How It Happened

Posted by on September 4, 2012 in women | 28 comments

Trigger warning: brief descriptions of sexual abuse.

I began this post a few weeks ago in an effort to exorcise a demon. And then, Todd Aiken said something stupid. Suddenly the internet was awash with outrage and stories, and I hesitated. Why should I expose a tender spot on my soul when there are men like that in the world? What good could it possibly do? Well, if something like this happened to me, growing up in a predominantly Mormon neighborhood, surrounded by active, engaged LDS family members and friends, in an ideal Mormon setting, then how many women are out there with an experience like mine, and no outlet? And, I decided I didn’t want to be part of the silence that allows those people to gain power and perpetuate attitudes that blame women; attitudes that foster complete and willful ignorance of biology.

I had a step-cousin who molested me. It took me 20 years for me to think of it that way. I never put myself into the category of one in four women who will be molested in their lifetime (or whatever the statistic is). Until I figured out that having a boy pull your pants off against your will fits in this category.  (The good news is that I told my parents immediately after it had happened. And I remember them saying something about being glad I told them, and that no one is allowed to touch me there… Or something like that.)

If not that, then definitely the time he was carrying me in the pool and instead of his hand being appropriately on my leg or somewhere you would normally have it while carrying a child, his thumb was in my vagina. He had been giving “rides” across the pool to the younger girls, and I wanted my turn. I had noticed the other girls were leaving, and was excited for my turn. And, then realized what had chased them away. AND, no one said a word about it. None of these girls reported him. There were no consequences for his actions. Here’s the real kicker. The pool incident happened after the pants incident. So, perhaps I blamed myself for knowing that he was a risk and not knowing better than to trust him.

This boy had been my friend, created a false sense of trust and then manipulated that trust. He was family. My instinct was to give him the benefit of the doubt for years.

Unfortunately, my sister was molested worse than I was. Again, after the pants incident. We had warning. I remember we came home after a family event at a family member’s home, a presumed safe place, and she was bleeding from his invasion. I can’t fathom how this has affected her life, and I had never spoken to her about it. Why not? Well…

I don’t remember any consequences for him. There was no sense of justice. The only consequence I remember was victim-blaming me. No, I was never told that it was my fault, and I never believed that (Or maybe at certain times in my life I did?). We were at another family function, this time at a park out in the open. I was playing on the merry-go-round, going round and round. Just experiencing gravity, and g-force. So exhilarating to be outside and just enjoying myself. My aunt came over and told me that “little girls don’t sit with their legs open.” Startled, I looked up to find my step-cousin staring at me.
I was wearing pants.
I was not dressed “immodestly.”
I was being a normal child on a playground toy.
But, apparently my step-cousin’s staring was my responsibility. It was jarring to be in a simple state of childhood bliss, and then to be told that someone else’s actions were the result of my impropriety. But, there was no impropriety!

Part of me did blame myself:
In the moments before he pulled my pants down, we were just talking. I was starting to get uncomfortable. Why didn’t I leave? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? Why did I trust him again? After the incident with my sister, why weren’t there more serious consequences for him? These are the questions that roll around and lead to the childhood conclusion that it really was my responsibility and I should have known better. She should have known better. BUT, we were KIDS! And, the adults in our lives swept it under the rug, so clearly that’s what should happen.

This message began to solidify the longer we didn’t talk about my sister, so when something more serious came along, I was ashamed. I didn’t think I should tell anyone. I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents wanting to protect us, and maybe not knowing the right way to do it. Or for my aunt and her husband also wanting to protect us, but wanting to take the correct actions to help his son, all within the structure of the church hierarchy. What would I say to a son, or the son of a friend who was the perpetrator? I’m really not sure. Now, my first reaction would be to find a therapist for him.

Again, not something we’ve ever talked about. It’s one of those things that just isn’t discussed. I really have not spoken to him since that time, and I don’t really plan to. For many years, I thought I had forgiven him and moved on, but I don’t know that I ever did. What does forgiveness even mean in a case like this? And, should I be worried about his new marriage to a woman with three daughters? I wonder if I will ever be forced to see him at a family reunion or other event like that. How will I interact with him? I wonder if there’s a rift in my family because of it? Is it one of my own creation and just in my head? So many years later, it seems like it’s simply something to bury in the past of “painful things that have happened to me” and move on. Why stir up the mud now?

I think another reason I haven’t spoken about it in recent years is my questioning of the church. I fear being blamed again for being the instigator of bringing up unwanted unpleasantness, and having it attributed to my “lack of faith” or being a “feminist” (insert negative connotation). They are completely separate issues, but I find it disturbingly difficult to defend myself on this issue and struggle with fear that people will attribute one to the other…. But, that’s not something I can control.

Also, somehow it feels like it wasn’t bad enough to bring up. I wasn’t raped. I wasn’t molested over an extended period of time or in a violent confrontation against my will. It was much more sinister, as I now know these things generally are. Manipulative and subtle until suddenly, it’s not subtle any more, but you don’t know how you got there, and are too ashamed/scared to do much to pull yourself out. The brain can’t fathom that what is happening is actually happening, and reaction time seems to slow down and paralysis sets in. Why does this happen?!

The most offensive thing I can think of would be to have an experience like that excluded from legitimacy.

Weeks later, reading back on what I’ve written here. I can feel the anger and frustration as though it was someone else’s. Knowing the feelings that I had as I was writing, I wonder if I coherently and adequately expressed the intensity. And, knowing that, I can’t even fathom what it must be like for someone who was actually raped. Having to go through the process of dealing with it. What it must be like to find out you’re pregnant, to have people doubt your story, to have to allow for the right of the attacker to appeal and face him all over again? To have him fight for custody of the child??? It seems unbearable. I feel a greater empathy for those who’ve experienced this.

I did talk with my sister, and she doesn’t remember any of it. She was very young. Perhaps she’s blocked it out? It’s so vivid in my mind. What happened to her probably hurt me deeper than anything that happened to me, and it’s so odd to find that it’s a blank space in her memory. Part of me is so glad she is spared the memory of whatever it was he did to her, and part of me is livid that she can’t remember what happened. I’m not upset with her specifically, just frustrated that it seems like he got away with something.

So, where do I go from here? I’ve realized that it still bothers me, and that it does have chilling effect on some family relationships. I’m not sure how that will play out, but I can tell you that I am more hopeful that when the time is right I will be able to talk about it with them. I still wonder about airing “dirty laundry,” but I also know that if I had read something like this earlier in my life, it would have been helpful. I wondered why I needed to include such intimate details, but I can’t think how to edit. It’s real and does not encompass the full impact of the emotions I’ve felt since childhood even as it is. I know I can’t let go of it, because it is simply part of me. It happened, and I can’t make it un-happen. But I can learn to live with the scar, and it may fade eventually. And, I think I have new ways to talk to my own future children should something like this arise, tools to help them be prepared to stand up for themselves, and a stronger desire to maintain open communication lines with those around me so that things like this can prevented, and/or wounds healed.

I have also been able to redirect that energy into helping others, which always feels really good. And last, if you have ever experienced something like this, you can know you’re not alone, and that there are people willing to help.

(Please support efforts like iSanctuary, Saving Innocence, and My Life, My Choice. These are groups that assist victims of human trafficking. These just are the groups I’ve had the opportunity to support. There are also many advocacy groups for rape survivors, and while I haven’t done the research to find worthy beneficiaries, I know there are important and successful programs out there.)

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28 Comments

  1. Zenadia,

    Thank you for being so brave to share this story. A church counselor said to me once that forgiveness does not equal trust. That powerful bit of information helped me to forgive someone I had deep issues with, yet- it gave me the RIGHT and the freedom to not trust them again. That is what ultimately liberated me from the angst of the situation, being allowed — no, bidden– to not trust someone.

    I have the thought that *because* he never apologised or tried to address this past behaviour with you, he is likely still a predator, and I worry about his step-daughters. Perhaps an anoymous letter to his new wife? I dunno. I won’t pay the consequences for the advice I give, so I am hesitant and respectful in offering what is likely unrealistic advice. But I think you need to do something, because I think you have a righteous desire to protect these girls. I also think that in doing something, you will also be healed of some of the burden that this has had on you for your life. This is important. This is very important.

    Much love, admiration and support as you navigate this formidable situation.

  2. Spunky

    I’m proud of you, some thing that I feel like I need to share as it happened to me as well is when a same sex sibling sexually abuses you. My sister did this to me. And what made it worse, is that I remember one of my brothers walking in and than walking back out. I don’t think he knew I was there because she shoved me under a blanket. I never knew it was wrong. She took advantage of the fact that our parents weren’t home. It only happened a few times, and then we were placed in foster care, not for that, but other reason. I never really even thought about it, that is until I started watching shows like “Oprah”.

    I confronted her a few years ago in my Aunt’s kitchen, of course she denied it. I told my one brother last year, and he denied it and called me crazy

    What purpose could I possibly have for making this story up. None. yet, with her denial, I’m made into a liar.

    I haven’t seen any of them since, and I don’t plan too.

  3. I don’t comment much any more here, but this was a great post. It really captures the messiness of having a predator in our midst.

    My ex viewed a pornographic movie, possibly one he made himself with his new wife, at a time and place when my daughter somehow viewed it. Not knowing what else to do when she brought the story to me, and CERTAINLY not wanting to be an adult that sweeps it under the rug, I called DCFS to ask them what to do. They had me make a report, and sent a Social Worker out to my house to interview my (then-five-year-old) daughter and me. I told her exactly what I had experienced, with no embellishments, though I’m not sure exactly what my daughter said to her (it is required that I not be present when they talk with her.) She left, seeming to believe that what my daughter shared actually happened.

    Then she talked to my ex. Next thing I know, they called me and told me that they suggested that the “back and forth” between me and my ex should stop, that it was not good for the children. I was terrified, because “not good for the children” is a threat to have my custody (full physical and legal) taken away from me.

    I have no idea what he said to them, but it was apparently good enough to suggest that I was just trying to cause trouble, brainwashing my daughter. Even now, talking about it makes me feel sick.

    So if she comes to me again with something big like that, I don’t know what to do. Do I try to report it again, and risk having custody of my girls, or do I “sweep it under the rug,” and try to teach my daughters how to respond to sexual assault and other frightening or inappropriate movies he shows them, all without mentioning HIM at all, for fear of being blamed for parental alienation, but otherwise doing nothing official? Anyone who has been in a situation like these knows that there is rarely any such thing as proof, and without proof, I merely look like an angry ex if I try to protect my girls.

    It is a terrible, terrible, place to be. Yet, it is better than how it would be, were I still living with him.

    I don’t know. There is just no easy answer.

    • I’m going to say something and it might seem out there, but, I might consider taking your daughter to a therapist, let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that she’s crazy, just the opposite, I’m suggesting this because if she makes the same kinds of claims against him, the therapist is mandated by law to report. This way, the accusation is not coming from you and no legal action can be taken against you from him, or the state.

      Its just a suggestion.

      • I have done that, but there is only so much therapy I can pay for when she is a happy, well-adjusted kid. It’s just every so often this type of stuff comes up, and I’m not independently wealthy.

  4. *having custody, should be losing custody. It will be a miracle if I ever manage to get a post out without errors. *sigh*

  5. Spunky, thanks for that! I will take your advice into consideration. It’s something I’ve thought about off and on since I received their wedding announcement. I think it will take the right timing of opportunity and a point where my self-confidence is at a peak level.

  6. SilverRain, my thoughts are with you! A situation like that is one of my worst nightmares. It’s the helplessness and lack of support that twists my soul in knots.

    There are times I feel I am too hard on “the adults in my life.” I do feel that they really tried to do the best they knew how. I don’t think they could have fathomed how deeply this would affect me. On occasion, there are ripple reminders in my life of this past ache. I look back and wish that I had access to therapy. I mean, I _also_ wanted to forget it and sweep it under the rug. I certainly tried to keep it hidden away for many years.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, I hope you can keep the communication lines open with your daughter and even if she is resistant, keep checking in. I didn’t know I needed to talk about it more. Knowing how this small thing has influenced my life, I finally realized how much I needed an outlet.

  7. It was much more sinister, as I now know these things generally are. Manipulative and subtle until suddenly, it’s not subtle any more, but you don’t know how you got there, and are too ashamed/scared to do much to pull yourself out. The brain can’t fathom that what is happening is actually happening, and reaction time seems to slow down and paralysis sets in.

    Exactly! I know I’m not the only person who’s reacted this way in an abusive relationship or a rape but this puts it so perfectly. I’ve been able to move past blaming myself, but I needed these words and I thank you for them.

  8. oh my …this resonated with me except that it was my X who raped meover and over in a 29 year marriage. When I finally had words to say what he did, all hell broke loose. Within months he was put on probation from a church court and released from the bishopric. He sent a letter to my older kids about his church discipline. Long story short – he had no intention of changing and we divorced. He never apologized to me, has remarried in the temple, while I married a nomo. To this day, my older children do NOT like any mention of what he did to me. In fact if it comes up, by me, they tell me I need to forgive (i did) and forget ( never will). Makes them extremely uncomfortable since he’s their dad. But still, he did what he did to me – rape – and I refuse to keep his secrets. One of them even unfriended me from FB because I post links to rape, patriarchy, feminist blogs like this one, etc. She doesn’t want her kids to see what i post because her dad, my X, is her kids g-dad. So difficult for me…I just can’t remain silent about what he did. I believe I broke the cycle of abuse as X’s mom was abused by X’s dad. X believed I was his property and the rapes (he never called them that) were ok – that I was over-reacting. Twisted and sick. My belief now – ALWAYS SPEAK OUT and TELL THE TRUTH…..thanks to each of you for being brave and telling your stories.

  9. I feel sad, angry, betrayed.

    How many nights have we spent in tears at the feet of our Father, begging for mercy, for our lost innocence? How oft have we cried out that HE would not touch another petal of our purity but be cast down a fiery reckoning to meet HIS just reward, never to defile another? How many precious drops of blood have fallen to stain our favorite dresses and how many tears have fallen as we scrubbed in vain our once white cotton panties? How long will this DAMNED SPIRIT haunt our playgrounds, churches and homes, leaving no place safe but that temple which our little children cannot enter? And how many of HIM will even still enter that holy space, defiling the very House of God with HIS blackened souls behind a beautiful facade, letting not even the survivors worship in peace as we smell the enshrouding darkness in the air? How many of these TRAITORS sit behind a leader’s desk and beckon our tiny ones in to prove their spiritual worthiness? How many of us will never know pregnancy, good health, or pleasure but instead bear the burden of HIS sin and will HE will ever know that sorrow?

    How many of HIM will ever, ever know what HE has done and will HE care? How many of HIM will cry brief penitence before resuming a fuller life than HIS victims could hope for? Will HE think of them, what they must endure for a lifetime, as HE walks away? How long and how many will suffer as HE is protected by church leaders and state laws? How many of us will be threatened if we do not forgive but still HE walks freely? And how, how many of HIM can cry out to Father without consequence while we cannot cry out to our own Mother for fear of retribution? How long until Father and Mother send reinforcements? And how long will They tolerate the notion that our brothers forbade us, daughters and sons of a King and Queen, from speaking to our Mother? How long indeed, would any Mother or Father tolerate a divided house even as their children cry out for divine Motherly comfort? How long before HE and unrighteous dominion are struck down– how long will we be denied peace? And how long will be HIS suffering, gnashing, begging, and crying before HE realizes HIS reward is the same of which HE bestowed upon us?

    Worse still than Karma, that crafty, clever justice, is the wrath of a Divine Family upon HIM that harms their babes. But how long until that day will these little ones suffer, weep, and wait?

    Ask me why I call myself Persephonic and you haven’t been paying attention.

  10. Sigh………this resonates with me. When I was 11, I got into the car with a stranger. He told me that there was a little foal in the forest that needed help (I was on my way to riding lessons). Who was I to not help? I remember getting out of the car in the forest, walking behind this man, and not being able to see his hands. At that moment fear struck me so deep, and I thought he had a knife and would kill me. Turned out he just pulled out his wiener. Anyway, we got back in the car without him touching me, but I remember sitting next to him, with his junk hanging out. I eventually jumped out of the driving car, and started running for a corn field. He stopped me to ask if I could do him some favors. I declined and took off.

    Anyway, I was shaking for the rest of the day. I went home and told my parents what happened. They called the police, but of course, they never caught the guy.

    The weird thing about my story is that even though technically nothing happened (he never touched me), I was definitely affected by the experience. I was scared going places alone for a long time. I was fearful of many things, and I think it really affected how I view men. My parents never really talked about that incident again, and they didn’t really change/do anything differently to protect me in the future. 2 years later, I was in another situation that was kind of unsafe. I called my parents on the phone, and they just told me to stay around other people (I was taking a train home, when some creepy guy kept hanging around me – home was only a 30 minute drive away).

    My parents never realized that these events had a deep impact on me. My sister spoke to my parents about this stuff this year, and mentioned to them that maybe these things had traumatized me. They were totally baffled by her suggestion, because in their eyes “nothing happened”. She had to very carefully explain that when someone is afraid for their life or safety something “DID happen”. You don’t have to be touched or hurt for something to happen.

    It’s been a bit painful to me to think back on these events, and to think how even though I know my parents cared, they couldn’t see how unsafe I felt and how threatened and terrified. And that to them these situations were ‘nothing’ while they’ve left me, forever I’m afraid, scared of being alone.

    I don’t know why these things happen. And why parents react the way they did for you or for me. I just wish these things wouldn’t happen. Or when they do, that everyone would receive the support, protection and comfort they deserve and need. I think people have no idea at times how terrifying even minor assaults can be. It’s almost as if it only counts when it’s the worst of the worst.

  11. I’m so sorry about your experiences. I am glad you are able to speak up about it now.
    “Why stir up the mud now?”
    I think the daughter’s of the fiancee are in danger. Do you have anyone in your life who would be willing to go talk to the fiancee and let her know he has a history?

    • I’ve been contemplating the right way to approach this. It often feels like none of my business. Also, a hope that he’s changed and dealt with those things. Really, I want he and his family to be happy, and moved beyond such things. We’ll see if I’m able to muster the courage to verify that…

  12. Its funny. Some days you read the stories and commiserate and strive to do more to help stop these things from happening, and other days you become acutely aware of the wound that has only a temporary bandage and is waiting for the day when all wounds will be healed. Thanks for the post – it really struck home.

    One of the things we seem to do in society is to place blame on the victim for the distance between experiencing and reporting. We figure if the person hadn’t mentioned it to anyone for 20 years, “it must not have been that bad”. It can be as bad as the onus we put on those who don’t struggle against their abusers, both made worse by putting this guilt upon ourselves. If someone comes forward with an accusation of rape against a respected leader, do we wait to pass judgement for more information, automatically believe there must be some reason (no smoke without fire), or automatically believe the person accusing has some ulterior motive?

    First, no matter how much you contributed (getting in the car, making out too long late at night, wearing revealing clothing), when abuse happens, the victim is not to blame. Crossing the line into abuse was a decision made conciously by the abuser. Their actions did not “make” you cross that line, so your actions cannot “make” them cross that line. It does not even matter if at some point part of you started to enjoy it. That is not a good reason to blame yourself for the decision that was made by someone else to do something to you without your permission.

    Second, no matter how well respected in a community you or they are, or how much time has passed, if you feel concerned about the safety of others they are now involved with or near (such as a current spouse and children), then you need to talk about it. Who to talk about it with is going to need to be a personal decision. I’d start with a close friend, then a trained counsellor, then the potential victims, then the authorities, each step as feels comfortable and/or necessary to you. There is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution to this.

    I very much look forward to the day when all hurts, those made by others and those we’ve made to others, will be healed. I only hope that in the meantime, the bandages we can use in dealing with these pains (and the balm we can be to others) will be enough.

  13. Thanks for sharing your experience. I think sharing experiences like this are painful, but necessary. It makes me so sad when people brush things under the rug, misrepresent history by only recounting the positive, or try to silence those who have suffered painful experiences. There is so much healing in acknowledging things for what they are and accurately representing the past.

  14. Thanks for all the comments! So much of this post was about my own healing. It definitely has been helpful to send it out into the world. A little paper boat that carries troubles away with it. Thanks for the support, and I’m really glad to have a safe space where things like this can be discussed in such a way.

  15. This is a powerful post with powerful and heartbreaking comments. Thanks so much for sharing it here, Zenaida.

  16. The church offers a group called AMAC (adults molested aschildren). I went through this group as well as one on one counseling because of years of abuse I went through as achild. It was so helpful! I have worked through so much and feel like a totally different person now! As for wondering about any accountabilityof the child there is none. As adults we are looking at the situation through an adults understanding. Children cant do that. As for telling the woman mentioned who is marrying the evil cousin, you cantalk to your bishop and he can contactthe cousins bishop.(assuming they aremembers). Otherwise I like the anonymous letter to the woman.

    op and deal with itthat way.(if they are members) otherwise.

    • Wow, Shannon, I’ve never heard of that group. It’s sounds pretty fantastic. I wonder why things like this aren’t more openly publicized. Is it specific to your ward?

      “As for wondering about any accountabilityof the child there is none. As adults we are looking at the situation through an adults understanding. Children cant do that.”
      Thanks for stating it in that way. In the post I didn’t state this idea so directly. Rather, I wanted to show the thought process of coming to that realization and how painful it can be to work through false ideas that we tell ourselves and acknowledging that as you say, children can reason as adults.

      As for using the leadership to mediate the situation, I am definitely unlikely to do that. Unless there is a bishop who is a trained psychologist, I would be unwilling to discuss the situation with him.

  17. Sorry, ignore that last random sentence! Also, the reason these things come up so many years lateris because you are now sn adult and strong enough to work through them with the right help. Forgiveness is not saying what happened is ok or you will now like and trust the perpetrator again, its giving the pain to Christ (and the anger) and trusting Him to take care of it so it wont eat you up)

  18. I believe your post will help many, as it was a comfort to me. I know there are others out there who have been victimized, and then traumatized again by their ‘loved ones.’

    -the family members who believe talking about it is a worst betrayal than anything that ‘could’ have happened.

    -the confidant who says, “Is that all?” when what you finally worked up the courage to tell them doesn’t equal the worst they imagined.

    -the ‘Old Hickory’ relative who says they put up with worse and never thought twice about it and certainly didn’t make themselves a burden to others over it.

    -the ‘jury room’ relatives who weigh your faith struggles and lack of church attendance against his high profile calling and temple recommend and conclude that’s proof enough that you’re untrustworthy.

    -the relative who feels your private accusations has create a need for them to publish support for your abuser through mass email, Fast Sunday testimonials, and family member lobbying.

    -the family members who ‘hear tell’ of the issues, but never ask because it’s easier that way. The same relatives who consider it Christ-like that they always invite both you and your abuser to family functions, even though they know that mean you will never come.

    For me, it was easier to forgive my abuser than the family members and priesthood leaders who chose to become silent partners to him.

    Thank you, Shannon, for saying so clearly that forgiveness is handing your pain and suffering over to Christ, trusting that he will handle it. I think that is why it is so difficult to forgive the Silent Partners. Whether or not he admits it in this life, I know my abuser knows what he did was wrong. But the Silent Partners, who have caused me so much subsequent pain, are still patting themselves on the back for forgiving, for not making anyone feel bad, and for not cutting anyone out. In other words, some how “Christ-like” has been bastardized into “Tolerant of Sin.” I don’t think that is what is taught of Him in the scriptures, but it is certainly perpetuated in poorly taught manual lessons and LDS folk doctrine.

    There is so much confusion between the Sweep-it-Under-the-Rug Christianity, the victim-blaming, and the self doubt. So thank you Zenaida. Post like yours help cut through the fog.

    • I think you’ve really distilled down the exact types of behaviors that cause so much more grief than even the original abuse. My thoughts are with you in this situation. I liked what spunky shared about her experience with the leadership: “That is what ultimately liberated me from the angst of the situation, being allowed — no, bidden– to not trust someone.” You can forgive and hand over the pain, but also be logical and protective of yourself in allowing for what I might call “righteous distrust.” :) Recognizing that forgiveness and prevention can coexist.

      I mourn for your situation that your family has taken his position of authority as the first and last word, and that it affects your ability to worship as you would desire. Overcoming fear and the mental anguish that comes from being victim-blamed and dismissed is really, really hard. I pray for the day when his and your truth is revealed.

  19. This is a great post. Our family is struggling with a similar situation with an elder family member who has been abusive to the girls in his family for decades. The problem is that we never discussed it till recently and now he’s on death’s doorstep.
    Do we confront him? Does it do any good?
    And while I wasn’t one of the ones who was abused, the ones who were are so close to me that it’s still really difficult to see the pain they still deal with.
    Thanks again for sharing this post. It’s a really important topic.

    • Jessawhy, that sounds pretty awful. My two cents is that it depends on the girls who he did abuse and their need for closure or not. I had a friend who had an abusive (not sexually) mother, and was estranged from her for years. On the mother’s death bed, they were able to reconcile a bit, and it seemed to give my friend a sense that she had done everything she could and gain some closure. Granted this situation is very different, but it could help to be reminded that they won’t get another chance to confront him.

      I’m sure you weren’t looking for my advice, but I am definitely thinking of you and your family as you make this decision. I hope they can find healing and peace. And, the reality is, I have not confronted my cousin, and I still debate on the value of it. Although, I feel I am in a much better position to make that decision after working through some of the blocks and emotional scars it left. If I hadn’t done that work first, I couldn’t even attempt to make that choice unless it was forced on me, and even then, I would probably continue to let it slide…

  20. This is an incredibly thoughtful post. I hope you will forgive me for simply asking, how old was the sister who didn’t remember?

  21. My aunt came over and told me that “little girls don’t sit with their legs open.” Startled, I looked up to find my step-cousin staring at me.

    Why do I suspect your aunt knew her step-son had a problem, but was trying blame others for it?

  22. A good friend of mine likes to say, “the worst thing you have been through is the worst thing you have been through.” Meaning that our pain does not have to be compared to others who “had it worse”. It has been incredably comforting to here that each time I rationalize why I shodnt feel bad about something because it wasn’t as bad as x or y.
    I was amazed to learn that most children drownings that happen, happen at family gatherings because everyone thinks another adult is watching he kids. I relate that to the many stories I have heard of sexual abuse happening at family gaherings. No one is watching the kids because all the adults think Nother adult is watching the kids and the only person watching he kids is the pedophile. That is why when I am at an event with children I make sure to watch the kids to mke sure I know someone safe (me) is watching the kids.
    Thank you for having the courage to share your story!

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