Friday, March 12, 2010

Did He Touch You? - Breaking the Silence of Sexual Abuse

I am finding it hard to breathe as I attempt to work through the reality of what has happened in the last year. The support from people who have read my blog has been amazing but as I sit at my computer screen to begin this week’s writing I feel so utterly alone. I am learning to be ok with just me. I tell myself I am strong enough but abandonment seems to be a common thread with a comfortable seat in my life. It holds me down.

I sat beside my son on the couch. I began a tug of war with his blanket. Not a fun game like parents plays with their children at bedtime but an attempt to find my child hidden below his secrets. He was sobbing. My mind does not recall every question I asked but it went something like this:

“Are you afraid of getting in trouble?”

“No.”

“Do you feel ashamed?”

“Mmmhh”

“Honey, I love you. Do you know there is nothing you can ever tell me that would change that?”

“Mmmhh”

“Justin, can you tell me what happened?”

He groans.

“Honey talk to me so I can help you. Would it be easier if I asked you questions?”

I could barely make out his response, “Yes.”

“Does it have to do with another person?”

“Mmmhh”

“Does it have to do with your Dad?”

“No.”

“Does it have to do with Uncle Martin?

“No.”

“Does it have to do with Jerry?”

He groans, “Yes.”

My mind begins to race and yet stand still in that split second. Inside I was screaming NO but I couldn’t stop. This moment was about Justin and not about me. I didn’t have the option to stop. I couldn’t hide because I was too scared to deal with it. I was in automatic. I kept going.

“Did he touch you?”

I was startled when the blankets flew back and he sat straight up. With an utter look of terror he began to scream, “Mom I’m not gay! I’m not gay. I swear Mom I’m not gay.”

I grabbed him into my arms and wanted to pull him inside of me. I wanted to protect him with all that I had but I was too late. He fought my touch while he screamed, sobbed and gagged.

“Justin, this is not your fault. What someone else does to you does not make you gay or make you anything. Jerry was wrong and I am so sorry this happened to you. This is not your fault.”

He sobbed uncontrollably and gagged. I held him so tight. I couldn’t get him close enough. Now I was the one who wanted to hide him. I held him until I felt the fight in him go and he collapsed into my arms. It was just the two of us. It felt safe but it felt so raw. I wanted to stay there in that moment and keep both of us hidden away from the world. I kept repeating that it was not his fault, I loved him and he was going to be ok. I was brought back to the moment I held my helpless new born in my arms. It felt like it was just the two of us. Here we were the two of us again in this dark house and I held my helpless son.


He asked if he could go take a shower. We both got up and I got the shower started. I briefly excused myself to make a quick phone call. I called his dad, told him to get to the house as soon as possible and then I called my sister. I kept it brief because I needed to be with Justin. I explained it was worse than pot. I told her Jerry had touched Justin. I still don’t understand her response but she said, “Oh my God, I knew it.” I was in such a daze. I just left it. The words floated there in the unexplained. To this day I wonder was it just a moment when she recognized what we had all missed or was this just another well kept secret that she maintained for her child. I may never know the truth because what I am sure of is that the truth is of no value to her or her family. I told her I would call her tomorrow.

I walked back into the bathroom where Justin was showering and I found him sobbing. I asked if I could hold him. He couldn’t answer. I opened the shower door and stepped in with all my clothes. I scooped him up and let the water run over both of us. I held him in my arms. The water provided us a hiding place. I let myself cry. The streams running down my face were from the warm water of the shower, at least this is what I let myself believe. No mother should have to feel the tears of regret and heartbreak as she holds her abused child in her arms. Justin found strength in me as he clung to my saturated body. I told him it was going to be ok. He was ok.


I looked him square in the eyes and said, “I am so sorry. It was my job to protect you and I failed. If I had known I would have stopped it. I didn’t know.”

“I love you so much. I am so proud of you.”

The truth is I could never be more proud of anyone in my life. He broke the silence. My nine year old little boy did what some grown men and women are still not able to do. He fought to have a voice. He risked the rejection and judgments. He is amazing for what he did that night and for what he endured in the days to come.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Shame - A Conversation with a Monster

I sat in the dimly lit room looking at my son riled by pain. It was not a physical pain but real all the same. He was attempting to shield himself from the world as he hid below the blanket. In the next few moments I shared a conversation with the one who held my son captive for the last two years. He spoke to me from his triumphant seat on top of my child’s chest as a lion with its newly captured prey, claws dug in and its teeth piecing the flesh. I was immobilized with fear.

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“You thought because you gave birth to him he was yours didn’t you? What an arrogant fool! Your Martha Stewart ways are useless attempts to make you feel secure,” it hissed.

“He is mine,” I am not sure if the words left my mouth or if my lips just motioned them.

“Look at him here with me. He knows me and I know him,” its boneless body slid under my son’s arm and out again. “Let us be. Go make some cookies.”

“I can’t leave him.”

“You can’t leave him?” he mocked. “Didn’t you already leave him time and time again? He tried to tell you. He tried to talk to you. I am the only one who never left him. Go on and do what you do best, crack a joke and lighten the tension you created.”

“There is no joke. I never…” I could barely reply as I felt this monster reach across the room with one of its numerous arms, it grabbed hold of my heart and made it difficult to breathe.

“Justin. Hide, my child. Hide,” it attempted to pacify Justin within its arms.

“No! He is not your child!” The words flew out of my mouth. I felt like David just after he got the attention of Goliath on the battlefield.

“You dare to argue against me? You know you can’t win! I have already begun to twist my lies around your heart. I will control you as well.”

“I will wage war against you with all that I have.”

“But look at him, he knows me better than he even knows you anymore. Let us be.”

“I will fight you and your hold on us. I will get my son back and I will stop you from silencing him.”

I moved to the couch where my son lay. I pulled back the blankets and gently ran my hand through his hair. I felt the burden of this new companion whose claws were now dug into me as well. As I calmly hushed his fears I whispered, “Shhhhhh.”

The creature echoed me, “Shhhhhh. Hush, children. Rest here with me together.”

I knew it wanted me to be silent just as it had silenced my son. I felt so weak. I felt like a gazelle that was slowly being devoured from the backside with my eyes wide open and my mind still aware. I wanted to scream and make it all stop. I am not sure how I carried on but I did. I don’t know how anyone carries on in these moments but somehow you do.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shame - A Battle For My Son

My conversation with my sister had been brief. I needed to get Justin home so we could talk. When I turned to head toward the door I had a thought. I stopped in my tracks and turned back to my sister. I asked, “Can you do one thing for me? Would you please go tell Justin if Jerry ever does anything he should not, ask him to tell me.” My request seemed to hang in the air and I was unsure if she intended to leave it there. She gave an unconvincing nod. Without explaining anything to the rest of my family I took Justin out the door and walked slowly on the path which led to the car. My sister came running outside calling Justin’s name. She took a hold of him and looked him in the eyes. She told him exactly what I had asked. I was so grateful. I knew that was hard for her to do and I felt like she did it for me. When she said it I hadn’t realized that it was another twist in the combination which would open my son’s heart.

Justin and I didn’t speak on our short drive home. We left my mom’s house with the sun still shining while it rested on the hilltops but by the time I pulled into our driveway ten minutes later it had dipped itself behind the mountain as if to evade what was coming. The house was dark. I walked in, turned on a soft light in the living room and asked Justin to sit down.

I made my voice as soft and tender as possible, doing my best impression of June Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver. I wasn’t accusing or argumentative. I was still somewhere floating on a cloud of peaceful oblivion. We talked about the pot. He explained they had done it three times. He told me Jerry kept his stash in the DVD box and on top of his brother’s play structure in his back yard. He seemed scared as he told the details. I appreciated his honesty. I explained there would be consequences for the drugs and to my surprise he rattled off what he was willing to do, a list that placed him in servitude for a good portion of his fifth grade year. Drugs are serious and he needed me to make a stern statement against them but his consequences were over the top. It made me wonder if other drugs were involved. I sat him on the coffee table in front of me, eye to eye of equal height. “Justin, they are going to have Jerry take a blood test. Is there anything else that you need to tell me?” I gently asked. Justin looked horrified. I can’t explain what I saw in my son’s eyes at that moment but it was like everything he had been enduring bubbled up and rested in two blue pools. His voice was trembling while he asked, “Everything?”

He began to cry.

Still oblivious to what was happening I thought it was more drugs but I didn’t question.

His crying was now beginning to steal his breath as he tried to get out what had sunk from his eyes and now had a grip on his chest. “Mom, it has to do with the bed,” He said.

Swept away in my mind’s ignorant diversion, I connected what he was saying with my marriage of twenty years. I had learned in the last six months through lie detectors and counseling that my children’s father is a sex addict. He is addicted pornography and masturbation. I let my experience with his father turn me sharply off course and foolishly I assumed he was confessing that he masturbates. This was just another idiotic moment on my part. He is nine years old for God’s sake. But my mind was carried away in a thousand conversations which ended with a relieved chuckle. I took his hands into my own, continued with my gentle mommy voice and said, “Oh honey, that is normal. Sometimes boys play with themselves. I want you to know that it is suppose to feel good but it is also designed to be shared with someone you love and hope to spend the rest of your life with. It feels good but when there is love it is the best thing in the world.” It sounds so cheesy now as I scramble to recall exactly what I said but sitting with his hands in mine the words seemed perfect.

All this talk and the pot smoking was just the thunder before the storm. The flood gates opened. Justin began to sob. He got up, threw himself onto the adjacent couch. He grabbed the blanket laying there and hid himself just as the sun had done earlier. The hands wrapped around his chest appeared to tighten their grip. His breathing was labored. He buried himself further under the blanket and cried.

Why was he hiding from me? I accepted what he said. I had not judged him. I tried to make him feel normal and yet he was reverting before my eyes to the helpless infant that I once coddled in my arms. Then the horrific moment spun out of control. Like a vacuum, I was sucked from everything I once knew to a world full of fear and pain. I sat helpless and exposed as out from under the blanket a third being appeared, not a person with flesh-laden bones but a presence which was undeniable. It was a monster so grotesque I wanted to run away but it held my son as its captive. I felt the need to fight. I needed to muster up the strength to delve into what was in front of me. I finally had a glimpse. For the first time I knew. My stomach turned and my heart raced. I sat immobilized in the dimly lit room and across from me was this beast. I felt powerless watching the way he freely encircled my son and devastated as his name rolled off his tongue with a hiss like a serpent, Shame.
Friday, February 19, 2010

Frozen In Time - The Moments Before My Son's Disclosure

I fight against my mind's desire to lock these next two days away. I faced these events feeling utterly alone and now I have the support of those who share my blog. I am grateful.

We had the table set for ten. The kitchen was filled with the smell of baking biscuits which were to be the final touch for the meal we would share. My oldest son was away for the week at church camp and Justin was enjoying his time with his cousins. I had gone to the front door, gave a whistle and called the kids in for dinner. I returned to the dining table and the conversation with my family. I remember the feeling. As I reminisce of that late afternoon in August I want to hold on to that moment forever. I would love to sit in that very chair, lean back oblivious and happy. I want to feel the sun once more radiate through the window and watch how it illuminated the room. In my mind’s eye it seemed so brilliant and comfortable. I desire to hear the voices of my uncontaminated family in routine conversation and blending like a peaceful song. It was so perfect. If I could just go back and seize the moment, I would cling to it as a child with a favorite teddy in the darkness of night. The safety I felt was an illusion and fueled by my ignorance. It felt glorious. I want to freeze the frame. Just stop there at that moment. Just stop.

I was swept away in conversation so I barely noticed Justin hanging on me. He was clingy. He was using my arms to hide and barring his face in my back. I turned to look at him and was immediately drawn to his shorts. He had his hand on his private and I sarcastically asked, “Is everything ok down there?” With no consideration for his answer I then jumped into my next sarcastic query, “Dude, what’s up with your shorts? They are inside out.” Like a foolish jester amused with himself, I again didn’t wait for an answer. I stood up and patted him on the back and said, “Go wash your hands.” It is mortifying to realize that I was such a fool. My sister’s son walked in as Justin walked out. He stood 5’9” at the age of 15. He has forever been a sturdy boy, strong and thick. His physique has always matched his personality. He took his seat and began chewing his nails.

Chewing, looking, chewing.

Justin asked if they could eat in the office and I had no problem with that. He looked over at Jerry and said, “Come on.” Jerry took a moment away from his nervous nail biting to respond with a sharp, “No.”

Odd.

We ate our dinner. We talked. The kids went out to play.

I am the type of mom with her ear to the wall and constant, "How ya doing?" To keep up with my reputation, I stood up from the table to go and check on Justin. I looked out the back door to see him hiding behind the shed and Jerry telling his younger brother to go away. I went outside with my firm mommy face determined to find out what was happening. Justin saw me. He threw something down and began to walk towards me. I took him to a private part of the yard and ask him what was going on. He was so forthright it struck me off guard. “We were smoking pot,” he said. I am not sure how long I stood there but I am certain my mouth dropped open as my mind tried comprehending my nine year old son smoking pot. I directed Justin to wait by the front door and let him know we would deal with this at home. I instructed him not to speak a word to Jerry. He easily complied. Knowing my nephew, I was sure he was one step ahead and all evidence near the shed was destroyed. I went inside and went through his things. I found a DVD box which clearly smelled of pot. I took a deep breath and told my sister we needed to talk. I explained to her what happened, gave her the box and had to hold her back from going out in an emotional explosion. I said I was taking Justin home to have a heart-to-heart talk and recommended she do the same with Jerry. I told her, “Drugs are a cry for help. This is an opportunity to find out what is really going on.” She wrapped her arms around my neck and said thank you.

I felt so much peace. I was angry but I seemed to be floating freely in a current which was headed in one direction. I was not sure where it was taking me but there was no way to avoid where I was going. It felt very controlled and fated. Every word and every action was orchestrated. I was a willing instrument. I am grateful to God for taking control of my words, my heart and my actions. He needed to take the reins because a lid had been blown off the bubbling crock pot of lies and deceptions. I had touched the tip of the iceberg but as the sun went down that August night the magnitude of things began to unfold...
Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Family Bruised - Missing the Signs of Sexual Abuse

It was one of the last weeks before school started in August of 2009. The last few months had been full of adjustments but wonderful. I was able to focus more of my attention on the boys and enjoyed every moment of it. We had completed a wonderful two week road trip and life seemed to be looking up. We hugged each other at the top of Vail, got swept away in Yellowstone while fly fishing and had regular check-ins at the beaches in Aptos. What a summer!

This week started with Ron, whom I was separated from since February, down South with the boys for a regular doctor’s appointment. He put me on the spot, as parents can do, by calling to ask if he could leave Justin with my sister. I was reluctant. I don’t trust my sister to watch the kids and I didn’t trust my fifteen year old nephew. He is known among our family as a little liar. He is a typical spoiled doctor’s son who could do little wrong in his parents’ eyes, especially the last few years. Justin got on the phone and pleaded with me. I knew in his mind this was an exciting opportunity. This would be the first time he could stay away from home without the watchful eye of his older brother and not to mention the fact he idolized his cousin. I called my sister and explain that I was uncomfortable with Justin staying. She reassured me. I went a little further to elaborate. I didn’t want to offend her but Justin would do anything for her son Jerry and this made me uncomfortable. She promised she would talk to Jerry and keep an eye on Justin. I reminded her that Justin was only 9. She penetrated my defenses with reassuring words and to my surprise she was not offended. During these moments of uneasiness, sexual abuse never crossed my mind. It is difficult to explain but I just knew my sister’s son was harmful. It was as simple as that. I let Justin stay against my better judgment. I wonder what made me dismiss my inner voice? Why did I give in and put others' words above my own heart? Can anyone relate?

Justin was home two days later. He was rather clingy but he is a physical kid. He loves to snuggle. I dismissed it as normal. As he went to get into the shower that evening I noticed two substantial bruises on his rear, centered on both of his cheeks. It was alarming to me so I sat down and had one of those talks. The eye to eye talk that most parents should have but now I wonder if they do any good. Why did I sit down to ask the hard questions? Was it to reassure myself that I was doing a good job or really to get into my son’s head? I look back and doubt myself. I question every moment. This was not our first talk but it seemed scripted. I asked him if anyone had touched his privates and how he got the bruises. He had no answers or if he did they seem irrelevant now. Never once did I really believe something was happening but this is what parents do, right? I reassured him he was safe and he could tell me. He had nothing to say. He was locked up tight. I reminded him he could call a safe table. A safe table is something I started to let the kids know they could tell me anything at anytime without the fear of consequences. They could come up with whatever they thought was appropriate for discipline. I found more times than not I had to lighten whatever punishment they had chosen. I sat on my son’s bed feeling a little like an inadequate Superman trying to exercise my x-ray vision to look past the walls my son’s abuser had built. He said nothing. I knew there was something there but I could not reach it. How did I let him hide the awful truth from me? I should have known better. I should have seen it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he was a victim of abuse. I hugged him, loved him and then I walked away. I left him bound in his fear. I gave up and gave up on him. As if that was not enough I continued to subject him to additional days of torment under his cousin’s hand. During our talk I felt so helpless but I didn’t feel afraid. That didn’t come until later when I found out the truth. I wish I could have a do over. But reality is now that I know what I know I would not limit my do overs to just one; I would need about a thousand to fix all that went so terribly wrong.

The end of the week was approaching quickly. My sister and her family came up to stay a few days. It was a great time of card games, laughter, heart to heart talks and the kids just being kids while enjoying each others company. Anyone who peered into our living room window would have been envious for a little bit of what we had. It was family at its finest. A real Norman Rockwell jumping off the canvas but the problem with imagery is that is all it is, an illusion, created by the eye of the beholder. We had created this scene and missed what was unfolding right under our noses. Were we just so comfortable appearing so happy or were we truly happy? I am not sure any more. The happiness I knew was all consumed by what happened next...
Friday, February 12, 2010

Hello - A Little Back Ground

I am a mom whose son was molested by his older cousin. I sometimes feel so totally alone in my pain and inquiry. Statistics tell me there are a lot of parents out there like me and I thought I would start this blog in an attempt to reach them. At this moment it feels a little like my words are floating out into a dark hole and there is no way that anyone can ever hear them, yet here I am giving it a shot. This blog is to share my story, share support and realize I am not alone in this pain. My goal is to write weekly about the different stages I have gone through from the moment I found out. This is not a whine session but a step-by-step account of how I put one foot in front of the other when I wanted to forfeit this game we call life.


I will begin with a little history. I grew up in a Catholic home with four brothers and one sister. We are all very close. I was raised to be a good wife and take care of the kids. I always wanted ten children but happily ended up with two: Jack, 12, and Justin, 9. Two is perfect; I have two arms, one for each son. I am Christian with a strong faith but I dislike religion. I am not really sure how I ended up sitting here at this computer writing about my son’s abuse because I thought it could never happen to me. I had the talks. We spoke of sex. I didn’t let my boys stay the night at anyone’s homes. I was very careful. I guess all of that doesn’t matter. It happened. Am I to blame? Did I miss the signs? To know me you would never guess this secret I hold. You would never guess it happened to him and because it happened to him this is happening to me.

I have been married for twenty years to a man who was never capable of love. He is so hidden inside himself that it is a miracle that we had any children at all. I finally kicked him out in February 2009. It was wonderful! He had been disconnected emotionally from the three of us for all these years. I was on a path of repair. I sought counseling, started back to school and my life was moving up. Six months later it happened…

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I am an average mom who loves her kids. I never thought it could happen to us but it did. My son was abused. Words to live by: Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.