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Jun 25, 2011

When I was in my early 20’s, there weren’t nearly the on-line resources for CSA survivors that there are today. And I was much, much too ashamed and guilty to tell a word about the abuse to a real, live human being who could possibly make eye contact with me. I kept finding websites telling stories like this- “I was sexually abused by my __, it was horrible, but I forgave him, we’re close now, and life is peachy”.  For me, this meant that both forgiveness and closeness to the father who abused me (the uncle who also abused me was thankfully already dead) were prerequisites to mental health. I could not wrap my mind around the concept of ever being able to do either. I oscillated between believing my life was doomed to be full of the intense self-loathing, anger, grief and general misery I was experiencing, to believing if I could do something that seemed akin to a do-it-yourself lobotomy I would be alright. One day when the lobotomy fantasy wasn’t appealing, I looked up the statute of limitations on CSA in my home state of New York. By my 23rd birthday I would be unable to press civil or criminal charges on my father. And on that day, in the spirit of what I believed to be forgiveness, I breathed a deep breath, knowing that my parents would never be troubled by a policeman knocking at their door.

In the spirit of what I believed to be forgiveness, I tried to maintain an emotionally useful relationship with my parents. “Maintain” isn’t really the word, “start from scratch for the first time in my life” is more like it. And as I was having more contact with my mother than I had in years, she started telling me about finding child pornography on my father’s computer, again and again. And then there was the policeman knocking on the door- knocking on behalf of a little girl my father had “befriended”. I soon learned that having a child say that someone abused them doesn’t accomplish much. For an indictment to happen, you need a credible disclosure from the child, coupled with evidence (photographic or medical), a confession from the abuser or collaboration from another victim. Long gone are the days where a child’s tearful courtroom testimony was bound to lock someone up- the pendulum has swung so far away from where it was in the 1980’s. No police officer called me or sought information from me in any way.

Now I knew my father was on the prowl again, looking for new victims, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop him. Nothing came of the accusations from the little girl. I put enormous emotional distance between myself and my family of origin. Even though my mental health had improved, my life circumstances had deteriorated. I was minimally aware of what was going on under the roof I grew up under. Eventually, my life circumstances improved, I had more emotional energy, and I had become very committed to fighting for children’s issues. My role as a children’s advocate was extremely incompatible with the role of someone who was facilitating a pedophile, even in the slightest way. I made myself a few promises- I would stay close enough to my family of origin to keep tabs on my father, I would not allow myself to get wrapped up in any circumstances that could distract me from my mission, and I would keep in mind that nothing I was doing was going to undo what had been done to me. This wasn’t revenge, it was something more important.

Eventually I learned the name of a girl who had become a huge part of my father’s life. I called the police in the county the girl lived in. They told me to call the police in the county my father lived in. The same county I grew up in. Although I was dreading that phone call, and dreading someone who I graduated high school with picking up the phone, I made it. And as far as I know, nothing happened. You can’t arrest someone for spending time with a child. Even if the amount of time, and their devotion to this child is truly creepy.

Recently one of my cousins revealed that she was sexually abused by my father. She’s 21 now. She’s in the throes of mental illness, substance abuse and interpersonal crisis. She hasn’t told her parents about the abuse, and her parents and mine are very close. She loves my mother, and will be loath to hurt her.  She is 21 years old. I hope that in the next two years, she will find the peace, strength and perspective to realize she has been wronged by someone who has similarly wronged others, and who is still wronging others. I hope she will see that she has a chance to stop the trail of destruction that he has made. I hope I’ll be able to communicate clearly to her, to help her understand this. And I also hope that the law will change, to give her time to heal and think as she decides what to do.

This year there is a chance the law will change.  The bill A5488 has passed the NYS Assembly, and it needs a sponsor in the NYS Senate. A petition asking NYS Senator McDonald to sponsor it (Senator McDonald has indicated an interest in sponsoring it) is available for signing at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/support-a5488-the-assemblys-child-victim-act/.

Every time I see something about extending or eliminating that statute of limitations against Child Sexual Abusers, the term “justice” is always bandied around. I have absolutely no conception of what “justice” would mean to me, in this context. My father twisted my mind and soul in directions souls and minds shouldn’t be twisted in. But I’m alive and healthy, and I live a life filled with peace and joy. A life that is beyond the comprehension of someone like my father. I can look back at my life and see some mistakes that I almost certainly wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t been sexually abused. But I can’t look at where I am and be too unhappy, either. What I want to see now is damage control. I want to see my father in prison simply because it is the only way I can be sure he won’t be molesting more children. And while I’m happy with my life, I also know I’m exceptionally lucky. And luck isn’t something that you can bet on when deciding which injustices need to be fixed when. Child sexual abuse is an enormous wrong, which is perpetuated by individuals, and often facilitated by families and institutions. The state has a chance to decide whose side it’s on with this piece of legislation, and if it chooses to be on the side of the perpetrators, truly, we have reached the point of moral bankruptcy.    

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Posted: Saturday June 25, 2011, 5:41 am
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Tracey O. (38)
Saturday June 25, 2011, 1:52 pm
Your story reminds me of my extended family. My great-aunt had 5 children with a child molester & he molested all. The 2 boys & 1 daughter were in denial always. Then he started on the grandkids. My aunt had not been with him for years when he took his fun outside the family to the boy & girl next door. He is now in prison where he has belonged since before my birth & my aunt & 1 daughter did testify against him. The youngest who had gotten pregnant for him at 13 was dead by then due in part to a drug filled life. My aunt is now gone too but I commend her & you Melanie for being so brave!

Erica B. (36)
Sunday June 26, 2011, 3:02 am
Melanie, I am very proud of you! You have done what many of us cannot do, either because of the statute of limitations running out, or because of the death of the molester.

I never told my parents that my half-brother molested me when I was about 3 and trusting of all. He was 13 years older than me, and is now dead...can't hurt anyone else again...but my sex life is a permanent mess from it. So, my half brother is probably getting quite a laugh from beyond over it.

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melanie blow
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