Heart to Heart by Esther Fenty

My father sexually abuses me; I want him to stop

My family was once very close, but when my mum became ill two years ago, things changed. When she was in hospital, my dad raped me. I was 13 then, and he’s been creeping into my bedroom to have sex with me ever since. I know it’s wrong, but can’t stop him as he’s too strong. I’ve tried to tell my mum, but she pretends like she doesn’t know what I’m saying. We go to church as a family, but I hate it, particularly when the pastor starts saying how great my father is. My teachers have noticed my grades have slipped; I was once an A student. I’ve also started self-harming. I know what my dad is doing is wrong and want him to stop. I’m also fearful that I might become pregnant, and that he might also start abusing my 11-year-old sister if my mum becomes ill again. How can I stop this living nightmare? Name and address supplied

 

Esther Fenty says

I am sorry that you have had to put up with this sort of abuse, in what is supposedly a happy Christian family. In pretending that she doesn’t know what you are saying when you try to broach the subject, your mother herself might be living under some threat or fear, and maybe feeling that she is powerless to help. That she continues to go to church without exposing him may also be an indication of her vulnerability. It is therefore important that you get the support you need, in order for the abuse to stop, and to protect yourself and your sister.

It is vital that you talk to someone. There are a number of agencies that you can contact; eg. ChildLine, NSPCC, the Police, Social Services. However, it would be great to think that the church could be your first port of call: a trusted adult, youth leader, etc. In addition, if your church is serious about child protection, it will have a policy with procedures to follow if someone like you discloses information. If there is a safeguarding officer, you would probably be aware of that particular person by now. S/he would listen to your story, and call the Police or Social Services straightaway. The person would not involve your pastor. However, considering your father apparently has such a good reputation within the church, there might be the temptation for the church to try and investigate the problem. This would put you in an awkward and more dangerous position.

You could call any of the above agencies yourself. I imagine that it would be a daunting task, but you can take a trusted adult with you. As you are still at school, you can also talk to a trusted teacher, who should be able to follow procedures for involving Social Services.

During the investigation, you and possibly your sister could be placed with foster carers. It is unlikely that your father would be removed from the home if your mother continues to support him. The experience of giving evidence against your father may be stressful, especially if he denies the abuse, and if your immediate family and church are not supportive. Hopefully, you will be supported by the Police and Social services. However, this might be no comparison to the living hell you are experiencing now. You may also be referred to an agency for counselling, to enable you to work through your experiences and to support you in building relationships in the future.

 

I want to slap my girlfriend when we disagree

Heart-2-Heart-2

I’ve been going out with a woman from my church for six months. She’s lovely, and enjoys discussions about topical issues. Whilst I have heated debates with my friends, and feel no way about it, I get really angry when my girlfriend and I don’t agree, to the point that I want to hit her. I know it’s wrong, but I also know I feel this way as a result of growing up in a home where my dad would hit my mum if she disagreed with him. I don’t want to be like my dad. How can I overcome my anger?
Robert, Birmingham

 

Esther Fenty says

Despite the many times we say that we do not want to be like our parents, we still find ourselves behaving like them. This is usually because it is not easy to break the pattern of behaviour we see around us. I wonder, therefore, whether this is just a problem about anger, as you do not get angry with your friends when they disagree with you. Is this more about your attitude to women? Your father kept your mother in subjection, by hitting her when she did not agree with him. Are you now following his example and repeating the pattern? You may need to consider how you view women in a relationship; equal but different, or unequal and different? You may not be thinking about marriage yet, but how do you see your future wife? Do you have a biblical view of marriage, or do you think that the woman is subordinate to the man?

However, God can break entrenched family patterns! Submit yourself to Him in prayer, and allow His Word to dwell in you richly. You might need support from a member of your leadership team, who could pray and study with you. Secondly, you may need some counselling to get to the root of the problem; be it anger or otherwise.

ESTHER FENTY is a qualified psychologist and pastor’s wife

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