The Atlantic

On Marrying a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Dealing with misinformation, feeling powerless, and slowly getting better together
Source: Christian Hartmann / Reuters

I thought the article would validate my husband’s experience. That’s why I emailed him the link to the decade-old New York magazine article about his alma mater, the American Boychoir School for vocal prodigies, where alumni from as late as the 1990s estimate that one in five boys were molested. Boys like Travis.

“It used to feel like an isolated incident that affected just me," Trav said.

It was the end of my workday on an October afternoon; I had just set my keys on the kitchen table. My coat was still buttoned.

“Now I know I spent nearly three years of my childhood at a boarding school not just with random pedophiles, but in a culture that allowed it.”

As his wife, how do I respond? That he survived? That he’s brave? That he’s a hero for letting me talk about it? That I will stand beside him with a personal mission and public vow that nobody will ever hurt him, physically or emotionally, again, the way they did during his 30 months as a choirboy from 1988 to 1990?.

Trav deflects these statements. He understands my protective instincts, but it makes him feel weak and uncomfortable when I say the words with such elevated drama. He is not brave, he says. Not

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
Deval Patrick’s Righteous Anger
The former Massachusetts governor is practicing the kind of politics many voters say they want. How come it’s not working?
The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
The UNHCR Defends Its Global Compact on Refugees
The United Nations agency responds to a critique of its 2018 compact and affirms its obligation “to protect and assist all people fleeing war and persecution.”
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
Italy’s Answer to Populism
A grassroots anti-populist movement is challenging Matteo Salvini in Italy. Can its model be emulated elsewhere?