Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Teenager's Story - Part II

by Tivona, Age 14

Click here to read Part I of Tivona's story.

My uncle, who sexually abused me, has "explained away" most of his actions with excuses. When approached about his inappropriate behaviors, he responded by being insulted and became extremely defensive. Although never acknowledging the abuse, he never once denied it either. His response to the police, and I quote, “If that’s what she said happened, then it must have happened. . . . I just don’t remember.”

During my short time in therapy, I have learned that pedophiles are like any other predator. They stalk and hunt children as their prey. Many predators, like mine, will spend weeks, months, and even years grooming their victims. They are calculating, manipulative, and very, very patient when it comes to achieving their goal. Molesters are charming. They get along with everyone and are usually popular. They can be upstanding members of the community and tend to present a perfect image. Like my uncle, they are “great guys” and “everybody’s friend.” They are charming and intimidate other adults into believing they are above reproach. Their behavior is a controlled public image–for I know all too well about their private behaviors.

My counselor says she has never met a “child molester she didn’t like.” Today, I wonder if he is capable of feeling, let alone harbors a conscience. And did he, in all those years of wonderful memories, ever really love me? Is he sorry for the destruction he has caused in all of our lives, even though he refuses to admit it? I'd like to know WHY? Why did he chose to cross that line of trust? And HOW? How could he show up year and year, event after event, just pretending, never showing how he was hurting me and how he had hurt my aunt and his granddaughter before me (those who chose to harbor that pain internally for years until I told).

How could he torture us all like that with his "games"? Yes, I know I will never get the answers that I want or deserve but I continue to silently wonder. . . . Like any other addict, when asked, he creates excuses for all around him to explain his behavior and he has placed the blame for his behavior solely on me (just like he said he would). He has made me lose faith in myself, all in an attempt to control me.

There are mornings when I wake up that I don’t recognize the “girl in the mirror.” I feel as if my spirit has been surgically extracted. There are days I act like a wounded animal: crying, attacking, and retreating. I am working to understand this is not my fault.

I ask for reassurance that my perpetrator was a liar when he said that I had control and could stop it anytime. I agonize over the line of appropriate touch at the same time my hormones are throwing me into that “time of my life.” I am filled with confusion, anger, and premature sexualization at a time when I’m already battling those issues.

Talk about the “straw that could break the camel’s back.” I struggle with the fact that my uncle made me feel as an accomplice in this whole lie. The pain is similar to jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. I mourn the loss of my relationship with my aunt. I have bad dreams; break into tears for no reason and battle anger–at my perpetrator and my extended family for letting this happen to me.

I can say: I take it day by day. Sometimes minute by minute. Sometimes I have to remember to breathe.I want consequences for my uncle’s behavior. Today, the reports have been filed, the secrets are out. So how can he be free to just roam about? Don’t I have the right to be Safe, Strong and Free? (Don’t so many other victims have that same right?)

The Prosecuting Attorney refuses to file charges because there were no witnesses and they can’t see my broken heart and soul. It’s his word against mine. Without formal charges, his name will NEVER be on a sexual predator list. Many others aren't either because only 1 in 16 offenders are actually prosecuted if you can believe that! And only 6% of those people will ever spend time in jail! Are your kids safe?

There has been no justice. Even after justice is served, this case will be over for those of you reading and those who have worked on my case, but for me and my family, this is still just the beginning–a new beginning, I hope, but a part of our lives we will never forget.

My advice to you? Educate your children. Set “rules.” We like rules and it’s easier to tell when a rule has been broken. Teach your children age-appropriate information about their bodies. Tell them it is OK to say “NO.” And, that it’s OK to break a promise they might make about sexual abuse.

Teach your children that a person who sexually abuses a child can be anyone and that they need to tell even when the offender is someone they like, love or even live with. Finally, let your child know that if sexual abuse happens to them, they are still a good person, they are still lovable and that you believe them and will love them no matter what!

Instead of just responding to the aftermath of abuse, why not focus on prevention? This is a widespread illness that requires new attitudes and change. I know that first-hand from my own experiences.

Child sexual abuse is an adult problem–the responsibility shouldn’t all be placed on us as children. Sometimes, even if we know it’s “OK and right” to tell, it is still hard for us to do. Please watch out for us. . . . Look for the signs and report them. . . . Education is a powerful tool–let’s use it! I am hoping that the America I grow up in will be better for my children.


dibstruth said...

You are an absolute inspiration. The respect I hold for you is immeasuarable.

Your description of an acquaintance molester is right on the money. I also picked up on broken relationships and anger toward others believing they didn't help. If I can offer any healing advice, it would be to work on rebuilding those relationships.

My experience is from a different side of the problem. I am a mother who found things my children wrote. I immediately sought help. I had been having difficulty with concerning behaviors and counselors had been involved well before I found the first letter. I had been subjected to smearing behind my back for some time before the discoveries. It served to negate my ability to help. Molesters drive those who would help away.

It was hard for me to grasp the full meaning or the depth of the problem. Looking back, my girls sad things trying to tell me, but I could not grasp what they meant. This too is a prominent family, very image conscious, and popular with everybody. I continue to take the attacks because even though it has been some time, my girls still have not gotten proper help. I will continue to stand behind their words and not abandon them.

The even more complicating factor is an unresolved murder in the family. The family presents themselves as victims and influence a man publically of the crime. It has been a highly publicized case for years. Researching the case, I have learned of some real obstruction to the truth and the family has not been forthcoming.

Sharing your experience will be a positive tool for me. I am in a very difficult position that may bring the experience of my girls into the open. They may have even supressed memory. I don't know. I also fear they believe I am angry with them for participating in the devaluation and discrediting I was put through by the family. My children did the best they could persuaded by an offender, shame, and genuine fear that likely still exists for them. All I want to do is hold them, cry, and help thehow much they are loved. It has to be difficult for a child to believe someone did not know, but these are evils perpetrated in secrecy.

Two excellent resources that helped me as I began to understand what happened in all of our lives are Victimized Daughters by Janet Liebman Jacobs and A Behavioral Study of Molesters by former FBI special agent Kenneth Lanning. A link for the latter can be found on America's Most Wanted wesite.

Perhaps the pain you have suffered is part of God's plan for the good you most certainly now are able to give others. You have already done that for me and my prayer for my girls that there can be healing.

Leah said...

The incest be my grandfather totally destroyed my family. It was amazing that everyone seemed to have a different attitude and perspective about the incest and my grandfather. Although we never had to see him again, we loved my grandmother and it was hard to see her go through the pain and not be able to see her either. Mostly everyone just pretended it had never happened. Utterly disgusting!!It was blamed on us as well, like the provokative clothing we wore, etc. They had 7 children and nobody got along after this was exposed.

Dori Wheeler said...

I so relate to your pain and anguish! I was that teen many years ago. I suffered in silence for over 20 years before I had the guts to come forward. Unless the authorities have DNA, it's almost always their word against yours. Why should it be a child's responsibility to know enough to not bathe and run to tell, when the perpetrator has already told you that if you tell, you'll be in big trouble? Mine wasn't a relative, but it was someone I knew quite well. We both were from prominent families in the community. My dad was a COP! He was the very last person I wanted to tell. I feel your pain as if it were my own. The poem I had published here is probably not helpful to you, but if I can help one person to NOT suffer alone in silence, then some good has come from it! I do think people are starting to come forward more now then they used to. This is not a new epidemic! Maybe by the time my 3 year old grand-daughter becomes a little older, people will be much more aware and children won't be so AFRAID to tell. I don't think I could be held responsible for my actions if someone touched my grandbaby in that manner! I salute you for your strength to come forth in a world forum like this!!! You are a hero!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all so very much for sharing your heart wrenching and heartfelt stories! How brave you all are and we're so very glad you are beginning to recover from your experience and are all SURVIVORS!

As was mentioned, if we can make a difference in just one life, then our experience as a family will have a purpose to it.

God bless you all and thank you again for the encouragement and for sharing so much of yourselves with others!

Women in Crime Ink said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Tivona. The contributions we received last week from you and Dori were firsts for Women in Crime Ink--from you, our first piece from a young writer; and from Dori, our first poem. Thanks for inspiring our readers and for encouraging others to tell their stories.