Ellen's Story of Loving Them Both

It’s been almost six years now since I found out my second husband, Roger had sexually abused my granddaughters. That is one day in my life that I will never forget. It felt as though the earth dropped out from under my feet.

My daughter came to us one day and said she had to talk to Roger. She said, "Roger, one of my girls told me you touched her privates. Did you?" I looked at him in complete shock, devastated. He admitted not only sexually abusing the one who told, but two other granddaughters as well. Then he locked himself in the back bedroom for two days.

After that he started taking long walks, and I found myself hoping he would never come back. I no longer knew this man that I had loved and lived with for 18 years. In my mind, only monsters commit sexual abuse. So was this man I had loved a monster? I so needed someone to talk to, and there was no one.

The turning point came when Roger tried to overdose on prescription drugs. I knew that there was more to him than the sexual abuse he had committed. I knew I couldn’t leave him to live or die alone.

Roger was arrested, pled guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a longer term of probation, during which he had to go to sex offender treatment. I went to a support group for the spouses, and it helped a lot.

With the help of treatment, Roger takes full responsibility for his actions and understands the trauma he has created for all of us – my daughter, me, all our friends, and especially the trauma to our granddaughters. Our entire life together has been turned upside down, but at least now we are openly and honestly healing these deep wounds. This makes a huge difference to me and I think I can say it makes a difference to my entire family. This has been a very difficult road to take, but I’m glad I stuck with this. Given my love for Roger and my family, and my faith, I don’t think that I could have done this any other way.

We almost didn’t make it through. Even before his suicide attempt, Roger was totally withdrawn. He didn’t communicate and I didn’t know if I wanted to hear what was going on with him.

Before we got help, there was no one in my life for me to talk to. I was separated from the whole world at a time when I needed help and support from others. How do you tell someone your husband sexually abused your granddaughters?

I prayed. Like an answer to that prayer, it occurred to me to call our insurance company hotline. I talked to a warm and compassionate woman who listened. "Sexual abuse," she said, "is a lot like the problem of alcohol abuse was many years ago – it’s still buried and society just hasn’t been ready to deal with it as a health problem." That woman’s compassion broke through my isolation.

When Roger allowed the facts of how he had sexually abused the girls come out, he went into a deep depression. His doctor prescribed medication, which is what Roger tried to overdose on. It was the second most difficult day of my life. This man, whom I had loved and found that I still loved had tried to kill himself. I questioned everything late that night when I left the hospital. I was so emotionally drained, I didn’t even cry.

That turning point was my decision that Roger was more than just the sexual abuse he had committed and that we would get through it together.

When Roger was arrested, we were advised by his attorney not to talk with anyone about what was happening. Of course, when the arrest was in the paper in our small community, everyone found out. They were shocked and felt betrayed because we hadn’t talked to them about the abuse. I felt even more isolated and alone, like it was me who had done the abusing. Most of my friends don’t understand why I chose to stay with Roger. It was very hard to live with their rejection, and although I understand their feelings, I could not leave Roger knowing that he truly wanted to somehow build a healthier life.

Roger has completed treatment now, and our lives together are forever changed. He takes responsibility for what he’s done. It’s not just the sexual abuse and the harm within my family relationships, but also that he has ruined friendships and created financial difficulties at a time in our lives that we should be retiring.

And yet, I feel hopeful. It has made a difference to my granddaughters that Roger took on total responsibility for the abuse. I know of children who have blamed themselves for participating in some way with a person they loved. My relationship with my daughter is healing. She and I respect and understand each other. She knows now that my staying with Roger never meant that I condoned what he did.

I visit with my grandchildren as often as I can, though it means going alone, of course. It’s important to me to keep my relationship with them as close as ever. Sometimes we even plan for the girls to spend a weekend at my house, and Roger stays with our minister or with friends so my granddaughters will know they are safe.

Of course not a day goes by that I don’t think about the girls being sexually abused. I wish I could change the past. I can’t. Together, Roger and I go on with our lives and pray that in getting good help in their own therapy, the girls will grow into strong, independent, capable women.