I keep reading in the news about Sandusky and the showers. I listened to his interview, and was appalled that I felt pity for him. I’ve been scouring the news for any updates about what he did. For news of any new victims coming forward. I did a Google search: “Where was Sandusky’s wife?” I did another Google search: “How do the wives of men who sexually abuse children stay silent?” I read about how some abusers insist they love the victims. How they groom them. Make them feel special. Listened to. Make them feel like they matter. They don’t have fathers who do that for them. So when the abuser does it, they’re grateful. I’ve broken down and cried numerous times this week. I’m more emotional than normal. A part of me wonders why. A part of me knows why.
I watched a DVRd episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit tonight. It was about a girl in a psychiatric ward who was molested by her uncle from the age of fourteen. No one believed her, so she stopped talking about it. Her mother, and her aunt (her abuser’s wife) thought she was lying. Or knew she was telling the truth, but wouldn’t acknowledge it. I have a sister like that. She’s married to a man like that. A man fourteen years older than me. He made me feel special. Listened to. Like I mattered. I didn’t have a father who made me feel like I mattered. But Tim did. And I was grateful. I loved him.
Years later, I found out that he sexually abused my niece. His daughter with my sister. When my niece was sixteen, she’d had enough. She told a school counselor. CPS made him move out of the house while they investigated. I don’t know why, but they didn’t pursue it. He moved back home. My sister hid what happened from the rest of the family for six years. She’d still be hiding it if my niece hadn’t told me. And when she told me, I told my niece what he’d done to me. And I told my mother, and my brothers, and my sister. I’d never told anyone but two close friends before that. But when my niece told me, the dam burst. I began to beat the drum, and I didn’t stop.
Tim called me then. He proclaimed his innocence. “But we were friends!” We were. I loved spending time with him. Talking with him, telling him everything I thought about, deep inside. Lying around side by side, listening to music for hours and hours. He thought I was smart. He thought I was interesting. He made me feel like I mattered. And when he taught me how to drive when I was fifteen (he was twenty-nine), and pulled over to the side of the road, and kissed me, everything changed. I never forgave myself. And I never forgave him.
And then he did it to his own daughter. Authorities told my sister about it when my niece was sixteen, and had finally had enough. When she finally got the courage to tell what her father did to her. My sister stayed with him. I don’t understand that. She didn’t need financial support. She could have made it on her own. But she stayed. Six years later, when my niece told me what he’d done, I asked my sister how she lived with a man who did that to her daughter. I asked her how she slept with a man who did that to her daughter. I asked her how she slept with him in the same bed he did that to her daughter. Apparently, he’d been abused. So she felt pity for him. And because she’s a cold, cold woman, she thought she might have driven him to it.
Three years later she’s still with him. My nieces, with whom I was very close, rarely speak to me. How dare I talk about the family secret? They post pictures on Facebook of Tim and my sister. Of Tim and my nieces. They all look so happy. They look like they’re still happy.
I wonder how they’re doing this past week. I hear about retraumatization. I feel retraumatized. I wonder if they’re better at stuffing it. I think at forty-eight, I’m willing to let the pain wash over me, and just cry.