I am finally ready to put into words, an event that rattled my soul last year. I need to talk about it.
Shame. Shame and guilt have been my primary modes of operation for most of my life. Abusive fathers make you feel like everything was your fault, and growing up with that, makes it very hard to let go.
I finally understood it was never my fault once I had my own innocent children. The PTSD attacks from seeing my daughter, who looks just like me, at ages when I could remember some terrible incidents sent me back to therapy. I had been plodding along miserably, but I was so miserable that I was indifferent. I no longer cared about improving life or setting goals. I went through each day like a robot, cooking, cleaning, but remaining disconnected from every human. I never thought to stand up to husband’s verbal attacks. I accepted that he was right, and I just accepted that I was nothing and lucky he kept me.
I had finally gotten my abusive father out of my life, and definitely out of my own kids’ life. But I had never grieved for my lost childhood. I started to enjoy my kids and all the magic they bring. And I cried – cried that I never had that magic.
And then my sister-in-law called me one heart-stopping day, just about a year ago. Her news made me nearly drop the phone and vomit, but as she spoke, I felt my strength, and my mind clearing to help her and my nieces. My sister-in-law’s father had been molesting my nieces. I heard her say this, but it was surreal. How? How could they let this happen?
My sis-in-law had been molested by her father as a teenager. So yes, my nieces actually have 2 grandfathers with sexual abuse in their past. I can’t think too much about that fact, it is just too much to handle. Unlike my decision to keep my dad away from my kids, sister-in-law was still in denial, never had therapy, never healed, and was still in la-la land essentially. And my brother was trying to support her decision, just like my husband had in our early years of marriage when I actually invited my dad to my kids’ birthdays. Why can’t the husbands stand up and say “Hell no, my kids aren’t going anywhere near that monster!” Because they are afraid to lose the wife, and so they go along with unhealthy relationships. Because they figure if we are willing to forgive the man, then they should too. Because they don’t understand the pain and shame we live with.
So my brother thought he was keeping his kids safe all these years, even though they would spend the night at that Grandpa’s house for Christmas. Thought he was watching close enough on each visit. Did not recognize what was happening. Abusive men like that do NOT deserve second chances – they are sick and will repeat the offense. I don’t even give my dad pictures of my kids, as I don’t want to think about his fantasies while looking at them. (He sent me to a photo shoot when I about 11 and put me in sexy poses that I should have known better but I didn’t – I found those pictures still in his dresser drawer when I was 25)
My brother found out the truth by accidentally overhearing one of his daughters talking to the other. They have a huge family, with many many girls. He was just walking down the hall when he heard “Does Grandpa do that thing to you too? I don’t like it”
Now thankfully my brother knew enough to take action and inquire. This could have been innocent, like Grandpa was pinching her cheeks (my kids complain about this by an aunt) or interrupts them while talking, anything, but not in our family. We know the dark side of these men’s minds and what they might do to little girls.
My brother had some uncomfortable conversations with each of his kids, and realized several girls were being ‘groomed’. Which means Grandpa was slowly moving his hands closer and closer and holding it there longer an longer on each visit, and had fondled several girls now. This was bad, but it could have been so much worse. My brother was furious, and I believe may have killed the man if he were in the same state right then. My sis-in-law was devastated and sunk into a deep depression, vomiting each time she thought of it. She blamed herself entirely – and well, I kind of did too. But I also supported her, and answered each phone call to offer my love and advice if I had any. First was – therapy for her, possibly kids too, but she needed it to save herself. I had been where she was headed, and the end result of that much guilt and shame is suicide. Her kids needed her, and she knew this, so she hung on.
Please listen if kids ever say they don’t like Grandpa’s or uncle’s ‘hugs’ or ‘tickles’. True affection is sweet and lovely and never should make anyone uncomfortable. And explain this to kids. Please! Kids are good about telling when someone hurts them, like if Grandpa had hit her, everyone would have known. But kids don’t know to tell about the little snuggles and caresses, because they don’t hurt.
Even with this news, my brother and sister-in-law tried to continue a relationship with her parents. Just like her mom never believed her when she was young, she didn’ t believe it now. My brother thought they should stop visiting, but still could not say this to his wife. Until the next visit, after Grandpa had been confronted, and he of course denied everything, calling the girls silly and everyone overreacting, etc. They went to their house again to “restore a sense of normalcy” in my sis-in-laws words. I was very afraid for all of them, but powerless. Everyone was on high alert, the grandparents were outraged at the accusations.
Thankfully, the oldest son, then about 13 years old, saw the grandpa take a 10 year old sister into his room, and he heard the door lock. My nephew started pounding on the door and screaming, and got everyone to come running. The grandpa opened the door, and acted insulted that his guests could all be so ‘rude’. My brother got everyone into the van, and they have not returned to that house. I am shaking now to think what my nephew just saved his sister from experiencing.
So why do we put kids in danger like this? Because we have not healed and are still afraid of the abusers. They hold such power over us. So please, stop the shame, stop the cycle of abuse, and talk about it to everyone. One day, when my abuser is dead and I no longer fear him, I will attach my name to these statements. But now, I have to admit I still fear him, and I fear for my children the wrath that could come down on us.
Break the silence. Please.