The Many Faces of Marilyn
By Julie Blim with Zsa Zsa Palagyi
The 700 Club
“I remember being surrounded in a hallway by a lot of men. Then I don’t remember much else after that. I remember being given something to drink. It was sweet. I’m assuming it may have been some alcohol sweetened up with Kool-Aid. I was probably three.”
At that tender age, Marilyn Williams didn’t know it was wrong, but she knew how she felt.
“I can’t remember everything,” Marilyn tells The 700 Club, “but the feelings I have when I remember that are terror.”
The group stopped molesting her when she was still quite young, but Marilyn’s father continued to sexually abuse her for years.
“I remember wearing many pajamas to bed, layers and layers and layers, trying to do what I could to keep it from happening. As a young child, I think I have some snapshots of me sleeping in corners of rooms thinking that maybe the bed just wasn’t safe. If I slept on the floor in a corner, that would be better.”
When Marilyn was a teenager, the abuse increased.
“I remember coming home from school pretty much every day in junior high, and knowing that my father was waiting for me, lying there, usually naked on the bed or on a couch. He was usually drunk by the time I was home.”
Marilyn finally confided in a favorite teacher.
“[I thought] that she would keep my secret. Of course the next day I came to school, the police were there. My father was arrested that same morning. I’ll never forget just how ashamed I felt to bring this shame upon my family.”
Marilyn was taken to a children’s home for a time, but the reprieve didn’t last long. After some mandatory counseling by the social agency, both father and daughter were returned home.
She recalls, “My dad hadn’t changed at all. So I had to literally fight him off pretty much every day from ages 13 to 18.”
In her own fearful, vague way, Marilyn tried to let her mom know. “She thought my dad had really changed. So I didn’t fully tell her. I may have tried to drop hints, but she thought we were doing well. She thought everything was fine. At this point I knew that if I turned my father in again, he would most likely go to prison, and I would go into the foster care system. I was in high school, and that was my life – the teachers, my schooling, my extra-curricular activities. That was a support system, and so I didn’t want to lose that.”
By her senior year, Marilyn was deeply depressed. Her only hope of escape was going away to college until her dad took care of that dream.
“[He] basically said to me that my college fund was spent on his lawyer. The lawyer that he had to hire to defend himself from my betraying him is the way he saw it and worded it.”
Marilyn had heard about God in church though she didn’t understand much about Him. She decided to pray.
“I said, ‘The first half of my life has been really rough. Do you think You could make the second half better?’ It was about probably a year later that I met my husband, and I knew that God heard that prayer. It was as if He delivered a knight in shining armor, but he was in a Honda Prelude.”
They married, and she was finally free from abuse and truly loved. She’d even been honest with him about her past up to a point.
“I said to him I come from some form of abuse, have some incest in my background from my father, but I said, ‘I want you to know it hasn’t affected me whatsoever. I’m perfectly fine.’”
But of course, she wasn’t fine. Though finally in a healthy home, Marilyn had never had a chance to work through the years of trauma. But help was soon to come in the form of Christian friends from her high school days.
“That was an exciting time, because they began to introduce me to Jesus. I said, ‘Lord, You have been with me all my life and I will commit my heart, my life unto You.’ I just couldn’t stop reading God’s Word. That was a big change in me. The other was, I wanted to worship Him all the time. I couldn’t wait to get to church.”
Within a couple of years, Mike became a Christian too. Marilyn’s life seemed great now, but emotionally, she still had a long way to go.
“Why am I depressed when I have this beautiful home that I never had before? I started struggling with panic attacks and anxiety attacks. I began to experience flashbacks of the abuse that I had stuffed down, way down, from when I was a little girl. It was severe. I would lose the ability to discern past and present.”
Mike remained loving and supportive throughout it all.
“There were some days where he would come home and I might not recognize him. I might feel like I was 4 or 2 or 6 or 7. I was very confused, very disoriented many days. So he would tell me that I was safe here, that nobody was going to hurt me. This house loved Jesus. Jesus was a good God.”
Marilyn went for Christian counseling.
“That’s when I was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. They don’t call it that anymore. They call it dissociative disorder and I was frightened. I didn’t know how my husband would take this. Didn’t know what this meant about my future.”
What it meant was Marilyn suffering for nine years of sporadic flashbacks so severe that she took on other personalities to cope. After many years of hard work, light appeared at the end of the tunnel.
“Finally I got to this point in my healing journey, so to speak, that I was really ready to let it go. You know you’re ready when you really don’t care who did what to you anymore. You just want a life outside of it. One of the first things that He called me to was forgiveness.” First, her mother… “I started feeling this love for my mom that I just didn’t even know that I really had.”
Then the tough one – her dad. “I wrote my father a letter, and there was no response. He’s been in hiding ever since. Nobody really knows where he is. He was never willing and open to face his actions, never interested in reconciliation with me. But I felt a peace because the forgiveness in my heart towards him. Being open to that possibility of letting the Lord lead us through that freed me from that weight of the pain.”
It’s been ten years now that Marilyn has been free of the mental torment of sexual abuse. She and Mike have been married 25 years, have two grown children, and a grandson they adore.
“It’s just a really wonderful life, family and ministry. My mom and I enjoy a wonderful relationship, where I’m so glad that we were both willing to do the hard work of restoration.”
Marilyn earned a college degree after all and now speaks to women’s groups around the world.
“As I travel around the world, I find that women, no matter what culture, are typically exploited, abused, neglected. At the very least, they don’t know their value. It’s an amazing thing. We don’t really understand it, but as we behold the Lord, we become like the Lord. I had to spend a lot of time in the Word and in worship and in prayer. He has the power to heal you, no matter what you’ve been through. The Spirit of the Lord is our only hope for healing. It’s our only hope for sanity. It’s our only hope for a future outside of all this brokenness.”
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