Secondary victims of sexual abuse face many challenges as they seek to assist in the healing process and find healing for their own hurt. This is especially true for the parent of an abused child. It’s not unusual to assume that your children are safe with your partner/spouse, parents, or other close family members. However, most cases of child abuse are intrafamilial or come from within the family. When the abuser was your partner/spouse, your parent, or close family member, the pain of the situation is heightened and the familiar family structure is quickly undone. Intrafamilial sexual abuse is a serious betrayal of the trust and safety which ought to have been ensured by the adult members of the family.
Beth Loerke describes what happened when she learned that her husband had been sexually abusing their daughter, Bethany:
“When she told me, I had no reason not to believe her,” said Beth Loerke. “You have to do the right thing in the best interest of your child. That’s the only thing that should be important.”
That night, Beth Loerke threw her wedding ring at her husband, moved out with the children and contacted police. James Loerke has been…in jail since September 2002. By Christmas, she had moved her children into a 1,000-square-foot home and took on the role as sole breadwinner.
“I guarantee it was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” she said. “When I couldn’t pray anymore, people prayed for me. The community wrapped themselves around us. I didn’t have to cook for four months. We were carried by people who loved us. It was a time in my life I have never felt so much love. Our needs were met. People will point out what we lost. But we didn’t lose anything. We were taken care of. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing. I have no regrets.”
As a nurse working in pediatrics, Beth Loerke understood how trauma could impact her daughter. She immersed herself in research and later earned a graduate degree in nursing education and worked in children’s behavioral health. “If kids receive protection and unconditional love, that’s what they need,” she said. “And they have to be believed. It means so much for a child to hear ‘I believe you.’ “
[Bethany] wants people to understand the link between childhood trauma and later juvenile delinquency.
“Those kids aren’t bad seeds,” she said. “All they need is someone to stick by them. It sounds so basic, but it’s easier said than done. They need someone – like my mom was for me – to be constantly wrapped around them and who won’t let go.”