Marilyn Van Derbur: Revealing Keynote Speech On Sexual Abuse

Hendersonville North Carolina— “When children won’t tell and adults don’t ask, tackling the issues of sexual assault within a community becomes impossible, but former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur Atler says there is still hope for healing and prevention.

As the keynote speaker for The Healing Place’s second sold-out Celebration of Courage Luncheon, Atler encouraged attendees to become advocates for victims of sexual assault and molestation in order to help them heal.

The Healing Place is a rape crisis center in Hendersonville that provides counseling and legal services to men, women and children following rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse.

Atler spoke to a room of more than 200 community supporters of The Healing Place at Kenmure Country County Club, sharing her story as a victim of incest. From ages 5 to 18, Atler was assaulted at night by her father more than 600 times. She said that as a child, she believed she was truly living the American dream and had disassociated that part of her life from her daily life.

“I split into what I call a ‘day child’ and a ‘night child,’” Atler said. “As difficult as this is for most people to believe or understand, until I was 24, I — the day child — had no conscious knowledge of the night child. During the days, no angry or embarrassing glances ever passed between my father and me because I had no conscious knowledge of the traumas and the terrors of the night child.”

As the night child began to be hurt more and more, Atler said the day child felt the need to excel and outperform to make up for the pain the night child was feeling.

It took many years for Atler to fully uncover her abuse as a child. She struggled to accept what had happened to her and how to move forward. On top of her many successes in life, she has gone through bouts of panic attacks, and at one point her body entered paralysis.

She later realized the paralysis was triggered by her daughter’s 5th birthday — the same age she was when her abuse began.

Atler to this day said she cannot go to sleep without medication because of the fear of what happened to her when she would go to bed.

featweb-229x245(My notes are in lavender) Does the woman in this photo look like someone afraid to sleep without medication?

This shows that we cannot judge the personal condition of others based on their outward appearances. People often envy others, or think they are doing much better than they are in their healing journey -all based on appearances or their social place in the community.

Atler said there is hope, however. She said many would call what she went through from the ages of 45 and 50 as having a nervous breakdown, but she said it was her way of recovering.

She said victims must have the ability to recover and for that to happen, they need to be able to feel like they can speak about their assault and not be silenced by shame.

Atler said she will continue speaking out against sexual violence until the day she dies because of a statistic that says 14-year-olds comprise the largest number of sex offenders of any age group, and the age of their victims is usually 5 years old. She noted the significance of the victim’s age.

“Twelve-, 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-, 17-year-old boys and girls have a normal, natural sexual curiosity and there is nothing wrong with that, but there are long-term consequences if they are sexual with a younger or less powerful child,” Atler said. “But they don’t know that.”

Here, I must disagree with Marilyn.

I have always respected Marilyn and her work, but I do not agree with her if she feels teenagers don’t know that sexually abusing a younger child is wrong. A 13 year-old knows it is wrong to engage in sexual contact with a 5 year-old, and a 17 year-old certainly knows it too!

That’s why they do it in secret, and tell the child to keep the secret. Teenagers have the moral and psychological ability to know right from wrong. A teenager might not understand the full affects of the consequences of their actions, but they know it is wrong to engage in sexual acts with a much younger child.

I also don’t like abuse being called “getting sexual” with a child. Sexual abuse is not “getting sexual.”

Many children are profoundly impacted by older siblings having sexually abused them (or by abuse by a friend of the family, or babysitter, or a stranger).

Sexual abuse by an older teen who is the same sex as the child can have devastating affects on the younger child.

Teenagers who sexually abuse younger children might have been victimized themselves, and this is why they abuse a younger child, but once they sexually abuse a younger child, they are not victims anymore; they have become perpetrators.

This is different from children (not teens) sexually abusing other children. Children, younger than age twelve, who are sexually abusing other children, are less likely to understand that what they are doing is harmful. Children ages seven and younger are especially innocent of understanding that what they are doing is wrong.

I am writing another article on children and teenagers who sexually abuse children. It should be published later today.


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25 Responses to Marilyn Van Derbur: Revealing Keynote Speech On Sexual Abuse

  1. Little Nel says:

    Kevin said, “Religions have driven huge amounts of violence and brutality over time.”

    I disagree, Kevin.

    Condemnation, brutality, and violence have their roots in the desire for control over other people, which is adverse to God’s plan to love one another.

    Governments and political leaders have driven huge amounts of violence and brutality over time. Read the history books.

    • Alethea says:

      That’s right LN. It is the consciousness of human beings that causes violence and war, not religion.

      It was that way when Jesus walked the earth. Jesus brought us a religion so-to-speak…a way to tie ourselves back to God. The the word religion means (from the root meaning religare) “to tie back to that which we were severed.” But the people of His time did not want to hear what He had to say. Most of them (just like now) wanted wealth, power, war, and to keep their selfishness instead of personal transformation.

      The people chose Barabas over Jesus to be Crucified, because they wanted someone to deliver them from Roman bondage…someone who would create war against the Romans. Jesus taught a different way, and no one wanted to hear it…just like modern times.

      • Alethea says:

        Let me be clear. I am no big fan of religion. All religions have their problems, some more than others. My religion (Roman Catholic Apostolic) is far from perfect. But it is the only religion founded by Jesus The Christ. It is the only religion, which its root teachings are based in what Jesus tried to teach us, and the only religion that still carries The Holy Eucharist in its tie to The Last Supper, and done as Jesus instructed.

        • Little Nel says:

          It’s ironic that when faced with a choice of violence or personal transformation, we humans will avoid personal transformation.

  2. Little Nel says:

    When I was sexually violated against my will, as a child, by a same sex perpetrator my soul cried out for justice, I was powerless.

    I wanted revenge for the hurt, fear, and shame, that was heaped upon me at age 9. I wanted my abuser dead because I thought that it would make me feel better about myself.

    • KevinF says:

      I understand your experience very well, Little Nel. And I felt exactly the same way towards the people who bashed, terrorised and sexually molested me as a child.

  3. Little Nel says:

    “Male sexual energies are also very different from female.”

    Most people want consensual sex because it produces a feeling of euphoria in both people, but children cannot consent because they do not understand all the consequences. They are not prepared for the ‘after effects” which cause them distress later on in life.

    I never felt like a virgin because I was violated against my will, in childhood, even though I tried to stop the abuse.

    Protecting myself from more abuse became my goal in life when I should have been free to have a carefree time.

    • Alethea says:


      No children do not understand the consequences, nor do they understand that it is abuse –especially when it is a parent or sibling, whom they love.

  4. Little Nel says:

    I wanted to add that my spine doctor said that there are “three T’s” that keep us from healing of our physical ailments.

    They are tension (stress), trauma (violence/abuse), and toxins (chemicals/drugs)

  5. Little Nel says:

    Years ago I had an MRI to help my doctors find the cause of my severe back and hip pain.

    They told me that there was nothing abnormal about my spine except for two areas that had nerve “bundles.” At that time they had no conclusive research on what caused them but there were studies going to determine the cause.

    The “bundles” were spinal nerves that had not formed properly. The normal form was fan shaped and spread out. These malformed nerves were bundle shaped, bent, and intertwined.

    Today, I learned from my spine doctor that the cause has been found from the research. They are no longer referred to as “bundles.” He said that this type of nerve malformation is caused by physical trauma in early childhood. The number one cause being child abuse.

    I discussed this with Dr. De Saint-Simone today because my hip pain has subsided concurrent with therapy for my repressed anger towards “the bully.”

    Today we uncovered what caused the trauma that interfered with the normal development of the nerves in my spine. Child abuse that consisted of a sudden severe kick in the abdomen/stomach which caused me to double over and loose my breath. The kick had knocked the wind out of my lungs and made me nauseous, so I collapsed without any strength to stand up. My back pain has subsided concurrent to this therapy session.

    • Alethea says:

      Thank you LN for sharing this. The kind of therapy we do truly is a miracle. I only wish that more people could, and would want, to have the therapy with her. Maybe it is strange for someone to contact a therapist they learned about off the Internet, but you tried it, and so did Grace, and it has worked miracles for both of you.

      I am still blown away at what the therapy has done for me.

  6. This is such an amazing article… her strength is so moving. I cannot imagine the pain she must have felt once she started becoming aware consciously of the night child. What a monster her Father must have been… I wonder where her Mother was? Not sure how him leaving at night to go to the room could have went unnoticed for that long.

    And I totally agree 100% about saying anything remotely close to an adult having a sexual encounter with a child. You hear it on the news or read it in the paper and online all the time and it goes right through me! The worst is when they say someone had sex with a child. No, wrong. This somehow makes the perpetrators sound less evil & they aren’t fully to blame. Call it rape, molestation or incest because a child is not responsible for it in any way, shape or form. And these terms convey a sense of disgusting filth that these monsters deserve.

    • Alethea says:

      Loudest Silence,

      Marilyn’s mother was in bed every time he raped his daughters. Marilyn’s father would go back to bed with his wife afterwards, and say, “the girls will sure sleep good now.” Marilyn’s mother thought he was being a good father by “tucking them in.” It’s probably what she wanted to think.

      • Oh reading what he told her Mother after returning to their room just INSTANTLY turned my stomach… I couldn’t imagine anyone harming my children let alone a spouse! Talk about the ultimate betrayal… So many layers of victims to every survivor’s story when you really think about it, all the way down to every person who hears about the abuse later. It isn’t fair, yet we owe it to every single victim to HEAR their story and hopefully help others. Thank you again for bringing us these painful stories you are an angel.

  7. Little Nel says:

    My husband says that teen boys do not need to be sexually abused to molest children. He says that they are all perverts until they can control their sexual impulses that begin about 13. They get erections and cannot control it so they get embarrassed or fantasize or act out.

    If they have an impulse control problem and are stimulated sexually by children they are susceptible to act on those impulses without being victims themselves.

    • KevinF says:

      Good point, LN; that sounds like a very traditional religion view of children – they are wild, perverted and ‘sinful’ until they are bashed and terrorised into becoming ‘proper’ religion people. Yes, boys have lots of testosterone and other hormones coursing thru them at puberty and get lots of erections. But they also have natural boundaries, natural impulse control and natural aversion to causing pain to others.
      The most likely thing that can affect and override these natural balances is trauma, caused in many cases by personal, physical and/or sexual assault.

      • Alethea says:

        Kevin, I disagree. These are times of self/selfishness/ego/anti-Christic behavior. It abounds in this world. You might have been right a few decades ago, but Satanic (selfish -ego) influences have infected much of the youth of today. In addition to that, teenagers lack the total capability of understanding the consequences of their actions, and the teenager years are the most self-oriented.

        The male sexual energies are also very different from female.

        In general, I would never leave a teenage boy -any teenage boy- in charge of a young female child to babysit, nanny, bathe, change, etc. Nor would I leave a grown adult male with a young girl or teenage girl to change, babysit, etc. unless it was a family member that I KNEW damn well was psychologically, and morally, sound.

        • Little Nel says:

          “The male sexual energies are also very different from female.”

          I agree, Alethea.

          I don’t know what “traditional religion” is because I was raised in a home where New Age was practiced. I only know that I valued my virtue, which was different from what my family believed.

          I was constantly bombard with sexual harassment because I didm’t have a protective father in our home. I believe this because my girlfriends who had fathers living in their homes were not subjected to the same things from males that I was.

          The aggressive males knew that I was vulnerable and didn’t have any power to stop them from harassing me. I had to depend on my own ability to avoid being a victim again and again which was feigning toughness and fearfulness, which is something males can identify with and I knew it.

          I put up a fight and wouldn’t change my mind. Sex and violence was abhorrent to me and they got the message.

        • KevinF says:

          Yes Alethea. And based on my experience growing up, I would be very loath to leave a child in the care of a woman if I did not know her well. I’ve found women violent, abusive, prone to mental illness and far more insidious and devious in rationalising and covering up their violent behaviour than men.
          And I remember in the 1970s, Alethea, when I was a teenager, adults called us ‘layabouts’ and ‘drug takers’ and complained about how irresponsible we were. The adults who were loudest in their criticisms were very often pillar of society people and people of religion (both clerical and lay). You appear to be saying that teenage boys today are affected by ‘anti-Christic behaviour’ and ‘Satanic influences’.
          Please beware of any belief system or ideology which includes what sounds like a blanket condemnation or criticism of some particular group of people.

          • Little Nel says:


            “Drug takers” are usually people who want to escape their pain. They play the “blame game” by which they try to find an outside “target” to blame for their misery so they don’t have to look inside themselves for the real source of that pain.

            God, religion, and the clergy are the most used “scape goats” to point at as the source of the pain, when in reality our families hurt us the most in childhood. I used to play that sick game until I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I got outside help and my adventure began into recovery.

            Mental illness can be looked at as a “associative disorder” in which children learn the behavior and non-reasonable thinking from their parents and older siblings. All mental illness can be sourced in fear and guilt when their is no physical source.

          • Alethea says:

            Yes Kevin, women are far more insidious and devious in rationalizing and covering up their violent behavior than men, and I would not leave a woman in charge of a child any faster than a man. My point was geared towards making the male sexual energies clear…which are stimulated by touch, and SIGHT in particular. Women usually need some kind of emotional connection to be sexually stimulated –unless of course they are already deviant and have had thoughts about sexually abusing a child or teen. I will reply to the rest in another comment.

          • Alethea says:

            “I remember in the 1970s, Alethea, when I was a teenager, adults called us ‘layabouts’ and ‘drug takers’ and complained about how irresponsible we were. The adults who were loudest in their criticisms were very often pillar of society people and people of religion (both clerical and lay).”

            Kevin, I’m not sure why you wrote this to me. Unsure of your point here, and why so strong to me in particular ???

            “You appear to be saying that teenage boys today are affected by ‘anti-Christic behaviour’ and ‘Satanic influences’.
            Please beware of any belief system or ideology which includes what sounds like a blanket condemnation or criticism of some particular group of people.”

            What ‘appears to be’ is not always so.

            Satan is the father of the Ego, which is inside every person –every human being has an ego. Jesus The Christ (LOVE/GOD) is also inside every person.

            Satanic influences abound in this world, they are anything that caters to the SELF -or the EGO. People think that being Satanic means devil worship, or something bizarre outside their little world. Being ‘Satanic’ can be that woman filming herself having an abortion so she can show women that abortions are ‘no big deal,’ or it can be as simple as going against God’s will for self-gain or out of fear.

            This is not my opinion or belief. Jesus even spoke of it in the Gospels to Peter. Jesus said, “get thee behind me Satan” when Peter wanted to stop the arrest and Crucifixion.

            • KevinF says:

              ‘Satanic influences abound in this world, they are anything that caters to the SELF.’
              ‘This is not my opinion or belief. Jesus even spoke of it in the Gospels to Peter.’

              Yes, Alethea. The point I wish to make is that any kind of religion is a belief system/ideology which creates an ‘Us/Them’ view of the world. The parts of ourselves and of the world that we’re told to like we judge as good, godly or Christ-like and the parts we’re told to not like we call bad, evil or Satanic.
              You say this belief system is not your ‘opinion or belief’. So it seems so ingrained that you regard it as some sort of Truth – a sort of set of preconceptions that underlies all your thoughts and behaviour.
              All religions and ideologies are manufactured concepts and projections. And they’re particularly violent systems because of the huge condemnation and criticism they put on the ‘Them’. Religions have driven huge amounts of violence and brutality over time. And they allow people to rationalise physically and sexually assaulting (and killing) children. Children are declared bad/Satanic/evil because they don’t have the exact same belief system as us, they were born outside of our Church marriage system, they’re teenage boys, etc., etc. There are lots of reasons to use.
              And of course I know that you would NEVER EVER do anything like that. And of course I know there are lots of GOOD PEOPLE of religion and that religion gives us a ready made belief system and community in a scary world.
              Just please be very careful with this judgemental belief system as it has provided the rationale for some of the worst violence and destruction in the world’s history.

              • Alethea says:


                People’s consciousness separates them from one another, not their religion.

                What is separating you from me in this moment in time, is not my belief or knowledge…it is your assumptions of my belief systems, and your presumptions of where I get my opinion/knowledge, and your assumption about where that opinion/knowledge originally stems from.

                In this world Kevin, there is absolute truth and relative truth. The only thing which makes those truths come between human beings, is their consciousness about them.

                Religions and ideologies do not cause violence, the human consciousness (or lack of) does.

                One might argue that your vehement anger towards religion is aggressive. But I won’t go there because I don’t know you personally, or your level of consciousness.

                You accuse me of judging, yet you judge me. Be careful of being a hypocrite.

  8. melissa lee says:

    I believe the only way a teenager rapes or molest another child is having had that done to themselves. xoxo Melissa Lee

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