‘My brother molested me as a teenager. Later in life, he became a youth pastor.’: Woman’s harrowing journey overcoming sexual abuse, brother’s resignation from church

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“My brother molested me as a young teenager, but I never had the courage to tell anyone. Later in life the issue kept arising. My brother had become a youth pastor.

My husband and I knew we had to do something about it. Even though it made me sick at the time, I just didn’t have enough strength to do anything about it. I hated thinking of him being around young teenagers knowing what he had done to me. But I was still a teenager myself when he went into his field and I didn’t have the boldness to tell anyone yet. My parents did not know at this point. I always thought if something happened to someone else, I would stand behind them and vouch for them.

I know that this was not the correct approach. I know it would have been better to tell someone so the trauma could be avoided altogether. But I can’t explain how the shame had a hold of me. It was as if I was frozen in fear. Fear that my parents wouldn’t believe me. Fear that they would shame me more. Fear that my brother would get so angry he would hurt me. Fear that I would be rejected forever, and no one would love me.

Courtesy of Andrea

My husband and I used to attend a local church. We started going there when we were still dating. We had several friends there and we loved going every week. A couple years after we began going, my parents joined us in attending. And shortly after they came, my brother was voted in as the youth pastor. We did not stick around after that happened. We still didn’t have the strength to tell anyone at that time. We just left quietly. We felt like he took that away from us. It broke our hearts that we felt pushed out of the community of believers we had grown to love.

Courtesy of Andrea

One of my closest friends at the time and her husband and 4 children were attending there. She, not knowing the situation, was constantly asking about my family. For a long time, I just didn’t say much. She could tell something wasn’t quite right, but she didn’t want to push the issue. I was dying to tell her, but it was scary. I finally mustered up the courage to do that.

She started holding ‘girl’s nights’ for a few friends. One night I was there late and getting ready to leave. I felt an overwhelming desire to talk to her. The other girls had left, and I was getting my shoes on, ready to walk out the door. Her husband was away for work. I asked her if I could talk to her and she willingly said yes. I stayed several more hours telling her the details of my damaged heart.

I cried and she held me. I told her the pain I had endured and felt like my family had disowned me. I will never forget the love and comfort I felt that night. She and her husband actually worked with my brother in the youth group. And when I told her, she interrupted me and said, ‘I have to tell you that I’m not surprised by this.’ She said she had seen red flags and strange behavior from my brother and always thought there was something off.

Then she recalled the three of us had worked for a Christian children’s summer camp right about the time of the abuse. It hit me like a ton of bricks when she brought that up. I was hysterical because it had never crossed my mind that he could have possibly hurt other children at that time.

Courtesy of Andrea

I will never forget the love and comfort I felt that night. She told me, ‘You’re a part of our family now. You never need to worry about being alone. If you need a place to go on Christmas day, you’re always welcome. We love you.’

As hurt as I was that my own family had rejected me, these words meant so much to me. I left her house feeling exhausted and drained, but also refreshed in a way. We finally had someone who supported us. Someone who saw through my brother’s façade.

She was very passionate about her response and said as long as he was working there, they would no longer attend. Even if I wasn’t planning on telling the church, she felt responsible to tell them. She was certain that the pastor would be appalled!

She was pretty shocked to find out that the pastor already knew.

Yep, my brother went to him that summer and confessed. I believe it was highly sugar coated.

We began to realize this was much bigger than just us. We wanted the children of that church to be safe and protected. We finally felt like we had someone in our corner. We agreed it would be best to share our story with a deacon of the church. He was very upset as well. He said he had also seen some strange behavior from my brother. Although he was disturbed, he wasn’t really surprised either.

He immediately tried to call the pastor and have a meeting. He felt it was urgent. The pastor was on his way to a counseling conference a few states away. The deacon asked him to turn around. You see, while the pastor was away for a week, my brother would be in charge of the whole church. The deacon was uncomfortable with that.

It took several weeks, countless church meetings, and numerous hours and prayers until the board finally recommended for my brother to resign. My brother fought it tooth and nail.

Finally, he resigned. The deacon told us the board required that his resignation letter be approved by them first before he read it to the church. It took 4 letters until they finally got one they accepted. Even at that, it was so vague the church still had no idea what he did. He only said he had to resign because of ‘a sin in his past.’ That was it! It made me feel so rejected. He couldn’t even admit what he had done. My brother had no remorse, no Godly sorrow. With every meeting that was held and every update we got, I felt more and more defeated. Even though he was being removed from the position, it didn’t feel rewarding. It was so upsetting.

Courtesy of Andrea

We had been through the most difficult time we would ever face.

It certainly is amazing to look back and see where I was and where I have come. There were days I just didn’t think I could go on. Suicide crossed my mind more than once. I tried to visualize what it would be like without me around. I felt like in some ways it would just be easier.

Courtesy of Andrea

I am so very thankful for the blessing of my daughter, Scarlett. She does not know, but in so many ways, she saved me. During these darkest days when I didn’t want to live, she was home with me. My son, Saul, had started kindergarten. My husband Seth was working. Scarlett and I were home alone during the days. I was so depressed with what was going on. I was in such mourning over the loss and continued hurt from my family and church. It was her sweet, jolly, upbeat attitude that carried me through. I would want to lay on the couch all day, but she would get me up and moving. If I told her I didn’t feel well, she would ‘doctor me’ to help me feel better.

Courtesy of Andrea

She was always encouraging, even at 2 years old. When the devil tried to overwhelm me with dark thoughts, I would think of Scarlett and Saul. I would imagine how terrible it would be to grow up without a mother at all. And I knew my husband would be so sad. It is the love of these three that allowed me to overcome those awful places the enemy wanted me to go. They brought me joy in my darkest hour. I know God allowed them to be overflowing with love and joy to spill into my days.

I am so happy to say that I am no longer in that sad, depressed state. I have learned that though it hurts, I am more than what my ‘old’ family made me feel. I am valuable as a mother and a wife. My parents and siblings do not give me the support I need, but my children, husband and in-laws do. And I am so thrilled to be at a place where I don’t have to dwell on this terrible subject all day, every day anymore. I have grown so much stronger as a person. I believe Seth and I are stronger than ever as a married couple. And I believe our children will benefit from having strong, healthy parents. We are so blessed!”

Courtesy of Andrea

[If you are also a survivor of sexual assault, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or click here for more free resources. There is help and hope. You are never alone.]

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Andrea of Pennsylvania. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read Andrea’s powerful backstory of her brother:

‘I received a note from my brother. ‘Have you ever wanted to see a naked man?’ I was disgusted and appalled. ‘No! Why would you ask that?!’ He my best friend. Until he shattered that trust.’

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