A Child Molester In My Circle

WARNING: This article contains information about sexual abuse which may be triggering to survivors.

I never imagined I’d be writing a post like this one. The last thing I want is to be the bearer of bad news, stir up worry and paranoia. I want to share inspiring, hopeful messages about raising children, not scary, disturbing, cautionary ones. But last week I heard something incomprehensible: my chiropractor, a friend for 18 years, is in jail after confessing to child molestation.

I’m sharing this scenario because it was unimaginable to me and may be to you, too. I realize now that I was self-centered and ignorant enough to assume sexual abuse would not really touch the lives of “people like me”. Now I know… I’ve just been blessed that it hasn’t.

For the first time I can understand how the family and friends of those who commit heinous crimes might feel. From an outsider’s point-of-view it’s simple and obvious: “Ugh, horrible person.” Or not even a person…animal. Despicable. How could you ever love such a lowlife? But my friend was not only a ‘person like us’, he was an especially warm, popular, charming, one, admired by many for his talent and expertise. And trusted.

He was generous. Sometimes I needed repeat adjustments within the same week, and he wouldn’t charge me. He gave you more than the half hour you booked with him, even if you were late. He invited us to bring our children to be adjusted for free (which seems ominous now, but my children were not victimized by him, and most others weren’t either. Predators are not indiscriminant, I’m learning). He was spiritual. He did a special healing ritual with my mother when she was sick from cancer a few months before she died.

I saw him at least once every couple of months and kept him up to date about my life. He wanted to know what was going on with me and my family. He cared.

The father of one of this man’s victims, also a friend, told me that he had never doubted the man’s trust. He was close with both the man and his wife. His 5 year old daughter spent time in the man’s care, seemed to enjoy being with him, never balked, and her dad believed that spending time with this grandfatherly figure was positive for her. Once the little girl told her dad that the man had touched her “there” while she was in the bath, but said immediately afterwards, “Just kidding”. Even then, her father hadn’t the slightest suspicion. He’d trusted this man intimately for many years and knew his daughter had a rich fantasy life. She liked making up stories.

It wasn’t until the father heard about another family filing a complaint that he had the dreadful realization — his little girl had tried to tell him. When he went to his daughter and she divulged details about the abuse, he found that although she may have felt uneasy on some level, she had perceived the abuse the way her abuser had wanted her to – an affectionate little game they played together. “Don’t tell your parents. They might get mad at me.”

I’m ashamed to admit that I share this story for selfish reasons, too, in hope that spilling my thoughts will help me untangle them. I still don’t know how I feel or how I’m supposed to feel. I’m reliving my many interactions with this man, hearing his voice and his laughter, remembering his every touch and facial expression — a slideshow of once pleasant images now viewed through a distorted lens, nightmarish. One minute I’m disgusted, so angry and sad for the children. I hurt, cringe and shudder. The next minute I just remember him, and try to merge these disparate people into one — friend and child molester — but can’t, at least not yet. And the hardest thing to reckon with are my feelings of loss, and the guilt I have for feeling them. Because even for the devastating harm he’s done, lives he’s changed, innocence he’s stolen, I’m finding it impossible to hate this guy, to just throw him away. This is the death of a friend, but worse… there’s disillusionment and betrayal. How could he?

If I’m wrestling with these feelings, with all my years of life experience, how will the children reconcile theirs? Will they understand how a relationship that felt so loving could be so wrong? Will they struggle to comprehend how the intimate ‘games’ they shared with a trusted friend could be shameful and bad? Are they bad, too, for enjoying being with him? Do they feel remorse for sending him to jail? Will they heal this wound and trust their instincts again? I’m praying that they will.

I urge you to read these “Eight Common Myths About Child Sexual Abuse” by the Leadership Council. I believed a few of them. One of the most jarring to me is “Myth 4: Children who are being abused would immediately tell their parents. Research shows that children who have been sexually assaulted often have considerable difficulty revealing or discussing their abuse. Estimates suggest that only 3% of all cases of child sexual abuse (Finkelhor & Dziuba-Leatherman, 1994; Timnick, 1985) and only 12% of rapes involving children are ever reported to police (Hanson et al., 1999).”

My best advice is to talk to your children about abuse as early as possible, discussing rules with them about friends and relatives of all ages and appropriate touching. Warn them about adults and others who ask them to keep secrets. Keep the lines of communication about these issues open and non-judgmental. RIE parenting guidelines are invaluable for teaching our children from birth that they deserve respect and have personal boundaries.

I also appreciate these guidelines from RAINN.org.

If you have answers, insights, or experiences to share, I hope you will.

Predators groom parents and community in order to access children. They are usually “highly respected.” -BraveKidsVoices

Update, two months later:
Although the accused had been secretly recorded confessing to the abuse, he may have been planning to plead innocent. His 5 year old victim was prepared to attend his hearing in December and testify. I hadn’t realized that children were expected to testify in person rather than on tape, but apparently they are, although she wouldn’t have to look at him or point to him.

She showed up early on the morning of the hearing with her dad and was given a tour of the courthouse to help her become acquainted and more comfortable. My friend’s lawyer was also at the courthouse early and he spotted the little girl. When he went back and told his client she was there, my friend supposedly broke down and decided to plead guilty. I guess he hadn’t believed the girl would actually show up.

His sentencing was a few days before Christmas and he was given 12 years. Since he is in his early 70s and his health is not good, he will very likely be in prison for the rest of his life.

The little girl began therapy. At least five other families have filed complaints.

Personally, I have found complete closure. I will continue to be in touch with the father of the little girl and hope to hear about her progress.

***

Additional resources:

Kidpower Abuse Prevention

Body Safety Education: A parents’ guide to protecting kids from sexual abuse

My Body! What I Say Goes!: A book to empower and teach children about personal body safety, feelings, and unsafe touch

How to Help Your Child Not Be a #MeToo

187 Comments

Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this. I can’t even imagine all the feelings you are going through – disgust, disbelief, anger, fear.

    I know there are others who can explain this MUCH better than I can, but from what I understand, it is a sickness, a mental disease. This does not excuse the behavior AT ALL, it’s just explaining what it is.

    With some diseases, they affect people’s Behavior, rather than affecting them physically like a cold would. For some reason this is hard for some people to comprehend, they seem to think that only physical symptoms should be recognized.

    This does not mean that behavioral symptoms should be Excused – NO, not at all, they need to be corrected, it’s not a “free pass” by ANY stretch of the imagination. It’s just that at the same time, you can at least know that the behaviors are “coming from” the disease.

    Perhaps that will help reconcile it in your mind, while not changing your mind that this man should be brought to justice. Again, I’m so sorry to hear about this horrible situation.

    1. JB, thank you. Hearing your thoughts is comforting. I haven’t had the stomach to do much research about the causes of sexual abuse lately, but the way one psychologist friend explained it to me was that it usually stems from a childhood trauma (like abuse, but can be other things, too) that is not dealt with. The person is then compelled to continue creating this situation, but from the standpoint of the perpetrator so as to regain the feeling of control they lost when they were vicitimized. So, it is a type of mental illness.

    2. avatar Cassandra says:

      I realize this blog is a few years old, but I want to post a reply to thank you for sharing your story, and all the wonderful replies people posted.

      I’ve been struggling with a situation that has made my truth no longer black and white. I’ve been searching the web for information. And I really appreciated the emotion in your blog and in those who replied.

      If you don’t mind, I feel a need to share a bit of my story.

      This may sound like I am making excuses, but I’m really not meaning to.

      We’ve all heard the saying that truth is not always black and white. It’s easy to acknowledge those words, but it’s harder when you’re thrust into that fact as a new truth in your life.

      My father, 65 yrs old, recently confessed to molesting a 13 yr old.

      That sentence disgusts me. But I also know other details that gray my truth. She was very mature, she had been molested by 3 other men in her childhood. Her family had sued the men for money. Her family were drugs addicts and my dad thought he was helping her at first. She would constantly come to his house asking for a safe place to stay when her parents were high. Her parents would ask my dad to take her places for them, and they even signed over waivers for her to be in his care. Of course all of these facts actually made my dad look worse to the police. Like he took advantage of them, they trusted him and she trusted him. And he betrayed that.

      But there is more to the story. She is very mature for 13, she looks like she’s 18. She’s been molested 3 times before. Once was by her father. Her mother made a joke when drinking at a bar one time that instead of getting a divorce you should get your husband sent to jail because then instead of 1/2 the money she got all of it. The other was a neighbor and they sued him for money and he bought their silence. And another was her brother, apparently the story in the town is that the mother wanted to remarry but the guy didn’t want the son, so suddenly the son was a molester and so once he was put in jail and the mother got married. The mother and stepfather do drugs, and have gone to court twice on child neglect charges. So my father truly thought he was helping her. He even confessed to me that because she had been molested before, he went out of his way to never touch her, to try to show her that not all men were bad. But over time, that line got blurry. She kept saying if he loved her he would hold her, if he loved her, etc. My dad never had sex with her, he never touched her, but he eventually allowed her to touch him. (Sorry for directness) The family would ask him for money, my dad would give it to them, I guess out of guilt. He paid thier rent, he took her on trips. The girl would walk up to him in a crowded room and hold out her hand and he would reach into his pocket and give her money. She didn’t thank him, she would just smuggly walk off. Thes are all things I learned after the fact from friends and neighbors. I live across the country and didn’t see any of this first hand.

      The economy crashed and like a lot of people he lost everything. After he told the family that he had no more money, the family pressed charges. He confessed to the crime. And then the family took him to civil court and sued him for every last penny he had which at that point was pretty much nothing. He owed on backtaxes, he had lost his business, he lost all his retirement savings in laywers fees. He had nothing left. Even now they still swear he has a pot of gold somewhere that they are entitled to.

      Because she was a minor, none of her history was admissble. And family was not on trial so none of their history could be brought up either. And because my dad did do it, my dad’s lawyer said it would be best if they just settled out of court and he went to jail on a lesser sentence rather than going to trial.

      So now my dad sits in jail on a 6y to life sentence. With Sex offenders, all sentences are to life, until you can go through treatment programs and prove that you are no longer a threat. Whereas other crimes, they get out after they serve their sentence. But with Sex crimes, they don’t get out until the board says they can get out. My truth is gray, because I used to feel that ok, and now it’s my dad so it doesn’t feel as ok anymore.

      Now … bare with me for a minute … I appreciate you continuing to read.

      It is obvious this mother used her daughter to make money.. she got money from her husband going to jail, she got money from her son going to jail because it got her a new hubby, and she got money from the neighbor who paid them off, and she got money from my dad. So it is very clear to me that the mother who was not a good mom whose daughter was molested. It seems to me that she set a trap using her daugther as bait.

      The daughter’s truth is gray to me. While she participated in the trap, she is still a minor and I want to believe there is innocence there. What a horrible childhoood she must have had. But my truth is gray because I feel resentment towards her.

      But regardless of being setup… no matter what this girl looked like or what she did or what she asked for … my dad was 65 years old. He should have been disgusted by the sheer idea of her in that way. He should have had all kinds of alarms going off. So something is broken inside of him. No matter how good the trap was, why didn’t he know better? My truth is gray because this wise man that was my father made a big mistake or did something evil. So either way I have a hard time reconciling it.

      So my dad is in jail and taking therapy classes in hopes to find out why those alarms in his mind warning him that this was wrong did not go off.

      So my life is gray, my truth is no longer black or white.

      “Those horrible people” now include my loving dad.

      “Those horrible people” that should be locked up for life, now include my dad.

      “Those horrible people” that should register for a crime they commited for the rest of their life, now include my dad. And if he ever gets out, he will move in with me and in effect I will be registered too, everyone will need to know that I have a sex offender in my own.

      My truth is gray, because people who murder, who steal, who sell drugs to children .. serve their time and then go free. and no one has to know. The guy who lives next to you could have killed someone. But sex offenders, no matter how big or small their crime is, are all forced to register for the rest of their lives.

      My truth is gray because I believe in the safety of children and that parents have a right to know the risks around them. But I also believe in the fact that we should teach our children to protect themselves from everyone, not just the person registerd on the website. Does a parent look on the website and say “yes, my child is safe with this person because they are not on the website?”

      Could registration cause parents to actually relax their watchful eye just because no one in their neighborhood is registered? So “their” neighborhood is safe just because no one is registered?

      Was Janet’s chiropractor registered? As Janet found out, our circle is only safe until that gray truth makes itself clear. We need to protect our children and teach them to protect themselves, not just rely on a website to tell us who is bad and who is good.

      My truth is gray because the obvious “bad guy” registered on the website may actually be a nice guy who screwed up big time and has paid for his crimes and gotten therapy. But on the contrary, the “good guy” who is a good friend or chiropractor or a pillar of the community might actually be the one preying on our children when we’re trusting them.

      My truth is gray because I used to live this sheltered life. Like Janet, I felt like stuff like this didn’t happen to people “like us”. And now my dad is one of “them”.

      My truth is gray because I’m learning how common it is. This is going to sound horrible but at what point do statistics get high enough that they become the norm? If this is so common, doesn’t that mean there is something else wrong going on here?

      Are you aware that in some states a girl is allowed to get married at 13 with her parents consent. As soon as you started your period, you were a ‘woman’. So if you get your period at 11 or 12, and you can make babies, and you can get married. Why are they still considered children? We have this weird magical age of 18, that just coincidentally matches when we graduate from high school and when we can live on our own. Where did that number 18 come from?

      Please don’t get me wrong, I personally think 13 is way too young. In fact, I think 18 is way too young. I think our emotional maturity in this country is way too young. But from strictly a biological standpoint, the nature of the body says we are physically adjust when we have a period. So biological we are ready for sex and procreation.

      I fully acknowledge the truth that something is broken in my dad. Whether or not 13 is a biologically a woman or not. At 65 years old, he should have been grossed out by even the thought of anything. He should have known better. So there is something broken in him. Child molestors are wrong. They need help, treatment and they committed a crime and should serve jail time.

      Even though I know these facts, my truth is no longer black and white. Like Janet, my truth is no longer clear that the bad guy was the devil that we all imagine, the bad guy can be someone we know and trust.

      To be honest, life was much simpler and innocent when my truth was black and white. But now my truth is gray and life will never be the same.

      I apologize for the length of this post. Thank you so much for listening. This was very painful to write, and it helped to get it out. Perhaps someone else reading this is living with a gray truth. I hope my story helps you feel less alone.

      Thank you.

      1. Thank you, Cassandra. I very much appreciate you sharing your story and wish you peace and many blessings.

      2. Not mature. Damaged. I’ve known mature children, and I’ve known damaged children, and there’s a distinct difference, such as the ability to identify and make beneficial choices rather than detrimental choices. In fact, maturity is generally lost to those who have been victims of sexual trauma. And of course her history isn’t admissible. Suggesting it’s less of a crime to hurt someone who’s already “impure” is dangerous discourse. I realise you aren’t excusing your father’s behavior, but your depiction of the girl echos those of people who rationalize the exploitation of minors or believe children have more accountability for their actions than the adults who exploit them.

        1. avatar Cassandra says:

          Thank you, Dismayed. I actually meant to say that she was “physically” mature that at 13 she looked like 18. She is extremely tall and has the physical shape of a woman, her female features were much larger than mine as an adult. If someone didn’t know her chronological age, they would swear she was much older, 18-20s. But regardless of what she “looked” like, my dad KNEW her age, he knew she was a child, there is NO EXCUSE for what he did. I think her physical attributes were my own way of trying to understand how my dad could have even thought of her that way at all. It still upsets me so.

          I really appreciated your response, it’s a very valid point that no matter what we look like on the outside does not reflect what is inside, and yes, those children who have been damaged have been pushed into “adulthood” far sooner than their minds and hearts are meant handle, what may seem like mental/emotional maturity is actually pain and damage. I appreciate your clarifying that, it is something easily forgotten. Thank you.

  2. avatar K. Hansen says:

    Janet, thank you for sharing this story. I also have a story. In 2008 my dream of opening a child care center came true. It was a wonderful small homey center that was desperately needed in my community. I poured my energy into this important endeavor with the goal of expanding so I could serve more children and give parents a quality choice for their childrens care. My center was housed in a church owned building, a small ranch style building in a residential neighborhood. We had a neighbor next door who was always outside tidying his yard or feeding the squirrels. The children spoke to him regularly and one day he came over to bring the kids the leaves he had just raked up. Months later, completely by coincidence I discovered this man was a registered sex offender. He was classified as a level 2 offender, meaning he was considered a moderate risk, and his victim was a minor, a 15 year old girl. I was shocked that this man was next door without me knowing of his status as a sex offender. I was disgusted that I had let the children entrusted to me talk and interact with him. I immediately contacted the Sheriff , who registers sex offenders and child care centers, and angrily asked why they had not notified me. I was told it fell through the cracks (my bad). Even though my county had residency restrictions against sex offenders living near schools and child care programs they refused to evict him saying he was a permanent guest at that address, without a written lease he could not be evicted. After months of legal consultations and the ACLU getting involved to overturn the residency restriction I made the difficult decision to give up on my dream and close my center. I could not risk the safety of the children. If anything had happened I would be devastated. Like you I feel disillusioned and betrayed by a system that is supposed to protect children. While my dream died a tragic death I am proud that I stood up for what I believe in – that the safety of children is of the utmost importance! In this case an ounce of prevention is worth 10,000 pounds of cure. I have spent the last year reading all the sex offender laws both on a Federal and State level and I am sad to report most of these laws were passed with the main purpose of Legislators gaining favor of the public, little enforcement of them and too many loopholes and inconsistent enforcement.

    1. Wow, what a difficult, disappointing situation. I’m so sorry, but I agree that you should feel proud and brave for giving up your dream to stand up for children.

  3. I feel the need to add an addendum/disclaimer – that doesn’t mean that *every* time a bad behavior is done, it’s because of a disease.

    For example, if there was a disease which caused the person to steal (let’s say) office supplies, that doesn’t mean that Every time office supplies were stolen, it’s because someone had a disease. The thief could just be angry, immoral, or some other reason.

    In this case it sounds like maybe(??) it could be more of a disease. But of course I am not an expert.

    1. avatar Juliette Aiyana says:

      There is no comparing people who steal to people who sexually abuse kids.

      1. I agree. And people who sexually abuse children are not suffering from a disease. And they don’t do it because it was done to them. It’s all a load of excuses. I was sexually assaulted 3-5 times a week for 5 years… I’ve never harmed a soul, and certainly never mine nor anyone else’s children, and could never contemplate doing so. As a “survivor” of childhood sexual assault, I find it absolutely disgusting the number of people willing to cop to it being a “mental disease” as if they were dealing with a garden variety manic depressive or schizophrenic.

        1. avatar Ray Lighten says:

          Sam, I wouldn’t mind if your abuser was executed; would you? On the other hand, the degree of abuse you suffered doesn’t make you the least biased person to discuss the topic. In other words, you have been severely treated and have an opinion that is now at the extreme end of the response spectrum. The fact is, there are many complexities that enter into sex abuse and not all abusers are the same nor are the specific abuses all the same.
          My point isn’t to give you a lesson, it’s just to say I think you have an understandable yet extreme opinion on this subject. You also have my deepest hope that you fully overcome the abuse you suffered.

  4. Such an unpleasant topic…
    I´ll try some private body parts talk with my 3-year old later today. I´ll keep it simple and add more information as she grows older. I never really thought about this before, but realize the importance of talking about it now.

    1. I am a victim of childhood abuse and of adult sexual assault. We teach my son his private parts (at 22mos) just like every part of his body and talk to him about what they do and that they only belong to him, that the only people who should touch them are himself, and us or a doctor when we are present. We talk about why we touch his private parts (to clean them) and encourage him in every way to take care of them himself because they belong to him. We also don’t encourage secret keeping in this house. In fact, when we read, “Time For Bed” in our house (a favourite children’s book) and they get to the part about, “Telling a secret, but don’t tell a soul,” I even go so far that when I read it, I read, “Telling a secret, but you can always tell your mama!” We talk about secrets and how, if something makes you feel like you need to keep a secret, it’s a good idea to tell me or Dad, and if you can’t tell Dad or me, you can tell Nana, or Auntie. Yes, it is young to talk about these things, but I was one of those who didn’t tell anyone for a variety of reasons. It really starts with having a close relationship with your parents, and a secure attachment. We also try to identify “gross” feelings when he has them so that he can identify them in himself. We do not force him to be touched or held against his will. We notice when he pushes us away and encourage him to put words to it. “You did not want a kiss right then. That’s ok. You never have to be kissed if you don’t feel like it.”

      Kids who have a secure attachment, who can speak up, who are encouraged to speak their minds and listen to their bodies when their bodies send “yucky” feelings (all part of RIE, really) are less likely to fall victim to predators.

      That’s not to say parents involved here did anything wrong, they should be patting themselves on their backs for the bravery of their children for speaking up against a charismatic, well-liked man. It was probably very scary, and now the children have a life-time of work ahead of them, and my heart aches for their parents. I would… be absolutely beside myself if this happened to my son and I am not sure there is anything in the criminal justice system that can right that wrong.

      Janet, there is no way to reconcile this. Even seeing it as an illness in the perpetrator does nothing to change the consequences. I pray these kids get lots of validation, love and support. I don’t think you can make peace when an adult chooses to act out his or her sickness on a child.

  5. Wow. Thank you for writing this! Also – just knowing that my Early Childhood post helped ONE family is good enough for me. I’m darn near in tears.

    I’m so sorry you are living through this. I lived through it as a kid myself. I witnessed a friend being molested by her father. He died a short while later and she passed away (drug overdose) while her 5 year old stood by. Worst funeral EVER. VERY very sad. I was involved in counseling during my youth because of all this. It didn’t hit me (the details) until years later. I did work through it and came to the other side. Not without much pain and agony – but it can be done. We have to make a choice to let those things go, or we allow them to ruin us. I chose to let it go (but continue to write articles in hopes of helping others).

    Anyway – I’d suggest counseling for anyone who has been affected by this (not drugs – cognitive therapy so that the issues can actually be talked through rather than medicated down).

    Peace to you and your family.

  6. So powerful, Janet. You captured the fullness of what this kind of betrayal from a trusted person is like, and how many people feel the ripples.
    I agree that proactively addressing this issue with your children is very important, but it is important to do this as free as possible of your own panic, discomfort or shame. For example, the hero project (http://www.heroproject.org/en/adult-responsibility) reminds you to be comfortable naming anatomy before talking with your kids. Another crucial abuse-prevention practice is modeling: “demonstrate to your children that it is OK to say ‘no’ when someone you know and care about does something you do not like.”
    A great resource for the kids who have had their bodies and lives violated is the Stuart House at UCLA/Santa Monica Hospital. This is one of the gentlest, most integrated, respectful programs I have ever witnessed for child abuse survivors. Unfortunately they do not have much of a web presence. This is the best link I can find: http://www.911rape.org/about-us/what-we-do/child-victims
    I would refer any family there if they had suffered something like this, especially for the immediate crisis phase.

    1. Miven, thanks! I really appreciate you sharing your guidance and great resources.

    2. avatar Juliette Aiyana says:

      These are important and great tips. Thank you.

  7. Thank you, Janet. This was a brave post and a good reminder. I was also the victim of a pedophile, and I wish more parents would understand that the risk is not just “out there somewhere,” but usually much closer to home. Odds are that just about every parent knows a pedophile.

    1. You are correct. Most molestation happens by a person the child knows, and often, a trusted person in the circle that the child LIKES. It is rarely a stranger but we always focus on the “stranger danger” when the sad thing is the most dangerous people to children are their own parents, and their own circle of adults. Sobering thought. As a victim of childhood abuse within my own family, I know this intimately.

  8. avatar Roseann Murphy says:

    Janet, I am so sorry. I am so sorry on many levels. I am sorry for the devastating breach of trust..for the shocking betrayal on his part.
    I read your article and had to walk away for a moment. This is one of those instances when our psyche is never prepared. It is out of the realm of reality…how can this be? Again I am so sorry. Some time ago T. Berry Brazelton spoke of a helpful book by Kathryn B. Hagan and Joyce Case called, “When your child has been molested- A Parent’s guide to Healing and Recovery. It was written some time ago.. I am sure you know of it…but wanted to pass it on in case. I thumbed though it again and found it soothing in some ways..and thought it might be very helpful for the parents you know and for yourself. It will take time to get over this shocking betrayal. Thinking of you and wishing you moments of calm.

  9. A very important topic when so many children are abused, shockingly some statistics have the numbers as high as 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys!
    I found Gavin DeBecker’s book Protecting the Gift to be very helpful in finding a way to deal with areas of childhood we would all rather pretend don’t exist.
    Believing that autonomy and authenticity are buffers against abuse, DeBecker asks parent’s to make sure, among other things that parents raise their children to know:
    – To honor their feelings and be vocal when they are uncomfortable.
    – Trust that their parents are strong enough to hear about any experience they have no matter how unpleasant.
    – To know that it is okay to rebuff and defy adults- adults aren’t always right.
    -That is is okay to be assertive.
    – To know how to ask for help.
    -To be able to describe their peril.
    – To trust that their parent will support them in the decisions they when they believe they are in danger- even if this means they injure someone else.
    Thanks for starting an immensely important topic.

    1. Terrific guidelines, Kelly. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  10. My heart goes out to you, I appreciate that you took the time to share your story.

    We had a situation occur with two of our children and it happened to be an older child that molested our children.

    I never considered that a child could molest another child and I am aware that children do to others what has been shown to them . As parents we try our best to protect them and teach them. We have to encourage our children to share their thoughts and listen and consider what they our saying. When my son came to me and shared what had occurred we reacted right away.

    It’s a complicated situation since it is within the family and a child was the molestor but we are happy that we listened and have taught our children “that no-one is allowed to touch their privates, as their privates are their privates”.

    1. Lisa, as I said, I feel lucky that this did not directly affect me or my family. I am so sorry that your children (and extended family) have had to deal with this issue, but it sounds like you handled it with great care and sensitivity.

  11. Hi Janet,

    Thank you for sharing your sad story. I am saddened for those directly affected and also for those indirectly affected.

    One of the things I hear in your struggle to comprehend reminds me that our minds would be more easily satisfied if things like this were strictly ‘black and white; while I perceive that in this instance, there is also a gray area – in that I mean, this sexual abuser, your friend and doctor, was not solely an awful abuser. He also had his good and truly caring qualities. Holding both those aspects of this person is so very difficult. Most of us may not be able to navigate a challenge of this magnitude. It is much easier to go rest in ‘black and white.’ It occurred to me to share an organization that may be helpful to you and others. It is called GenerationFIVE. This organization is committed to ending childhood sexual abuse within 5 generations. It was founded by a friend of mine. Here’s a link if you are interested:
    http://www.generationfive.org/

    My very best healing wishes to you and anyone affected by this person’s betrayal.

    1. Hi Sandy,

      Thanks so much for your gentle response, insights and empathy. I will definitely check out GenerationFIVE.

    2. I’m not sure I agree with the “he had his good side” comments. He was so careful and manipulative–to me it sounds like his generosity and friendliness was just part of his smoke screen that supported his habit. He must have worked really hard to perfect those skills of getting people to like and trust him. He could have sought help instead of waiting to get caught. That part sounds pretty “black” to me.

  12. I am so sorry to hear this. I can’t imagine how you must feel.

  13. This is a sad part of the world but needs to be addressed with children. Child molesters can be very charming and to be honest I probably wouldn’t know one from talking to them in polite conversation. When I had my son, there was a child molester/killer around my area that was finally caught and I kept up on the story because his victims where young boys (like my son). Anyway, this molester gave many interviews before he was executed. One sentence that stuck with me was when he said for all the parents that were reading his interview, “Please remember me and all that I had done, stop this from happening again because when you forget about me there will be others that do the same thing” (paraphrasing but main idea). My son is grown now but if I can tell parents of young kids, find a way to warn your kids about people that will hurt them because like this article shows it can be ANYONE.

  14. Janet,

    I’m sorry doesn’t seem enough to say in response to what you have shared. I can relate to your shock, pain, and struggle, as this is an issue that I have dealt with in my own life.

    I understand how difficult it is to reconcile your conflicting emotions and views of this person you trusted, who betrayed your trust, and the trust of many others. Give yourself time- it will help.

    Thank you for speaking up and speaking out about your experience, and for being brave enough and generous enough to open up a forum for conversation, and education here.

    You took the first step towards healing your own hurt and confusion, as well as that of others effected, by writing in an honest way about what happened, and sharing resources and information to educate those who care for children about ways to protect them.

    I firmly believe that the only way we can protect children from becoming victims of abuse, is by being willing to talk about, and confront this issue squarely. Silence is akin to the same kind of denial that allows for these crimes to be committed in the first place. “Maybe if we don’t talk about it, or we pretend it doesn’t exist, it won’t hurt us.”

    May you take some comfort in knowing that you are helping others by sharing your experience.

    I wish to stress to parents that child molesters are most often trusted family members, friends, neighbors, or helping professionals. It’s much more rare for a predator to be a stranger. The problem and danger doesn’t exist “out there” somewhere, but often close to home.

    There are many ways to protect children,
    and you and others have provided good pointers here. One of the very best ways to protect children from becoming victims of abuse, is to begin at birth, by practicing the kind of respectful care Magda Gerber advocated for babies.

    Babies who are cared for with respect grow into self confident little beings who do are not easy targets for child molesters, because they tend to have very good personal boundaries, and sound body and psychological integrity.

    One example of respectful care that allows babies to develop an “immunity” to child abusers is diapering in the slow, conscious way Magda taught, using the correct names for body parts, telling the baby what to expect,and not distracting him from the process.

    I remember Magda saying, “We don’t give the baby toys to play with while changing him, because we want him to pay attention. We never want to give him the message ‘Here you play with this toy, while I do something to your private parts, down here.'”

    You recently wrote a post encouraging parents to allow their children to express affection on their own terms, instead of insisting that they give hugs and kisses to relatives “on command” when they don’t want to.

    If we don’t scoop babies up from behind without their permission, or pass them around like little dolls, we also do much to give them the message from the very beginning that their bodies are their own, they have a say in what happens to them, and they don’t have to tolerate being held by someone when they don’t want to be.

    Just yesterday, I was giving 5 year old S. a bath, and I asked her to wash her genitals, and she immediately piped up, “Yes, because I’m a big enough girl to wash myself, and no one should ever touch my vagina unless I have to have a check up by the doctor, and Mommy or Daddy is with me.” She learned this because we talk with her in a natural way about these things as they come up during care giving times.

    I apologize for the long response here. It’s just that so much emotion and so many thoughts came up for me around this topic, and I really wanted to share.

    I also want to thank you again for having the courage to write about this topic. I hope that you know your words are making a positive difference in the world, and this will somehow help you to heal and find peace of mind around what has happened.

    1. Lisa, these are wonderful insights! Thank you. I wholeheartedly agree that the RIE Approach to child care fosters the attentiveness and solid personal boundaries our children need to defend against abuse. And since we can’t live in fear, because that isn’t healthy for children (or for us), the answer is to fortify our childrens’ boundaries. Treating our babies’ bodies with respect, not asking children to comply just because WE feel like holding them, or expecting them to be our “love objects” are key. The posts you refer are:

      Can Babies Love Too Much? Teaching Children To Give Affection With Respect
      ( http://dev.janetlansbury.com/2010/06/can-babies-love-too-much-teaching-children-to-give-affection-with-respect/ ) and Miven Trageser’s guest post, Protecting Our Baby When It’s Easier Not To (http://dev.janetlansbury.com/2010/07/protecting-our-baby-when-its-easier-not-to-guest-post/ )

    2. avatar Juliette Aiyana says:

      When I was growing up (I am 42 now) kids were taught to fear strangers. The “stranger danger” philosophy kept the conversation closed about what you posted, Lisa, the truth that this type of abuse is most commonly perpetrated by people we know. As a health care practitioner 99% of the childhood abuse cases that I hear about in my patient’s history confirms this sad statistic. Our son is 4.5 and now and then I bring up conversation about who can and can’t touch his genitals and other places but this post from Janet tells me that it is time for a more straight forward conversation. I could totally see my innocent son also thinking something was game. Thanks everyone for sharing about this.

    3. Lisa – I really appreciate the quote from Magda about attention during diapering. I teach this style of routine care in all of my workshops. Amazing how most adults have never considered the connection between those routine diaper changes and the lifelong skills of assertiveness and self-respect.

      Janet – thank you for sharing such a powerful story. We have missed the mark a bit as a society by focusing so much on the danger of strangers – what most children think of when we talk about “stranger danger” are big scary monsters, and most children who are victimized are done so at the hands of someone deeply trusted by the child and parents. The biggest gift we can give our children is a stong voice over their needs and a clear line about who is in charge of their bodies (them!). I am so sorry you are having to deal with this very yucky situation. I believe people who grow up to abuse children themselves have a very tumultuous journey. Not that this excuses anything, of course. But I do believe people are made up of good and bad – I don’t think all of your wonderful memories with this man are nullified by these horrendous actions. I have had a similar struggle within my family. I discovered (after 26 years) systematic abuse present in my immediate family. I had 26 years (my whole lifetime) to affirm how wonderful, gentle, caring, and considerate this person was, only to find out everything I believed was thrown into question. What I have landed on is that it is possible for my memories and emotional experiences with this person to be true and genuine *and* for this person to be the perpetrator of abuse. For me, this quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is helpful: “”The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.” Sending my love, Emily

  15. I was an abused child, and the unfortunate reality is that at least 25% of your female readers were as well. I went through years of abuse, while some of them were subjected to only one instance. The most recent stat I’ve heard is that 1 out of every 4 women will be sexually molested once (or more) before they turn 18. I don’t know the stats for boys, but I’m guessing it’s more common than we think, and the impact can last for a lifetime.

    This isn’t something people like to talk about. It’s something we’d like to think won’t happen to us, but almost all sexual abuse happens at the hands of a trusted adult. Get real, parents. Realize that this is absolutely a possibility- at school, at church, at the chiropractor, etc. I don’t advocate living in fear, but I also don’t advocate living in ignorance. This is something you need to talk to your kids about; they need to know that you are a safe place. They need to know what appropriate affection looks like and when it’s not OK.

    Thank you for posting this- it might be taboo, but it’s a reality in our world and we need to deal with it.

  16. The shocking statistics are 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. We all know someone… We just don’t know it. Darkness to Light is a national program that offers training to all adults on preventing sexual abuse in children. The training is 7 simple steps and the results are powerful. You can find a local facilitator or to take the training online, go to http://www.d2l.org... The awareness this training brings is very helpful to pick up the subtle signs!

  17. Janet…you have written a tremendously important post here. Most children are abused by people they, and their families, know and trust and most children never tell. It’s crucial for adults to know what sexual abuse is, how it happens, how they can prevent, recognize and react responsibly to it. Thank you for sharing this and giving your readers a first-hand account of how shocking it is to realize that someone you thought you knew had a side you never saw.
    I encourage everyone to check out Darkness To Light’s website and their outstanding, award-winning child sexual abuse prevention training, Stewards of Children: http://www.DarknessToLight.org.
    Thank you.

  18. I don’t know what to say. This is sad on so many levels. I wish we as a society understood why this behavior was so prevalent. 25% ?? unthinkable, yet we very much need to think and talk about it.

  19. Janet,

    I used to work as the Community Educator for a sexual assault prevention organization. In my experience most kids don’t tell for several reasons: fear, embarrassment, thinking it was their fault and they did something for this to happen, no one will believe them, or because it was done by a friend or family member.

    Boys are even less likely to tell for the added reason that they are so afraid people will find out and will think they are gay. They often will blame themselves for what happened, because are also taught to be strong and to stick up for themselves.

    I also experienced this as a child and never told anyone. I happened to see the perpetrator out in public once when I was about 18 and I had everything I could do not to bash his skull in. I finally told my grandmother that night about what this guy did to me. She said “Oh heavens, Mr. Soandso would never have done that.”

    This low % of unreporting will never change unless we talk with our kids at a young age and teach them that it is never their fault when this happens and to tell someone they trust about it. Of course then it’s on us to believe our children. You’d be surprised how often that doesn’t happen still today.

    1. Chris, I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. I’m a little sad and lost for words at the moment, but THANK YOU for bravely sharing. Wonderful that you have volunteered to educate families about this heartwrenching topic. Thanks for the reminder about the importance of talking openly and reassuringly to our children.

      (Chris shared more thoughts about child abuse on his blog Stay At Home Dad In Lansing: http://sahdinlansing.com/please-be-aware-of-child-abuse-awareness-month/ )

  20. avatar anonymous says:

    Than you for posting this. I am 35 and have been struggling with talking about the abuse I suffered as a kid. First, to read this, makes me think and gives me some strength about being open. Second, I am horrified by what I have read because of my two little ones. Recently there was a man who was a part of our church community that admitted to his wife that he had molested his adopted daughter. After it happened everyone had the reaction of “I knew it” because of the kind of man he was…which is to say creepy. To think of someone that we know and trust is something else entirely, and frankly worries me. To be on guard seems to be the most important thing we can do. I am sorry for what has happened here, and makes me sad. Thanks for posting this as I think it needs to be discussed among parents more openly.

  21. Oh my gosh Janet. This is honestly one of my worst fears, I’m sure one of all our worst fears as parents. Thank you for your bravery in sharing and I’m sorry for your loss of a friend.

    I appreciate your sharing in hopes of bringing awareness to us as parents. We really do need to make sure we talk to our children and keep communication open.

    1. @Melissa_DrMom @KissesFromDolce @amoment2think @Caroline @Rachel @Lisa @Tracy D. @Erica @trippingmom @JennaGlatzer, Thank you!!!!!

  22. While I was reading, I started feeling nervous and I could sense fear within. Somehow, the fact of reading about such a difficult issue made me feel it could happen to my kids too. I worked in schools and the fact of child abuse is not a surprise for me but every time I come in touch with this information I feel some sort of shock. I do notice I tend not to want to talk about it which might not be that good. Your post and some of the comments I came to read (I followed the hero project link too) helped me today morning after breakfast to talk more clearly to my kids, pointing out two important things: no one, even a known and dear person, can touch them inappropriately (I was quite specific here) and second one was they can trust mum and dad to speak up if something like this happens. No secrets are kept, even if the person wants to convince them that way. I guess I´ll have to talk about this periodically. I know my challenge is avoiding infusing my own fear and not tending to avoid the subject because of that.

    1. Fernanda, I love the way you share your thought process, and so honestly, too. My sister told me that she said to her sons from preschool age, “No one is allowed to touch the parts your bathing suit covers”, which I thought was a very good description. Like I said, I didn’t do this myself and wish I had. I feel extremely lucky that my family’s been spared from dealing directly with this issue.

  23. Well Janet- I am one of literally thousands of mothers whose children were abused by a father- When we went for divorce to rid ourselves from continued abuse- we lost custody. We, and the children, are not believed by those entrusted with our -“protection”.

  24. Hi, Janet. I told you I would be by. This is a very hard topic for me to comment on because I cannot give a non-bias opinion. I was abused by my stepfather. I don’t know how young it started, I know my earliest memories are before I even started school and it continued until the end of Elementary school. I do not feel child abusers deserve any understanding. Illness or not, the amount of grooming and planning that goes into this requires a lot of thought. They know it is wrong, that’s why they are sneaky and secretive. But that’s not what I want to say. I want to say this: Mothers, please, believe your children when they confide in you. Even if you think “There’s no way!”. Don’t make your baby suffer years more abuse after she worked up all her courage to tell you once. I’m not sure I will ever “recover” from what I went through, but I know that I take extreme measures to make sure my children stay safe. People harass me for being way to over protective, but I know what dangers are lurking, first hand.

    1. Thank you for bravely sharing your experience. It is good for me to hear your perspective because I’m still trying to digest the situation and figure out how I should feel.

      “I do not feel child abusers deserve any understanding. Illness or not, the amount of grooming and planning that goes into this requires a lot of thought. They know it is wrong, that’s why they are sneaky and secretive.” This helps me identify with the victim’s point-of-view. Again, thank you. And I wholeheartedly agree that we must trust and believe our children. From what I am learning it is extremely difficult for our children to talk about abuse. I applaud you for protecting your kids!

  25. Janet-
    what a timely post for me to read, close to the holidays. My mother is a bright charming, emotionally abusive person. I have not let her meet my son yet ( he is 10 mo old ) because I am afraid. I don’t want him to experience any toxic energy, don’t want my family to experience any backlash, don’t want to be hurt again.
    I have done a TON of personal work around this issue, and still my decision to keep my son away from his grandmother does not sit easy with me. I read the post Protecting Your Children When Its Easier not to, and it has really stayed with me.
    I think the single most harmful message abusers give their victims is “don’t trust yourself.” children especially are told, in a variety of ways, that “no, it really is ok.” which brings me to my 2 main comments to you: boundaries are an important theme. Abusers have screwy ones, and usually teach their vics some form of ‘keep the secret.’
    As i ponder boundaries, I realize they are about divisions: this is ok, that isn’t. This line can be very, very subtle, and I believe it instinctive in kids. We all know when a boundary has been crossed, though. Boundaries are also about how to act. This is where the parent’s teaching comes in.
    Abusers have been abused, the vast majority of the time. They have been taught that the world is comprised of 2 groups: perpetrators and victims, powerful and powerless, winners and losers. There is also often an inability to hold inner tension, to tolerate anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings.
    A relationship with darkness is my other main point. The ability to acknowledge and be with one’s own dark side, without acting it out, is not very valued in our culture. We would much rather deny its existence. The truth is, I, you, everyone has a side to us that is shadow, often holding anger, pain, fear. Where shadow/ darkness starts is influenced by culture, family history etc. For me personally, my darkness is my rage. I am a bit like an alcoholic in that I can’t go into the equivalent of bars or hang out with ‘drinking buddies.’ Your posts,
    and RIE philosophy, have really helped me honor my own boundaries. I have been terrified of following in my mother’s steps. Valuing feelings has really been transformative for me.
    And also helped my family. My son gets aggressive when he is very hungry or tired. I don’t judge him or his needs; i verbalize. I think maybe you’re hungry, let’s try feeding you. RIE has taught me that.
    I have been taking my son to Lee F’s group for 7 months. She told me about your blog, and it has been a tremendous support. I often read and re read blogs in the middle of the night for encouragment and inspiration. Thank you for being there.
    Your chiropractor friend also has some very dark darkness. Caring, spiritual…. and abusive. Maybe that will help you come to some inner reconciliation. I wish I could elaborate on this, but my boy’s awake!
    Warmly,
    penny

    1. Penny, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experience with these issues, and so eloquently, too. This makes sense to me: “I think the single most harmful message abusers give their victims is “don’t trust yourself.” I can imagine that the other effects of abuse on a child, like shame, guilt, and fear could be healed, but the loss of basic trust in oneself must be extremely hard to shake.

      Yes, we must teach our children, beginning when they are infants, that they are worthy of respect. Babies must have boundaries, too, and they need us to prove to them that they do. The fact that they cannot tell us what they are feeling means that we must be even more aware — hyper-aware — of their point-of-view, their signals, so that we don’t allow others to cross that invisible line.

      I LOVE what you say about acknowledging our “darkness” rather than denying it. I honestly believe we could put therapists out of business if we were all allowed to cry, scream and thrash about (safely) whenever we needed to; if our parents could allow us that release and assure us that there was nothing wrong with us for even our most outrageous, inappropriate-seeming emotional reactions. Children don’t get upset or angry, or even say, “I hate you!” to hurt us. They are in pain, and they need us to hold steady and allow them to express it.

      I’m so glad you found Lee Fernandez. Wow, you have a lot of wisdom to share, thank you! Your boy is blessed to have such a thoughtful, insightful, compassionate mom!

      Warm wishes,
      Janet

    2. Thank you so much for this post. I have the same inner darkness you do, of rage, which is part of why I devote an awful lot of time to aware, positive parenting. To not repeat the same cycle. Your mother sounds very similar to mine, except add in sexual and physical abuse. She has not seen my child in a year. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

      I agree with everything you wrote about boundaries. It has only been living with a partner who has never been abused, and who has very clear boundaries, have I finally got a sense of where the lines are, because I was taught to ignore and to stifle my own feelings from a young age.

      I am going to check out that video you posted, it sounds like a great resource to watch and pass on. My other friends who are victims of incest and abuse from family really struggle. I feel lucky that I have been able to maintain such clear boundaries with my mother (no contact) but it is SO VERY HARD. It got to the point where I felt like I was going to have to get restraining order, as she continued to bring her husband who molested me to MY HOUSE even after we asked her not to. And also, they are alcoholics, so it sounds like we have a lot in common.

      I am so sorry for what you’ve experience, but that you for the insights, and please stay strong in your gut feelings around protecting your child. I find it easier as my child ages. Easier and easier. But it was still the hardest thing I ever did, really. I miss my mother, regardless of the things she did. Everyone has good things about them, and she is my mother. It takes enormous strength to continue to hold my boundaries but it is getting easier– and when I look at my son, who is growing up in a violence and alcohol-free home– it gets even easier to remember why I have made the choices I made. I get a lot of condemnation for being “too harsh” from some of my family. But nothing is “too harsh” when it comes to protecting my baby. And the thing is, through protecting him, I am learning to protect myself for the first time. And why it was important in the first place. Breaking the cycle of abuse is a powerful act. We didn’t deserve the abuse we experienced.

      Now, the darkness… I have some experience with this… The rage is a problem for me, something I feel cursed with and carry, but something I can never ignore… I feel you and it is hard to overcome.

      At first I resolved to never raise my life or lose my temper. Well, I did okay with that until my son hit toddler years. I did lose my temper and I did yell, and so I sought therapy.

      I learn a lot from therapy. I stay vigilant. I recognize my own darkness and my capacity to be abusive if not kept in check. One of the worst part of being a victim of so much abuse is anger that comes, and the patterns of relating it leaves. Because you know exactly how it feels to be on the receiving end. So to add struggling with it yourself as a mother seems so cruel. I never want to make my son feel the way my mother made me feel.

      Nobody is perfect and cut yourself slack. If you rage (and I am assuming it is verbally, here, without physical violence– if you are violent, please get immediate help), explain to your child that you lost your temper, that it happens sometimes, that they are safe and it is not their fault. I have had less than perfect parenting moments, especially when most sick with PTSD.

      My therapist taught me how to directly address this with my son. When I do or say something that is inappropriate or comes from my past (in anger), I always sit my son down and explain that it is not right, and that I am sorry, and it is not his fault. It is not nearly as good as not doing it in the first place, but I have learned to be less hard on myself but also to be very accountable. I have also learned how to see my own rages coming and head them off before they cause damage to my son. Support and counseling is critical. Our families did not do that, but we can. Another thing that my therapist taught me re: emotional abuse is: it is not so much that you yell, but WHAT you yell. Aiming for not yelling at all is unrealistic, sometimes I do yell (much less often than I feared, thankfully!) and I have learned to replace the abusive things my mother and family would say with more appropriate language. For example, if I really must yell, I have trained myself to yell, “That is enough! I have lost my patience. I have to take a time out.” Then I set my child down in a safe place and I leave until my anger abates. I come back as soon as I am calm and say, “I lost my temper. I left you until I calmed down. I have calmed down and I am sorry if you felt scared. I do not want to yell.” Then we hug or otherwise resolve the incident.

      I had very high expectations of myself because I did not want to be like my mother, but I have come to see that sometimes I will yell even if I really do not want that to be part of his life. I think I am doing pretty good in making sure my messages are not about HIM (“You are bad”, “I hate you”, “You make me so angry” etc), but about me or the situation (“I am frustrated!”, “I need a time-out!”, “This behaviour is not okay!”, etc, and to use a time out (for myself) to regain my composure, and then to apologize immediately if one is warranted. Also to notice and validate my son’s feelings if he has been subjected to my anger, “When I lost my temper, I saw you were scared. I do not want to scare you. I am sorry you were scared.” Or, one night he woke up while my husband and I were having a very big argument, and cried. I went back to all the times I would wake in the night to the sound of domestic violence. We stopped fighting immediately, and I went into his room, and picked him up to calm him. I said, “You could hear Dad and I shouting. We had an argument. You are upset so I will hold you tight. You are safe here. We love each other and you, even if we were shouting. I am sorry I woke you up. I will help you go back to sleep. We will not be loud again tonight. You are safe and we love you.” It is not perfect, but it is the best I have sometimes.

      Anyway, it’s hard for me to admit that I struggle sometimes, but it is worthwhile to address, because this is the way I have avoided using emotionally abusive language even when I have lost my temper, and how I mitigate those times when I have less than perfect relational skills or the stress is high. I am currently going through the justice system against an abuser and sometimes I AM very angry and upset. Sometimes I DO take it out on my husband. Sometimes I AM unreasonably angry at the world. Those are things I cannot necessarily change, but I think it is important that we always stay vigilant and acknowledge our own “darkness” or it will never change. I am not proud about yelling or lashing out at my husband, but I am proud of the way that I deal with it with my son, and the more you force yourself to face it square-on, the less it happens because as you focus on your child, you are also talking to your own inner child, and reprogramming yourself, in the process.

      Another thing that helps me when I am feeling very frustrated and may lean toward aggression (like during really specatucular tantrums and the like), is to repeat in my head, “Gentle hands. Gentle hands.” I focus on my hands and I think of them as “soft and firm”. I deliberately slow down my body so that I am not hurting my son when I have to move him or restrain him if necessary. I remember the pain of being physically abused. I keep my nails short so as to not hurt him with my nails if I must hold him, and I keep my hands soft and firm and gentle.

      I like RIE for that, for the focus on thinking about what your hands are projecting. What message are my hands sending? Are they sending rage or reassurance?

      It takes a lot of work, daily check-ins, therapy, support, etc. It is so worth it if you are survivor who copes with anger yourself. I hope this rather long post helps some, as I hear in your words my own struggle with anger as a result of my upbringing. The best thing a person can do is to keep talking about it, even if it is embarrassing or hard to face! So kudos to you for admitting your own struggle and I wish you many blessings.

      We are ALREADY not our mothers.

      1. That is an amazing and eloquent response, Sophia.

        I think that I and my mother, and my sons have the tiniest elements of that – being denied autonomy as a child and dealing with resentment and ‘temper tantrums’ as an adult, and seeing the same signs in my sons.

        Your post has helped me a lot in thinking about how to handle these ‘darknesses’ in all our personalities, to avoid near-abuse from my mum and to avoid any tendencies towards verbal/emotional abuse that I have – the darkness buried inside, and … perhaps most importantly … to learn myself and to teach my sons how to handle our darker personality traits to keep everyone safe.

        Thank you, Helen

    1. Thank you for sharing your article. It’s wonderful! And I really appreciate your advice to me.

    2. Hi Janet.

      I second Maggie’s wishes for you: that you can find peace, in the face of the guilt and confusion you feel at having loved, and for perhaps still caring about, a friend who betrayed trust in him. You write of his kind and generous qualities in the past tense, as though he died when you learned of his damaging, brutal acts against children.

      Your writing is infused with powerful loss. I wish you acceptance of all your own feelings, including the grief you feel for the loss of your trust in your friend.

      1. E, this is so lovely. Thank you. You are right about my feelings of loss. How wonderful you are to have such insight and empathy. I appreciate your wishes to me so much.

  26. What a story. Thanks for sharing. I can understand the shock you feel, and it certainly comes through in this story. My husband is much more cautious than I am in terms of who we leave the children with. After reading this I think I’ll be more cautious as well.

  27. I was forwarded your site by a dear friend, only yesterday. I am the mother of an amazing one year old little girl. She is the light of my life, a gift.

    I have been taking in every article and piece of information you have to share. It is exactly what I needed to find, at exactly that right time. I believe that everything happens for a reason.

    In addition to being a parent, I am an assaulted women and children\’s advocate.

    Myself and my husband are both survivors of childhood trauma and speak nationally to a wide range of organizations of the affects of abuse in our communities. We also have a non-profit that offers education and outreach to those wishing to learn more about abuse and it\’s prevention.

    I wanted to post here to commend you for writing about your experience and for bringing it to the attention of other parents. I can tell you, with confidence, that you are not alone and that your feelings, as mixed as they are, are very natural.

    There is a much longer conversation that can take place, but perhaps does not lend itself to this comment area.

    I hope that you will continue to speak about it and lend your thoughts to open the minds of others in the community.

    I am glad I found this space.

    I encourage you to check out our sites.

    We are here to help.

    http://www.chrisandophelia.com
    http://www.womenspeakoutnow.com

    1. Hi Ophelia,

      I can’t thank you enough for reaching out to me and for your kind words of support and encouragement. I’m honored… and I’m looking forward to checking out your sites! And thank you most of all for the extremely valuable work you are doing for children and their families.

      (Just looked and read…wow…beautiful!)

      1. You’re very welcome. I am so happy to have found you and your site. I look forward to keeping in touch. Feel free to contact me, should you want to chat further to your post.

  28. Just the other day I was at the dailystrength.org site. There is a support group for those who have pedophiles as family members.

    As for me I was sexual abused by a grade4 or 5 student when I was in grade one(1). It involved being fondled. I fondled in return as a means of attempting to keep from being hurt more than “needed” to be the case. But in reality I did not “need” to be hurt at all. I was taught before the abuse that gentlemen don’t touch ladies and that nudity was stupid. Since parents would not lie I was no way going to tell them I fondled the genitals of a grade 4/5 male student. If touching women was so bad imagine admitting to touching a boy in unimaginable ways….until they became reality. My parents could no way distinguish between extremely bad behavior on my part and acts to attempt to survive such a horrible experience done multiple times. Could they? i was in my early fifties before I brought it up to my Mom, because she had no parental authority over me.
    She did discuss the reality of childhood sexual abuse, after the above experiences were experienced. These experiences affected so much of my adult life that it is unbelievable; from excessive nervousness and anxiety to sexual fantasies and being bisexual today. I have forgiven the abusers and I’m now fighting the power that childhood sexual abuse anxiety has over my life. And am more peaceful than ever in my life which I don’t take for granted.
    What is the right age to talk about childhood sexual abusers (pedophiles)? IMHO there is no such age as too young. Pedophiles , in some cases, go after children as young as three(3) years of age! It sounds too late to think warning these victims at the age of five years of age is doing them any good. They already know more about pedophiles than you can tell them. They are the real experts even if they are afraid to talk about it!

  29. avatar Kent Ecklund says:

    “Will they heal this wound and trust their instincts again?” You’re a genius. They need help to do that. Help from a child psychologist. I used to play saxophone in the Glen Roberts big band. Glen was a child psychologist. They still play at Viva Fresh in Burbank Wednesday nights. He’s retired now as a child psychologist but his clinic in Glendale lives on.

    This is one of your darker blogs but a very important one. Please let me start by saying that I met your mother many times and I thought she was the best. And when I was a security guard and a background actor at Universal, I worked on Murder She Wrote many times. It was a kick seeing your Aunt work. One afternoon the shoot went all night, you know how that is.

    I want to post my experiences and views on this horrible subject because maybe it will help. It’s so horrible we want to believe it doesn’t happen…but it does. And do the victims recover? I’m not so sure. This is why it’s important to see the molester as a fraud. I’m not a psychologist but in my opinion the molester is living two lives…the sick one and the cover-up job that seems lovable. Don’t fall for it. A young life is at stake. A molester is %100 guilty even if they seem charming. You were lied to. You gotta get mad and get justice. The molester must register and tell everyone in the neighborhood. Because….back in the 1960’s when I was a kid, my friend was molested by a strong, dominant homosexual. My friend didn’t tell anyone about it, and the molester went free, possibly to molest others. It wasn’t until years later that my friend told me this, and the molester had moved away.

    If I had a child I would stay with it all the time. I wouldn’t trust anyone, but of course you and ECE staff. Damage may last forever. In 1995 I started living with my girlfriend who would occasionally re-tell the story of how her uncle fondled her repeatedly when she was just a little kid and she was so young she didn’t really know what was going on and she didn’t tell her parents because her uncle told her not to. Well….our ten year relationship ended with her trying to cheat me out of half the house that we were buying together. The thought occurred to me that she was trying to make me pay for what her uncle did.

    When I was a security guard in the early 2000’s at a 300 unit apartment building in Woodland Hills, the tenants would sometimes sublet to sex offenders. This is how a sex offender can get away with not registering. They rent from a renter and therefore don’t have to fill out a rental form with the manager. Well… it became my job to control this. I found the site on the Internet, Megan’s Law, http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/ To my total astonishment! Total astonishment! I found that there were sex offenders living on every block in Woodland Hills. They were everywhere! I met some face to face. It’s really weird. I know how you must be feeling, but you and your loving husband, in my humble opinion, must dismiss the molester as a lying, two faced fraud and move on with your lives. You know the saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Everyone was fooled by the molester the first time but it’s over. No more. Finito.

    Let me end by saying I dig your writing style. I like reading it because it’s so wholesome and optimistic. I really wish my life had been that way but my life has been more like a Charles Bukowski story except I only drink with meals and I’m a vegetarian. “a slideshow of once pleasant images now viewed through a distorted lens,” that’s great stuff. You two will be okay because it’s your job to protect those little ones.

    — Kent

  30. I so appreciate your post. I imagine that just getting it out brings some clarity for you.
    I’ve had a similar experience recently and share many of your thoughts. The hardest part for me is seeing the humanity behind the perpetrator. Seeing all that I couldn’t know, and that means letting go of my assumptions. It’s hard to go on trusting after something like this. You may start to second guess people’s charm for fear of it being grooming. But let’s go deeper… Let’s not assume that this man was always acting kindly simply to gain trust to hurt children. Let’s assume that like all humans he was still kind for real reasons, such as that we all want unconditional love.
    I think media has taught us to think in black or white terms when it comes to pedophiles. But surely there is so much more to this man than his crime. I don’t say this to ease his violations but to bring mindfulness to the victims.

  31. What a great article. I wish you had put the statistic at the top. My son was molested at his daycare. He told me within a day of it happening and for the horrible word molestation is, it was fairly benign. Another boy touched his private parts. The school reacted horribly. Took him in a room ALONE, told him he was a liar, told me if it was happening other kids would complain, then a week later told me I was right and my son was right and they were sorry. I’ve also worked with abused children and very few report to parents. Why did my son tell me? We’ve talked about abuse but I don’t think that was it. I think its because I’ve never told my son not to tattle. I’ve never made him feel badly for telling me anything though if its a lie, which it is sometimes, I’ll pick that up and ask, is that really what happened? I mostly listen, ask how he felt and tell him how I would feel. And I let him know I will do everything to keep him safe. He trusts ME.

  32. This is a sad truth. One most people had a very hard time excepting. I worked in domestic violence and rape crisis services for 10 years before becoming a mom. Usually, those who suffered from child abuse were the victims of family friends, and primarily their own family members. Many times it was uncles who took advantage of the children, but I’ve heard women and girls tell me some stories that included closer family members.

    As a mother, I don’t want to be afraid of my family or society, but I do want to protect my children. I feel that the best thing for me to do is to teach them to its okay say no and their right to be heard, what is and is not okay, and to build a relationship of trust.

    I had a coworker in the rape crisis center whose daughter was drugged and raped. Because of the relationship she built with her, and the fact that she knew her mother was understanding about the subject, she did feel comfortiable telling her what had happened. This allowed my coworker to get her the help she needed to heal.

    Thank you so much for posting this. It is a rough discussion to have, but people need to realize that these things happen in every community regardless of race or class or spiritual zeal. As women and children, we are more vulnerable when we allow the silence of such trauma drown out the conversations that need to be had.

  33. I had a similar experience recently when I googled a friend to send a thank you note. I saw he was a registered sex offender. He had to go every year to have a picture taken evidently. I still don’t know how to handle this information. He is a married friend I see a few times a year. It was a few months ago I found this information and so far I have just avoided the topic. I don’t know how much this concerns me. Certainly I won’t leave my children alone with him (never had) but do I need to end this friendship? I don’t know anything about the situation. Do I forgive? Is that the Christian thing? It’s been much on my mind over these past few months.

  34. I was molested as a child by the husband of my mother’s best friend. I didn’t tell my parents for two simple reasons: (1)I was horribly ashamed of what happened. I was 10 years old and terrified by the whole thing and (2)I had the strong suspicion that my parents would be furious and I wanted to protect them. That may sound strange to some but I was afraid that they would be hurt — that my mother and her friend would be hurt and that my father would react angrily and might end up getting sent to jail for assaulting the man involved.
    The curious thing about the abuse was that at a certain point, it occurred to me that the abuser might go after my brothers and that made me angry. I sought him out and, to his surprise, told him that if he EVER approached my brothers or me again, I would kill him. He was stunned to say the very least… but he never bothered me again. Somehow my fear for my brothers translated into a very fierce anger and that anger was convincing. Now I have children of my own and while I haven’t gone into graphic detail with them, I have explained that NO ONE has a right to touch them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable, that if anyone tells them ‘not to tell your mommy or daddy’ that is a cue to tell us immediately and that they need to know that they have the right to say ‘stop’ to anything that frightens them — and that includes things happening at the doctor’s office. Yes, at the doctor’s office. I have actually backed them up there — told the nurses to stop and then talked my children through the importance of what is happening. But I want them to feel safe, to know that they have the right to call quits… and that has to includes places like the doctor and the dentist.

    Just my two cents.

  35. Thank you so much for this article alerting parents and educators to the real possibilities of child sexual abuse. Education is key! Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is an ideal picture book to educate kids. Written by me for the purpose of educating both kids, parents and teachers. Our website has a large amount of information. Thank you once again for your article. it will be shared on our FB site.
    http://www.somesecrets.info

  36. tell children, Any part of your body covered by a bathing suit is off limits for touching.this is easy for children to understand. Good touches make you feel good and happy,touches make you feel sad and yucky.if a grownup makes you feel uncomfortable tell your mom and dad.

    Adults: make sure never to even give the impression that you were doing something wrong to a child.you can accomplish this byleaving the bathroom door open when you help a child with toileting.change baby’s in full view of others in the room.teach children as soon as possible to be independent in the bathroom.Caregivers are not allowed to help childrenin the bathroom unless there is a big mess,once the child is potty trained.

    Janet,don’t beat yourself up about this.people who are good at covering up child abuse will not be suspected/caught sometimes for years.most of the time people who commit these crimes,have many redeeming qualities.it is sad that you have to end the friendship.remember the good times and the good that he has provided in your life.good people sometimes do despicable things.

  37. Thanks for the post, as difficult as it was to write it. I intend speaking to my two daughters (4 and 6). Does anyone perhaps have practical guidelines on how to have the conversation with one’s kids in a way that doesn’t create anxiety, etc?

  38. avatar Anonymous says:

    Abusers are master manipulators. They are often very well loved and popular because they need to be in order to find victims. It’s difficult to reconcile with because you need to accept you were fooled and that the person you believed to be so good – never was. These abusers need to be loved and liked in order to feed their perversions and addictions. So they are incredibly incredibly good at winning favour and gaining popularity. It’s also the best protection they can set up for themselves because when they get caught they rarely have to defend themselves because they have so many people that love them and do it for them (and think of excuses for them). The people end up protecting them and being their best alibi and hiding spot because so many vouch for them. This is what makes it so hard for the few brave souls that do speak up against them because they are shunned or disbelieved.

    Victim blaming happens (way way too much) because these predators are so good at creating a community of people who love them, because so few want to believe they were fooled, because so few want to accept they were wrong about someone because it is a very scary notion – to realize how easily you can be fooled and charmed. Abusers aren’t good people, they are good at social games and manipulations, they are amazing at reading and using social cues because it is essential for them to be successful and to feed their perversions. Every “good” thing they do for the community or others are driven by a long term goal of getting what they want. None of their “good” actions are done out of goodness, it’s selfish manipulation to get what they want – as in this case access to children. It’s a very difficult concept to wrap once mind around precisely because you aren’t capable of such manipulation and abuse.

    I unfortunately had to live this. I married a pedophile/sex addict/serial cheater without knowing (I found out about the cheating when I was pregnant with our son, only after divorcing him I found out about the rest; his sex addictions/perversions and pedophile tendencies. It has been incredibly hard). I had no clue. None. A man I knew decades was a monster. He was nothing he portrayed in life. Nothing. I was blindsided and fooled and I am not a weak/unintelligent/gullible fool (although he has made me feel like one). He had so many dark secrets and a double life and even though people victim blame and think: “If it was true there would’ve been more signs” – there wasn’t BECAUSE THEY ARE SO EXCELLENT AT HIDING IT because they bargain on the goodness of people to belief in their goodness. It is shocking and earth shattering when you are faced with the truth. Denial is natural because it’s a defense mechanism in the shock of losing the grasp on the reality you were living compared to the actual reality – you were living with a monster disguised as an awesome human being. How could you not have known? Because the scary fact is they are that good at using people. I am now divorced and most people believe I am a vindictive revengeful ex-wife and liar. They are defending my ex husband and comforting him from the “evilness” that is me despite me having substantial proof. (Thus the second point in your linked article of 8 myths hit particularly close to home for me)

    Victim blaming: people much rather believe he is good and I am awful than face the fact that they were also fooled – just as I were. It’s easier to make me a villain than having to give up on their “awesome” and “caring” friend… If only they would learn from my trauma and protect themselves because he is indeed the biggest danger they’ll ever face, they’ll ever expose their children to and they refuse to see or believe it. Denial is a powerful thing, raising awareness is the best weapon against it so thank you for your article Janet. I know how much confusion and turmoil it can cause to find out a loved one isn’t who you believed them to be. It does not reflect on you, it does not make you a bad person for having loved him. It makes him all the more dangerous for being able to make people love him.

    Hope this jumble of words made sense. I post anonymously because I have to protect myself and my son. I’ve had people turn violent against me for daring to burst the bubble on who my ex-husband really is. Some people just cannot cope and won’t face that someone they cared for is dangerous and unfortunately they’d go to extreme measures to keep up the believe and protect the abuser even further so he can continue his reign of damage. Abusers have a significant flaw in their brains and humanity. I learned that the very hard way. They cannot and will not change. If not stopped they’ll charm the next set of people. They are truly magnificently scarily skilled at being loved. They are also immensely skilled at portraying remourse when they do not feel it AT ALL. The only remourse they ever feel is the remourse of being caught…

    I see now this is an old post. Hopefully you’ve healed from the shock of it all. For others who recently found out aboput someone close to them: Good luck with your healing and with finding the acceptance of who you thought you knew compared to who he really is. I wish I could give you advice on that but I am still working on forgiving myself for marrying such a person. At least you know. It’s my only comfort, I found out and I took action and protected my (then unborn) son. I am “lucky” in the sense that I found out in time to at least protect my son. I live with the public shunning and shaming/victim blaming because I have to protect my son whether anyone believes me or not. I know the truth. I am one of few of the lucky ones that got full custody of my son. Still people see me as the awful woman who has “taken away a son from a wonderful dad”… There are even those that know what he did but excuse it all “because he is sorry and didn’t mean to, it was a mistake/the devil/out of his control/some or other excuse”. Abuse is not a mistake. A mistake is forgetting the stove on. Abuse requires an immense series of deliberate choices and actions and lies and deceit. Abuse is a way of life, a continuous set of choices the abuser willingly and knowingly makes, it’s not a mistake! They do not feel sorrow or disgust at their behaviour, although they can put up a very good show when caught because they know once they’re forgiven they can continue their awful habits.

    This topic has unfortunately become a very real reality in my life and I so understand your shock and struggle with reconciliating your experience of a man with the reality of his deception and perversions.

  39. I’m sorry to read that this happened! We definitely assume that it can’t happen to us.

  40. Thank you for sharing your story. It is one that is so difficult to hear, yet we must face what could happen to our children.
    I am in the healing world, and devote my life in helping others.
    It makes me sick to think that people like him choose this path with such a disturbing agenda. Of course he knew exactly how to establish trust, love and care.
    It is sad beyond words that in this society we have come to distrust so much, even people who are supposed to be mentors, healers, helpers, doctors, teachers.

  41. avatar Alethea Guthrie says:

    Welcome to reality. I am so grateful you have awakened….because it is unawareness, and wanting to “feel good” all the time with ‘feel-good stories’ that keeps children at risk.

    Be the bearer of bad news! Stir it up! Be bold and spread the truth about child sexual abuse. Talk about it, educate yourself about it. Children cannot be helped, and predators will never be stopped, if people don’t come out of their comfort zone.

    First off, stop using words like “incomprehensible” and “unimaginable” with regards to child sexual abuse.

    Next:

    Child molesters are NOT “spiritual.” If they were, they would not be sexually abusing and raping children.

    Watch out about thiinking that nothing is happening to a child if the child does not balk or protest being with the person, or if they child seems to enjoy their company…WATCH OUT about that, because untold numbers of sexual abusers make their victims feel special, loved, paid attention to, and often give them gifts and money.

    Many many children are sexually stimulated by the offender and will not associate the acts with negatuive feelings. Children’s bodies respond because they are biologically wired that way. It’s not their fault, but adults need to get this fact….as uncomfortable as it is to hear.

    “She liked making up stories” should be changed to “parents like to THINK their child is making up stories about a trusted, nice, caring person who does the parents favors.

    The two personas you saw of this man was more than likely his technique….gain trust of the community and parents, gain their support through finanical favors, and look “spiritual” so no one will suspect.

    Watch out for your feelings of empathy for this man. You are wrapped up in your your own betrayl. Watch out because it is this very mind-set that causes friends of child abusers to sit on their side in court, to write the judge and ask for leniancy, to minimize the sexual acts against CHILDREN, and to dismiss the children’s experiences as ‘no big deal’ ‘forgive and forget’ ‘move on.’ Watch out about YOUR feelings, and instead, focus your feelings towards those who deserve them –THE INNOCENT VICTIMS.

    Will they feel remorse for sending him to prison? Why on earth do you ask this question? Maybe because YOU will feel remorseful if you support his going to prison?

    Those children will heal much easier if they are fully supported, and given no ideas about “guilt” over sending a child sexual abuser to prison. Those children need your support and the support of every person involved. They need to know that THEY are the victims, and that the offender did something that can be very damaging to children so he must go to prison so he does not re-offend.

    Child sexual abuse can destroy dreams and generate nightmares. It can cause life-long problems with sexual dysfunction, guilt-related illesses, and trust issues. But this can be healed much quicker if the community and parents don’t rally behind the ‘nice spirtual man’ who gave them free chiropractic care.

    90% of children NEVER tell ANYONE what is happening to them. Oftentimes, because the child senses the adults will defend the abuser instead of the child.

    Alethea Guthrie, Incest Survivor and advocate for children

    1. Alethea – I hear and so appreciate your passionate concern, but I don’t understand your instructions to alter the experiences and thought processes I shared in this post. The father did note, “She liked making up stories”. This was his experience and his truth. I believe it is far more helpful to readers to hear honest statements and accounts about these horrendous situations — to hear how baffling they can be for all concerned — than it is to paint these tragedies one color, criticize adults (as well as children) for their feelings and shut the door. I am sorry for your pain and can understand your anger, but you seem to wish to blast and scold, rather than help open people’s minds to this important issue.

  42. avatar Dan Brown says:

    When you experienced what you sensed as “caring” you were experiencing the con. Con men are amazingly charismatic and charming and caring people, in order to disarm you.

    1. avatar Alethea Guthrie says:

      Right on Dan Brown.

  43. avatar Nicola Gifford says:

    Wow, , what an eloquent and non-judgemental bunch of people. I’ve never seen a group like this before so have chosen to join. I’ve learned a lot from the posts but I have a question and suggestion. Parents should be aware and protective and children should be educated and confident but it’s a big burden for both, especially kids to be responsible for. So what about addressing it at the source? we need to try to be proactive in bringing up non-abusers. We need to be teaching kids that it’s not ok to touch other kids’ private parts, until they’re older and with someone their own age, consensually… any ideas on how to frame this? We need to teach them to be aware of the feelings of others. . If someone says stop, do so… if someone seems nervous or uncomfortable. .. take a step back. .. This is an important lesson in preventing date rape and domestic violence which is sooo common and such a victim-blaming topic. The burden is always placed on the victim or potential victim. How can we try and prevent perpetrators becoming just that?

  44. I just found out a man I looked at as a second father to me, as someone I trusted for over 12 years, has been arrested and is being charged with multiple counts of child pornography as well as molesting his young teenage daughter for the past 2 years. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that he is capable of something like this. I guess the FBI tore the house apart and searched for 5 hours and found CDs full of pictures of his daughter naked, pictures of children off the internet naked, videos, etc. They also found a disc mixed in with all this labeled with his older daughter’s name. She doesn’t remember him taking photos of her or anything like that, but she did catch him peeping on her in the shower when she was 16. They haven’t told her what was on the disc yet but we can only guess. I’m sick to my stomach that a man I trusted so much turned out to be someone I had no idea he was even capable of being. I feel stupid for not seeing any of it or suspecting anything. I feel like I can’t trust anyone anymore. They always seem to turn out to be not who I thought they were. Thank you for sharing your experience. People don’t realize that it’s hard on everyone that has trusted, cared for, etc. the person that is found to be doing these things.

  45. Hi Janet, thanks for sharing your delicately worded and insightful story. I apologise in advance for not having read many of the comments (too hard for me) but I would like to add my story.

    I was abused by my uncle at age 5 and 7, falsely imprisoned by him at one point and luckily not harmed enough to leave anything but psychotical scars. My parents trusted him, he was a very good friend to my dad (as well as his brother in-law). I was unaware for many years that what had happened was in any way wrong and then when I did, it took me another 8yrs to tell my parents. I had their support immediately and was not doubted. I was grateful for that.

    My parents immediately took action by removing his image from all photo albums, by contacting mutual friends and telling them, by ostracizing him completely. His family chose not to believe us and his wife, my aunt, pretended that there was no problem and defended his right to remain in the family. Things were complicated.

    I was unable to take legal action as it had taken place overseas and the legalities were beyond my financial means or energy to pursue after so many years of dealing with it emotionally.

    My parents still feel like they let me down to this day, that they should never have trusted him. I don’t blame them but I do think that there were things I said at the time (confirmed by my parents) that could have been red flags had they been more aware of this issue. I had told them I hated him, that I never wanted to see him again and that he disgusted me from an early age, things I never said about anyone else, even if I didn’t like them. I screamed hysterically when they left me with him once at age 7 – just before another episode of abuse.

    All I want to say is that although I don’t mistrust the people around me, it is more important to look for clues from our children than just to teach them ‘stranger danger’ because that’s not the main threat. And friends, parents etc, don’t beat yourselves up, hindsight is so clear but you can’t be expected to know what goes on beyond your vision.

    Love to all who have had to suffer through this, however that may be.

  46. avatar Shira Gregory says:

    Oh Janet, this is so hard. Those early days of coming to grips with this most sordid, most jarring, most horrid of violations and betrayals are so difficult, and I think it’s good that you wrote a post about it. The truth is sexual abuse against children is more terribly pervasive than anyone ever gives themselves permission to think. To some degree, how can we? It’s too awful to entertain, and we need certain psychological constructs in place in order to function. But prevalent, and growing, it is. I agree it is ESSENTIAL to have early conversations and often about awareness and safety, and to cultivate a relationship based on respect and openness early on. I am an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. I am happy to report that I lead an empowered, emotionally present and fulfilled life. I am unhappy to tell you that untangling those confusing, awful, indelible things, reteaching myself, re-configuring associations and synapses, healing in short, well, is a perpetual challenge and one I will have to struggle with the rest of my life. That’s the true crime: not just the awful incident(s) themselves, but their lasting imprint.

    What to make of these sick men? I don’t know. My abuser too, was a generous, kind, charming, funny man. And the worst of the most up to date psychological research says, like psychopaths, these men cannot be helped or cured, but must be deterred. I wish this didn’t dampen my faith in the power of transformation and the human spirit, but it seems, and I hate to even write this, even that has its limit, and it is manifest in the form of this ultimate depravity.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself for trusting him, liking him. They depend on your trust and their cultivated likeability to get away with this stuff. Make no mistake, the nature of the compulsion, like all compulsions, thrives on circumstances that feed it: in this case, the trust of adults around you. Don’t let this stop you from trusting or letting people into your circle. But DO let yourself get picky about your spidey sense: you are so on point with it in children, it’s a good use of your skills to use it with adults, truly feel out and listen to your gut. And know that trusting him did not make you COMPLICIT in this.

    I hope this helps, even if only a little.

  47. Hi Janet. I didn’t even finish your post actually. Just feeling compelled to write. I don’t know why. I think it just stirred up some stuff from my own past. You brought forward a very complicated issue that resonates with me from my childhood. And I’m glad you mentioned it. Because so many people aren’t willing to reflect on the various feelings and complexities that a victim, more importantly a child, would be experiencing. I think sometimes people just sort of put these topics away after and try to minimize how a child should feel perhaps because they feel it would make the situation worse. I am a mother now and this very issue still haunts me. My grandfather was a very kind man. Very respected, pleasant, and of course, favourited by the children. After all he was my favourite grandpa, he actually played with us kids! I know what he did to my sister and even my mother. But I’ve never shared what happened to me, only to my husband and now my children. I don’t trust anyone with my children. My gut always tells me to be very wary of any men that are overly friendly and playful with children. Even to the point that early on I even suspected my husband to be capable of molestation – but thankfully that has never been the case. Its definitely something that never goes away. And I just felt the need to share. And thank you for being open and reflecting on the issue for the many children who have been victimized.

  48. avatar SadSituation says:

    It’s been almost 4 years since I learned that a VERY close male relative was viewing images of children and sexually suggestive images of children. I can completely relate to you not knowing how to feel. I loved this relative with all my heart, but after learning his dark secret and seeing the images for myself it made me sick. I cut him from my life completely and sometimes wish he had of died, it would be easier to grieve and overcome that than knowing he is just out there alone. I have learned from his psychologist that he was never abused and has never physically abused (that we know). That he hates himself. His behaviour stemmed from childhood, going to an all boys school. He was naturally shy and always felt nervous around girls/women. As he grew it only intensified. He started going through puberty (still at an all boys school) when he thought he must be gay (because he was getting erections). He bought a magazine with girls in it to try and focus his new sexual feelings on. The girls were of legal age but were young looking. He knew he wasn’t gay but always felt there was something wrong with him because of his awkwardness around the other sex. In his early 20’s he had friends trying to set him up with girls but he was just so nervous and shy that it never worked out. After each failed set up he would look at the magazine. As he was older the pictures looked young to him now. He threw it in the bin. He felt disgusted in himself. Then the Internet came… He wouldn’t look at the photos all the time, it would be when he was depressed, at a low, after another failed interaction with a female in his age bracket. Then he would feel disgusted in himself and delete them… Until next time.
    The images I saw on his computer were mainly family type portraits (of girls between 6 &10 years). But some were sexually suggestive. They’re was no doubt what they were being used for.
    I feel like I hate him, for being a part of my life, for letting me love him, trust him. But I also feel sad for him. He has been in therapy ever since.
    I don’t think it’s something that can ever be overcome but I’m glad he’s seeing a psychologist.
    🙁

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