Day 89: Confronting the Family Incest (another trigger warning)
I alluded to this yesterday. I thought I might not write about it today, immediately behind yesterday's breakthrough. But, I feel OK and I want to dig a little deeper while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind.
First, a little background. I moved away from home to go to college when I was 18. I had a full scholarship. I was unable to get myself to focus and I ended up skipping class most of the time. I started partying a lot and ultimately lost my scholarship. I was living with my real father and his wife during this time. The reason I applied to that school was because I would be able to live there for free while going to college. There were several lunatic incidents with my dad's crazy wife. I won't go through all of them, but one of them was particularly distressing in terms of my having just escaped the incest-riddled household of my step-father.
[On a side note, I have come to fondly refer to my various step-family stories as 'step-monster' stories. I have stories related to my step-siblings as well.]
My step-mom, wanted me to call her "mother." Eww! She was not at ALL maternal. And, I was 18 years old. Anyway . . . she told me she wanted me to shower with the bathroom door open because when I showered it steamed up the bathroom. The steam, according to her, was going to cause the wall paper to peel off. I was actually shocked by this and I refused to comply. We had a big fight over it that my dad had to resolve (with me agreeing to only take baths and to use cool water). Suffice to say, I wasn't able to live there for very long. This was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. It caused me to give up my idea of going to college and come back to my hometown.
I moved in with some friends. I got an assistant manager position in a restaurant. During this time my younger sister started high school. Each year of high school her behavior became more wild. One time my younger brother called to ask me to come to the house and help get rid of some drug dealers who had shown up to a party my sister was holding. My younger siblings were accustomed to doing whatever they wanted because our parents had stopped raising us when I was 12. I wasn't at all concerned about the wild things we got into as long as we followed certain rules (no drinking and driving, no fights, no drugs). My younger sister was breaking the rules. So, it was my job to put a stop to it.
I walked in the house wielding a baseball bat. I leveled the bat in front of the drug dealer, figuring he was the most likely one to become violent. I told him he could probably take the bat away from me, but I would most likely hit him with it at least once before he could get it. This was the same threat I used when I pointed the knife in front of my step-father when he threatened to rape me. Incredibly, the house cleared. My sister was beyond furious with me for breaking up the party. She didn't talk to me for a long time after that.
By her senior year she was skipping school regularly and partying all the time. We were all partying heavily. I started drinking at age 12. She probably started at age 8 or 9. It was not unusual to walk through my parents' house stepping over passed-out teenagers. I'm sure my step-father loved having all that young flesh to ogle! The bastard! He would occasionally take pictures. However, by this point, I had already confronted him and let him know I was watching him carefully. I would go to the police if he ever touched anyone again.
My confrontation with him happened not long after I returned from dropping out of college. The friends I was living with had known me for a long time. They knew something bad had happened in my house growing up. With enough gentle prodding I told my friends. They became afraid for my younger siblings. We checked out the law and found that there was a statute of limitations that ended when I turned 18. Even though the abuse went on until I was 16, it didn't matter. Back then the laws were all very different.
So, with the encouragement of my friends, in order to try to protect my younger sister, I had a confrontation lunch with my step-father. I listed, very bluntly, all of the things he did to me. "You molested me. You touched me down there. You took naked pictures of me. You threatened to rape me." He didn't deny it or even get angry. (Probably because we were in public.) I promised I would go to the police if anything else happened. I also told my younger sister to stay away from him. (She was in 8th grade at that time.) I told her what he did to me and that she should protect herself.
I never even considered for a moment telling my mom. I knew she would not believe me, or be supportive.
Early in my sister's senior year I got a phone call from her vice principal. He wanted to see me. He wanted to understand what was going on with my sister. They were considering expelling her because of her absences. I explained to him there was a lot of trouble in our family. I didn't specify what, and he didn't ask. But, I convinced him not to kick her out of school.
Not long after that my parents kicked her out of their house. One day she came home and found her belongings outside the door, with a note. The locks had been changed. She was no longer welcome there. She moved from friend to friend and lived at times in her car. For a short stretch she also lived with me. But, I was living quite a ways out of town inside of a barn. It wasn't a terribly appealing place to her. I thought it was great because I was in the mountains.
One day at work I got a call from a mental health facility to come in for a meeting. When I got there my mom and step-father were there. They were trying to have my sister committed. She was apparently in the back being evaluated. The counselor called me back and asked me about the things my sister had said. She told him everything.
I was shocked almost to the point of being unable to speak. But, I realized that telling the truth now was absolutely necessary. I had to stand up for her. I told them the whole story of my step-father's abuse.
They called my mom and step-father back as well. There was a conversation about my step-father's sexual demands. I don't remember anything except this exchange, "What is the most important thing to him?" The therapist asked my mom. Her response: "The most important thing to him is sex." The gist of the conversation was that his sexual needs were too much for her to handle. She wasn't able to meet his needs. I understood the meaning to be that is why he went after me.
They both insisted he hadn't done anything to my sister.
My sister was not admitted to the hospital. The counselors told my parents that THEY were her problem.
The next thing I knew a restraining order was placed. My step-father was forced to leave the house. They searched the home for the pictures and/or the negatives. But, by this point he had either successfully hidden, or gotten rid of the evidence. If only I had known! I had some copies of a few of the pictures he took of me. Even though the crimes against me were not able to be charged, it would have helped my sister's case. But, I didn't know and it never occurred to me. I threw the pictures away not long after all of this.
In the end, they couldn't gather enough evidence to make a case. There was only my sister's word, and she had a record of bad behavior, drugs, alcohol. I hadn't witnessed him do anything to her. I did one time come running when she was screaming about him being in the bathroom with his camera. I didn't see him go in. But, I saw him coming down the hallway with his camera. It just wasn't enough evidence. Back then it was next to impossible to prosecute child sexual abuse cases. It just didn't happen.
A little while after this whole thing blew over is when my mom went into alcohol treatment and revealed she had known, or at least deeply suspected, the sexual abuse was happening. AFTER the case was closed she confessed to me. AFTER the chance of prosecution.
Once again, she chose not to protect her children.
She stayed with him. She is still married to him.
In fact, I have a relatively friendly relationship with them these twenty or so years later. I don't trust them. But, I don't hate them.
I thought I had reached forgiveness. I'm not so sure that's where I am with all of this. I never went through anger and grieving. Although I confronted them and took steps to hold them accountable, I never really moved beyond admitting it all happened.
I have remained stuck there at the acknowledgement stage ever since.
Yesterday I got a small dose of grieving. When I saw the gynecologist I got a small dose of grieving. Perhaps there is more of that to come and I will begin to progress forward.
I feel afraid and yet hopeful at the same time.