One question I’m asked a lot is “How did this all start”?
How did my dad go from perfect Pappy to abuser to un-alived in such a short amount of time?
How did we discover the dark closet of family secrets that I’m speaking out about, today?
It’s a fair question and the answer holds a lot of power.
If we are to understand what protects the systems that perpetrate abuse, manipulation and/or toxicity we can disrupt and dismantle those systems and in doing so, set our children (and ourselves) free.
The answer to the question, though, is complicated…and really, it depends on who you ask. On one hand, there is the story that my dad’s family tells (the myth) and then there’s the actual chronicle of events from the perspective of people who were there (the true shape of things).
Each version of the story reveals important clues and details that will help us in our quest to overcome these generational cycles of abuse.
If you ask the deniers, the victim blamers, the ones who were not there, they will say that the story starts with inheritance. The best defense against the truth that they can concoct is that we groomed the children into lying so we could ‘steal’ my dad’s money.
There is so much irony in this sick and twisted lie that I can’t even unpack it right now so let’s just hit the high note…because it is the most telling.
My dad’s process was to ‘buy compliance & silence’. He rained gifts and acts of service down upon my children & other alleged victims. He used shopping trips and fixing things and love as a dangling carrot to keep secrets buried within.
Do they really think that we would subject ourselves to the amount of bone shattering pain we’ve felt for the past few months for $20,000?
Do they really think that if we wanted to ‘steal’ money from my dad, we would just have withdrawn it from the shared account?
But, no, they can’t see that logic. You see, the biggest denier of all and the part of my dad’s family that causes the most drama is also the one who created this false narrative. That family member is an alleged abuser of my dad himself and would do anything to deflect the blame and keep his secrets tucked behind the lips of his victims.
He’s also the greediest of all...and many of his paranoid grievances with the family revolve around the lust for more of it. So, it makes sense that his theory would center around the pursuit of financial gain.
When this theory falls apart, the only grain of truth left is this:
The True Shape of Things
In the spirit of setting the record straight, let me outline the true events. Since I was actually there, I can tell the tale with reliability and accuracy.
It started with a Sushi Date.
My dad and I had gone out to dinner alone as we had many times before. On the way home, we were gossiping (one of his family’s favorite pastimes). In the middle of the gossip, my dad told me about an alleged incident whereas one of our family member’s children had exhibited some sexual misconduct.
He retold an incident where another child in the family spoke up and said that this person had done inappropriate things in front of him (not to him).
My dad’s response to the situation was a key that unlocked something in my brain that I have yet to fully understand. He said:
Where did this kid even learn this type of behavior?
Both kids should be taught that their behavior was wrong.
Holy hell, let’s look into this and make sure more stuff hasn’t happened.
In my dad’s response, he unknowingly admitted that he thought the sexual act in front of a non-consenting family member was normal and was something that should be kept secret; not something that should be stopped.
I didn’t immediately connect the dots, but it didn’t set right we me. I was more focused on how to approach/protect my children from possible exposure to this type of behavior.
I decided the best course of action was to have an open and honest conversation with my kids. I needed them to know:
- Performing sexual acts in front of another person (especially family) without consent is not acceptable behavior
- It’s okay to talk about these things openly and that they are surrounded by trusted adults who will hear them and act in their best interest, if needed
So, when we got back to the house to pick the kids up, we had a conversation. We did not go into great detail, and we never asked the kids if anything had happened to them.
We simply said that we’ve recently found out that some sexual misconduct had been occurring and that it’s never okay to do sexual things in front of or to another person without consent.
We followed it up with letting them know that they can talk to us if anyone ever crosses any line or boundary.
I didn’t think anything of it…because it’s a conversation I’ve had with my kids before. But, somehow, this time was different.
When we got in the car to go home, my oldest twin spoke up and the rest is history.
The Moral of the Story
In my last conversation with my dad, he admitted that he knew my daughters would speak up the moment I started making a big deal out of the family member’s misconduct. The moment I told him that I was going to have an open and honest conversation with them, he knew it had the potential to give them the strength to speak up.
He understood that it was his own gossip that set the whole thing in motion; that by his own admission, he would open the floodgates of hell.On the irony of a family who survives on the assurance of secrets exposing themselves by means of gossip
What is it that they say? Loose lips sink ships?
If you take anything away from this. If you are to learn anything at all, it is to speak to your children openly and often. I thought I had covered my bases. I thought I had taught them about grooming and to look for the signs of abuse starting. I thought they knew they could come and tell me if something happened; that they understood I would believe and protect them.
But I was wrong…
and I have to deal with the regrets around ‘if I had done a better job’.
I guess that all of the stories and warnings felt like foreign things; abstract ideas that didn’t apply to one of the people they loved the most in the world. I guess it wasn’t until it hit so close to home that they could see clearly that what was happening to them was not normal and it was not okay.
Have the Hard Conversations
If you find yourself in a situation where you uncover or witness acts of indecency. If you hear a story on a podcast that talks about instances of abuse. If you have experienced abuse yourself, don’t hide it from your children.
It’s okay to have age appropriate and vulnerable discussions with your children about the things that haunt us. Talking is one of the best protective factors that I can think of.
…and for the love of goddess…
If you find yourself in the unthinkable position to have to face abuse of any kind toward your children, try to have grace with yourself. Try to understand that you can do everything in your power to protect them and sometimes things go wrong.
It’s easier said than done. Shit, I can’t say I’m even halfway to that understanding and grace in myself yet.
But I will get there.
And in getting there, will find healing for us all.
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