December 2017, in Alabama. Registered voters that were able to jump over the numerous voting hurdles required to vote in that state voted to make Roy Moore or Doug Jones a state Senator. Doug Jones, as a candidate, has proven that he protects little girls while Roy Moore has received claim after claim of inappropriate and illegal behavior towards young girls and women. Some people keep asking why the claims from nine women had not surfaced before 2017 only to be brought up 40 years after the events allegedly occurred. Well, I am so glad they asked.
40 years ago
My Grandma’s husband called me into my Aunt and Uncle’s back bedroom and had me sit down on the bed next to him. Lou, the only ‘grandpa’ I ever knew, then grabbed my face in his hands and tried to stick his tongue in my mouth. I was about aged 9. It was a gross, weird, and confusing moment that I will never forget. I have never spoken about the event to anyone. I never even told my amazing Grandma, who is now deceased.
Another story: I was around age 11 or 12, which is 36 years ago for all of those who doubt how long a woman can go without publicly sharing their truth. One night, while I was sitting in our recliner with my stepfather, a man that I trusted and welcomed with open arms into our family, stepfather started touching around the areas of my developing breasts and then moved his hand to trace the path of my bikini line. I managed to leave the chair where we were sitting. His actions that night broke trust and I was broken and confused for years. I was a mess in my 8th year of school and much of high school. In my 11th year of High School (age 15), stepdad would make further advancements. Several wonderful people (Steve, Todd, Gina, Hillary, Dawn, Brenda, Stacey ++) and especially my cousin Lisa, helped me in their own ways from becoming completely lost in the aftermath. My aunt and uncle took me in, and for that I am grateful. All of these wonderful people put up with me and loved me without any knowledge of what I had been through. I must have seemed strange at times.
Still, and I haven’t worked this through yet…it’s really strange, approaching 50, that I never said anything to my Grandma about her husband trying to kiss me. My Grandmother was the first person I told about my stepfather when I was 24 yo. My mother found my Stepdad inflagranti with another woman. When my Grandma and I talked about it, I told her about how stepdad had touched me in 8th grade and given me a letter professing his desire for me when I was 15 years old. Sadly, my grandmother was not shocked – she didn’t have a good feeling about him. My grandma encouraged me to tell my mother, which I did. I wonder why, at that same time, did I not think to tell my Grandmother about her own husband? I don’t have the answer.
I knew that my Grandma had lost her love for my Grandpa only a few years into their marriage when he supposedly cussed her out and called her awful names – the B word as an example. She said she would not divorce him though because the only good reason for divorce in her mind was for adultery. Had I mentioned that my Grandpa’s tried to french kiss me, it’s possible that my Grandma would have left her husband, for good reason. Instead of my grandma spending her final years caring for a man that had broken her trust, she could have traveled and spread her infectious joy to so many people. My Grandma did, however, care for her husband until he died. She spent the next years recovering and being sick herself.
How did it not occur to me to tell my Grandma about her husband trying to intimately kiss me as a little girl? I was a child and didn’t understand what was happening. It didn’t even occur to me years later when I knew what crossed the line looked like. The memory was there, but it wasn’t one that I thought about. Was this normal? I wasn’t sure. No one talked about such things with me.
I could’ve made a real difference in my Grandmother’s remaining years. My Grandma was EVERYTHING to me. Grandpa was an angry man that didn’t give my grandma the love she wanted or deserved. That I never said anything just wrecks me.
I am no different than Roy Moore’s accusers. I didn’t tell anyone about my Grandpa until 40 years later. Grandpa got away with upending and souring my Grandma’s life. Stepdad damaged me, darkening years of my life that should have been full of silly, crazy fun. I didn’t talk to reporters, I didn’t call the police and I didn’t even talk to my best friend in the entire world, my Grandmother, about the pain and the perpetrators until many years later. And in the case of her own husband, never.
I wasn’t told what to do if an adult touched me, so I made
up my own responses
Dealing with sexual advances from my Grandpa at age 8 or 9
I said, “Ew, Gross!!” or something to that effect and ran out of the room. I remember vividly his pointy and wet tongue and it did truly gross me out. My Grandpa didn’t treat me kindly from that day forward.
Dealing with sexual advances from my Step-father at age 11 and 14
I dealt with the situation poorly. I was in survival mode and all alone with ZERO information on how to deal with unwanted sexual advances. It seemed illogical that a man married my mom would want to pursue me sexually, and yet. After my Stepdad first touched me at around age 11 or 12, I started staying in my room. I bathed less and cared for myself less. I had Insomnia. I spent the next two years pretending to be dumb and ditsy so people would either protect me or leave me alone. It worked, thankfully. That year was absolutely the worst year of my life.
When I was around age 14/15, my mom was off on a tour of duty (TDY) for a few months and I was left behind with Stepdad. Asshole Stepdad professed his love for me in, as I recall, a 2-page letter – it could’ve been 3 or 4 pages, but it was definitely not a one-pager. The main points that I recall are that I reminded him of his ex-wife. The letter grossed me out and for some horrible reason on my idiot 15 yo part, I gave Stepdad his letter back, ripped up. I also included a rage-filled letter of my own about how horrible and disgusting he was as a man and as a husband to my mother. Stepdad didn’t treat me kindly from that day forward.
I spent as much time away from our home as possible. Much of my Junior year I spent being truant from school and I slowly become a bit of a problem child. I developed an eating disorder and became ashamed of my body. Because of my truant Junior year, I almost didn’t graduate. I know now that my struggles stemmed from my inability to deal with Stepdad’s unwanted advances.
I’m ashamed to say that I considered myself lucky
For years, I told myself that I was lucky because my abusers didn’t have sex with me. Still, trust was broken. I fell into a funk as an 8th grader and that felt quite foreign to me. Friends of mine suffered much worse at the hands of their abusers. In high school, one of my dear friends told me about a horrific sexual attack against her by several male persons. She wasn’t the only friend who shared their painful story of sexual assault with me. I wish I could say I gained wisdom, strength, and power from my fellow high school girl survivors. But that’s not how adolescence works without a great deal of parental love and input. How were my girlfriends able to process what had happened to them and talk about it? I felt like I was one of the lucky ones, but I wasn’t. Deeply hurt and affected, I was just like my friends, except it took me years to be able to speak about having my innocence and youth cut short and violated.
Can a person remain silent about unwanted sexual advances for 40 years? Absolutely.
Until today, I told no one about my ‘Grandfather’ trying to kiss me 40 years ago. The first time I spoke about Stepfathers advances was at age 11. It was 13 years after the events and I was 24. I only told my Grandma and Mother. The year I finally told someone, I was able to end my eating disorder. Why didn’t I speak up and share my story? Because, who cares about me?! That’s why. I’m only sharing now because I’m angry that women and men, but especially women, immediately decide to distrust women that share their uncomfortable stories of abuse. There are laws, statutes of limitations regarding sex offenses against minors that limit when legal proceedings may be initiated. Still, it seems, some would like to place a statute of limitation on when we may talk about our abuse.
Women. If other women have the clarity and the presence of mind to condemn what they consider abusive behavior or an abusive person, those women should be taken seriously as should all claims of wrongdoing. Calling out abuse is a scary and risky proposition and can cause those who might speak out to instead, stay silent. How do we even go about telling our story? “Pass the sugar. Oh and by the way, your husband tried to kiss me, Grandma”.
Listen to the victims
When a person is capable of speaking out, we as a society need to afford victims of abuse the same rights that we offer their alleged abusers – innocence until guilt is proven. Believe victims when we speak about the abuses against our bodies, even if it takes us 40 years to tell you about those abuses.
Teach Your Children How to Recognize Abuse
Secondly, we need to talk about how to talk about the possibility of abuse with our kids. Children and teenagers need to know how to recognize abuse and respond at the moment. Children and teens also need to also know who to talk to and how to respond after a crime against their person has occurred. My children know that no person is allowed to touch their body without their permission. My children also know that if an adult is trying to have a physical or romantic relationship with them before they are 18 years old, said adult is doing something intentionally inappropriate and illegal and can be criminally charged.
Know The Law and Teach Your Children The Law
Know your state or countries Statute of Limitations regarding sex offenses against minors. As a teenager, I already understood that some men (not all men) were just sad and tacky. At 15, what I did not know was that it was against the law for men over 18 to date me or be physical with me with or without my consent. Men know this. Roy Moore knew this. Roy Moore was a District Attorney, so he absolutely knew the law and knew that his actions with women under 18 years of age were not only inappropriate but illegal.
Why didn’t I speak sooner?
I still don’t know. Who would I have told? Would telling have made my life more difficult? In my personal situation, I knew that what these men did was gross and creepy but I didn’t understand that it was also potentially career-ending and marriage ending for them. As a young girl, I wasn’t convinced that I mattered that much to anyone. If I didn’t matter, why wouldn’t two grown men be given the benefit of the doubt over me?
40 years later, I wish that I had spoken up earlier for myself and my Grandma. However, 40 years later, I’m also glad that I am finally speaking up. 40 years later is not too late. It’s never too late to share your story.