“Everyone [family] just wants me to forgive and forget, like it never happened. Let’s not make a fuss.”
“Why is it he gets to move on with his life and I’m the one told to ‘forgive’ and let it go. By all means don’t let me taint the family name.”
“He was my brother, I loved him and he didn’t physically harm me. I tried to let it go. I didn’t want him to get into trouble. I didn’t realize how much it bothered me until all of this with the Duggar’s. I’ve forgiven him, I still love him but it is hard to forget the shame of it all.”
These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard from sibling incest survivors in the past few weeks. After watching the Fox News Kelly File interview with the Duggar’s and their daughters, I realize the only way I can respond is by what I do best, discussing how I can relate because of what I’ve personally overcome.
Here are my facts. I was molested by grandfather (my mother’s father) when I was around 3 – 8 from what I recall. We did not see him often, at best once a year, at worst twice. And if he was in our home then it was safe (or I don’t have ‘bad’ memories in my home only in his or in a common vacation spot we’d meet for family reunions.)
My grandfather was funny and good-looking. I can recall his smile and I can manage to look past the disturbing memories that have surfaced to still see his face, mouth spread wide from ear to ear in a hearty laugh and his salt & peppered buzzed haircut. I would float the palms of my hands over the flattest part of his hair because it was always so soft. And he smelled like coffee.
I detest the smell of coffee and at 41 years old have never had a cup.
I remember when I was about 9 or 10 years old that he had a heart attack or something major happened and we were told he might not make it. I felt a mixture of sadness and relief.
He made it.
When I was 18 years old, the summer after my freshman year in college, I told my parents about what had happened to me. The rape in high school and the rape in college. My mother came with me when it was time to move back into the dorm and spent the night with me. In the darkness she whispered, “I was raped as a little girl, for a long time.”
Without a thought to hold me back I knew. “Was it Grandpa?”
I could hear her sit up in bed. “How did you know?”
For some reason, even though she just told me she was his victim too, I clammed up. “I don’t know. Just a feeling.”
My mother went into counseling. Confronted her father (who claimed she ‘asked for it’) and told the entire family. My oldest sister came forward with the same secret.
I kept my mouth shut. It was too difficult to accept. Even when it happens to you sometimes you just can’t accept it. The two persons don’t belong in the one body. Besides, I was suffering through the trauma of two date rapes. My young psyche couldn’t handle the overload.
My mother cut off all contact with him and my grandmother.
My sister still allowed him to come visit her. Why? I can’t say because that’s her story to tell.
My brother championed him. I felt like my uncles and their wives did too. Stood behind him but left the rest of us out as the ‘trouble makers’. Or so I felt…later I came to realize they were in their own denial and pain.
At this point he was ‘just an old man’… forgive him. Let it go.
I tried to talk to my aunt about it , what my mother was going through, and I was quickly quieted. It was too difficult to listen to. To accept. Let it go.
Family meant so much to me and I lost contact with all of them, thankfully they kept up with my mom. I never questioned why my mother never said anything earlier. Maybe this is what she’d feared.
Finally I met up with another aunt and uncle who lived not too far away. My boys were small and I wanted them to meet their great aunt and uncle. But Grandpa was in town visiting. Would I go? Should I go?
I went. My husband met him… how did we do it and not get into a fight? I let it go because it is too hard to think about when it’s not ‘in the dark’. But I couldn’t stay long. The more I looked at him the more mad I became.
My grandmother died. My mom and I chose not to go to the funeral. My sister and brother went. My sister confronted my grandfather about what he’d done to her. He admitted to it. Never said he was sorry. In my opinion that night he shut the case on her ever knowing her true worth.
At the age of 39 I’d overcome a great deal and felt I had mastered the art of forgiveness. I was able to put my rapist’s well-being into the hands of God, let God change them or administer punishment whichever course they chose to take but I was not going to be chained to the fear and shame they inflicted on me for the rest of my life. Yet I was still troubled. Something wasn’t right and I couldn’t put my finger on the brick of sadness that was lodged in my chest.
And then it hit me. The memories rushed all at once like a tidal wave that quite literally knocked me to the floor. I could see that smile, smell the coffee on his breath and I remembered.
I wept for that little girl. I rejoiced because my life, all of it, made sense.
I finally understood why I reacted or responded to certain things in harmful or troubling ways throughout my life. It all made sense and the brick was gone. I was free.
He was 95. I wanted to see him. Not for an apology. He didn’t give it to my mother nor to my sister why would I get one?
I told my mom. Dejected and quite beaten down she responded. “I figured as much. I’m sorry I ever allowed him around all of you.”
I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t ask the obvious. ‘WHY?’ Why did you? If you knew what he was capable of, why would you?
Two months later my grandfather died. I had to go to the service. He wouldn’t ‘see’ me and I wasn’t sure where he’d be to ‘hear’ me but I had to go. I blogged about this trip. I will re-release this in the next two days. My tribute to every incest survivor out…let freedom ring.
He met God face to face and unless my grandfather changed his ways towards repentance then who best to truly pass down a just judgement?
The greatest gift I’ve given myself is forgiveness.
Listening to the Duggar girls I couldn’t help but empathize. They might be in denial (as I was for many years) or they might have come to the place of forgiveness. Either way I pray they feel secure in who they are, holding no shame for what he did and remain diligent in protecting their own children from any future abuse.
As for the parents, I still can’t get over the fact he came to them three times before he was taken out of the home. But then again why did my mother let my grandfather near us? I asked her this last summer. ( I blogged about this too…I’ll revisit as well.)
When I asked my mother this question I saw a little girl look at me with pain in her eyes. “I just couldn’t believe he would do it to anyone but me. I’m so sorry.” My heart forgave the final person that held me captive in a past I could never change.
The world is responding to an evil that is incomprehensible. Media asks ‘why’ and there is no answer that will ever satisfy. The one final comment I will make on Josh Duggar is that he admitted and came forward. There are too many skeletons and too much why in this Duggar family for me to hash out a comprehensible understanding to satisfy any unrest on any part of the story that has been told.
What I am grateful for is because of the Duggar family notoriety we might bring an end to future generational ‘WHY’S’ about abuse and begin to see a decline in an evil that wrecks families and homes.
My prayers are for all victims of abuse.
Want to know more of the story? Pick up my memoir EXPOSED: Inexcusable Me…Irreplaceable Him for only $1.99 on Kindle.