When I was in eleventh grade, I met the man I thought I would marry. We’ll call him James.
We had always gone to the same church, but it wasn’t until we were both working at the same grocery store in our incredibly small town that we started talking. He was quite a bit older than I – at least 4 years, which looked far worse when I was 16 and in high school.
It all started very innocently, but then again, doesn’t it always? He was the pastor’s son and I was from a broken family in the church. He cared for me and listened to my problems. He walked me through a terrible break up with my abusive boyfriend at the time, and made me laugh. He was a shy, quiet, straight edge computer geek. He seemed harmless.
We started dating and decided to tell our parents, who of course disapproved because of the age difference. They forbade us from seeing each other and we snuck around. He would sneak out of his house and drive to mine and spend the night with me. We would stay up all night talking about our future and how much we loved each other. He was the boy who took my virginity. I was madly in love.
Finally, after a year, my parents conceded and we began to date openly. Our relationship quickly started to turn sour, but neither of us really admitted it. His parents didn’t approve of me and thought I was bad news. My parents thought he was too old for me and that he was trying to take advantage of a young girl. They began to meddle and make things more difficult.
It was around this time that he came clean to me about his porn addiction. I know what you’re thinking; all men watch porn and there’s no such thing as an addiction to it. However, after catching my father watching child porn, I was scarred. James told me he would watch it 8-10 times a day some days, and I lost it. This wasn’t the man I thought I loved.
Despite the red flags we continued to date and he talked with his father about the porn frequently in an attempt to become right with the Lord and end his reliance on it. It never stopped and there was rarely a day where he could say he didn’t watch it at least two or three times. I learned to live with it despite the pain it caused me.
Nearing the end of my senior year, our relationship continued to go south and we continued to ignore it. He began to look at engagement rings and his parents became angry. I was not Christian enough. I came from a very messed up family with a father who was a drug addict and frequently absent and a stepmother who could fly off the handle at a moment’s notice. I was worldly and began to argue for LGBT rights and feminism.
He gave me a “promise ring” to mollify his parents, but continued to look for engagement rings and promised me it would be coming soon. The promise ring came with ultimatums though: no more drinking with my friends, I needed to read the bible each day and I needed to walk closer with the Lord. Craving any type of commitment and love that I could get, I hastily agreed.
I don’t remember what led to our fight that fateful night shortly after my graduation. I was planning on going to a party so that may have had to do with it. I don’t even remember how he told me his secret.
I remember him asking me if I knew how quiet his sister was and I said yes. She rarely spoke. In the 12 years I had known her, I think I only heard her speak a handful of times. She was timid and seemed perpetually sad.
He told me that when they were younger she used to be outgoing and friendly. But the tenth or eleventh time he had snuck into her room at night and had put his hands up her shirt and down her pants, she had woken up.
His parents never even knew. And he continued to do it after.
He asked me if I knew Ashley, his best friend’s younger sister, and I said yes. A year or two after he had been caught molesting his sister, he had been jumping a on a trampoline with this girl and had made advances to try to molest her as well. He grabbed her playfully and teasingly. The only thing that stopped him was an adult calling them in for lunch. She was 4 years old at the time, while he was 14.
There were other girls but my mind went numb after this and I couldn’t listen any longer. I knew he had almost done the same thing to his cousin but had stopped himself. There may have been more that I didn’t know about.
We continued to see each other, but during this time I met someone else. This new guy and I worked together as well, also at the same grocery store. He was funny and never lectured me or made me feel like I wasn’t enough for someone, be it God or himself. I didn’t even know I was falling for him until it was too late, but I’m glad I did. This boy, my loving boyfriend and soon to be husband, saved me from a lifetime of pain, remorse and fear.
The fourth of July came around and I spent the day with my James despite the fact that I knew it was nearly over. I remember distinctly not being able to stop watching his sister. She carried herself with shame and heartbreak. She didn’t look anyone in the eye and she barely spoke, like always. This time, knowing the reason behind it, I couldn’t take it any longer.
We broke up about a week after that. I blamed it on him wanting to change me so much in order for us to be together, which certainly played a role. He blamed it on the guy I immediately started seeing after, my current boyfriend, who also played a role. In truth though, I couldn’t look him in the eye any longer. I saw what he did to his sister each time I looked at her. How could I let that man father my children?
When you molest children, even when you are a child, it is not a mistake. Brushing it off as a mistake belittled his sister’s pain. Her life is forever impacted, much like the girls affected by Josh Duggar.
It also does not eventually stop, especially when you ignore it and sweep it under the rug to maintain a certain image. My boyfriend continued to watch porn, some of which, I found out later, was child porn.
James is getting married in a few days, and each day I carry around a guilt as well. Does his fiancée know? Does she understand that he may not be able to control himself around her daughter one day?
Does she know the monster she will spend the rest of her life sleeping next to?