Exposed

I’m hiding from all of it. It’s a funny place to be in, as the victim of child abuse. It follows you no matter how much you remind yourself that it’s in the past, that it’s over, that it won’t happen again because you won’t let it happen again. But to endure attack every night for a year, and to be completely alone about it… a secret between you and the attacker… it develops a sick and twisted bond that, as far as I can tell, lasts a lifetime. I have so much regret and resentment built up about all of it. Every night it happened, I remember feeling trapped and unable to speak or move… falling into sleep or unconsciousness, whatever you want to call it, was my only method of protection. It allowed me to at least avoid being awake for it. I was 13 and I had no idea what the fuck was going on.

When allegations came out and an investigation began, I was a sophomore in high school. This married father to an adopted son, youth group leader and assistant pastor in his church, and manager of a jail in Orange County…he was being accused of sexually abusing his step-daughter, whom he had always treated as if she was his best friend, at least publicly. I denied it immediately, especially given the circumstances of my brother’s adoption proceedings and thinking that, since the abuse had stopped by my 15th birthday the year before, it was best to keep it where it belonged: in the past. Word has it that he confessed some version of the truth to a coworker and the coworker made the anonymous call to authorities, which is the only reason it came up at all. With the one witness/victim in denial-mode, the case was closed.

This is why, when publicized victims of abuse deny at first and retract their denials later on, I always understand. It’s a scary, painful thing to admit to being a victim. As I referenced before, that sick and twisted bond between the attacker and the victim burns into the victim’s psyche, and can actually inspire the victim to protect the attacker. It makes the victim feel as though if any harm comes to the attacker for his own evil actions, the victim would feel at fault because she decided to speak up. Clearly, to any rational thinking outsider, nothing could make less sense… but that’s just how it goes. I don’t know that I can come up with a better explanation than that, but I also resent the fact that I feel pressure to explain it at all. Sure, innocent people need to be protected from “victims” that lie about what was done to them… but its cruel to put such a victim under intense scrutiny for denying and changing their story. That behavior seems to be typical after such trauma, and I can tell you from experience: at the time I felt I had no other choice.

It wasn’t until I found out that I wasn’t the only victim did my allegiance switch from protecting the attacker and keeping the peace to the much more important calling of protecting the other victims and any other potential victims from further abuse. The idea that I had the power to prevent other children from this shithead’s abuse by speaking up is all the motivation I needed to overcome my own fears and anxieties about telling the truth. I contacted the detective, retracted my denials, told my story, and re-opened the case just before hitting the 7 year statute of limitations. I was 20 and I was fucking pissed. He got wind of my actions, quit his job (to much fanfare including a going away party thrown by his unsuspecting coworkers) and booked a trip to China where he intended to teach English and most likely prey on whoever he could find once he got there. On the day of his flight, the cops staked out the international terminal at LAX and he was a no-show. A week later he turned himself in, wrote a confession, wrote me an apology letter (to which I replied with a “Fuck You” note though perhaps written a bit more eloquently than that) and was sentenced to 4 years in state prison. He’s out now, and today I made the mistake of looking him up on the Megan’s law website. They’ve updated his address and mug shot, and it was like a shot to my stomach to see his ugly face again after all these years. He’s out there, and I feel like the world is a little less safe as a result… but I’ve done all I could. Now, by writing about it, perhaps I’m doing a little more. I’d like to think so…if only for myself.

I still suffer from the side effects of the trauma. Trust is a terribly scary and difficult thing for me. I have bad anxieties: social and general, and the depression comes and goes. I suppose its possible that all of the hiding and repression of thoughts and feelings has made me exhibit symptoms of being bipolar or having OCD or PTSD. I don’t know how to deal with it all, but its something I’m trying to figure out everyday. It’s not like I really have a choice, after all. I think its important to talk about it so victims, including myself, feel less shame about their experiences. The latest statistic I’ve read on the matter showed as many as 1 in 3 people have been sexually abused at some point in their lives. It’s just important to know that you’re not alone and people give a shit. It’s easy to forget that in the confines of a victim’s mind. And believe me, I know that feeling all too well. But I’m here, I survived, and I’m going to keep progressing and leaving all this past behind. Everything comes together eventually…and life does get better.

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