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Helping Your Wife Overcome Childhood Sexual Abuse (Part 1 of 2)

Air Date 04/28/2015

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Dawn Scott Jones, author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused, explains how she found emotional healing from childhood sexual abuse and how a husband can come alongside his wife who's experienced similar trauma to offer her love and support. (Part 1 of 2)

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Episode Transcript


John Fuller: This is "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and abuse occurs far too frequently and it impacts many, many lives. But in the midst of difficulty, there's hope and there's healing beyond the shadows of the past and today, Jim, we're gonna shine a light on a really hard subject, helping husbands help and support their wives through a healing journey of prior abuse.

And right at the onset here, let me say this is not an appropriate conversation for younger listeners. We're gonna be delving into some pretty tough stuff. So, please if you have to step away right now, catch us online at

Jim Daly: John, this sure is a difficult subject and I know that some people are gonna hear it and they're gonna say, wait a minute. And you might even send us an e-mail or write us, you know, concerned about the topic, but there are many, many women and some men—and we're gonna get to that in a future "Focus" broadcast—but many, many women are the victims of sexual abuse as children. And we want to talk about that today and how you begin to, as you said so well, John, clear the fog of the past, so that the Lord can heal you and can help you in your marriage and through the circumstances that you're in.

And so, for that reason, and every time before a program, we pray. And we have prayed specifically for that today, that those men and women out there, they hear this program, that they will be touched by the Spirit of our Lord. So, hang in there with us. Don't get too concerned about the content. This is the nitty-gritty stuff that we need to be talking about.

So often victims of sexual abuse as children may feel shame and guilt and so many of their other emotions are in many ways, set up by that abuse. They can become and show those attributes of abuse for many, many years and it's difficult to form good relationships, healthy marriages, the whole bit.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: And so, we want to touch on that today.

John: And if you along the way feel a need to talk to somebody and you're not sure who, we do have caring, Christian counselors here at Focus on the Family. Give us a call during normal business hours and we'll try to connect you with somebody that can hear you out and pray with you and then direct you to someone nearby. And that number is 800-A-FAMILY.


Jim: Our guest today has walked the path from surviving childhood sexual abuse to overcoming it and finding freedom in Christ. Her name is Dawn Scott Jones and she's written a book titled When a Woman You Love Was Abused: A Husband's Guide to Helping Her Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation. She's a popular conference speaker, an accomplished musician and the writer and radio host of "Freedom Girl: Sisterhood," her own blog talk radio program for women who have experienced that kind of trauma. Dawn, that's a lengthy introduction, but welcome to "Focus on the Family."

Dawn Scott Jones: Thank you so much. It is great to be here today and thank you for your introduction. You guys have nailed it. This is a sensitive topic, but it's so critical to raise the conversation and as we do and we talk about it today, I believe we probably will trigger and unearth some emotion. So, thank you for having it.

Jim: Well, without a doubt and I'm sensitive to that. I know we don't want to go overboard on human sexuality. The thing that I've said and I'll say it again, is that so often because we in the church have that perspective, we pull back. And the world and the enemy of our soul falls into that vacuum and consumes it. So, we, knowing that it's a gift of God, our sexuality in the context—

Dawn: Yes.

Jim: --of marriage, as according to His Word, it's a beautiful wedding gift that He's—

Dawn: Oh, absolutely.

Jim: --given us. And I'm tired of givin' up that territory.

Dawn: Amen.

Jim: So, we want to hit the subject, so that people are better equipped to deal with it and even maybe for parents to talk about this in the right way with their children--

Dawn: Absolutely.

Jim: --so that they understand what could happen to them by a family member or someone else. Let's move in that direction, Dawn. I want to say thank you for your transparency and for your openness. What motivated you to write this book?

Dawn: Well, you just mentioned it. There was so much suffering in my life and so much shame wrapped around this whole sexual intimacy and not just the intimacy, but fear of relationship itself, fear of closeness, because if I got close to someone, they would discover that I was flawed, that I was ruined, that I was unworthy.

And so, you really live in this secrecy. You live in a bubble and God created us for relationship and the glue in marriage, the sexual intimacy. And I—

Jim: I, let me—

Dawn: --was being ripped off.

Jim: --let me ask you this, because—

Dawn: Yeah.

Jim: --I'd never thought about it, where John 10:10 talks about the thief coming to steal, kill and destroy.

Dawn: Yes.

Jim: For someone, a child, going through something like you've gone through, he really has stolen something from you.

Dawn: Absolutely. I was stolen from and you know, I will say, praise God, I've gotten it all back and I'm thankful for that. But it wasn't easy and it wasn't a magical moment where, you know, sometimes through forgiveness we get it all back instantly. It was a journey, but the devil did steal from me. He stole freedom and innocence and joy. And to get back to your point, that sexual intimacy, that oneness, it is the glue between husband and wife and way too many couples are losing out on the beauty and the strength of intimacy, because they've been stolen from. And the very thing that God created to bring you together is now this wedge that keeps you apart, being known, knowing and being full known at—

Jim: For that—

Dawn: --any point.

Jim: --intimacy.

Dawn: Yes.

Jim: Yeah. Let me ask you this and give some perspective. You know, the statistics aren't real strong. I know social scientists who I've talked with, when they try to gauge how much sexual abuse actually occurs, it's under-reported. In some cases, it's misreported.

Dawn: Right.

Jim: I know the little boy that was suspended at school because he was a fifth grader, you know, I think kissed a little girl; they called that sexual abuse.

Dawn: Right.

Jim: I don't know if that fits, but that's the kind of thing. And then in other cases, the statistics are quite alarming, where 1 in 3—

Dawn: Right, correct.

Jim: -- women have said that they have been sexually abused.

Dawn: Yes.

Jim: That is a large number.

Dawn: So significant.

Jim: So, it's so important for us to talk about this today. Talk about your circumstance. Let's make it less like a statistic that you read in The New York Times. You were one of the three.

Dawn: I was one of the three.

Jim: What did that look like for you?

Dawn: Well, for me and by the way, if it's 33 percent of people, women in this case, who've been abused, then if they go on to get married, which you know, primarily they do, then you've got 33 percent of marriages out there that are struggling with this issue and so, it's huge.

For me, I thought that when abuse ended, it was over. And I discovered that it is not over when it's over, that I went from my home, my childhood home, where by the way, my abuser was my father. And so, it was in my home. It was numerous times. Home wasn't …

Jim: What ages, just so we can get a picture of—

Dawn: Right.

Jim: --of that.

Dawn: I don't remember the first time. My mind has not given me that memory back. I have many memories, but to my earliest recollection, I would be probably about 12-years-old. And I identify it when I first started to develop, I identify becoming a young teenager or "tweenager" with that sexuality. It was introduced to me way too young and so, at my earliest moment, I remember sexuality and sex and intimacy being something dirty and shameful and wrong.

I could feel that it was wrong. So, when I left my home and got married, which I think I got married, you know, I certainly did feel like I loved Terry, my husband, but I now know looking back, I was just looking for an escape. I needed to be rescued.

Jim: Let me ask you again, because I want to connect. Some women and young men, too that have gone through abuse, talk about what you're feeling. You touched on it, but I want to get a little deeper with that, that feeling of shame, that somehow you've done something wrong.

Dawn: Oh, yeah.

Jim: Why is that so prevalent in the victim's side of this? Why does a human being absorb that as if it was their fault?

Dawn: Well, children have magical thinking anyways. If mom and dad get divorced, we think it was our fault. And the predominant lie and shame with sexual abuse was, that it was my fault. I did something to deserve it. I'm flawed. I'm intrinsically bad. Guilt says, I've made a mistake, but shame says, I am a mistake. I am wrong. I didn't just do wrong, but I am wrong.

And I can remember sitting in the little church that we went to and there was a girl there. She was my age probably; she had little blonde girls and I remember thinking, so that's what it's like to be pure. That's what it's like to be innocent and I'm probably 11- or 12-years-old.

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Dawn: But I just knew that I was wrong. I was flawed. I was ruined. And so, shame is this thing where someone comes up to you and vomits all over you because they're sick, but now you're covered and you live covered. And you know you smell and you know you're dirty and you know you're wrong and you know that you probably earned it somehow, because you did something; you're not sure what and you don't know how to take a shower and you don't know how to get rid of it.

Jim: Wow. I mean, that is a powerful word picture—

John: It is.

Jim: --of what happens to these children. Tell us about your dad. Did he ever give you a clue that he understood what he was doing?

Dawn: You know, this is the weirdest thing about it and I have to trumpet this, because it's sitting next to us in church. My dad was the worship leader. My dad was a business owner. He was extremely talented. He was very wealthy. He was very successful. My dad was a handsome, Type A, go-getter. He was funny. There was a part of my dad, I was so proud of him. He was my dad! Everybody knew my dad. He was this great man.

Now I have two older sisters. I'm not gonna tell their story, but they've given me permission to just at least say, we're all survivors. And—

Jim: Oh, my goodness.

Dawn: --and they believed that they took the brunt, that I would be spared, but I wasn't. So, when you look at my dad, I loved my dad. He was my dad. He was so under the radar, no one would believe that he was capable.

But living in the fast lane of marketing and advertising, he became an alcoholic. Now my dad was a P.K. [Preacher's Kid]. My grandfather was a contemporary of Billy Graham and others. And my dad was raised in the church, the oldest of four boys. My dad played football. He carried a violin to school. He, we found out later, was abused by a babysitter.

So, you would not know it and we wouldn't know it. When we go to church and we see that people are struggling, God loves the abused and he loves the abuser.

Jim: That's hard to imagine, but it's true.

Dawn: It's true and there's forgiveness there, but there is sickness that needs to be—

Jim: Yeah.

Dawn: --it has to be looked at. So, my dad was my hero and my villain and that's the confusing part. I would never have turned my dad in, never.

Jim: Dawn, I mean, people hear this and the rational person is going, "Why not?" I mean, you know, these are things you fight for, fight for your freedom, fight for your integrity, all those kinds of things. It's hard for a highly rational person to understand the emotions of such a situation.

Dawn: Right.

Jim: What about your mom? Where was your mom in this picture?

Dawn: The question is asked all the time, you know and my mom was unaware of it. It was a very well-known secret. Even though my sisters and I all knew and everybody knew the secret, no one talked about it, so dysfunctional. No one brought it up. No one spoke of it. I—

Jim: Why—

Dawn: --tried.

Jim: --why is that? That's so common in these kinds of situations.

Dawn: Absolutely common, yes.

Jim: Why? Why is it so hard to say, "Mom, something bad is happening to me."

Dawn: You just don't tell. You're groomed first of all before the abuse happens. You know, that abuser is grooming the victim and it's just our secret. It's just our friend. And there's things that the abuser will do and give to the child first to see if they're gonna talk. There's other children that the abuser knows they've got kind of a big mouth and they talk a lot. And they'll escape it, but that secrecy and that pact and that trust is fostered and cultivated long before the abuse happens.

And once the abuse happens, you've long lost your voice. You don't speak up. You know that if you talk and if you tell, he's going to prison and you'll never see him again. The family will be destroyed and it'll be all your fault. Your mom will die of a heart attack, she'll be so sad. She'll hate you and it'll be all your fault. So, you're told all these lies. There's no way you're talking. There's no way you're gonna bring it up and talk or tell anyone.

And so, talking to my mom or talking to my sisters or bringing it up would be admitting to myself, this is a reality. And when you kinda live in a fantasy or you disassociate or you compartmentalize, you don't want to talk about it. You survive it. You put it away and you go on to live your life. You don't want to bring it up.

John: But the truth is, Jim, you can't leave all of that behind. It follows you and as we mentioned earlier, if you are identifying at all with what Dawn Scott Jones is sharing today on "Focus on the Family," call us and talk to one of our counselors as a starting point for a healing journey. Our number here is 800-A-FAMILY. You can find out more, as well, about Dawn's book, When a Woman You Love Was Abused and the subtitle is, A Husband's Guide to Helping Her Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation. We've got details about that and a CD or download of this conversation at

Jim: Dawn, when you think back to that time and you know, this occurred through your early teen years--

Dawn: Yes.

Jim: --I mean, it kept going. It's an odd way to say it, but did you mature with all this going on? How did you manage this other thing that was going on, in addition to going to school, being I'm sure what you felt was as normal as you could be--

Dawn: Right.

Jim: --and still having this horrible thing going on and having the cognitive ability to understand it all.

Dawn: Yes. Well, I look back now and I see that I was really frozen emotionally. You just did what you had to do. But as I look back at my education, I realize I was in a fog. There's so many things that I just didn't grab. You'd think about my mom is out of town and I've gotta go home tonight. And maybe I'd ponder on that throughout the whole day at school.

Well, I missed all of my education, not knowing it then, but looking back at it with clarity, I see that. So, you do survive. That is an accurate term. You're in survival mode. You build coping skills and you develop great skills at, I don't feel. I don't think about it. I ignore it. I can do what I need to do to get by and I think I'm living my life.

But I didn't have a lot of close friends, because closeness meant talking and talking meant exposure. So, I was kind of a loner. I had a couple friends. I would only pick out the losers that were at the bottom of the barrel.

Jim: Talk about that for a minute, because that's a common match up that occurs.

Dawn: Very common.

Jim: A girl that has been abused seeks abusers. Talk about that connection and why that happens.

Dawn: Yeah and certainly she does not know she's seeking an abuser. But she's seeking someone that's "less than." Psychologically she wouldn't admit to that, but someone that she feels she offers something. And if I'm a failure and I'm flawed and I'm dirty and I'm shamed, but I still have to be the alpha in the relationship, that leaves a very small percentage of men that I can draw [from]. I have to have someone who's broke[n] down, needs fixing, not very intelligent or someone who is partying their brains out and I have to be coincidentally, a very sexual being, even though I hate intimacy. Girls will be very promiscuous and very sexually--

Jim: Can--

Dawn: --active.

Jim: --make that connection. So often they're seeking that and we talk about it, but it fits in your case, where you're looking for that father's approval.

Dawn: You're looking for love and you'll take it, whatever form it could be.

Jim: Dawn, we have provided that kind of background to really move into the core and that is, you meet your husband, Terry. Talk about that courtship. Obviously, you're at an age when, you know, men are noticing you and wanting to date you and obviously, Terry wanted to marry you.

Dawn: Yes.

Jim: Talk about the fear of that. How did that make you feel when somebody was saying, "I love you enough that I want to marry you?" What did that make you feel like?

Dawn: Well, I loved it. I loved being wanted. I loved being loved and quite frankly, I went after him. I mean, I did not give that man a chance. I identified him. He had a huge smile. He had long hair. It was curly. He looked like a rocker. He looked like somebody I never would've dated. And he had Christian parents and he was a brand-new believer and our first date was going to the Imperials concert. (Laughter) So, that ages some of us in this room.

But I just fell in love with him and went after him and so, I really thought we would have a marriage that would really be wonderful and it was great in the dating. It was great up until the moment that we said, "I do." And I kid you not, about 16 minutes after we got married, I decided, well, no, I don't want this. A fear struck in me and all of a sudden, and I can think of it in spiritual terms, he became my spiritual leader or my head or he became like a father figure. The first time I saw him without cologne on and all the cool and now you're getting out of bed and you've got white BVD's on and saggy socks and oh, my goodness, you look like my dad. And—

Jim: Huh.

Dawn: --I did not know that then, you know. This was—

Jim: And you were 19--

Dawn: --years later. Nineteen.

Jim: --when you got married. Boy, that's somethin', to feel those emotions just flip all of a sudden--

Dawn: Instantly.

Jim: --at your wedding! I mean, after saying, "I do," that had to be—

Dawn: My honeymoon.

Jim: --your reception and your honeymoon—

Dawn: Yeah.

Jim: --that you're thinkin', this isn't what I wanted.

Dawn: This isn't what I wanted.

Jim: Let me ask you though, was it a sense of being shackled? Or you said he reminded you now of your father. How did you survive? How did you take the next step after you go back from your honeymoon? Did you talk to him?

Dawn: Right, well, it was fear and I see that now, fear and triggers--triggers of the past. All of a sudden, he had the face of the perpetrator. He was a great person, a loving man. We were married 28 years and that's a whole story in itself and God did amazing things in our marriage, but he had the face of a man and all those feelings and those emotions that I had no clue. I said a moment ago, I thought when it was over, it would be over. It was nowhere near over. It was just getting started. Abuse aftermath is huge. It's real and I had no idea I was the victim of post-traumatic or post-sexual abuse trauma.

Jim: Did you talk about it when you were engaged? Did you have a discussion? Did Terry say, "Okay, I understand it and let's move ahead, because I want you," even though he was fully knowledgeable of what your background contained. Did you ever have that kind of open discussion?

Dawn: We did.

Jim: And how did it go?

Dawn: Well, I was testing the ground to see if he's leave or reject me. You don't tell your future spouse or your boyfriend, because they'll look at you differently and they'll confirm when they reject you, that you are damaged goods and that no one will ever love you and that's a huge lie that you believe.

So, when I told him, I knew I had to tell him and I said, "You know, probably I just should let you know, you know. My dad, he's an alcoholic and one time when he was drunk, you know, he did this." And he just looked at me and he goes, "Wow. That's really weird." And I said, "Yeah, but I forgave, so you know, it's over."

Well, my dad was a powerful man and my dad had a lot of charisma and Terry had liked my dad. And so, he had to process that, but looking at me and seeing that I apparently looked like I was fine, I guess, you know, he's 22. What does he know? You know, we were just young kids.

Jim: Right.

Dawn: And so, he just said, "Okay." And so, we just moved through it. He then would years later, not even years, three, four or five years later, say to me, "I hate your dad for what he did to you. He ruined you. You are damaged goods. You're ruined." Because it stole from him, too and Terry became the second victim of sexual abuse.

Jim: Oh, I mean, this is hard stuff.

Dawn: Yeah.

Jim: And you talk about the wasteland of lies that something like this leaves. Everybody's impacted.

Dawn: Yes.

Jim: Dawn, we have talked about that very vulnerably today and I so appreciate the fact that you have been so open—

Dawn: Sure.

Jim: --and vulnerable. And people are going to be touched by that. Dawn, for that person that sees no light at the end of the tunnel, that has no hope, is there hope?

Dawn: There is glorious hope and there's a wonderful light at the end of the tunnel. God restores and He specializes in broken things. He says, "Behold, I make all things new." He's done it for me and if God can heal and restore me, He can heal and restore anyone. There's great hope.

Jim: Dawn, that is very encouraging. I mean, there is great hope in Christ and that is the message of the Christian believers and thank you for how you have expressed that today. But I want to come back next time and kinda pick up the story where we're leaving off today and I want you to talk about your dad a bit more and how you began the healing process and where you are at in that continuum today. Can you do that.

Dawn: Yes, I'd love to, thank you.


Jim: Before we close out, I want to invite you to contact us here at Focus on the Family. We understand this is a really difficult topic and one that is hard to open up to another person and talk about, but it's important for your well-being, your emotional well-being, your spiritual well-being and we're here for you. We have trained Christian counselors who can be that listening ear and maybe give you some guidance on biblical ways to begin to deal with that hurt and that trauma. That's why we're here. Don't feel embarrassed to call us. Sharing in that pain and in that background is why we exist. It's why the Lord came to this earth, was to bear that burden and we want to be that for you in this moment.

Maybe you're still walking in that fog like Dawn talked about. Maybe it hasn't cleared up for you yet. You're treating yourself harshly, feeling guilty that something bad has happened and you're to blame in some way. Call and talk to us. Don't stay in that fog, in that darkness. God loves you. He cares for you. Dawn said it best that there is great hope in Christ and we would like to point you in that direction.

John: Yeah, it'd be a privilege to be a part of that journey and I think, Jim, one of the truths that really jumped out at me during this conversation has been that there is notjust a victim, that when this kind of abuse and trauma occurs, the ripples, they follow you and they become part of your own marriage and family experience.

Jim: Well, and that's a great word picture of the ripples of that and how children are impacted, grandparents how many people are impacted in this kind of situation. And that's why we wanted to talk about it today. So often we're hiding these things or not bringing them into the light. The Lord can do amazing work when we bring these things out into the light.

We mentioned our counselors here at Focus and we also have a great team at the National Institute of Marriage [NIM] in Branson, Missouri and we took that over a while back and they are an amazing team. You know, John, they have almost an 85 percent success rate in helping marriages. They're in their last life. I mean, they're at the end of their rope. Some of them file for a divorce and they're heading to divorce court, but they make a little detour. They want to try one last time and 85 percent of those couples, two years later are married and doing much, much better. They can help you and your spouse work through issues like this, past traumas that affect communication and intimacy, which are devastating to your marriage. Call us. Don't let your marriage die. We are here for you. Now is the time. I'm tellin' you, in the culture, our marriages need to be a witness to the world. We need to be different and we want to help you repair those potholes that exist in your relationship.

And you know what, John? It's amazing; $29 will help a hurting family. You think you can't do enough, you can do that--$29 to help a family repair the breach and to be there for them, to provide counseling services and follow-up resources, to put them on the right course and to introduce 'em to Christ or to strengthen their relationship with Christ. I hope you will do that. Let's stand in the gap together and be there to hold the family together in the name of Jesus.

John: And in fact, as a way of saying thank you for joining our support team, we'll send you a copy of Dawn Scott Jones's book, When a Woman You Love Was Abused. And you can learn more about that and our National Institute of Marriage and counseling services, when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or at .

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow, as you'll hear more with our guest, Dawn Scott Jones, sharing a beautiful redemptive aspect of her story that you won't want to miss, more trusted advice to help your family thrive in Christ tomorrow.

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Dawn Scott Jones

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Dawn Scott Jones is author of the book When a Woman You Love Was Abused, and is currently working on the follow-up titled When the Woman Abused Was Me. She is also a popular conference speaker, an ordained minister and a singer/songwriter. Dawn also writes a blog and hosts a radio program called Freedom Girl Sisterhood for women who have experienced trauma. She and her husband, Paul, have three married children and nine grandchildren. Learn more about Dawn by visiting her website.