The Secret that must be told

By Faith Ingraham

The Secret That Must Be Told

By Faith Ingraham

I have lived with a secret for the majority of my life. Many others are living with the same secret and they, like me, are suffering from the damage and pain it causes.

I was born into a pastor’s home, the sixth of nine children and the only girl. We attended church regularly and seemed to be the normal pastor’s family. My mother worked full-time as a secretary to support the large family. My father pastored several small churches.

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was five years old. I wanted to please God, my parents and the people around me. I tried to give God first place in my life and memorized many scripture verses that helped me in my Christian walk.

My secret began when I was about ten years old. It was then that my father chose to misuse his position of authority over me.

He raped me.

He would then rape and molest me whenever he found an opportunity. This abuse continued until I was seventeen or eighteen. I cannot tell you how many times I was raped by my father. But it was something I constantly dreaded.

Each day as I came home from school, I would pray, “Oh Lord, help him not to be home,” or “Lord, please help him to stop.” But the abuse didn’t stop. I felt trapped–a prisoner in my own home.

One day my mother came home from work a little early and discovered our family secret. My father excused his behavior and blamed me for his actions.

God gave my father many gifts, but he chose to abuse and squander those gifts. He and my mother were given the gifts of nine children to love, nurture, and discipline. My father not only failed to meet the responsibility for caring for and protecting his children, he chose to steal from them and God who had given them to him.

My father stole from me. He took away my innocence, childhood and trust. He also robbed me of my sense of security and self worth. He stole the gift of intimacy that God intended to be shared between a husband and a wife. What was meant to be an expression of love is now seen as a selfish act of abuse.

My father stole from my husband. My father took the body of my future husband’s wife and used it to fulfill his own lusts. My body did not belong to him. It was not his to take. But he chose to act on his selfish desires, not taking into consideration the damage he was causing.

My father also stole from my children and those I would minister to in my Christian family. Because of my abuse, many of my emotions have been buried in an effort to protect and preserve them from deeper wounds. Because of this the love and concern I feel for those around me has often been hidden from them. Even though I care a great deal for those around me, my ability to express my feelings to them has been impaired because of the abuse I endured.

I kept my secret because I felt that it was the only thing to do. What difference would it make if I told? Who would believe me? Who would be hurt if the truth were known? What would happen to our family, to the people in the church, to me, to my father? There were so many questions and uncertainties. So I kept my secret.

During my engagement to a young man I met in Bible college, I felt it was necessary for him to know I had been a victim of sexual abuse so I told him my secret.

His first response was to cut off our relationship with my father, but I told him that we needed to forgive him. We thought this was the Biblical way to handle the situation and we forgave him, even though he never confessed or repented of his sin against me. My father even performed our wedding ceremony, and both he and my mother remained a part of our lives.

Recently we realized our mistake in the way we dealt with my father’s sin and criminal activity.

Because I had never told my secret, my brother and his wife allowed their children to spend the night at my parents’ home. My father chose to take the opportunity to abuse another victim. He molested their 15-year-old, mentally handicapped daughter.

We learned then that my father had been accused of sexual abuse of others and his pattern of abuse had persisted because his behavior had been excused or overlooked. People who knew of his sin chose to look the other way or decided not to make waves. They kept their secrets. Meanwhile, more victims were added to his list.

I realized my silence was enabling my father to continue his criminal activities.

I knew my secret must be told.

My husband, who was pastoring the church my parents attended, along with two of my brothers met with my father to confront him about his most recent abuse of my niece. Following the guidelines set forth in Matthew 18.

They told my father, he could be forgiven but he must accept the consequences of his behavior. This would include his confessing to the legal authorities and being registered as a sex offender. He was also told that he should confess to those in his family and others who had been hurt by his abuse. He was informed that his ministry would be limited by his offense. He should no longer teach the bible study he was teaching and he wouldn’t be able to teach children. And he would need to get counseling for his addiction.

What is so sad about my story is that I am not the only one with a secret.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posts the following statistics on their website.

  • About 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse at some point in childhood.
  • 91% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child or child’s family knows.

The statistics may be higher since sexual abuse is under reported.  Many victims of abuse don’t tell anyone. 

Some of them may have been abused only once. Some of them may have been abused numerous times by the same abuser and others may have had several different abusers from the same family.

It is time to tell the secret.

It is time to acknowledge that this evil not only occurs in the secular world but it is thriving in our churches. Keeping the secret enables abusers to continue their sinful behavior.

When my secret was revealed to members of our small church, several women in our congregation shared similar secrets. One pastor’s daughter had been abused by a visiting speaker who had been a guest in their home. Another had been abused by a pastor to whom she had gone for counseling. One lady, who attended a school for missionaries’ kids, witnessed sexual abuse by dorm parents.

God cannot bless our churches if we do not deal with the sin of these offenders and call for true repentance. The story of Achan’s sin at the battle of Ai in the seventh chapter of Joshua is an example of how God withholds His blessing if there is hidden sin in the camp.

The church is finally starting to address the problem that there are many victims who are hurting and need healing; but often, we excuse the offender which enables him to continue in his abuse of others.

We are trying to remedy the problem by putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. We need to address the root of the problem if we want it to stop. We can’t just continue to try to fix up the broken lives and let the abusers continue their destructive behavior.

Most of us have had to correct a child or person who has abused another. The correct response is to confront the one who is being abusive and let them know that there will be consequences for their behavior. When we correct abusive behavior, we are not being unloving or unforgiving, we are teaching good behavior and self discipline. We are also teaching respect for God and others.

All too often, the church’s response to sexual abuse is to tell the victim that he or she needs to forgive the offense. And to seek healing in Christ. But, the sin of the offender is excused, discounted, ignored, or minimized. We do not address the abuser or hold him accountable for his criminal behavior.

Why do we not confront the abusers and require them to accept the consequences of their actions? Why do we refuse to admit there are abusers in our churches? It brings shame and reproach to the name of Christ when we keep secrets.

The slogan “What Would Jesus Do?” has become very popular during the past few years. Let’s apply it to this situation. If Jesus were to visit our churches, what would He do? Would He ignore and excuse criminal behavior because He would not want the church to suffer the embarrassment of dealing with prominent church members who are involved? Would He confront the victims and tell them that they should just forgive those who have stolen their innocence, childhood and trust? What would He do?

The Bible teaches that He would confront the abusers and expect that they face the consequences of their sinful lifestyle. Jesus was not afraid to confront the religious leaders while He walked upon the earth. In Matthew Chapter 23, Jesus continually rebukes the Pharisees and calls them blind hypocrites and whited sepulchers. They looked good on the outside but inside they were filled with evil. That is why they wanted to kill Jesus, because he did not excuse their ungodly behavior.

We live in a day of grace and Jesus has paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can be forgiven of our sin. He lovingly offers forgiveness, we are told “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9 NIV).” Many people in our churches today are claiming this verse as a license to sin.

In the book of Jude we are warned about such men. “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 4, 5 NIV) The rest of the book goes on to tell of God’s condemnation of such behavior.

We also see many examples in God’s word of men who had been forgiven of their sin yet still faced the consequences of their actions.

David was said to be a man after God’s own heart. When he committed immorality, God sent the prophet Nathan to confront him. David repented and was forgiven for his sin but he lost not only the son that was born from the sinful union but he lost three other sons to death as well.

Moses was forgiven for his disobedience when he smote the rock in the wilderness instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. But the consequence of his disobedience remained. He was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

In the story of Zachaeus in Luke 19 we see evidence of true repentance. Zachaeus did not take his forgiveness for granted. He told Jesus that he would give half of his goods to the poor and he would restore four times the amount he had stolen to those he had sinned against. He accepted the consequences of his sin.

When the thief on the cross next to Jesus repented, Christ told him “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Yet, He did not take him down from the cross and eliminate the consequences of his criminal actions.

In the book of I Corinthians Paul gives instruction to believers on how we should deal with immorality within the church.

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch of yeast-as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people-not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But one who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” (I Corinthians 5:1-11 NIV)

This passage tells us we are to break off fellowship with those who are guilty of sexual immorality. This is not an unloving act but a consequence of sinful behavior and is done in an effort to bring the sinning believer to repentance. Notice that this passage describes the immorality as “of a kind that does not occur even among pagans.” Sexual abuse of children is considered to be the lowest of criminal activities even among criminals. Yet in our churches we often excuse it and we are sometimes even proud of the fact that we can love those who commit such acts.

Again, God cannot bless our churches if we allow sin to reign. We sing of God’s never changing attributes but we expect and pray for God’s blessing when there is sin in the camp. Can we expect to be victorious in our spiritual battles if we are harboring and protecting criminals?

It’s time for people who have been victimized by this sinful behavior to stand up and say, “by the grace of God, we’re going to stop this sinful behavior within our churches.” We can no longer be enablers, every day that goes by more children are being raped and molested within our churches.

My husband and I have followed God’s leading us to deal with this issue in the church by starting a ministry called Speaking the Truth in Love Ministries. The purpose of the ministry is to educate our church leaders and laymen on how to biblically deal with sexual sin. We welcome opportunities to speak in seminars, conferences, Christian Colleges and churches. For more information, visit our website , contact us through our e-mail at or call us 607-359-4366.