Cracking Open the Secrets: My Journey Because of the Abuse of My Son by his Grandfather
Yesterday, Anonymous posted about her trauma upon learning about her grandfather’s sexual abuse of children. Today, Anonymous’s mother tells her story.
My brave daughter asked me to share my story in conjunction with her struggles with her grandfather. This part of my story began 42 years ago when my husband and I were dating and became engaged to be married. I met my in-laws to be and liked them very much. I got very close to my soon to be father-in-law and even went to him for counseling on a few occasions. He was very kind to me. When my first son was born prematurely and lived so very briefly then passed on, this kind man said to me, “You are the mother of a celestial being.” Those words got me through many very difficult times. A year and a half later my oldest son was born. My miracle baby. I spent three months in bed to keep him from being born too early. He was my joy. He grew quickly and before I knew it, I managed to have four healthy babies in just over five years. From this vantage point I wonder, “What was I thinking?” It didn’t seem so quick at the time. But four little ones can be taxing to anyone.
As the years passed my oldest son had struggles in school. Back then the diagnosis for everything seemed to be ADD or ADHD. That diagnosis was pronounced and Ritalin was prescribed. Then we moved from Utah to California. The problems in school continued and I struggled with his behavior. I wasn’t always the most patient of mothers and I regret my anger. But looking back, I can see that I didn’t have a clue about what was going on, and I had no training to deal with his behaviors. There was no punishment or reward that would do anything to motivate him. I was at a loss. After a year or two the school psychologist and his teacher asked me and my husband to attend a meeting. In their professional opinions our son may have been sexually abused and needed to be sent to a doctor and a psychologist. This was not optional.
That is how our initiation into the world of child sexual abuse cracked open. I took my son to the doctor and evidence of possible abuse was found. Trips to a therapist began. But after several months, nothing definitive was discovered. The therapy ended, though the oppositional behavior and difficulty with school did not.
During our years in California my in-laws visited regularly. Their visits were always welcomed by all of us. Grandpa bought doughnuts and walked to the school to meet the kids and walk home with them. He always slept on the floor in our living room (he liked really hard beds) and my mother-in-law would always sleep on the sofa. We always offered her a bed but she refused. That always seemed strange to me. In the morning the two oldest boys would be curled up like spoons with their grandpa. Life was good.
During that time I watched three boys before and after school. These boys would come to my home while my in-laws were there. One day their mother said my father-in-law had fondled her middle son and she would no longer have me watch her boys. I was so sure her sweet son was mistaking tickling for fondling. I just couldn’t believe this kind man, who loved boys so much, could do that.
Fast forward a few years. We moved back to Utah. As it turned out, we moved in with my in-laws for about three months while trying to sell our home in California. We ended up buying a house three doors down the street from my in-laws.
My oldest son’s problems continued. I mentioned my fears that he had been molested to my friend and neighbor and the lid came off the box of secrecy. Her son had been molested by my father-in-law during the time he served as Bishop of our ward which was 20+ years before. That rocked my soul. My friend’s accusation in California was suddenly a sickening reality. And what of my own son’s behavior and evidence of possible abuse?
That was such a gut-wrenching awakening to a living nightmare that has lasted for many years.
When the abuse of my neighbor’s son came to light by this man, a Bishop, my father-in-law, church authorities at the time were not very enlightened about the ramifications of a serial pedophile. He wasn’t identified so harshly. He was dis-fellowshipped and his wife was told she would be saving his life if she stayed with him. It was neatly tied up into a package of how to help this wonderful man.
Imagine how hard it was for me to break this to my dear husband. I cracked open the lid on this carefully buried secret, and I watched my husband suffer this soul deep pain. This was his father, who had always been there for him. How does one reconcile the two sides of a person when they just don’t fit? He confronted his parents and the truth was told. We asked why they hadn’t told us so we could protect our children. That is why my mother-in-law always slept on the sofa – she was keeping watch. But it didn’t work. The damage had been done to my beloved son and it couldn’t be taken back.
Oh, he denied having molested my son. I guess there’s a possibility he didn’t, but in my heart I believe he did. I have no proof. My son can’t remember, he was so young. My husband doesn’t believe his father molested our son. But one day when my son was home and my father-in-law came over I saw the briefest look of utter revulsion pass across my son’s face as he looked at his grandfather. It was instantaneous and I believe came from his subconscious. That may not seem like much but that brief view into his soul became my proof.
As a result of my discovery and knowing about the boy in California, I went to our Bishop and the case was opened up again. They wanted proof and I couldn’t give it to them. I contacted the mother of the boy in California. He was getting ready to go on a mission and she didn’t want him to have to go back over those things. But somehow, I don’t remember the details, my father-in-law produced a list of boys he had molested through his years in Boy Scouts and as an educator. I will just say that sadly, it was a lot of boys. He was excommunicated this time.
I went into therapy to help with my struggles with this and the depression I was suffering.
We went through my mother-in-law’s terminal cancer and cared for her. We lived the closest to them so we did a lot of the care-taking. She passed away and then there was the care of my father-in-law. Mostly my husband did that. He is a hero. I did what I had to do, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve been through.
I’m sad to say we made the same mistake my mother-in-law did. We didn’t tell our children. I know it makes no sense, but when there is something this dark and horrible to tell, and your kids love their grandparents – well we didn’t want to spoil that for them as it had been for us. Secrets like this are so hard to tell when you know there is nothing but pain to be the outcome. But still, it was wrong of us not to tell. We needed to give them the ability to protect their children that we had not been given. I hope and pray none of them were harmed.
My ordeal got worse after my husband became our Bishop. It was my responsibility to pick my father-in-law up for church each Sunday. I did it. I had to put my feelings in a box and just do it. When the sweet lady at church told me how wonderful he was, I had to smile and thank her, and put my feelings in that box. This went on for about five years. During that time my husband and I were invited to attend his re-baptism in the dark of the night one evening. The members of the stake presidency were so happy. I was sick inside. My son had left the church. His life is not what I think it could have been. My daughter struggles with Priesthood authority because of this. The ripples go out and I can’t know all that this has wrought. But it wasn’t up to me whether or not he was re-baptized. And that is a good thing.
This man has passed on. That is a relief. He was buried in a suit. His temple blessings had not been restored. That was another difficult thing for his sons. Should the casket be open or closed? They opted to have it open. Perhaps if even one of his victims came to the viewing that would maybe give them some small bit of peace. One person asked me why he was in his suit and not his temple clothes. I simply said “because he had to be.” No one else asked me.
It is easier with him gone. I have prayed that I can forgive him. Sometimes I think I have and other times I know I’ve got a ways to go. I also know that this is in the Lord’s hands now. I believe in the infinite atonement. I am not a sinless person. I am going to be saved by the grace of my Savior after all I can do, not because I can save myself. He will have to work through things if he abused my son and didn’t confess it. What that means, I don’t know! There are more questions than answers right now. I believe that my son will have these things made up to him somehow, though I don’t think that will be in this life. I hope my daughter can find the peace she needs and can overcome the anxiety this has caused her to suffer so deeply. I am sorry for the part I unwisely or unwittingly played in this.
Through the years I have wondered why I know so many who have been molested. My friend in California found out that all five of her sisters had been molested by their father. He didn’t molest her, the oldest daughter, because she was like a son to him. My brother was molested by our older female cousin. My brother became a therapist of rape, child abuse, and incest victims because of what happened to him. The list goes on and on. I believe there are probably many people around us who are suffering in silence. I don’t know if my story will help any of them but I hope so. I still believe God loves us and that turning to Him is our only true source of healing. He didn’t stop the evil from happening; agency is part of the great plan of happiness. But he provided our Savior who suffered all we suffer. He truly knows of my pain and your pain. He is our hope, our solace, and our salvation, no matter what!
Anonymous’s bio: Wife, mother, grandmother, devotee of the scriptures, intoxicated by flowers, especially Iris’s, amateur gardener (I love digging in the dirt), passionate artist (my next career), daughter of angel parents and Heavenly Mother and Father, lover of my Savior.