Blazing Grace Radio Episode

Laura Graber on Sexual Abuse, Part 1

Recorded: Apr 03, 2023

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Blazing Grace Radio
Blazing Grace Radio
Laura Graber on Sexual Abuse, Part 1







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Growing up, Laura Graber’s father was an alcoholic. He was also addicted to pornography and molested his daughters. There was constant tension and the fear of sexually inappropriate behavior of their father in their home, to the point that Laura was afraid of taking a shower. Laura grew up in an Amish family; while many have the perception that the Amish live pristine, peaceful lives, an undercurrent of unspoken sexual abuse is alive in their community. In this first of two interviews, Laura shares her story.


Laura Graber on Sexual Abuse – Part 1 – Transcript


ANNOUNCER:

This radio program is PG-13. Parents strongly cautioned: some material may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13.

Jesus’s mission was to comfort those who mourn, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives, and open prison doors for those who are bound for those who want more than status quo Christianity has to offer, Blazing Grace Radio begins now. And here is your host, Mike Genung:

MIKE GENUNG, HOST, BLAZING GRACE RADIO:

Hey, Mike Genung here, and welcome back to Blazing Grace Radio. Glad to have you along. It’s a beautiful sunshiny day here in Phoenix, AZ. And before I introduce our guest, a couple of quick announcements.

  • May 5th – 7th I’ll be in Italy, the north side, leading a men’s retreat there.
  • May 13th I’ll be in Vienna, Austria leading an all day conference.
  • On that Saturday, May 20th, we’ll be in Finland for several speaking engagements.
  • And then, May 27th, I’ll be back to the UK in Frimley Green, which is a little southeast of London, holding an all day conference on that Saturday.
  • And then June 3rd holding another conference – all day conference – in North Wales.

So for our listeners there in the UK and Europe, I’d love to see you. Go to the website at blazinggrace.org, there’s an events calendar on the homepage.

And so today I have back with me at the program, Mrs. Laura Graber from James Port, Missouri, Laura my friend and welcome back to the program.

LAURA GRABER:

Thanks for having me, Mike. It’s an honor.

MIKE:

Thanks for coming on. And so, Laura’s going to be with us the next two weeks, and today we’ll be talking about some sexual abuse issues she encountered growing up in her family. And then next week, what she’s been through with porn addiction in her marriage. And a common thread that can run through both of those scenarios, is anxiety and fears. So along the way, we’ll be picking that conversation up and looking at what recovery looks like.

So let’s begin, Laura, and go and begin by sharing what you went through growing up.

LAURA:

Sure, absolutely. So I grew up in a in a Baptist Amish home. So, you know, a lot of people have their opinion of how they think the Amish are [laughs] who they are and how they live their lives. Granted, my home that I grew up in was was an exception. Thankfully there’s not many of them in the culture, but my father was an alcoholic. And with that came lots of anger and rage, and, you know, all the aspects of that. And as I grew up there became more and more sexual impurities in his life, became more evident, until it got to the point where he definitely was sexually abusing us through a lot of different forms. For a long time in my life I was able to ignore it, and not, you know, call it for what it was because it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Which is, a lot of times, what sexual impurities and sexual sin… you can lie to yourself for a while, believing that it’s not as bad as you perceive it to be.

But… so, obviously, growing up with a father that you know was an alcoholic, and angry, there was lots of tension in our home. My parents would fight a lot, and argue a lot, and just always being tense, never knowing when something would tip them off. And he would spank you, per se, but it was much more than disciplining you. It was a way for him to unleash his anger, you know, using a whip or, you know, whatever he had close to his hands to use. So a large part of my childhood was spent, like, just living in constant fear. I remember bumping his chair one Sunday afternoon as a little kid, when he was taking a nap, and getting a beating because I bumped his chair.

MIKE:

Mmm.

LAURA:

You know, just instances that were completely crazy, you know? Yeah. Sometimes he would come to the table and I’d have to sit beside him and… because that’s how we sat at the table, in that row. And he would be angry because he’s looking for an excuse, you know? Someone to take his anger out on. And it was so nerve wracking trying to eat, you know, just fear, just complete fear. So obviously as I got older, you know, in the age of eight, nine, ten years old, I started becoming aware that… I can’t necessarily pinpoint, like what happened, that I knew to never be alone with him. But I was always very aware at a young age, you know, if he was in the house and there’s no one else in the house, like, don’t be in the house with him. Yeah, I just… I spent a large part of my life just not being in the same place as him, alone. So by the age of 8-9 years old, he would make me uncomfortable with staring at me. And that led to, you know, occasionally he would, you know, try to touch me as I walk past him, or depending on where you sat or what you were wearing, he would be staring at you. He would write vulgar things on, you know, papers and leave them laying around where… you know, if I was, if he was out in the shop and I was out there too, he’d be sitting there, you know, looking at, like, magazines that were full of, you know, porn, literally.

MIKE:

Right in front of his daughter?

LAURA:

Yes, yes.

MIKE:

Mhmm.

LAURA:

I mean, he would sometimes try to hide the cover, but I knew they came in the mail. And, you know, we knew that’s what he had in his hands. You know, we walked behind him, you’d see what he had. There was just like… slowly but surely it kept getting worse. And I was very naive, like no one… like, my mom would have never talked to me about sexual things, you know, growing up. So for me it was, it was all foreign. It was disturbing to me, like, disgusting to me. Like, I knew it wasn’t right, and yet I had no one to explain to me, like, that this is wrong. So it’s kind of, yeah, a lot of confusion mixed in with that.

But it kept on going throughout my teenage years. You know, like, if in the morning, if he would hear that you’re awake then he would all of a sudden, you know, open the bedroom door in hopes to catch us changing. Or if you were showering, the the lock on the door didn’t work very well. Which I’d say it was probably done on purpose. And he would, you know, open the door and pretend he didn’t know you were in there. It got to the point where us young little girls would, you know, if one of us were showering, the other one would be hanging around the bathroom door or be inside the bathroom just so he didn’t try those things. He would, by the time I was like 13-14 years old, he would, like, in the living room evenings, he would sit on his recliner in front of everyone and be masturbating or something. You just… yeah, lots of very disturbing things.

MIKE:

In front of the whole family?

LAURA:

A lot of disturbing things. Yes. Yes. I mean, obviously I had older brothers, and if they were around he never acted out in front of them as much. He definitely hid it from them, because there was a time when some of us younger girls started speaking up a bit, and my brothers were just kind of like “What?”, you know? Like they didn’t know this stuff was happening. So I think he hid it more from them than what I realized, you know, at the time.

But yeah, like, my mom would be sitting there sometimes, so us girls would just, I spent… I remember spending quite a bit of evenings in the bedroom until he went to bed. He’d go to bed fairly early. You know, 8:30, 8:00, something like that. And then coming out in the living room and hanging out with mom after he went to the bedroom. So yeah, that was just reality. And I somewhat knew that other dads maybe weren’t like that, but it just felt too much for your brain to even process that, that this isn’t completely normal. Because then I would have had to admit that this is wrong and there’s something wrong. And that felt terrifying to me. Yeah. I would have much rather just had to live in an alternative reality and not face the actual effect that all of that was having on me at the time.

MIKE:

Mhmm.

LAURA:

So yeah, he was very… a vulgar person. I mean he would tell me that I was made to satisfy the other half of the population. Oh, that would that would make me very, very angry. [laughs] Obviously. Yeah. Those things kind of all continued until my parents separated when I was 16 years old. And yeah, so obviously that released me from having to live in the same house as him. The last year before they separated I would be home a lot alone with him and my mom. And that last year was… it was awful. It was completely awful. I know there was other people around on the weekends, a lot to distract him. And yeah, it was just a lot that happened that, sometimes I wonder if I even gathered, you know, mentally, today – years later – you know, what all took place. But yeah, so that obviously left me with a lot of, like, the mindset of, like, anything sexual is disturbing and disgusting. And even viewing men in general, in a very… ungodly way. Just, like, being disgusted by males in general, which in a sense, like, God used for good. Because I didn’t have a lot of boy drama in my life [laughs] as a teenager. So that was… that was a little positive in the whole aspect. Yeah. Kind of a small glimpse of of my childhood growing up.

MIKE:

How many kids in your family?

LAURA:

There was nine of us, and I was the youngest.

MIKE:

How many boys? How many girls?

LAURA:

There was five boys and four girls. Actually, I said that exactly opposite, four girls… five girls and four boys.

MIKE:

And your brothers had no idea that a chunk of this was going on.

LAURA:

There was things that they did know. I mean, they were aware of, like the magazines he got in the mail. They were aware of different things because, you know, after he was done with the magazines, he would lay them in on my older brother’s bed, you know, gave them to the boys. So he was very, like… entitled, you know, as a male. That was just what males did. This is who they were. So my brothers, you know, he… he tremendously impacted their purity at a young age. And they knew some of the things, but a lot of the things that he did toward us younger girls, we just didn’t talk about, not even really that much to each other, nor to my mom. It was kind of something that you just didn’t want to talk about because it was hard. And subjects like that in the Amish culture, you don’t hear anyone talking about sexual things. They’re just like a, yeah, a silent subject. Especially in the community that I grew up in that era… you didn’t get taught any of that in school, you know, there was no sex ed classes in school. So there was just a lot of silence on the subject.

So I remember, you know, several years after my parents had separated, I was talking to one of my brothers and sharing about the showering and he was just horrified. He was like, you know, he remembers me asking him if he could hang out in the hallway while I’m showering. And he remember just like being like, “Okay, what’s wrong with her?” you know, “She’s acting strange,” you know? But he did and he would do that for me if I asked him. But I guess I always just assumed he knew why I was asking him, and he didn’t. That’s just how less we talked about it at the time. Now, today, and even, like, you know, by the time I was 17-18 years old, all of that stuff was definitely discussed and very openly talked about. At the time it was just a silent subject, yeah.

MIKE:

Well, a lot of people, myself included, have or had a perception of the Amish community, of being peaceful. They’re living life the way it should be. There’s wonderful families and communities. And so our listeners know, I’ve been to James Port where Laura lives, and you guys have kind of educated me that that’s not quite the situation. So is there a lot of sexual abuse… immorality in the Amish community?

LAURA:

There is, there definitely is. And it greatly saddens me because of how that subject is not discussed. It’s not taught. It’s not addressed. There’s, you know, a lot of young kids, you know, things happen between kids, and adults view it as, “Oh, it’s just kids doing things.” And that’s not just kids doing things, you know? I don’t know as far as, like the ratio of, you know, the difference between the Amish culture and the so-called English culture – [laughs]

MIKE:

[laughs]

LAURA:

– you know, that if you do statistically the difference between the two. But I would say in the Amish culture there is more, from my personal opinion. For the mere fact that A: it is hidden. Few people bring it to the light, talk about it, actually find healing. And it’s, like… the Amish community is a really close knit community. So if one person finds it out, like everyone knows, a large part of the time. So it’s something that a lot of shame and fear and just complete terror is associated with, so you don’t want anyone to know about it. So it’s better just stay silent and shove it to the back of your mind and forget that it exists.

MIKE:

Mmm.

LAURA:

So that’s definitely, like, a lot of times when, like, instances do come up that you catch, you know, little snippets here or there, that you know something may not be quite right. Or something may have happened, but you never know, like, full details, or people don’t just openly talk about it or share, you know, that “Hey, I was sexually abused, and this happened, and this is how I found healing.” Those conversations would not be a part of the life and Amish community in James Port where I lived. It’s more of a yeah, definitely a very shameful thing that hidden scraped under the rug, you know, covered it up.

MIKE:

Well, the official numbers are that one out of every four women have been abused or molested and one out of every six men have been abused. But those, those are the official numbers. That doesn’t even include all those that had even reported it. So the real numbers are –

LAURA:

Exactly.

MIKE:

– probably much higher. So was your family going to church when all this was going on?

LAURA:

Oh yes, yes. We were in church every Sunday that there was church. My dad was actually looked up as a respected person of the community, at one point, a lot. I think as the years went by, more people… he might have happened to show his anger at the wrong time, and more people got to know that there was definitely, maybe some issues, you know, happening in the background. But there was… like, when we left, when my mom and dad separated, we actually – my dad left for work, and my mom and my brother, me and my sister, we just loaded up in the car and left and left him a note. That’s how we separated because that’s… we just left. And at that point, you know, I think a lot of people were shocked. And still today there’s people in the community that they don’t know the full story, you know, they don’t know what all happened and they would still view us as being wrong. For having just left because my dad was, I mean, in public, he was a jolly person, he was funny, you know. Still today I hear a comment, you know, oh, you know, his laugh or they so enjoyed talking with my dad or something my dad said or, you know, whatever. And there’s still a lot of people today that would not, yeah, would not know the real Jake as I knew him growing up.

MIKE:

And part of the reason on this program I have people who come on and share stories of being molested, like you’ve been willing to do, Laura, is because a lot of this gets repressed in the family system, and then people grow up thinking, “I’m the only one that’s gone through this,” and it’s far from the truth.

LAURA:

Yeah.

MIKE:

So how did you unwind the idea that men are basically scumbag pervs? [laughs]

LAURA:

Umm… [laughs] That’s a big question, Mike. Do you have a couple hours? [laughs] First of all, my brothers were pivotal in that. I mean, obviously God was in the background, you know, orchestrating all of this, but my brothers played a huge part because they treated me differently than from what my dad did. They cared about me. They were, you know, never sexually… toward me in any form. They advocated for me, did things for me, they loved me, they looked out for me. They, you know, were there. They were vibrant in my life and I could trust them completely. So that was huge. And, like, to hear they might be hanging out with guy friends or they might be hanging out with people. Like, if they were comfortable with them, I was comfortable with them a lot of times. Like, who they liked, I liked because I knew that they they had grown up with the same dad as I did. So that that was huge for me. Definitely my brother’s impacting me. And also you know, as I became a Christian in later years, recognizing that there are a lot of men out there who have a heart for God. And, you know, as I started sharing my story, little bits here and there, you know, I barely wouldn’t say much, you know, because I’d still be scared. But people’s reaction, like men’s reaction, the same like, “Wow!” like, “That is so wrong!” Or, you know, like, “That’s awful!” And recognizing like, “Oh, they would think it’s wrong to do this?” You know, “They wouldn’t think that’s okay?” You know, “That’s not just how males are?” So those are probably the two biggest aspects of, yeah, my brothers, and then, like, hearing other males react to parts of my story –

MIKE:

Mmm.

LAURA:

– was huge.

MIKE:

So when I first met you was in 2018 when I led a wive’s retreat in Colorado. So, you and seven or eight other women. So I’m wondering what was going through your mind when you’re going to a wive’s retreat that a man is leading [chuckles] with your background.

LAURA:

[laughs] Well, I definitely… I was… most of the reason why I went to the retreat was because I needed to get away from my husband. I was losing my mind, it felt like, and I was just desperate to get away. And my friend invited me and I was like, “Hey, let’s go. Who cares?” But when I showed up there and I met you and I realized like, “Whoa, like I’m spending the weekend at a retreat that’s being led by this male.” And it was… yeah, there was thoughts in my mind, definitely, of like “Who are you?” Like, “Why would you do this?” You know, yeah. “What type of person are you?” And then that first evening we were broke up in groups to share a story, and you just happened to be in my group. And you shared your story, and that… yeah. That instantly, I… through hearing your perception and seeing your love for purity and calling things out for what they were to be wrong. You know, speaking the truth over subjects, not just brushing them under the rug, or making them sound better than what they were. Yeah, you gained a lot of respect for me that first evening and I continued to go on that.

MIKE:

Well, we’ve got several minutes left, and so I’m wondering what your healing journey… Can you give us a point or two on what that has looked like? Because that was a lot of damage to recover from.

LAURA:

That was a lot. In a lot of different areas, you know. A lot of small things that I even today, sometimes something strikes me and I’m like, “Wow,” like, yeah, “I didn’t recognize that until today.” Probably the biggest, obviously the biggest thing was becoming a Christian and having God, like, the Holy Spirit, to walk me through those things. And I did a lot of counseling… have done a lot of counseling. And my siblings. My siblings have been pivotal in my life. And, like, we can sit together and we can talk openly and honestly about our childhood and connect and, like, just talk about the hard stuff. You know, the disturbing stuff that’s really hard to talk to other people about openly. We do that with each other. We’re not afraid to go there and to talk. We can talk about anything. And that has been majorly healing to have people who understand what it was like, and being able to just share and talk and not people freaking out about what all happened. Yeah.

MIKE:

And at what age did you become a believer?

LAURA:

I was 20 years old when I first… Yeah. I happened to go to church, which is kind of a crazy thing because I hadn’t been in church for a long time, because all of this, really, I was really bitter toward God.

MIKE:

Mmm.

LAURA:

I was. I just had the mindset of “If there is a God and he would allow me to live like this, you know, for close to 17 years, then I don’t want anything to do with him,” you know. If he… yeah.

MIKE:

Hmm.

LAURA:

You know, people would tell me, you know, “God’s good,” or, you know, I would hear things like that and I’d be like,”Yeah, whatever.” I would mock Christians and mock people who believed in Him because to me it was like, “How could he turn a blind eye while we suffered all those years?” I mean, just day after day of complete agony and darkness and just horribleness. I mean, just complete terror and fear, and… yeah. It was awful.

MIKE:

My friends [clears throat] we’re going to continue this conversation with Laura next week, so I would encourage you to join us. And Laura, thank you so much for your honesty and transparency, and I look forward to seeing you next time.

ANNOUNCER:

Blazing Grace is a nonprofit international ministry for the sexually broken and the spouse. Please visit us at blazinggrace.org for information on Mike Genung’s books, groups, counseling, or to have Mike speak at your organization. You can email us at e-mail@blazinggrace.org, or call our office in Chandler, AZ at (719) 888-5144. Again, visit us at blazinggrace.org, email us at email@blazinggrace.org or call the office at (719) 888-5144.