Should I be looking for a predator around every tree, my mother asked her friend. But that really wasn’t the right question. That question has an easy answer. Yes, there are predators around every tree and every corner, and you should be looking for them.
Maybe the question she should have been asking herself was, “Should I have left my daughter alone with men when she was just a child?” Either way, none of the questions she was asking had anything to do with me or my feelings. None of my family’s actions over the years in response to the childhood abuse had anything to do with me. Had I truly mattered, none of what occured after the abuse would ever have happened.
My mother’s comment was one of many negative replies I got after I wrote a letter to my father a year ago. I could never have imagined the response my entire family would give..After a series of ugly emails and letters… I could not have imagined all of them never speaking to me again. My mother, brothers, aunts, uncle, cousins, never to be heard from again.
After a year of reflection I now understand that they behaved no differently than they had my whole life. Expecting a loving, compassionate, validating reply to the details of the abuse I suffered would have been unrealistic.
My husband and I just reread the letter that I wrote to my dad. I read some of the details I chose to share of the man, Billy, who molested me as a child. A few nights later I had a flashback. I remembered being at Billy’s house. He had made me look at his porn magazines. He told me how my breasts were growing nicely. He had just had me try on some of his daughter’s bathing suits and model them for him. I was 13. I had changed the sheets on his bed. I knew if I finished cleaning then he would take me skiing. That was the deal. I was just starting to vacuum, and his wife came home. She had never come home during the day. I only saw her on the weekends when the whole ski team was together. I never saw her alone in her house. I just stood there, in my bathing suit, with the vacuum cleaner. She stood there. He stayed sitting in his “child molester recliner” as I had deemed it. She asked me what I was doing. She asked why I was there. She KNEW. I could see it was written all over her face. Why in the world was this child in her house cleaning? Why was this girl from the ski club at her house in the middle of the week? I watched this flashback like someone watching a movie screen. I watched the three of us and I saw my face. I remember what I was feeling. I was embarrassed. I felt like I had been caught cheating on a test. I didn’t know why I felt this way. He had convinced me that what he was doing to me was fine. He had convinced me that I was beautiful and that this is just what we do. But seeing his wife standing there I felt…dirty. The flashback ended. I tried to reconnect to it and remember what happened next. I wanted to remember more. But it was gone. I wanted to understand how that woman could go on for all the years following and not question what I was doing in that house and do something. I was left with that picture. Of her looking at me, and me feeling dirty, and her looking at me like she thought I was dirty too.
One memory. So many emotions. So many violations. With just one memory of one moment of one day. There were so many days. Multiply that memory. Multiply those emotions and feelings.
Growing up on a lake and on a waterski team I was always in my bathing suit. It was not until I was allowed to be alone with Billy Banks did he then have the opportunity to molest me. Had I never been alone with him, I would not have been molested. I would have been one more little girl in a bathing suit that he just watched. When Billy asked if I could go to his house and clean it for him, and in return he would take me skiing, all my parents had to say was no. Had they said no the opportunity would have never been so perfectly presented to a child molester. As soon as Billy got me alone… it was already too late.
I don’t think one member of my family realizes the number of bad memories that I have. I don’t think one member of my family thought about how it made me feel every time they brought up Billy for the next years to come.
Billy Banks, touched me more times than I can ever remember. He touched me different places on different days and different times over a period of years. After I finally was able to tell my mom about Billy, my brother begged to keep skiing with the ski club (which included Billy). My brother was only around 15 years old. When my parents said yes they dug a knife so deep in my back it would take 30 years to heal from. Yes, he could go back and ski with the man who molested me. Yes, I would then have to watch my brother over there every weekend for years. My parents and brother continued to bring up the ski club to me. They brought up ski club members they saw in passing. They would mention seeing so and so learning a new trick on the lake that weekend. My brother, a few years back, decided that he wanted to get my ski back for his friends to use. Twenty years after I left the ski club he wanted my ski back. He had to tell me the story of how he looked for my ski, asked about my ski, etc.
My mother would tell me when she saw Billy and his wife in the store or in the restaurant.
EVERY SINGLE time my family brought up the ski club they twisted the knife. I would forget the knife was there but sure enough not even a week would go by, year after year, and one of them would bring up someone in the ski club and that knife would dig deeper. Because every time they brought up the ski club I remembered Billy Bank’s hands on my little body. The 50th time when he kissed my neck. The 80th time I felt his hard penis rubbing under my body. Every time they brought up the ski club it hurt the inside of my being.
My brother finally told me that he made a stand. He told his buddies that he wouldn’t get into the boat with Billy because of what he did to me as a child. My brother then called to tell me all about it. 30 years later my brother decided to finally not ride in the boat with the man who molested me hundreds of times. Was I supposed to rejoice? Slap him on the back and tell him good job? Commend his new found growth?
My mom would tell me that she would give Billy and his wife “the eye” when she saw them. Over a 30 year period I listened every single week by either my mother, father, or brother, something that had to do with that ski club. That ski club that was full of secrets and lies all having to do with me. My brother not riding in the boat with the man who molested me was just one more time I had to hear the name Billy Banks. They never let the memories fade. They never asked if it bothered me to hear about the ski club. They never asked how I felt about anything.
How I felt never mattered.
When I finally told my family everything that happened it should not be so surprising that they reacted the way they did. I think it was the little girl in me that still hoped. The little girl that wanted my father to go and confront the man that hurt me. The little girl who wanted her brother to say he would never go back and be around a man that molested me. That little girl who needed so badly to be saved, validated, comforted, and told everything would be OK. I saw that little girl in my flashback. She should have never been standing there in her bathing suit at 13 years old in some 50 year old man’s house.
My mother could ask herself what would have happened if she and my father had not left me alone with men. But that is not really the right question either.
The only real question any parent should ask themselves after they find out something has happened to their child is how can I make this better. How can I make this child safe? What words can I use that will be validating and comforting. What words would be hurtful and hinder the healing process? How do we move forward from this moment so that my child feels like she matters?
When I finally told them bits of the truth when I was little, and when I told them the entire story a year ago, I may not have gotten the same response, but I was left with the same feeling. That I did not matter.
If I had only mattered…