The man I was married to (I often refer to him as him or he in this article) still has 50% parenting time with my daughter. That is right, not “our” daughter, mine. I never pressed charges for the abuse or the rape that he put me through for the seven years we were dating and married (read my story in last month’s blog), though there are now medical reports of the abuse, which I will talk about later in this article. In many ways, I wish that I would have pressed charges, but at the time, I was so scared and so filled with shame.
One of the main reasons I wish I would have pressed charges is in the protection of my beautiful, intelligent, funny eight-year-old daughter. The torture of my life is condensed into having to send her to his house, where I cannot protect her from his controlling and abusive nature. Nor can I protect her entirely from the sexual abuser that he was to me, and the beginnings of manipulation and abuse that he has already inflicted on her.
Friends often ask me how I release her to his house and get through my life without being a wreck when she’s there.
The biggest thing that I do for my daughter when she is gone is to lift her up in prayer. The Bible says to pray without ceasing, and I think I often burn a hole in God’s ear when she is away. I pray specifically:
- For her to be physically protected with a high hedge built around her body.
- For her emotionally, that when he manipulates her or intimidates her, that she will find a way to recover emotionally.
- For her spiritually that she will be able to pray with clarity and be comforted and blanketed in peace.
- I pray that she can sleep restfully and without fear, ready to face the next day when she awakes.
- Alongside this, I pray specifically for the angels who are protecting her. I don’t know if this is biblical, but I asked God to keep her safe with angels, and I trust that He has. I pray for fastidiousness for these protectors, joy in their service and ask for them to hug and comfort my girl regularly throughout her day.
- I printed some photos of my girl and handed them out to friends and family, asking them to put the picture in a prominent place and when they see it, to pray for her.
My daughter has told me several times that she can feel these prayers and the protection from them.
When she returns home, there are several things that we do:
- We spend time reading the Bible together, developing her budding faith in Jesus Christ.
- She and I have read through several storybook Bibles over the years; we just finished one about brave women in the Bible. She will often bring up these stories as we are going about our day, so I know that they are sinking into her brain and her heart.
- We go to church weekly, and I encourage her to attend Bible class and worship. She loves to sing and is continually singing worship songs to her Savior. I know that this carries over to his house and brings her joy and comfort in the midst of chaos.
She and I have worked through family expectations at our house (most of these are forbidden at his house and, therefore, have a direct rule at ours):
- You are allowed to cry here.
- You are allowed to be angry here and show that anger in a productive way.
- You are allowed to be a real person here and have real feelings, you don’t have to hide what you are feeling.
- We say we are sorry in our house when mistakes are made.
- You can make mistakes here.
- You are honored, loved and accepted here. You will always belong here, in our family.
Other elements of structuring and nurturing that have helped:
- I am intentional about calling our house “our house” and her dad’s house “your dad’s house.” I do not call his house “her house” or “their house.” It reinforces that she belongs here in our home, is safe and loved here. We also do not use his name in our house, in order to take his perceived power and authority away. In front of my daughter, he is called “her father” or “your dad.”
- I do not defend him. My daughter has often said , “he is not a real dad to her” and she, “wishes he was not her dad.” I never swoop in to rescue his image in this, one, First, I don’t believe that reconstructing what she thinks of him helps her stay aware of her experience. Doing damage control of his image is not worth my energy.
- Over the years, the men in my family have done what they can to fill that void in her life. I also work hard to make connections and friendships with Godly men who can demonstrate what it means to be a father, dad, and daddy, even if we just call them “uncle” or “grandpa”.
- In light of my abuse history with him, I am sensitive and immediately investigate concerns of physical, sexual or emotional abuse with my daughter. As an example, when she was in preschool around three years old, one of her daycare workers noticed some self-soothing that she was doing before naptime and brought it to my attention. I was shocked, panicked and raging, but I had to know medically if he had violated her and there was a connection to the self-soothing behavior. I left work, picked her up from daycare and took her to a children’s pediatric emergency room and had her examined and swabbed by someone who is an expert for what they called “SA” (sexual assault).
- Every year when we go and see my daughter’s pediatrician, she talks to my daughter about appropriate touch and asks specific questions about safe touch.
- After the preschool incident, I sought counsel from a friend at church who is a child psychologist. She encouraged me to start talking about safe touch with my daughter. She told me about a safe touch book and a coloring book that we purchased. We also talk about safe touch ALL the time.
- Anytime there is anything that happens at his house that seems negligent or abusive physically; I take my daughter to the doctor. Recently, she fell down three stairs, scraped her face and potentially broke her ocular bone when she was at his house. Of course, he did not seek medical treatment, so I took her into the doctor and had the neglect put in her records.
- Additionally, I have let her school know, through the principal and school psychologist, that they need to keep an eye on my girl. They have been vigilant and have called social services twice for things that he has done to her, which she reported to them before I even knew about it.
As I was thinking about this article and reading my Bible this week, I ran across these verses from Lamentations, which encourage me in this phase of my life.
“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. This I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Lamentations 3: 19-26
I know that God will equip both my daughter and me with the skills and knowledge needed to continue to endure that her father has legal rights to visitation with her. I know that in God’s faithfulness, He will find a way to reduce and eliminate the need for my daughter ever to go to his house.
Note from Mary Ellen Mann, cofounder of Last Battle:
Since this article was written Becky’s daughter reported sexual acting out from her father’s girlfriend’s sons. Social services was called immediately and the visits have ceased per social services recommendations, pending further investigation.
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