Thursday, July 23, 2015

Unseen but Not Unheard

After reading a story about a ten year old girl in Dallas, TX who very narrowly avoided my exact situation, I decided to speak up about my experience in hopes that maybe it will help parents educate their children a little better.

Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys under the age of 18 are sexually molested every year. There are typically twenty-four students in a Kindergarten class. Let’s split that in half to twelve boys and twelve girls. As statistics go, three of those girls and two of those boys will be molested this year.  By posting my story, I’m hoping that someday we will be able to turn that number into zero.
My predator did not fit the typical “cookie cutter” stigma. He was an old man, in his 70’s. He was retired, religious, and apparently relapsing from a five year hiatus. He was a man that had grown close with my family, who had made a relationship as the “grandfather” figure. He was married and had several children. He had charisma and he didn’t “look” like a child molester. He was an abnormally large man and to the naked eye, he was a “nice” man. No one saw what I saw.

The first time was in the most unexpected place. My church. Church is for spiritual peace and a place to feel closer to your Savior.  I did not feel peace. I will not go into the grim details, but I will go into his behavior. He didn’t start “heavy.” As I got older, the acts became more severe. At the beginning, he was very “nice.” He wasn’t cruel or mean and he always pretended like this was what all of the girls did. I didn’t know that it was wrong. He asked me not to say anything. My family trusted him, so I trusted him.  He bribed me with money to keep my mouth shut, and because it was “normal,” I did.

As the years passed and I grew older, the acts grew more intense and he became more hostile. The more trustworthy he became to my parents, the more I saw of him. After church on Sunday’s I would go to his house with my brother. He would send his wife and my brother to his computer room and he would have his way with me. One day I grew tired of it. I didn’t want to do what he was asking and I told him that. He kept pushing and pushing and I finally told him that I was going to tell my mom. He knocked me down and pinned my wrists with his hands to the ground. That was the first time he threatened to kill my family. I think I was about eight. So I said nothing. I knew at that time that I wasn’t afraid for my safety, but for my family’s safety.

When we would go to his house after church, he would make me change into one of his shirts so that I could be “more comfortable.” Over a year after he had attacked me, his wife walked into the computer room where we were and saw everything that was happening. His wife looked angry, but the crazy thing was that she wasn’t mad at him, she was mad at me. I now realize the fragile state she must have been in, in that moment. I was “stealing” her husband. She told no one and after that day, she knew not to come in. She had become brainwashed after many, many years of emotional abuse herself.

That following fall, I got the courage to finally tell my parents. I started with my mom. I remember the shock and disgust on her face. I thought she was mad at me, but to my relief, she hugged me and told me that she would tell my dad. That night, she told my father. There was never a moment that my parents doubted me. Never a moment that I didn’t feel unconditional love. The members of my church, however, were not convinced. I was told I was a liar and called things that no ten year old should ever hear. I was publicly shamed and became an outcast. He was that deceptive. I still think to this day that the people who knew then, still don’t believe me. That’s okay. I am whole and complete. I am married and have 2 beautiful children with another on the way. I have no regrets.

I share my story today, because I want to help educate parents on what to teach their children and to see the warning signs that maybe aren’t as obvious as others are. Waiting until your kids are ten or older is too late. His twisted mind didn't care that my breasts weren't big enough to fit into a bra. He didn't care about sexy underwear. His favorite pair of panties that I wore had Jasmine from Aladdin on them. He had a favorite.... He didn't care that they were size 8 in little girls, he just wanted a little girl. There was no reasoning with him, he was a predator and he intended on acting as one.

I was very young and very impressionable when my abuse started. It started with sitting on his lap, and it progressed to so much more. I was not a shy little girl. And I believe to this day that, that was my defense mechanism. I was overly enthusiastic and extremely annoying. I was not your typical sad, scared, hiding from a mountain of tears little girl. I hid it well. I had to protect my family.

Make sure your kids know that it doesn’t matter if someone threatens them or their family. Make sure they know that you are a super hero and no one can get through you. Make sure they know that if anyone touches them inappropriately that it is okay for them to tell you, whether it’s daddy, mommy, sister, brother, grandpa, anyone. Sadly enough, there are daddies and mommies that hurt their children. Make sure they know that it’s okay to tell you if something is happening even if it’s someone close to them. Don’t have secrets in your family. Make sure they know that if someone says that it’s their little secret, that they should tell you immediately. If your kids tell you they don’t want to go somewhere, it’s important to find out why. Sometimes there are no warning signs, like in my case. The most important part is, if your child ever comes to you and tells you that something is happening, believe them. It took a lot of courage for them to come forward to you, make sure they are heard.  

My predator was found guilty on all counts. He was prosecuted and put in prison for 95 years. After the trial, dozens of other girls came forward and spoke to my father and the DA about their own experiences. Many mirrored my own. I do not know what changed in my heart that made me feel the courage to come forward, but I know that my Heavenly Father had a whole lot to do with it. I am here today because I was heard.