Posted by: Marie | August 21, 2009

(130) Blast from the past

Post #130
[Private journal entry written on Friday, April 24, 2009]

I have been finding childhood friends on Facebook – my list of “FB friends” has been growing quickly. It is pretty cool to see what everyone has been doing over the last 20-35 years . . .

During my childhood, my extended family was heavily involved in a Christian church that was part of a fledgling denomination. The number of churches associated with this denomination was rather small at that time, so the founding families all across the country (and the world, to some extent) were notably familiar with each other. Many of those families, including my extended family, have kept in touch over the years since then.

On the Hike by Martin Chen

On the Hike by Martin Chen

The man I believed molested me (I call him “X” in this blog) was part of this same network. So, it should have been no surprise when, yesterday, I found him and his wife among my sister’s Facebook “friends”. Their kids grew up with my siblings and me, we all went to college together . . . of course they would be connected to my sister via Facebook.

When I first looked at his photo, my breath rushed out of my body and simply wouldn’t return. It was his eyes. His eyes. They look like shark eyes . . . manipulative, cunning and piercing.

He is not as tall as I remember. His wife doesn’t look as bitchy as I remember.

He still has his beard – it is gray now. But, his eyes . . . . I can’t stop looking at his eyes.

It has been less than a year since I mailed a letter to him, asking him if my memories were accurate – less than a year since he responded with a defensive, angry phone call.

As I was looking at his Facebook photo, I wondered what would happen if I sent him a “friend request” . . . if I asked him to give me “friends” status on his account so I would be able to view his full profile.

I think it would be too obvious . . . obvious that I don’t want to be friends, I just want to learn more about his current situation, see more photos . . . try to determine if my memories are accurate, gather more evidence. I’m sure he would perceive that as stalking – and rightly so, I’m afraid.

Then, I wondered what would happen if I sent a friend request to his wife . . . or his daughter, his son, his daughter-in-law . . . they all have Facebook accounts. I know all of them, went to college with the latter two . . . it wouldn’t be any surprise to them to receive a friend request from me . . . unless they know about my letter and our phone conversation . . .

On the phone last year, “X” told me that he talked to his wife and daughter about my letter. He asked them if they knew of anything that happened way back then that might cause me to think such an awful thing about him . . . they didn’t, of course.

For some reason, my gut tells me he didn’t really asked them that question – very strongly my gut tells me that he is hiding a secret life from them and therefore couldn’t ask them due to the risk of exposure. And, my gut feelings are very reliable.

So, maybe they don’t know about the exchange . . . what would happen if I sent a request? Maybe I could determine if he discussed my letter with them by how they responded to my friend request . . . if I could prove to myself that he didn’t ask them that question, then I would know he lied to me . . . it would be a major piece of evidence supporting the accuracy of my memories . . .

In the end, I decided not to send a request to any of them. It won’t solve anything. It won’t resolve anything. At worse, it might cause an uproar that has terrible and far-reaching consequences . . .

He knows I haven’t told my mom what I think happened . . . it would kill her to know, even if I’m not sure that anything really happened. I don’t want her living her last days with that weight on her heart – there is nothing she can do about it now – she was too naive back then to know it was even a remote possibility some people in the inner circle shouldn’t be trusted.

All he would have to do is contact one of my aunts . . . or an executive member of the church . . . or any one of my family members who hold key positions in the denomination . . . or my mom . . . complain that I am stalking him . . .

If he did that, the insulating wall I have built around my mom would be smashed to bits. Everyone in the church, everyone in my family would know everything. My mom would know everything. I would be labeled a loony-tune because everyone knows “X” is such an honorable church leader – the idea he would do such a thing is unfathomable.

It would be obvious to everyone that I – with all my issues, with having backslidden out of the church and into a life of sin – am the crazy one. I would be an embarrassment to my family, to my mom.

Believe me, something like this would spread through the denomination like wildfire.

It might be different if I had proof, if I knew for sure in my own mind . . . but, I don’t. So, it’s not different. It is what it is.

Editorial note: Therapydoc recently wrote an excellent post (titled “Doubt”) related to this issue on her blog, “Everyone Needs Therapy”.

Quotes 058


Responses

  1. Unfortunately this is how it is – for the victims of those who are respected authorities. And there are many of them.

    The evidence is your memories. There may also be other people’s behaviour that makes sense in light of your memories – and not otherwise.

    I know it is an awful situation to be in. I hope you can find some good ways through it.

    • Hi, Evan –

      This is one thing I have really continued to struggle with — trusting the fuzzy and/or fleeting memories. However, I am currently working on the “remembering” part, making use of mental/emotional memories and of somatic memories. I hope I can come to some kind of resolution on this.

      – Marie

  2. Hi Marie,

    You knew what his home looked like inside even though he denied ever allowing you in there. You know. You have memories.

    I’m sorry that you feel as though no one would or could believe you. I’m sorry that any group of people or individual would ever believe that they know whether or not someone is a sexual predator of little children. They can’t and they don’t.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

    • Hi, Kate –

      You make a great point about how I do have memories . . . however, I keep thinking that there are other possible explanations . . . for example, it is not unreasonable for him to have forgotten that I spent some Sunday afternoons at his house 35+ years ago . . . it was a big deal to me as a kid, but not to him as a busy, distracted adult. Or, the traumatic somatic memories could actually be a result of the confirmed physical abuse I experienced in my own family. Or, maybe some other babysitter sexually abused me around the same time and I got the faces mixed up.

      Or, maybe I added the sexual component when my 8-year-old cousin (I was nine at the time) disclosed to me that her older brother and his friends had been raping her — maybe nothing sexual happened to me, I just was confused by her story and it took it on as my own.

      Can you see how it is hard for me to “be sure”? I just have trouble knowing for sure . . . “for sure” enough to be able to define a truth, which I think is essential for healing.

      I’ll keep working on it.

      – Marie

      • And then, Kate . . .

        It dawned on me last night . . . why was he so committed to convincing me that I had not ever been at his house? Why did it matter? It would have been “normal” for me to be over there . . . why did he want me to believe I never had been?

        If someone said to me, “I spent an afternoon at your house X number of years ago” but I didn’t remember that happening, my response would be, “Oh, I don’t remember that.” I would assume she was remembering accurately and that I had simply forgotten.

        I would not say, “I am sure you were never at my house.” And, I most certainly would not make her validate her memory by asking her to describe my house. And, I most certainly would not discount her accurate description by saying, “Well, it could have been anyone’s house you are remembering.”

        So, I have clear memories of being at his house — I am very sure about the fact I was there. I am not sure that he did anything inappropriate with me — those memories are fuzzy at best. However, the realization that he is trying very hard to invalidate the benign “for sure” memories makes it easier for me to believe he has strong motive for trying to invalidate my fuzzy memories as well.

        Thank you, Kate, for helping me see this.

        – Marie

  3. A few more thoughts about memories.

    Children sometimes do invent things. But these are usually fairies, monsters or alligators under the bed. They usually also are quite capable of knowing what is ‘just pretending’. I think that when it is about real things or people then children’s memories are to be accepted at least at first.

    Another perspective is: if a child is enraged or fearful all the time then there is a reason. If a child dislikes someone in particular there is a reason – and they can be helped to find out what it is. (When dealing with memories it is sometimes our adult self helping out our childlike self). Especially when the memories are visceral (triggered by physical cues and so forth) in my experience they are likely correct.

    • Hi, Evan –

      I really appreciate the additional information . . .

      It is the body memories that cause me to be more sure of my mental memories . . . I believe my body’s reactions have not been influenced (at all? much?) by mental confusion or imagination . . I believe I can trust what my body is telling me far more than I can trust what my mind is telling me. So, I agree with what you have written.

      Thank you!
      – Marie

  4. This was gut-wrenching. No one in my church knows anything happened to me, but then they didn’t know the abuser. It would have the same effect on my parents, tho, as they were prominent members, even for many years after I left the church (I’m the bad seed, too).

    One day, I hope you can lay your doubts to rest and really know one way or the other.

    • Me too, Ivory, me too.

      If I can’t know for sure “what happened”, I will need to define some sort of truth. I’m still working on it.

      Thank you for your good thoughts!

      – Marie

  5. Marie,
    I remember painfully well the years of wishing for proof, searching for proof, agonizing over every detail.
    This is your own words…
    And, my gut feelings are very reliable.
    TRUST YOURSELF. You are worth it and you deserve it. You can Trust Yourself.
    Here is a link to a post I wrote about my experience which I hope you might find some insight from.
    http://vjjinaz2.blogspot.com/2009/07/memory.html

    • Hi, Vicki –

      I followed the link you provided to your related post . . . I had read it before, when it first was published, but it hadn’t really sunk in back then.

      Today, it means something to me. I’ll keep that thought with me today . . that the best gift I could give myself is to believe myself.

      Thank you for sharing!
      – Marie

  6. My thoughts on reading your letter. You worded it carefully, generously, with plenty of doubt and even apoloty. I didn’t read it as an accusation.

    When I read his angry phone reply, my first thought was “me thinks he doth protest too much.” I can understand someone in his predicament feeling afraid that the letter could have gotten into the wrong hands and could have led to others doubting his integrity. His job could have been in jeopardy. Defensiveness sometimes arises out of fear.

    But his response struck me as considerably insensitive. It seems out of line that he would be so angry. Rather, I would expect someone in his position (his profession) and in his predicament to offer assistance, concern, empathy. To want to reassure you and help you understand that no, nothing of this nature occurred. So his angry defensiveness is suspicious.

    He’s in a helping field and he has been around children throughout his career (which is suspect in this scenerio). You’d think he’d have developed a more empathic reaction.

    • Hi, Anon –

      You know, I couldn’t have said it better myself. I thought the same thing (on all points) and my therapist at the time (Mark) agreed.

      The phrase you used (“me thinks he doth protest too much”) is the exact phrase that came to my mind in the days after the phone call, and it is the exact phrase my therapist used. So, I guess my reaction was not out-of-line.

      I really appreciate your comment — you made a number of very valuable points and I’m glad you chose to share them with us.

      – Marie

  7. I think, honestly, this is the main problem with social networks. I went on such a search. I think it’s ultimately not helpful to us.

    • Hi, Paul –

      Um . . . so, I’m not sure what you mean . . . we have several threads of discussion going here so I’m not sure to what you are referring . . can you help me out? Thanks!

      – Marie

  8. TD recommended your blog!
    Facebook creates new opportunities for rebuilding links we had broken – and some we broke for good reason.
    Sister’s best friend’s ex-hubby? ignore!
    Guy from college who creeped me out? ignore!
    If you make a friend request, that person can see YOUR info for 30 days.

    I say do not try to friend X or anyone in his family. Your abuser will do ANYTHING to maintain his appearance, and he only asks that others turn a blind eye (which we are more than willing to do). You are asking that they become a witness to a crime. As you have surmised, he will easily victimize you again (call you a stalker, etc).

    • Hi, Ella –

      I’m glad you made your way over to my blog via Therapydoc’s blog! I appreciate her calling attention to my blog!

      You make a very good point about how he would do anything to maintain his appearance of innocence. I do believe it would be a waste of energy, and an unnecessary risk, to contact him or his family through Facebook.

      I’m glad you stopped by and took the time to comment!

      – Marie

  9. Hi Marie,

    It is normal to doubt yourself. It is normal to be in denail, off and on, as you are trying to understand memories.

    The examples you suggested are things that survivors worry about, the things that abusers say to cover over allegations, but they are not really ways that children assimilate memories of abuse. I don’t mean to start a discussion about memory and trauma memory, but felt the need to mention that.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

  10. Definitely do not friend anyone on FB that’s connected to this guy. I know it must be hard to have these memories and not know for certain.

    And X’s response is hard to read. On the one hand, it sounds like he’s doing his best to make you sound very silly. On the other, anyone who is asked that kind of question – innocent or guilty – will have their own way of reacting. And its so hard to know for sure.

    Your reaction to his eyes are telling, however. At the very least, it tells you something did happen and what you remember are the eyes. I know how that feels! Whether its him or someone else or more than one person, you know for a fact that something happened.

    Keep going down your path gently but firmly, and my wish for you is that you find the answers you’re seeking.

    • Hi, Svasti –

      A common theme I’m hearing from people who are commenting is that I can trust the viseral reaction . . . I agree with that, too.

      About not friending anyone connected with “X” . . . the network of people of which we are both part has existed for more than 50 years. The founding generation is still around. And, everyone’s kids know everyone else’s kids because we grew up together and/or went to college together — there are many, many marriages within the group.

      For example, one of my childhood classmates (who is also my distant cousin) is married to “X’s” daughter’s husband’s brother. So, it is inevitable that “X” and I now have many Facebook friends in common — Facebook has facilitated the reconnection of the members of the organization who had gone their separate ways.

      However, as you have advised, I have not friended anyone who is in his immediate family — but my sister has “X” and all of his immediate family in her friend’s list (and has for a long time). So, it can get tricky, trying to figure out where to draw the line.

      Anyway, I understand what you are saying . . . and I really appreciate hearing from you!

      – Marie

      • Hi, Svasti –

        After writing this last comment, I find myself wanting to defend the church . . . what I have written could easily make it sound like I grew up in a cult where children were routinely abused. That is not the case.

        The church was created in the 1960’s by a group of people (made up of very conservative methodists and some quakers) who felt the mainstream churches were too liberal. They created this new church as a missions-oriented, evangelical church.

        There was never a component of childhood sexual abuse in the foundation of the church. However, wherever there are children, there will always be pedophiles looking to capitalize on the presence of the children.

        There was an ultra-conservative nature within the church. Sex, or anything related to sex, was not to be discussed except in the marital bedroom. In fact, some of the church founding fathers felt sex was only for procreation, not for pleasure — and they believed only the “missionary position” was appropriate.

        Masturbation was considered a sin by many. Even natural bodily functions (like menstruation) were discussed in strained whispers. Sexual abuse was not considered a possibility — I think there was a general lack of awareness that it even existed in the world. It was unfathomable to the church membership that it could exist among themselves.

        So, the church was not some cult where child sexual abuse ran rampant. However, the oppressive commitment to preserving purity and innocence was the very mindset that made the church prime hunting ground for predators.

        Anyway, I just wanted to add that to the mix.

        – Marie

  11. I didn’t take what you wrote to mean you were part of a cult at all.

    Just found this article in my weekend paper about child abuse, something I want to scan and send to you because the perpetrator in that story was someone that nobody suspected. And it turns out he’d been abusing many young girls for years.

    The worst part about this kind of abuse is that nobody expects it, and therefore when someone shines a light the first reaction is to ignore what happened because its just too hard to fathom it could be possible.

    And I can imagine that to be the case especially so, where talking about sex and bodily functions is considered a sin.

    I have your email address, I’ll send you this article a little later today.

    • Hi, Svasti –

      Cool . . . I’ll look for the email . . . I think it will be interesting to read . . .

      Thank you!
      – Marie


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