[Private journal entry written on Sunday, October 14, 2012 – continued from previous post]
I got up from my table and walked over to where Debbie was standing . . . I introduced myself and then said, “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but a few years ago, I met you during a child sexual assault trial . . . “
I went on to tell her about how much she had inspired me with what she said to me that day in the courthouse. I told her that, because of what she had said, I had decided at that time I would someday become an advocate . . . and that I am now in the process of making that happen . . . all as a direct result what she said to me.
As I was telling her all of that, her eyes filled with tears. When I finished speaking, she gave me a big hug and thanked me for telling her . . . she appreciated knowing that she had made a difference in my life and in my healing.
Of course, I got emotional as I was telling her all that, and even more emotional when she hugged me . . .I was all but bawling as I headed back to my seat . . .
A few minutes later, the main presentation started . . . I thought maybe my table-mates might come back to the table during the presentation, but they didn’t. I stayed at the table because I really wanted to hear the Johnsons speak . . . and, the audience was thinning out quite a bit so I wanted to support them by staying in my seat . . . and I stayed because I was very interested in what their story.
First, the two radio guys spoke a little bit, then it was the Johnsons’ turn to speak. All three of them went up on the stage together. They said that they were very nervous as none of them had much experience with public speaking, and this was the first time for any of them to publically share their story. It was pretty obvious that it was a new experience for them . . . they stumbled over their words, and their story-telling was a bit disjointed . . . but it was raw and authentic . . . and very compelling . . . very powerful.
Liz told about how her grandfather had molested her starting at age three. Then, when she was eight, she stood up to him and told him to stop. She believes that he thought she might tell someone if he didn’t stop, and that is why he stopped. She decided to not tell anyone because it was done and “over with” . . . she didn’t see any need to tell.
Then, when she was 14, she began struggling with severe depression. She was plagued with the memories of being molested and she knew she needed help. She wrote a letter to her mom, and in the letter she disclosed that someone had molested her but also stated that she couldn’t tell who it was.
She placed the letter on her bed. Then, as she hurried out the door to school – flying past her mom – she hurriedly announced that she had left a letter on her bed for her mom to read.
Her mom, Michelle, read the letter and called her husband (Liz’s dad) at work. He picked up Liz from school and brought her home so the three of them could talk about the letter. They asked her to disclose the identity of her molester, but she wouldn’t. However, the Michelle instinctively knew who it was . . . she didn’t how she knew, but she knew it was her dad (Liz’s grandfather).
So, the mom drove over to her parent’s home and, in front of her mom, she confronted her dad about what he had done to Liz. He did admit to molesting her once, but only once.
Michelle and the dad, Tom, went to the police. As part of the police investigation, Liz was questioned at the child advocacy center by specially trained forensic investigators. The investigation revealed that there had been many, many times that the grandfather had molested Liz. He was arrested and convicted for the abuse.
Michelle and Tom made sure that Liz got into therapy and Liz began her healing journey. A few months later, Michelle began experiencing severe depression, became suicidal and self-destructive. So, she went into therapy, as well. Within the context of therapy, she began recovering memories of being molested by her dad. So, she has been on her own healing path.
As is expected, Tom has had his own struggles with all of this and has had his own healing to do, as well. So, it has really been a family journey.
The point of their presentation was to demonstrate why child advocacy centers and programs are so incredibly important. The family expressed their appreciation for the work done by the police investigators and the advocacy staff . . . the said repeatedly that their story would have been tragic if it were not for those people stepping up and helping them when they needed the help so desperately.
In closing, Tom encouraged anyone who has been abused to disclose to someone and to get help. He encouraged people to share their own stories because healing comes from the sharing. He said there was no “right” way to share our stories, we just need to find our own unique way of doing it.
Of course, because I had already been emotional from talking with Debbie, I totally “lost it” during the Johnsons’ presentation. I just sat in my seat and sobbed . . . I was a huge mess.
Annette sat beside me for a while, rubbing my back . . . Annette’s husband came over and gave me a hug . . . Debbie would pat me on the shoulder every time she walked by me . . . I don’t think they knew what to do with me. Annette had a pretty good idea of why I was so emotional because, when I asked her to be a reference for me, I had mentioned to her that I had been molested. But, I don’t think she had any idea how raw my emotions still are at this point in my healing.
I guess the event was scheduled to continue for a while after the conclusion of the presentation . . . the bar was scheduled to stay open for a bit . . . but, the presentation ended around 9:30 and I was too emotionally exhausted to stay any longer. So, I found Annette and her husband and thanked them for inviting me . . . and I headed towards the door.
On the way to the door, I ran into Michelle and Tom. I thanked them for telling their story and told them I was so very proud of how courageous they were in telling their story publically. I mentioned to them that I had given my business card to Liz and that I had written the name of my blog on the card . . . and that the focus of my blog is to tell my own story as part of my own healing journey, as Tom had encouraged us to do.
Tom said, “Oh, are you a survivor?” I nodded . . .
He said he would check out my blog . . . and he gave me a big bear hug . . .
And that was the end of an incredible evening.
So, anyway . . . as I’m writing this journal entry, I’m looking at the souvenir I have from the evening …
Each place setting at the event had a seashell. There was a single word on a small piece of paper tied to each seashell. There were a variety of words . . . mine was “Hope”.
How fitting . . . I think it is hope that I need the most in my healing journey. And, now, I have a little reminder that it is healthy to hope.
I think I’ll keep it on my desk at the studio. That feels to me the most appropriate place for it.
Anyway, today, I sent an email to Debbie to let her know how tickled I am that I got to see her again, and to thank her again for being such an inspirational example. I don’t know if I’ll ever run into her again . . . I hope so.