Out in the Open

Her father molested a child, but that doesn't 'undo the love' she feels for her dad

How do you love someone who has does something truly terrible? Rebekah Skoor has had to grapple with that question every day since she was in her early 20s and her father, with whom she'd had a deep closeness, confessed to molesting a young boy.
Rebekah Skoor with her father, Michael, backpacking the Sierra Mountains in 1996. (Courtesy of Rebekah Skoor)

Rebekah Skoor grew up with a wonderful dad.

Michael Skoor was a pastor, a leader in their community. He was an advocate for justice and a defender of the rights of young people.

All of which left his daughter Rebekah stunned the day nearly two decades ago when she got a call from her mother saying that Michael had confessed to molesting a boy in their congregation.

Michael was convicted of twenty counts of child sexual abuse and sentenced to twenty-nine years in prison.

What happens when you love someone who has done something terrible?

Michael's family was reeling.

Rebekah's first instinct told her to dive in and support her father, to love him through this and support the wonderful person she knew, even as she grappled with the implications of what he had done. She became a practical and emotional support for her father, testifying in his defence at his trial. She visited him often in prison.

"I felt like, in some ways, I was keeping him alive, that I was his primary lifeline … and one day I just came to this conclusion that I couldn't do it anymore."

There's just no resolve. There's no place to land with this one for me.- Rebekah Skoor

Rebekah cut ties and, for a long time, she had no contact with her father. He would send her letters; she'd put them in a box unopened. She needed that space to try to come to terms with how to have her father in her life, despite the damage and hurt he'd caused.
A recent photo of Rebekah Skoor with her father, Michael, during a visit to prison. (Courtesy of Rebekah Skoor)

Eventually, Rebekah began, tentatively, to start a new relationship with her dad, who remains in prison. She says the relationship has grown close again but it remains painful and complicated.

"There's just no resolve. There's no place to land with this one for me."

Rebekah tells Piya that healing remains elusive.

With each new life event, particularly now that she has young children of her own, there is some new pain and new struggle to figure out how to move forward.

"I think we envision healing like when we get a scrape on our leg and it's healed when you can't see it anymore… I don't think emotional healing works like that. I think emotional healing is more about integration of stories...bringing things into a tolerable level of feeling and allowing."