what I want you to know: family secrets

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story, email me.  Today is a guest post by Jessica.


My name is Jessica, I am a forty year old married mother of four.  I can’t share my last name or blog, because my story affects several other people, and their story deserves to be where they want it,  I am sure that means not out there for all of the world to see.  I’d like to share this though, because it is something that affects me every single day, in so many ways.  Sometimes, though I know rationally that it is impossible, I feel like I am the only person who has ever had to come to terms with something like this.

What I want you to know is this: My father molested and raped 3 of his 5 sisters, and possibly 2 of his 4 brothers, and I still love him.

Growing up, my family seemed normally dysfunctional, if there is such a thing.   My parents divorced, my father was still friends with my mom though – my mom eventually remarried and everyone got along.   Dad came over for holidays, went to school functions.   My step father and dad were friends, sometimes even vacationed together.  We could see my father pretty much whenever we felt like it – there was no formal arrangement.  It was all very relaxed.

My father comes from a very wealthy and prominent large family and was that guy that everyone wanted to be friends with.  He was someone who did what  he wanted, when he wanted, and didn’t care about the consequences.  He always got out of any trouble he found himself in by using his name.  He was well liked though, respected in the community.

He and my mother had a tough go of it, when they were married though.  They were young, had been dating for just a short time when my mom got pregnant with my older sister – they married because of that.  That’s what you did then, forty years ago.  They managed to keep it together enough to have four little girls, me and my sisters.  My earliest memory is of my father pushing my mother down in the kitchen while she was holding my little sister, and I have figured that I was about two or three when that happened.   I can still picture her holding tight, trying not to drop the baby, but somehow trying to break her fall.  There were nights that we ran out quickly, blankets in a garbage bag.  Police coming, harassing calls and violence.  Lots of violence.

I was scared to death of my Dad.  He could look at me and just point at me and bring me to tears immediately.  He didn’t have to say one word, but could bring fear on as quick as you could flip a switch.   At any point he could be full of rage, and he was very unpredictable.  My sisters and I still wanted to be around him though, and we coveted the time he would give us.  As we grew older, his violence was sporadic, and our relationships with him were surprisingly good, normal I guess.  Normal to us.

When I was in my early twenties, I got a phone call from one my little sisters at college, she was crying.  Hysterical.  All that I got from the conversation was that our cousin told her that Dad had inappropriately touched one of his sisters a long time ago.  It was minimized.  In the beginning.  I called my father, and he said it was so long ago, and he didn’t really remember.  He basically pushed it away, turned the conversation to where he wanted it to go and left it at that.  I didn’t know what to feel, but I questioned whether anything ever happened to me – did he do that to me?  I wondered if he did and I just didn’t remember.

I was shocked to hear that, and had a hard time grasping the situation because it didn’t make sense.  My dad and his sisters and brothers were all close friends.  We had family picnics, celebrations, vacations – normal family stuff.  The sister that it originally came out about lived across the country, in fact she was really the only one to move away, but she still seemed close to everyone.  I loved her.  I was the flower girl in her wedding, I lived with her for a year when I was in high school.

But more and more information started to come out, the truth, the reality, the hardcore details.  And it was bad.  Things blew up in his face and everyone started talking and comparing notes.  He terrorized his siblings, came into their rooms at night.  He raped his three year old sister, scarred her for life.  He carried on an incestuous  relationship with one of his sisters for years and years, even while he was married to my mother.  All of a sudden my father was an outcast, hated in his family, and my sisters and I were all there, watching it come crashing down.  It was like the golden boy fell off of his throne, and did not know how to just be.  For some reason, we felt sorry for him, felt protective.  Then we felt guilty for feeling sorry for him, knowing that he single handedly and callously stole the happiness and carefree childhoods from his own sisters.

My father is the second oldest of ten children, the oldest son.  His mother died after giving birth to him, a complication of the pregnancy.  My Grandfather was a soldier, home on leave, and when his wife died, he hired a nanny to take care of my dad and his older sister.  My grandfather remarried when Dad was four, and then had eight other children with his second wife – my father’s half-siblings.  We found out that Dad was isolated a lot, from the other kids.  He was sent to live in a boarding school, he was not allowed to go to church with his stepmother and siblings, or shopping.  He wasn’t allowed to call his stepmother Mom.

 Because my grandfather didn’t want him to forget the “memory” of his own mother, a mother he never knew, he robbed my father of any sense of normalacy.

I know in my heart that this is why he did what he did.  He was jealous and full of anger and resentment.  He never was able to bond with a mother, never had a relationship like that, yet was forced to witness his siblings thrive in their mother’s love and acceptance.   He wanted to punish his sisters and brothers for what he didn’t get.  I know this.

Now, a little less than twenty years after all of this came out, the family is still very fragmented.  Some of his siblings have kind of forgiven him, but he walks very carefully around them.  He went to counseling, paid for my aunt’s therapy.  He is still an outcast though, never invited anywhere, never included in anything.  My parents tolerate each other because they have to, my sisters and I still have a close relationship with my father.  We know everyone knows – all of our cousins and aunts and uncles.  We all push it away though, but it never leaves my mind.  I have children.  I look at my five year old daughter, and imagine my aunt at that age – just being brutalized.  I would never leave my kids alone with him, just because the fear of the monster is still there, somewhere lurking under the surface. 

Once, when my son was three or four, he broke one of my father’s collectable toy cars.  He didn’t say a word, but I saw that old familiar and literal flash of anger in his eyes.  It scared me terribly, and the feeling of fear came rushing back instantly.  I jumped up, in front of my baby to protect him, and my dad walked away.  He managed his anger and got over it.  But that fear of the unpredictable rage is something that I never, ever let go of. 

I don’t know how to.  And I don’t know why I can’t hate him for purposefully wrecking those innocent little girls.



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