For many years, I tried to make sense of my father’s death. I was 3 years old when he died, and have no memory of him, only stories that people told me. He was told he had 6 months to live, which he surpassed, and lived another 9 months. “It was because he wanted to spend more time with you” people told me. I believed them, and I believe that he loved me deeply. I thought about how awful it must be for people who have terrible fathers, cruel, violent men, who abandon their children. Maybe I’m lucky, I thought, because my father didn’t choose to leave me.
And my mother, she loved me, her only child, a constant reminder of the love she lost. She clung to me, she made a good life for me, and we were very close. Until she chose my stepfather over me. And now I know the feeling of being tossed aside. The feeling of being manipulated. The pain of living in the same town, where she chooses to live with her beloved child-molesting husband. Thoughts of her consume some part of every day. Some days much worse than others. Yes I went to therapy, yes I take anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. Yes I have 2 children who I love more than life. But there is nothing that can take away the sting of knowing that my mother would rather be with the man who molested her daughter, her granddaughter, and several other members of his family, than have a relationship with me.
But I can’t lay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself. I have to get on with my day, and my life. I have the support of my friends and family, and I have one less toxic person in my life. She will never understand the years of grooming. She will never understand the effect that being molested had on me. That at 13, I was constantly thinking about suicide, I felt worthless, I was depressed and anxious. I felt like it wouldn’t matter if I lived or not, who would even care? I went to school every day and thought about ways to die. At 18, I realized that I liked male attention, but I had no self-respect, so I let myself be used. At 24, I married the only boyfriend I ever had.
The one thing she should understand is how it feels when your daughter tells you she was molested. Imagine having a panic/asthma/heart attack for 24 hours, that’s how it felt. Everything from my childhood flooded my mind, and I knew with 100% certainty that my daughter experienced the same thing I did, in her own bed. But that wasn’t the worst part. After her interview with child protective services, I was told that he went further with her, and when she told him to stop, he didn’t. I was ready to beat him, choke him, stab him, and watch him suffer. I hoped that he would just kill himself, and make it easier for me.
My mother arranged for him to post bail, met with his attorney, went to counseling with him, and made weekly visits to see him in jail. Then she welcomed him back home with open arms. She recently moved to a new house with him, because he was in violation of his probation by living too close to a daycare center.
I went to weekly counseling with my daughter, I reassured her and encouraged her. I explain it to her teachers every year. I fought for an order of protection. I hounded the district attorney to move the case along, and when that didn’t work, I went to the lieutenant governor and complained. I gave a victim impact statement in court on her behalf. I worry about her every day, how will this affect the rest of her life? How could I have let this happen? I’m also incredibly proud of her courage and strength. Because she spoke up, a man who molested family members for over 40 years went to jail and is listed on the sex offender registry.
And she isn’t keeping a secret that would eat away at her for her entire life.