I met Heather over 20 years ago. She had just turned 15 when we met.
I was a family therapist in a therapeutic wilderness program. Heather was one of my kids. Our program was for the toughest, hard to reach kids that no one else knew what to do with. Heather was tough. In time she would teach me about being strong. In time, she would find out they are not the same thing.
She had an explosive temper that seemed so ill fitting in her slight frame. Her relationship with her mother was as combative as anything I have ever seen. She had accused her mothers boy friend of sexually abusing her and the mother had not believed her and come to the boyfriends defense. She had said possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard of a mother saying to a daughter. “If what you say is true and he really abused you how big was it….?” The explosion could have been heard a thousand miles away.
One day, about 6 months after she got there, I was sitting on the front porch of the shower house. Heather came up to me pale, past pale. Her face was frozen almost in fear of what would happen if she lost control. But the tears in her eyes were clear and unmistakable. “Mr. Drain, I’ve got to talk to you….” I still remember the shock of her first words. “Everything I’ve told you has been a lie…..” Then she started to tell me her story.
“When I was nine I remember going to town with my older stepbrother to get an ice cream. On the way home he pulled off the road and raped me. I fought but he was too big and too strong. When I got home I went to tell my Daddy. He looked at me and kind of smiled. “Heather I’m sorry, but thats what girls are for…” That day punctured my soul. I was afraid to tell my mother. My dad made it clear what would happen if I did. My mom and dad were getting a divorce anyway. Somehow I ended up with my dad. Over the next couple of years I became his lover, his girlfriend, and his housekeeper and maid. It got to the point where by the time I was 13 he would bring friends home from work and tell me to take them upstairs and do what they said. I always did…. Finally I ran away…. I found a place to hide with a friend and for a little while thought I was safe… One day the police caught me. I was terrified of what would happen if I went back to my Dad and made up a story. I told the police that my mothers boyfriend had sexually abused me and they bought it. Like I thought they put me in a program, but at least I was safe. But I cant take it anymore…. I dont know what to do….”
I found out first of all her dad was already in prison on other charges, but I think she was afraid of telling her mother as anything else… We tried 3 family sessions and she begged out everytime and finally I told her either you tell or I will. She walked in that day quiet. I looked at her and she started to sob. She looked at her mom and told her, “Mr. Drain is going to tell you some things… They are all true.” And she walked out of the room silently crying. I started to tell the story. Her mom just cried. Then cried. And then cried some more. When she finally saw Heather she starting crying, and I thought they would hug forever.
Within a couple of months Heather was ready to leave. I didnt hear from her again for several years. One day I got a call and when she identified herself as Heather I almost fell over. She told me she was happy. Her mom had become her best friend. Heather had a little girl that she idolized. She told me how thankful she was. She told me that God had blessed her and she had learned that love still counts, that if anything it counted more.
I have heard stories of horror by many people. The human capacity to hurt others seems to never suprise or take a vacation. But Heather has stayed with me for many years. Her strength has always left me in awe. But her last words stuck with me more than anything. “Love still counts…. If anything it counts more….”
If you wrestle with some horror that knows no explanation and seemingly no end, I leave her last words with you and hope in them you can find some strength and comfort.
And may you find God a blessing in your pain. And know you do not walk alone.