Sometimes the choice in front of us seems so overwhelmingly obvious that it’s hard not to choose it. Rather it’s a good choice or a bad choice, we make it based on a feeling. Sometimes we go against the obvious choice, good or bad, and pay the consequences of that choice at a later date, if not immediately.
I believe we are all born with a moral compass that tells us right from wrong. As we develop through the years that compass can be enhanced by good parenting and mentorship, or skewed by bad parenting and associating with the wrong people. Then sometimes, as in my case, even knowing right from wrong, we choose to make a choice that goes against everything we know is right. I did this when I first starting drinking and using drugs. I was seeking acceptance and approval and I made the decision to go against everything I knew was wrong to get it. That first decision I made to go against everything I knew was wrong would only be the first of many in my life that would take me to dark places.
Without a doubt the decision I regret making the most, the one that hurt my wife, my children and myself the most was when I chose to have an affair in 2004. It was an obvious choice for me, unfortunately it was obviously wrong, I knew it and I went against it. My thinking told me as long as my wife did not know it would be okay. Besides it would help to bring me closer to my wife, or so I thought.
Nothing is further from the truth. I lived in a state of torment for three months crying myself to sleep every night. What had I done I thought. We had been married for twenty-one years and my wife had walked through hell and back with me. What message was I sending to her and my children; they aren’t good enough for me? Even though the obvious choice was not to have the affair, I ignored it and paid dearly for it. By the grace of God our marriage and family has been restored and we thrive as a family today.
As a survivor of emotional, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse, I am often asked why I never told anyone, which in the eyes of those that have not been abused seems like the obvious question. I was twelve years old, my father had just died, I needed a father’s love and a father figure. I thought that’s what Jack, my mother’s boyfriend, was showing me. He said I was member of a secret club. The whole year before my father’s death, Jack had been like a surrogate father. He took us places and showed us how to have fun. I just lost my father to cancer; I did not want to loose another father figure.
As time passed my mother and Jack got married and eventually joined a church. My mother became a choir member and my new stepfather a deacon of the church. We went to church twice on Sundays and on Wednesday evenings. From the outside we looked like the perfect all American middle class family. To everyone else, my mother and stepfather could do no wrong. They were the perfect example of what a Christian should be. Several people looked up to them for guidance and direction. When I went to one of the elders in the church about how physically abusive my stepfather was, I was essentially called a liar. To so many people my stepfather and mom could do absolutely no wrong. Yet once the front door of our house was closed, the gates of hell opened up and what would emerge was anybody’s guess.
I had not seen nor heard from my stepfather for over 30+ years. I didn’t even know if he was he dead or alive. Then in 2014 my wife found my stepbrother on Facebook and in turn we discovered my stepfather was still alive and well. Two days later my wife discovered that he had died due to complications during surgery. When I went on Facebook and saw all the post saying how wonderful my stepfather was, how he saved their lives, helped them in their careers, etc., and not one bad word, it turned my stomach; If they only knew the truth.
In 1983 at my wedding, my stepfather showed up uninvited. With him was my twelve- year old nephew. My nephew seemed out of character. His head hung low, he shuffled his feet and he would not look me in the eye. I turned to my bride and told her with absolute certainty, “Jack is molesting my nephew.” It wasn’t until thirty-five years later that I would find out I was unfortunately correct about my nephew.
At this point I want to give you two statistics:
- 93% of perpetrators are family members or friends (Megan’s Law and Crime Victims Center)
- 80% of perpetrators are heterosexual or bisexual men, married and have children of their own. (Abel, G. (1987, August). “The Child Abuser: How Can You Spot Him? “ Redbook, 100.)”
In high school my nephew’s counselor told his mother and stepfather that all the signs of him being sexually abused were present. My nephew’s biological father was extremely abusive and mean; therefore all the focus was put on him as the perpetrator. My stepbrother and sister-in- law did everything in their power to protect my nephew from his biological father. Why wouldn’t they? He was the obvious choice based on his history.
You see, my stepfather was a master of deception. Very convincing and manipulating. He treated those he was not molesting with a kindness unlike a lot of people have never experienced. To the people in his community and in the church he could do no wrong, he was a “Saint.” There were no obvious signs that would cause my nephews parents to look at my stepfather; after all he was his Grandfather. My stepfather and my nephews grandfather was so confident in his abilities that he molested me under the roof of our house with my mother in the other room, my nephew in a Casita on the back of his parents property with his mom and dad in the main house.
It has been over 35 years since I have seen any of that side of my family. Recently I have reunited with two of my nephew’s mothers who I have missed and love dearly. I am finding out how much damage my stepfather – one man – has done to my family in his lifetime and it is in comprehensible.
I am an advocate, a voice for abuse survivors and I preach on the fact that we “MUST” speak up and tell the truth about abuse. I live with no regrets; that is until recently. What if I had spoken up thirty-five years ago? My nephew is in such a bad place right now, could this all have been avoided? I’ll never know the answer to that. I know today that everything is just as God has planned it to be, everything is exactly as it is supposed to be.
Remember, it is not always the obvious choice. If you suspect your child is being abused/molested, or they come and tell you they are, please believe them. Reach out to the authorities. Let them do their job. Your only job as a parent is to raise and protect your child at all cost. The damage caused by sexual abuse is in comprehensible and the scaring is deeper than you can ever imagine.
To learn more about the signs to look for and about the Courageous Healers Foundation and how you can support our cause visit our website www.courageoushealers.org