Carried by Grace: When Sexual Abuse Happens in Your Home with Deb Butterfield
Today, Deb Butterfield and her daughter are living examples of the beautiful way God restores lives and blesses us all.

How in the world do you forgive when sexual abuse happens in your home? With tenderness, Debra L. Butterfield describes her experience as being carried by grace. This is the second in a two-part series. If you missed Deb’s story, please click here.

What will your life look like now? Will your daughter forgive you? Has God forgotten you? Will your brain ever un-fog? Who can you trust?

We’ve all experienced those kinds of questions, but it’s hard to imagine the kind of anguish that goes with sexual abuse of a daughter. Deb joined me to talk frankly about what it means to forgive someone when sexual abuse happens in your home to your daughter. And what forgiveness is NOT.


Of course, it’s one thing to forgive and dismiss small potato stuff. But when sexual abuse happens in your home, well, this is the hard one. Who doesn’t get bitter waiting for justice that may never happen?

Certainly, sobbing with sorrow can become a daily ritual. Yet, when you’re carried by grace, forgiveness can also be part of the picture.

“Forgiveness is letting go of your right to see the perpetrator get justice,” Deb says. “In our legal system, when someone commits a crime, they’re charged and they go to court. You know, they receive a punishment. Forgiveness is letting go of that and allowing God to handle it all.” (You can reach out to Deb here.)

 Deb tenderly encourages us to know our families can heal. In fact, she and Cathy even laugh–yes, laugh–throughout this gentle conversation filled with comfort for the broken-hearted mom still reeling from the trauma. If you think life will never be the same, listen in now as Deb describes lives healed after sexual abuse. For this and many other podcasts, click here. Sign up for our free blog here.

A Choice of Our Free Will

“So often I hear about forgiveness as being a process, but forgiveness is a choice of your free will. It’s a decision you make,” Deb explains. “Now, it takes time for your emotions to catch up with that decision.”

She shares a personal example. “I mean I was constantly saying, ‘I’ve chosen to forgive my husband, I’ve chosen to forgive my husband.’” 

We may find ourselves coming back to powerful emotions over and over again, according to Deb. Yet, she is clear about forgiveness.

“The first time I chose to forgive him, he was forgiven. So, it’s not like it’s a process where the forgiveness grows because it just doesn’t. It’s a free will choice.”

Honestly, even though we know Jesus died on the cross to extend forgiveness, ouch, it can be so hard to forgive. Still, Deb makes me want to forgive, to be carried by grace, too. One thing I like about Deb—she’s real, precise, and practical. Plus, her relationship with God is obvious, especially to those of us who know her well. 

Beating the Inevitable Depression

“We want justice. It’s just part of who God created us to be,” Deb explains. “He’s a righteous God, a God of justice. We’re created in His image and that means we want those same things.”

In such situations, it’s easy to succumb to the inevitable depression. But for Deb, being carried by grace includes a practical strategy to escape the depression trap. (For more on how to forgive relentlesslyclick here.)

My experiences have taught me that praising God chases away my depression and soothes my broken heart. The most important time to praise God is when you’re feeling your worst — so, no, you won’t feel like praising. Praising God through your tears is a sacrifice, an exercise of your willpower. (See Hebrews 13:15) Your emotions scream at you to sit down and cry, but you must do your best to ignore your emotions and praise despite your tears. Don’t hesitate to let the tears flow as you praise God.”~Debra L. Butterfield from her book, Carried by Grace: A guide for mothers of victims of sexual abuse, (CrossRiver Media) pg 61

Deb’s Meaningful Rituals for Keeping It Together in Crisis

Meaningful rituals can provide a sense of normalcy in a crisis that affects the whole family, according to Deb. For other children who may be too young to understand why the family is unraveling, meaningful rituals can provide a sense of security.

  • Breakfast with the kids
  • Storytime at bedtime
  • A morning quiet time
  • Taking stock of your chore list—realizing that some stuff used to be handled but the perpetrator
  • Scheduling fun activities with the kids (Click here for cheap, easy fun with kids.)
  • Any others that comfort to your broken heart, especially if they focus your attention on God’s goodness (For more on God’s goodness, click here.)

How do meaningful rituals help with the forgiveness piece?

“My daughter was suffering number one, but I had two other children,” Deb says. “So, now they were also doing without a dad in the home and going through everything we were experiencing.” (For how to be your family’s champion, click here.)

She adds it’s “just very important to maintain some normalcy and realize that, yeah, life goes on. And we’re going to be okay.” Meaningful rituals can provide a way for forgiveness to take root.

Carried by Grace in Community

Another way to foster forgiveness is to seek wise friends. A mom can easily become isolated in her effort to protect the privacy of her children—its part of the sacrifice a mother will assume. (For how to care for yourself when you feel overwhelmed, click here.)

It’s okay to test a friend for trustworthiness by sharing a small piece of info. See if your information travels via gossip or if the other person responds in a gentle, wise way.

When sexual abuse happens in your home, being carried by grace may be the last thing you think of. For instance, if you looked at Deb’s situation from the outside, you might see a double dose of injustice. As a stay-at-home mom, not only did all this bad stuff happen but suddenly she had to support her family financially as well. (For how to create family wealth, click here.)

Fortunately, God’s plans are constantly adjusting to make room for sin. Daily, He redeems unexpected tragedy and surprises us with blessings in the midst of trials with mercy new each morning. One example is the community Deb found in her new job.

“I was working at a Christian organization,” Deb reports. “As I got to know my co-workers, I began to trust them. As my trust grew, I shared bits and pieces of my story,” Deb says. “They didn’t judge or condemn. They just loved me.”

For more about "What to Say?" when someone you know is in this kind of crisis, click here.

I love the victory in her daughter’s life, too. And the fact that they have such a sweet relationship. (Watch for our upcoming interview with Sarah here.) Deb believes trusting God to have some hard conversations brought about a world of healing. “I had to step out in faith.”

Oh, Deb, my warrior-hearted friend, how proud I am of you and your beautiful daughter! Thank you for making your story, your wisdom, and your beautiful book available to bless the rest of us. 

I treasure Deb’s story and the courage it took for her to share it. Sharing our stories means God can take the broken pieces and make something sacred out of them, like broken shards become a stained glass window. The pain becomes a confined part of a larger story. Our lives become the glorious sacred story of God’s intervention, redemption, and healing.

Whatever you are going through today, God is on your side. He will reach you in your pain if you stay alert for comfort from trustworthy friends. You are not alone, dear one!

May we pray together?

Dear good Father in heaven, sometimes You feel really far away. We wonder if You’ve forgotten about Your child. How could You let this happen? Don’t You love me or my daughter anymore, good Father? Where are our friends when we need them? Open our eyes to the way You reach into our pain and comfort us. Teach us to value the price paid for forgiveness by Your Son on the cross. Carry us in Your grace. Give us strength and clarity for today’s trials. Clear our minds to think wisely. Strengthen us as we comfort and lead our children, O Lord. We need Your powerful Spirit to saturate our hearts, dear Father because our hearts break. Mend us, we pray. Teach us to trust You and reach out to claim victory. In Jesus’s name, we pray.

We LOVE to hear from YOU!

How has someone comforted you in the midst of pain? When you praise God in spite of your circumstances, what do you say? Which meaningful rituals help you and your family?

More of Deb’s Story

Last week, Deb shared many personal details from her story. If you happened to miss that blog or if your heart is broken over the sexual abuse of a beloved child, please click here for Deb’s storyPlease share this with your friends!

And don’t forget to sign up for our FREE blog, interviews, and podcasts here. All free and just once a week.

Other Important Topics

God has blessed us with many experts since we started Fireside Talk Radio. Please look for wisdom from trustworthy people on these topics: Domestic ViolenceBullying in School, Suicide of a Child, Suicide of a Sibling, Breast Cancer, Sex After Breast CancerLife After Divorce, Single Parenting, Chronic Pain, Burn Out, Perfectionism, and many others.

Panicking about homeschooling this year? We created several weeks of Easy Homeschooling Lesson Plans last spring. No need to worry, you got this! Easy-peasy!

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Cathy Krafve, Columnist, Speaker, Blogger, Podcaster, and Christian Writer, invites your stories, ideas, and questions at Truth with a Texas Twang.

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