“Hello, Pastor Sanders, is everything all right? Is your wife okay?” My greeting sounded like a short clip as I poured out my concerns. Backing up to let the visitor cross the threshold, my back encountered the fireplace bricks. Our fireplace was unlike any I had seen, with bricks like a tower, the opening on two sides. I stood against the backside of the cold bricks.
“Everyone is fine. There is no problem. I just came to visit you. Are your sisters at home?” I had not yet caught on to just why the hard ball was forming in the pit of my stomach. He was smiling but something seemed a little off.
“No, my younger sister’s school is too far away for her to come home for lunch and my older sister has a Future Teachers of America meting at noon so she took her lunch.”
“And, it is Thursday so your mother doesn’t come home for lunch either.” His smile did not look warm and friendly any longer as he slipped his hands underneath my blouse. Petrified, I tried to slide sideways away from him. I could feel the rough bricks biting into my blouse and was afraid I would tear it. “Don’t be afraid of me. I won’t hurt you.”
“Stop that! You’re not supposed to be doing that.” I was clutching his wrists as hard as I could, trying to pull his hands off my breasts. The almost weird thing was that, while I was certainly terrified, I was also frightened he would laugh or comment on how small my breasts were. No one had ever touched me in this way and I couldn’t believe it was the pastor. “Stop it! You’re hurting me.”
“Well why don’t you invite me in to the living room. We could get comfortable and I won’t be hurting you. It’s the bricks against your back that are hurting you.” Think, I told myself. What did Mom tell us to do if we were in some kind of trouble? The thing is that I really could not scream. I just wanted to cry and I wanted him to stop. I felt one of his hands slide down off my breast but it did not leave my skin.
“S-Stop that; I mean it! Stop! My mother will be home any minute now. You’d better leave.” Suddenly, his hands were motionless, though he kept them under my blouse. He stared into my eyes, confusion quickly passing from them. He’ll see I’m lying, I thought with more fear than I had ever had in my whole life. Would he hurt me when he found out I was lying?
“You’re lying. You told me Saturday that she always has a meeting on Thursday so takes her lunch.”
“I-I didn’t know her meeting had been cancelled for this week when I told you that. “ I twisted around, trying to se the clock. “You’d better go before she gets here. She’ll be here any minute now. She’ll want you to explain just what you’re doing coming here when my parents are at work.” Without saying a single word to me, he slid his hands out and whipped around to open the front door. I didn’t wait to see him get in the car; I locked both doors as quickly as I could.
Running to the telephone, fumbling to get my finger in the right hole of the dial, I phoned my mother at her workplace. (No cell phones in those days.) Mom would be in the meeting so I would have to calm down and ask to speak with her. I was able to convey that my call was important enough to get her out of the meting without letting on I was about to crash. However, the sound of my mother’s voice broke the dam of restrained tears.
“What’s happening? Are you hurt? Tell me why you are crying?” But, I couldn’t speak. I only sobbed and choked with the flood of tears. “I can’t understand you. “
“M-M-Mom, c-c-come h-h-home n-n-now.” I was so afraid he might realize I was lying and come back to hurt me. But if my mother did come home, then he would see I wasn’t lying and would be afraid to come back.
My precious mother did jump in the car and was home in a matter of minutes … the longest minutes of my life, I might add! I spent those sobbing minutes trying to think what to tell her. I didn’t want to tell her who the man was. I didn’t want to go to the police and I knew she would make me if I said who the guy was who had terrified me. I just couldn’t. No one would believe me; I was certain of that. He was a pastor, after all. Who would believe a kid over him? And, what would people say about me?
The bottom line was that, while my mother did believe that such a thing had happened to her daughter in her own home, it would be years before I told her who the man was. I had simply told her a man came into the house when I was alone. I never returned to the Confirmation Class and never saw Pastor Sanders again. When I did, finally, tell Mom who it was later on, I felt badly because he had molested other young girls before and after me until he was finally “run out of town.” In those days no one was ever prosecuted for such things.
While I was very fearful of men I didn’t know and it would be some time before I answered that front door again, I had not realized how deeply that fear had buried itself in my heart. Twenty-seven years later, the remnant of that experience reared its ugly head.
*Name has been changed.
****Authority Figures: Pastors, Reflections… Coming Tomorrow