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Sigh …where to begin. All of us bear scars, all of us have seen darkness. I have many stories to tell but I will begin with the first.

I was six years old with long, dark hair, playing in our little yard with no fences. It was a small rental house with a porch screen that screamed at you every time you enter or leave. My childhood was filled with long days happily playing outside, when the Iowa weather permitted, or staging dramatic events with all of my toys, when the cold kept us in.

My parents worked hard for our survival. My father was always traveling and my mother was finishing school and working as well. There were many days I would play for hours on my own. I was content with that though.

We lived next to a man who was blatantly abusive to his wife and daughter. I remember my parents worried expressions whenever we would hear yelling and screaming and my father’s angry glance towards their home when I asked him why there was so much yelling. He had two sons. One was my age or just a bit older, and one was about 15.

Now I was and still am an introverted, sensitive, and accommodating person. In my six year old mind I needed to try and make everyone happy if I could. I enjoyed peace, and I enjoyed obedience. My parents were firm believers in positive and negative reinforcement. I had many friends in my elementary school who were bullies, they sensed I would bend to their whims. I did not feel I could, nor should, stand up for myself. This didn’t make me unhappy, I was a very happy child, I believe I was simply oblivious to the notion that I shouldn’t put up with abuses.

On one fine sunny day my father was home, which was a rare luxury, and he was busy mending the yard with me shadowing and putting around, playing in the sunlight. From across the neighbors’ fence I saw the neighbor boy, not much older than I, stride swiftly to the edge of his chain link fence and beckon me to come closer. Hesitantly I took a small step towards his commanding voice and smile. I remember him being a very popular boy at my school and was flattered that he was paying attention to me.

He grinned a foul-looking grin and cocked his head while explaining something about cool girls and showing their underwear. I nodded, not understanding his intent. He looked me over and told me to pull down my pants. Embarrassed and frightened, I shook my head no. Again he asked, this time with anger in his voice. Startled, and wanting to pacify, I raced over to the trash cans by my house and quickly pulled my pants down and up. I had no understanding of what this meant or why he wanted me to do it. He shook his head at me and said, “No, no all the way and out here where I can see you!”

At this point, my father came around the corner. The boy took off towards his house abruptly and my father seeing me crouched behind a trash can asked if I was ok. I nodded my head, “yes” and dismissed the entire event.

Looking back, I see the intent and evil behind it all and am so grateful events didn’t play out any different. A few weeks later, that same little boy ushered me behind the neighborhood dumpster after school, and had his fifteen year old brother French kiss me, leaving me speechless and embarrassed yet again. My six year old brain didn’t understand that any of this was sexual or wrong, but looking back it leaves me speechless.

It wasn’t until years later that I would tell my parents about these incidents. Even when I moved to Texas and was about to enter into middle school, I had no idea that the kiss was wrong. It took a friend of mine listening to my story and reacting in shock to help me realize what had been done. My innocence as a child was skewed by the choices of an abusive father fostering abusive and perverse behavior in his sons. I am so grateful it never had the chance to become physical, and so glad that we did not live there for longer than we did.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:21 -k