. Our home felt one step closer to happy.
I remember pleading with God for the power of healing for my daughter and for my heart. I didn't wait for my prayers to be answered; I used the tools around me. I felt guided as I got to work and researched what needed to be done to help my children, now a “parent of an abused child." I reported the abuse, had my daughter interviewed, found a therapist who was awesome for our daughter and found a group therapy for all of us.
On December 18th my daughter started play therapy with a professional therapist who specialized in child abuse. She really enjoyed going and went 1-2 a week. Soon the healing came, in fact our therapist was pleased at how well our daughter did moving on and not feeling broken. Our prayers were answered by the help of professionals who helped us sort our feelings and learn skills to cope.
I remember seeing my daughter progress quickly in therapy while I was still trying to truly accept that a person I loved had done this to my daughters. Our abuser was a loved one, close to us all, loving, sweet, totally normal. She—yes, it was an adult woman— showered my girls with gifts. When I offered to get a babysitter so she wouldn’t have to stay home she insisted on babysitting the girls herself as a favor. She always volunteered to put our girls to bed and it always seemed to take forever. The signs and promptings I had were there but shadowed by the trust and love we felt.
In February the doctor said that we needed to make a decision. We needed to decide if we would ever see the abuser again. We took a weekend to pray and think it over but kept coming back to our gut answer. NEVER AGAIN. What does never again mean when it is a loved one? It means you miss weddings, parties, funerals, holidays, any gathering. It sounds harsh but our immediate family took priority over our extended family.
February 4th, just days after we told our daughter she would never have to see the abuser again—that she would always be safe - she disclosed to her doctor and to the police. She just needed to know she was safe before she told anyone else. The state had no choice but to press charges. On February 20th the abuser was arrested on 3 counts of felony sodomy of a child. It was a whirlwind of emotions. Our loved ones quickly became aware of WHY we had been so distant and quickly rallied around the abuser and abandoned us for months. We were heartbroken to say the least. However, rehashing the events brought bad spirit into our home, contention and anger, which we wanted no part of. We spent holidays with neighbors and extended family who supported us and found peace in the love we were offered.
She was released and refused a lie detector test. We were devastated but learned that child abuse cases are the worst – there are no wins. So rather than fight it civilly we chose to alert those who came into contact with her so they could choose to protect their children or not. We forced no one to believe us or to side with us.
My heart softened as time went by, and when the abuser was released without charges I got over it. My prayers are still being answered as my heart softens to forgive those who abandoned my children and us, and one day, for the abuser. People are outraged when they hear this is how it ended but it is what it is. Our life is good and for me that is what is important.
We decided to focus on healing and move on. We had to. We were carrying such heavy burdens. What did we do to heal? We started marriage counseling in April and also started family group therapy. Two weeks after finding out in December, I joined a gym. I used fitness as my drug as I punched, pedaled, and lifted my way through the pain. I became stronger mentally, emotionally and as a bonus physically. This saved me. This is how I coped and how I continue to cope.
I prayed personally, often in the shower with silent prayers to God asking for comfort, guidance, and to keep going. I wrote down my story each week in a journal, which helped me to stop venting to my husband about old and new events over and over. Again, we found that rehashing how things happened did not help but hurt the spirit in our home.
Finally, three months after we found out about the abuse, I had a very strong feeling that in order for me to heal I needed to help others. I didn't know how to do it, but I knew I had to be a voice. I found out child abuse awareness month falls in April and I decided I would post our story. It was scary and I got a handful of "unlikes" on Facebook. but for the hundreds who responded positively it was worth it. For now I share our story on my social media accounts. My hope is to let others know there is life after abuse and it can be a happy one.
I feel so blessed that my then little 4-year-old was brave enough—in the 10% of abused children who tell—actually told me what had happened. She has a tender heart and wants to be good and choose the right. I feel blessed when my girls wake up and tell me they had good dreams rather than fear filled nightmares. I feel so blessed seeing the change the blessing from my church leaders brought to my family. We have all felt such comfort and peace in our home. My daughter has that light back in her eyes… she is becoming more outgoing again. It is still on her mind but now she tells me and we talk it out.
I am blessed with a now 6-year-old daughter who knows she has a Heavenly Father who can help her, comfort her and she has pure faith that if she asks He will heal.
I remember wishing I had someone to talk to during the early stages and not knowing who to turn to who would understand. Now that I am here, I am willing to listen and to offer friendship if you need it. Feel free to contact me via email @ firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also connect with me on Instagram @mamabear.fitness and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mamabearfit