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...

2 comments:

H.R. said...

I think what you're doing posting your story is a great thing and hope the people that find their way here can gain a measure of strength to help them in their time of need.

Anonymous said...

You are a very brave person. This blog not only serves as an outlet for you to express yourself but as a way to create awareness of child sexual abuse.

My son was also sexually abused but by his father. I too noticed a bruise on his 4 your old bum and asked where it came from. His response was I don't know. I was afraid but chalked it up to the fact that he was an active child. Six months later out of the blue, unaware of the significance of it he told me what his father was doing to him.

It is five years later and the court dates continue.I applaud you for having the courage to tell your story.

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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.