Sexual Abuse


I used to dislike the holidays because of the family dysfunction. I now dislike the holidays because of the lack of family to create dysfunction. This time last year, we were adjusting to the death of my oldest brother (April 2012) and father (October 2012). I was in the midst of putting together an intervention for my remaining brother so we wouldn’t lose yet another family member to an alcohol-related disease. The intervention worked: my brother went to inpatient rehab, quit drinking, and died three months later of acute myelogenous leukemia (March 2013). That’s how it goes.

This year, my remaining family members remain a bit shell-shocked. None of us really knows how to do Christmas. My sister has a pretty good gig–she just leaves town and goes to her daughter’s home in Dallas to hang out with her new grandbaby. I, on the other hand, will go to Houston to try to cobble together some sort of Christmas get-together for my mother. I haven’t written much about my mother of late. I suppose I should pause and insert a quick update.

In July, my mother had minor outpatient surgery to suspend her bladder. Now that she was no longer spending all her time and energy caring for my father and alcoholic brothers, she began to care for herself. The minor bladder surgery turned into a major medical emergency when she got deep vein thrombosis in the days that followed. She spent two weeks in intensive care, during which time the doctor informed me that a vena cava filter she’d had inserted during a hip replacement years earlier likely saved her life. Even so, I found myself putting together my to-do list in the event of her death. It had sort of become old hat. But, she didn’t die. She went from intensive care to intense inpatient rehab for a month. People gave me funny looks when I told them my mother was in inpatient rehab. I had to pause and explain it was not the kind of rehab my brother had been in just months earlier. From there she went to normal rehab at a skilled nursing facility, where she stayed until the Medicare ran out–three months. That took us through late October, where she made the transition to assisted living. Insurance does not cover assisted living. That’s running about $6500 a month. Yes, I lose sleep worrying about money. Often. But I’m also becoming quite thrifty with my own finances. Better late than never.

So here I am, the estranged white black sheep of the family, now in charge of all things: probating my father’s will, managing my mother’s finances (which includes three houses and not much in the way of liquid assets), and running what’s left of my father’s business from afar. White black sheep, you query? Yes. I considered myself the black sheep because I was different from the rest of the family in that I was the only child of four who did not work for my father’s business. Instead, I went to law school and basically ran away from home when I moved from Houston to Austin. (My sister and her husband quit the business a few years back, and my brothers quit by dying.) I considered myself the white black sheep because I wasn’t a bad sheep. I was different from the rest of my family in that I ran from the dysfunction, rather than embracing it. Upon further consideration, black sheep get a bad rap. I think I’ll drop the “white” from my self-description, and just go with black sheep from now on.  Seriously. Look how cute she is.

Embrace the Black Sheep

Embrace the Black Sheep

All this babbling is leading up to something. It really is. It’s just difficult to go at it directly. My niece (the eldest daughter of my sister and her husband) has a new baby girl. My sister’s husband molested their other daughter for many years until she spoke up at age 15. My sister didn’t divorce him. Aside from the molesting part, he’s actually a kind man. Whereas my sister is a cold, cold woman. It’s all very complicated for them, to be sure. For many years I found it all very black and white. He was horrible, she was just as bad (and maybe even worse), and they both should rot in hell, if only there was one. Rather than getting into how I feel about it now (if I even know), I want to talk about how disturbing it was when I was with them all over Thanksgiving. Yes, I waxed lyrical in an earlier post about how the baby brought us all together. She did. But what are my niece and her husband thinking when the molester holds the baby? Have they discussed with each other how they’re going to deal with grandpa? Have they had a conversation with him?

Dad, here are the rules:

  • You are not allowed to be alone with my baby. Ever.
  • You are not allowed to change the baby’s diaper.
  • You are not allowed to be in the room when the baby’s diaper is being changed.
  • You can’t give her a bath.
  • You can’t go in the bathroom when she’s having a bath.
  • You can’t bounce her on your knee.
  • You can’t dress her.
  • You can’t take her temperature.
  • You can’t play horsey.

How in the world is she navigating around the landmines? How does her husband feel about it? How horrible is it to have this dark cloud over the joy of being a new mother? I did notice when the baby’s diaper was being changed, he left the room. Which led me to think they do have rules in place.

Would things have been simpler if my sister had left him? Would it be easier to disown your father (and in my sister’s case, to leave her husband), or to continue to have him as a part of your life, but erect strong boundaries to prevent history from repeating itself?

These are very difficult decisions, to be sure. For some, I expect the answers are black and white. As they were for me for many years. But when everyone starts dying, you begin to see the gray edges. (I will refrain from picking the low-hanging fruit–making a 50-shades-of-gray joke.) You begin to see the good and bad in everyone. Including your crazy family. And you find yourself wanting them around, despite the bad. Which is difficult, too. Because in a way, it makes me feel like a sellout. Maybe I should get a new boyfriend, instead.

I haven’t had a television since Memorial Day. I got rid of my old Sony, and haven’t gotten around to getting a flat-screen replacement. Last night I knew the Sandusky verdict was imminent. It had to be. The man was guilty, and the jury wouldn’t take long. So I turned to Twitter. I typed in Sandusky. My screen flooded with tweets:

The attorney general is at the courthouse.

The lawyers are there now.

Photos posted of Sandusky leaving his home.

Coach is wearing an unfortunate jacket. (That asshat on Fox news keeps referring to Sandusky as “coach.” This sickens me. It’s the coach bit that gave him access to those boys. So stop calling him “coach,” Shep.)

Sandusky is at the courthouse.

The verdict will not be tweeted until all 48 counts are read and court is adjourned.

Surely he’ll be convicted. Surely the jury won’t OJ us. (Yes, OJ is now a verb.)

Surely he’s given up Penn State for the state pen.

Even his own lawyer says he thinks he’ll be convicted. And then the judge calls him into chambers and issues a gag order.

The verdict is coming out five months to the day after Paterno’s death from cancer.

His adopted son Matt was molested, too.

Dottie testified on his behalf. (Oh, I will get back to Dottie.)

The verdict will be read in twenty minutes. Then fifteen.

Then I flip over to live video of the crowd in front of the courthouse. And back to Twitter.

Any minute now.

GUILTY OF 45 OF 48 COUNTS.

Sandusky is being led away to the jail house in handcuffs.

He stood with one hand casually in his left pocket as the verdict was read.

One victim wept.

Sandusky was stoic.

He knew it was coming.

But what about Dottie? What did she know and when did she know it? Public opinion weighs heavily in favor of her knowing what her husband did, was doing, to those boys. How could she not know? It happened in her house. Her basement. Not just once, but dozens of times over a period of years, decades, even. So how could she not know? The wives know. On some level they know. Which means they fucking know.

Case in point. When I was ten or so, we went to visit my grandparents at their house on Lake Huron. The man who lived next door, a Greek, lived there with his wife. I recall their grandchildren often visited when I was there. And he had St. Bernard puppies. He also made homemade wine. My dad loved his wine. So one day, he sent me next door to pick up a bottle of Mr. Greek’s homemade wine. I ran off next door to get the bottle, and he invited me in. He then offered me a taste of the wine. Recall I’m ten. But I tasted the wine anyway. It was sickly sweet. And then he came close. Close enough that I could feel his breath on my cheek. And he started rubbing me on my chest. And breathing on me. As I wriggled away, I saw his wife peering at us from around the corner. She never said a word. She didn’t try to stop him. She just stood and watched. And stayed silent. I escaped his grasp and ran. I ran back to my grandparents’ house and said nothing about what had happened. It felt wrong. But she watched and said nothing. Maybe I was crazy. Maybe I imagined it. I couldn’t tell. No one would believe me. He just rubbed my chest. The wife didn’t stop him. So I kept my mouth shut. Even when my dad made fun of me for running off without the wine because I was seemingly too bashful to go next door and get it.

The wife, having seen everything, stayed silent.

Was she complicit? Was Dottie Sandusky complicit? Was my sister complicit?

My sister?, you say. Yes, my sister is married to a pedophile. When I was 15, her husband, who was then 29, made a pass at me when he was teaching me how to drive out in the country. He kissed me. A full on wet mouth tongue kiss. It was sickening. And I never told a soul for 20 years. My sister knew, though. Or at least she knew something was wrong. She told him he was spending too much time with me, and it needed to stop. He said he was just teaching me how to drive, because my father was largely absent. He was right. I was vulnerable. I thrived on his attention. Who knows what I would have done had he gone farther. But with me, he didn’t go farther. He saved that for his daughter, my niece. How do I know this? She lived with me briefly when she was in her early twenties. And she told me then what her father had done to her. She told me he molested her from the time she was 6 until she was 16 and finally told a school counselor. He was never prosecuted. And my sister stayed with him. She, to this day, has stayed married to him. She didn’t need him to support her. She worked and made a good salary. She could have supported her two daughters just fine. But she kept his secret and never told anyone, and stayed with him. My niece felt betrayed. She felt her mother had chosen her pedophile father over her. And she was right. This was so confusing for my niece that she still let him walk her down the aisle at her wedding. She let her pedophile father give her away. And my sister watched, beaming with pride. When their second daughter married a year later, I didn’t go to the wedding. I couldn’t watch him pretending to be the doting father, again.

How do these women stay with these men? How do they defend them? How do they ignore the horrific things they’ve done? I asked my sister how she slept in the same bed with a man who molested their daughter. She had no answer other than, “Because I love him.”

She loves him. And Dottie loves Jerry. Ain’t love grand?

I wonder if my sister watched the news of the trial, of the conviction. I wonder if she sat in the same room with her pedophile husband and watched a man get sentenced to life in prison for the same crimes her husband has committed. I wonder if she felt any guilt or remorse for selling her daughter out. Like Dottie Sandusky did with those poor boys.

I did feel his conviction was a bit of a consolation. At least one of these monsters will pay for his crimes. I just wish the women would stand up for the children. And not for the perpetrators.

I’ve been on antidepressants and back in therapy for a little over four months. It’s difficult to remember how tired and apathetic I was. How disinterested. But slowly over the past four months, I’ve begun to emerge from the pit I had dug for myself. Not entirely, though.

You see, the pit has a certain allure. It’s an easy place in which to live. I get to feel numb. Feeling numb is great when you’ve got more shit to deal with than you’d like. Seriously. Who wants to deal with a sister who stayed married to her pedophile husband after he molested their daughter? The whole world seems out of kilter when you’re faced with that shit. Deep dark holes are where it’s at.

But I’m not hunkered down in the hole any more. And the pedophile is still here. He was at my brother’s memorial last weekend. He consoled my mother. I fantasize about choking him. I think I’m making progress, emotionally.

Now that my mother has acknowledged that he’s still wasting space on this earth, he’s exhibiting a sense of entitlement. The man glared at me across the aisle when I turned around to look for my brother, Seth. I kid you not. He glared at me. He glared at me for having the audacity to say out loud what he is. A man who sexually molested his daughter. For years. How dare I tell my mother and brothers what he’d done? You’re supposed to keep that kind of behavior a secret, don’t you know. So he glared at me at my brother’s memorial and made no effort to keep his distance from me. Yes, he’s feeling emboldened. I wanted grab him by the hair and shove his face into the holy water, holding him under until he begged for mercy. And then dunk him again, just to be sure I’d made my point. Yep, the medication and therapy are working.

If he had molested someone elses daughter, he’d be in prison. Not hanging out in churches.

But if I’m shining a light, I may as well shine it on my sister, too. If it wasn’t for her, the man wouldn’t be around any more. What kind of woman stays married to a man who molests their daughter? What kind of mental gymnastics must she perform each day to keep her head from exploding? What does she tell herself? What could she possibly say to justify his behavior, and hers?

My sister is a horrible person. No way around that. And the co-dependent cycle continues with my nieces hiding their father’s secret, as if his shame were theirs. I really don’t get it. I don’t understand how she could stay with him. Does she have her own holy water fantasies? Does she imagine beheading him and putting his head on a spike in the forest for the crows to pluck out his eyeballs? Or does she block it all out with the contents of her plastic travel cup that she carries with her wherever she goes?

I’m guessing she finds her redemption at the bottom of a travel cup.

Tomorrow is my brother’s memorial. I’ll leave at 6:45 a.m. to make it in time for the 10:00 a.m. service. By 11:00 a.m. it will be over. Hopefully my brother-in-law won’t show. If he does, I shall ignore him. If he comes near me, I shall tell him to back off. But I shalt not call him a fucking pedophile. At least not where anyone can hear me. Maybe he’ll be struck dead when he enters the Catholic church where the service will be held. I’ve often thought these past few days, too bad it wasn’t him. Lest  you think my ire is a little over-the-top, know that he is indeed a pedophile and he molested my niece. He should be in prison getting up close and personal with his cellmate; not attending my dead brother’s memorial service. But I don’t want to think about him. I want to focus on my brother, which is what tomorrow is all about. Not the pedophile. But if he touches me, I’ll hock up a lugie and spit on him.

Odd how the thought of going home turns me into a child.

In other news, I got a wireless keyboard for my iPad. This thing is terrific. Now I can blog to my heart’s desire while in Italy. I’ll try to refrain from posting too much food porn. And wine porn.

Holy hell, am I full of anxiety about tomorrow. I’d be feeling less anxious if I knew the brother-in-law won’t be there. Good thing I broke it off with Mack. I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t have controlled himself should he cross paths with the prick. I find that a bit ironic.

Rather than ruminating on my three-hour-drive, I’m going to listen to my Italian language CDs. I still haven’t learned bathroom. Or water. Oh wait, it’s Pellegrino.

This weekend I was scheduled to go to my firm partnership retreat.  Hundreds of lawyers bonding and on their best behavior.  I’m actually sorry I’ll be missing it. Evidence of a sick mind, if ever there was. Instead, I’ll be traveling to a Texas city to attend my brother’s memorial. Will my pedophile brother-in-law be in attendance? Stay tuned.

In more upbeat news, I’ve been learning a little Italian for my upcoming trip. Today I learned the very important phrase: Del vino, per favore. I’d say, I’m all set.

Because typing on this iPad is so tedious, I’m cutting this one short.

Arrivederci.

Sometimes when I write about my family, I wonder if I’ll be perceived as another James Frey. After all, it is a bit much to believe all this could happen in one family. While not an exhaustive list, here are the highlights: (more…)

I have been incommunicado this week. With myself, and with you. I watched teevee three nights out of five. Damn it! And I went out with my friends and drank wine the other two. Then again, I drank a couple glasses of wine each night on teevee nights, too. I’ve been feeling surly. Okay, downright bitchy. I checked in with myself briefly a few times, and asked why. I told myself I should write, and maybe I’d work it out. But I couldn’t think of one thing to write about. I read blogs and made no comments. It was too hard. (more…)

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