My wife was a victim of sexual misconduct – Here’s why the Silence Breakers are vital

Time Magazine announced Wednesday that the Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year. Since the first brave woman stepped out of the shadows in October to speak about the decades-long alleged sexual misconduct of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, we have seen a growing number of prominent men accused by women (and a few men) who are breaking their silence about sexual harassment, abuse and assault.

I will never know the full pain and trauma of the Silence Breakers or others who have been victims of sexual misconduct. But I know all too well the domino effect this can create.

My wife was just 10 years old when her innocence was sabotaged by three teenage creeps from her neighborhood who decided to feed on what they considered to be easy prey – a young, trusting girl as innocent as a winter snow.

This was only the beginning.

Sexual assault is a crime that never goes away and happens over and over in the mind, heart and soul.

Within a few short years she was ambushed again, this time at the hands of not only a family member but also a sexual predator. The calculated manipulation went on for years.

Like most girls and women in this terrible situation, my wife was gripped by fear. She hid under a veil of grief, confusion, self-blame, embarrassment, shame and a warehouse of other emotions and feelings that tortured and plagued her. In spite of her inescapable pain and nightmares, she told absolutely no one – until the day she opened the floodgates to me.

I was crushed for her and wanted to help, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t relate. While I was committed to supporting her in finding healing from her past and expressing unconditional love toward her, I quickly realized that the insidiousness of sexual misconduct permeates far beyond its survivors.

I knew she was wounded, but I had no idea how deep the wounds were until months after we married.

I naively assumed she was over her tortured past and unknowingly didn’t understand why she was unable to connect with me on a physical level. But immediately after the “I Do’s” were spoken, marriage intimacy began to stir up old memories for my bride.

She still felt damaged and I felt rejected. She resented my advances. I’m ashamed to admit it, but no matter how hard I tried, I resented her rejection. All the while we both carried guilt: she because she wasn’t meeting my needs and me because I felt it was unfair for me to have them.

During this same time, our communication rapidly evaporated. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t help me understand, and I was ashamed that I was unable to do so. At other times, I wanted to share my own hurt and insecurities. I didn’t because I felt I was being selfish, since she was the one who had been violated. The cycle was not only poisonous but was destroying every aspect of our marriage.

My wife’s individual abuse reverberated collaterally to our entire family, even creating an unhealthy over-protectiveness of our daughter.  I was so filled with anger over what had happened to my wife that all I cared about was personally guarding my daughter and her future marriage.

I even went so far as to threaten to kill a neighbor if anything were to happen to my little girl while staying overnight with his daughter.

For my wife and me, the inability to find a cure or common ground led us to the brink of divorce. A close friend suggested we go for marriage counseling. After only a few sessions, the counselor recommended we meet both collectively and individually.

It was a brutal time that required unending faith, forgiveness, patience and understanding. Initially, it got worse for her and us together before it got better.

We didn’t just dig up bones but entire corpses that had been suppressed and ignored because of the suffering they caused to our immediate and extended family. But by walking through the fire, we were refined and strengthened. Only then did we find healing together.

Today we have three kids and have been married for over 20 years. I can honestly say that there are still short seasons of struggle and the process of healing will always be ongoing, but we are growing in love and strength each and every year. I will never totally comprehend her suffering, but I am committed to patiently trying.

Sexual assault is a crime that never goes away and happens over and over in the mind, heart and soul.

I regret that it took me so long to gain a deeper understanding of the layers of healing and patience to which my wife and all victims need and should be entitled. A victim should never feel ashamed to step forward, no matter how much time has passed.

I celebrate the Silence Breakers and pray that recent news coverage of high-profile men accused of sexual misconduct will wake our nation up to the need to enforce severe consequences for unacceptable and intolerable sexual misconduct.

We must stop enabling and turning a blind eye on those who use their power to prey on victims. Only then can we save and protect the American family.