Where were the parents?


 “Where were the parents?” is a question that I have read and heard countless times, especially since the victims of Dr. Nassar, the former US Gymnastics team doctor, have taken the stand to face their attacker. The video of this distraught father brings it all home for me – click HERE to watch it.

Anxiety and depression have plagued me off and on for years. The recent news coverage of Dr. Nassar has brought my experience up again. It happens – it is a form of PTSD. Though this essay easily flowed from my heart through my fingertips, it was the decision of whether or not to publish it that has brought me the most angst. For years I have felt that God has called me to discuss this. And for years, I couldn’t bring myself to do so. The fear of sharing this story is real. How will people react? My children, grandchildren, family, friends, co-workers, readers. But I feel that I have been repeatedly nudged by the Holy Spirit the past few weeks. Maybe my experience will help someone. Maybe that someone is you.

It seems to be a logical question. How could hundreds of victims have been sexually assaulted by one man, and the parents seemingly be clueless?

It seems to be a logical question. How could hundreds of victims have been sexually assaulted by one man, and the parents seemingly be clueless? Click To Tweet

Each time I hear “Where were the parents?” I want to scream. It proves to me that people who haven’t had to deal with their children being sexually molested have no clue as to “how it works.” Are you wondering, too? Well, here’s how.

I did some quick research, landing on an article from 2014 in Religion News Service. The statistics are mind-blowing. Some pedophiles have admitted to attacking hundreds of children. Some have over a thousand victims. Let that sink in.

Where were the parents?

For many, the ages of the children violated are under 13 years. Many are very young – ages five or six years-old. In the majority of these cases, the children know their attacker. And that makes perfect sense, because most parents don’t let kindergarten-age children out of their sight. They leave their precious little ones with people they trust – family members, day care workers, teachers, coaches, etc.

Imagine, if you will, being six years-old. Imagine someone you love or trust touches you. Would you have any idea if it was a wrong touch, especially if you loved and trusted the individual? If the touch sparked an unknown sensation – sexual arousal – how would you, as a six-year-old, communicate that to your parents? Would you even know what it is?

Now, add to this confusion a few, well-placed threats from this “trusted” individual. “This is our secret.” Or, “If you tell someone, I will hurt your mom (or dad, or brother or dog.)” Or, “No one would believe me, because this person is my relative. Or teacher. Or doctor.” Understand the dilemma of the child?

Where are the parents?

Fast forward now to older children – especially those who have been being abused for several years. Do these kids have any idea what is going on? What is normal? Again, how do they know how to articulate what is happening?

When I look at all the victims of Nassar and other serial pedophiles, I want to weep.

Trusting parents took their children to a doctor that had been recommended by professionals – such as school staff. Or maybe other friends. They see something amiss in an exam, but then question themselves. “Did I just see that?” or “Wait, he didn’t do that. He was recommended to me by so-and-so.” Their mind can’t comprehend what has happened anymore than the child can, because the brain just doesn’t see how any of this makes sense. And maybe the abuser isn’t a doctor. Maybe it is a well-respected coach or teacher or religious leader in the community.

Where were the parents?

For people who have never been exposed to molestation, these concepts are hard to grasp. How can this occur under a parent’s watchful eye? But, by the few examples I list, it isn’t hard to see how it can happen. And can continue to happen.

Where were the parents?

When this happened to me, by one of my dad’s trusted relatives, I was five or six-years-old. I only remember my age because I can recall the house we lived in when it happened. And, it continued for years. I was not the only victim in my family. My parents – for the most part – were right there. It is almost unimaginable to think that these heinous acts can happen under a parent’s watchful eye. But they do. It only takes a few minutes of distraction – using the restroom or going to retrieve an item, and leaving a child with someone they trust for a few minutes.

Where were the parents?

They were right there. They became victims, too, the minute that they discovered their child was violated. They have lived with the horror that they took their eyes off their child for a minute. They have lived with the guilt that they have trusted the wrong doctor. Or relative. Or priest. Or pastor. Or teacher. Or neighbor. They now live with the shame, guilt and violation that their children live with.

I think that is why the father in this video clip resonates with me. I applaud this man. My healing began the day my father said, “If I could kill that SOB, I would.” But that SOB was already dead.

Please, stop asking “Where are the parents?” in these situations. The majority never knew. The crime is that insidious. Pedophiles take any and all opportunities to seek their prey.

Where were the parents?

They were raising their children. They were trusting people. And, I can surely tell you this: I know where those parents are right now. They are picking up the pieces of their families’ shattered lives. They are moving heaven and earth to get their children the help they need. They will never let themselves off the hook for letting their kids down – even though they never intentionally did.

Where were the parents?

They were getting victimized, right alongside of their children. Just like mine.

© Lynne Cobb – 2018

Due to the extremely sensitive nature of this post, comments will be closely monitored. If you have a story to share, feel free to do so, or email me privately. I will be happy to help and support victims. This is an uncomfortable subject, but the only way to educate people and help the victims heal is through healthy and helpful discussion. Counseling with a wonderful, faith-based therapist helped me come to terms with this, and I highly recommend counseling to victims and their families. One of my favorite Bible verses, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Philippians 4:13 KJV, brings me comfort and strength, too.

20 Replies to “Where were the parents?”

  1. Lynne – this is a very powerful piece. If you are comfortable doing so, I think you can submit it as an op-ed to the Free Press or Detroit News. Well done. P.S. – Sounds like you’ve done the right things on your path to recovery.

    1. Pam, thank you so much. I did think about it as an Op-Ed. Maybe I will contact them. Though, just putting it on my blog was nerve-wracking enough!

  2. Lynne – I agree with Pam that this is a very powerful piece. I know it took every ounce of courage to put your experience on paper. I’m glad you did, as it opened my eyes. I was one of the “I wonder where the parents were”, especially when some were in the same room during their childs “treatment”. Thanks to your posting, I now have a better understanding. I’m so sorry that Dr Nassar brought back such horrible memories. Hopefully more parents are learning about how this happens and can be more protective.

    1. Yes, Bob. This was extremely hard to share – easier to write. But, writing is such therapy. I hope that this post can educate parents, and others, how it can happen. I heard before that just one “wrong touch” can impact a victim. Just think of those who have suffered repeatedly, and for years. Or for those who were told they were lying. So glad my parents did not do that. Thank you so much for commenting.

  3. I too was molested at age 5 by a relative and then at age 14 and 18 by another Dear relative. At five I was given a ride home by a relative of 12 years of age. He stopped in the woods and told me to lay on the ground. I did and he proceeded to have intercourse with me. This happened several times until one day my Mother put me in the tub with my baby brother who was one years old. I asked if he was going to put that thing in me too. I still remember this situation as if it was yesterday. The next day I was at our family Dr., (he brought me into the world) and he confirmed everything I had said. At the time at five years of age, I don’t’ recall being traumatized as much by the intercourse as being labeled a liar. I lived with this until I was 32, at which time my Aunt wrote me she believed my story. My Aunt’s friends and some of our relatives believed me to be a liar too because I was very precocious. She was so angry at me, she had told many people about the situation. The label hurt me immensely.

    At 14, my Mother had cancer and was in the hospital. One morning , my Father came in my room and touched my breast. I quickly rolled over and it stopped. This happened again when I was 18 and very distraught. I wanted to move to Detroit and live with my Aunt and Uncle and start a career in the area. My parents told me I was staying put. I cried and cried and went and laid down. Soon my Father came in and ran his hands over my breast. I turned quickly on my back and he left immediately.
    I pretended both times with my Father, that I was sleeping. I never told anyone of this. How could I tell my Mother or other people my Father who I trusted and loved did this to me.. When I returned for a visit a few years later, my Mother was yelling at my Dad on the porch. It turns out he had two little girls 3 and 4 in the garage with the doors closed and in the dark…checking them below for worms. My Mother was beside herself. I was happy to leave shortly after this and go home. It was never talked about and had it happened in today’s world I am sure he would have gone to jail. It is so hard to wrap my mind around my Father, reading his Bible faithfully each night, active in the Lutheran Church and a pedophile.

    I married an alcoholic and after 14 years he left our Daughter and I. I later started a non sexual relationship with another alcoholic who was the means to our survival in keeping our home. To some extent this has worked, but he is a dry alcoholic and takes my inventory constantly. I allowed myself to be controlled and while I have friends, I don’t invite anyone to my house and he never goes with me to events. I was successful in my career, but have settled for so much less in my personal life. Now after 36 years and financial stability, I feel loyalty to this man especially since he has dementia. All of my actions of my male relationships I am told is because of the incidents from my childhood.. I have seen a therapist for over 25 years and still continue.

    1. Cherie,
      I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am that you went through such horrible experiences. I’m so happy that you are seeing a therapist, as that is a lot of trauma. I am beyond humbled that you chose to share your story here. God bless you in your recovery. Contact me any time if you want to talk.

    1. Yes. In my case it wasn’t to protect the abuser, but to protect myself. But if I don’t say something, it could happen to someone else. I can’t let that happen. Thank you so much for commenting.

  4. Well written, Lynne. I have a cousin who was molested by her father. For years I have watched what this did not only to her but the entire family. I’ve watched the struggle with guilty, rage, betrayal and a whole host of emotions. There are multiple victims in these situations whether people realize it or not. The path is not easy and healing does not happen over night. Thanks for acknowledging the truth of just how many victims there are due to one person’s heinous act.

    1. I’m so sorry for your cousin and her family. It’s staggering the number of people who are hurt by this. Thank you for sharing and commenting.

  5. This took such strength. When I was in my late teens (this was in the late 1960’s) a friend confided in me that she had been molested by her uncle. She didn’t know where to turn, and was trying to reach out because she suspected this uncle was now after her younger sister. In those days you never even heard of such a thing; in fact (and this is hard to believe, I know) I didn’t even know there was such a thing as molestation. And I am certain, now that I think of it, that it happened under her parents’ eyes (her father was ill with a terminal condition, to add to the trauma). The family moved away soon after and I still think of her sometimes. I hope she has found some healing as an adult.

    1. Thanks for befriending her, Alana. Just her being able to say something probably made all the difference in the world. It is such an insidious crime. Thanks for commenting and sharing.

  6. Lynne,
    Thank you for your courage to share your story. I am sure there are other women I know who have been sexually abused or molested. However, it is such a difficult subject to talk about, no one has personally shared their personal horror with me…until I read your blog. Today, my friend opened up and put a name and a face with it. I am proud and blessed to know you.

  7. …and sometimes a parent must choose between the two, the perpetrator and the victim and they make the wrong choice for the right reasons. Only, it’s never the right decision.

  8. Good for you for sharing this, Lynne. I didn’t know this happened, and I’m sorry to learn that it did. It’s a tragic but important topic that needs to be discussed and understood.

    MSU is my alma mater, and I’ve been following the Nassar story closely, with sadness. As it happens, I had two room mates in college who were abused by their own fathers; one was raped. They remained silent for many years, for some of the reasons noted here.

    Molestation has not been in my own experience, thankfully, but I have been sexually harassed in two of my office jobs, just out of college. We didn’t have the Me Too movement, of course; I was terrified and unsure of how to handle those situations.

    The first step in stopping the crime and healing this issue is to shine a strong light on it, to expose it, as you and others with courage are doing now.

    1. Thank you, Cindy. It has been a healing and humbling experience to share my experience. I can only hope and pray it helps others.

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