I woke up to a message from my mother telling me my grandpa had died. My first thought was - great, one less child molester in the world. I have not an ounce of grief for that man dying. I would weep over a stranger dying but not shed a single tear for that man. I didn’t hate him, in fact, I loved him very much when I was a little girl. He was my step-grandpa who married my grandma when I was a young child. I didn’t refer to him then as my step-grandpa. He was the only grandpa I ever really knew and called grandpa. My other two biological grandpas weren’t in my life very much and died early on.
I lived with him and my grandma during the week because my mother worked the night shift. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from that period of my life. My grandparents had a pool and my grandpa taught me how to swim properly and how to dive. They also had a boat and we spent a lot of time at the river. I believe that may be when I developed my love of the water. Although, you would think that water and pools would be a trigger for me since that is where he often violated me.
When my mother sent the message this morning, she made a remark that my grandpa died on my uncle Tony’s birthday. I thought to myself – Happy Birthday to Tony, what an ironic birthday gift. My step-grandpa was his step-dad. Tony was only two years older than me, because we lived together and played together, he felt more like a brother than an uncle. If Tony were alive today, I am not sure how he would feel about his step-dad dying. He was the only dad Tony ever knew. My grandpa molested him too.
Years later, after we had moved away, and I no longer lived with Tony and my grandparents, Tony came to visit us for the weekend. In the middle of the night, I felt someone lifting up my nightgown and pulling on my panties. It was Tony. I screamed at him to get out of my room. He came back a little while later and tried it again. This time I stormed out of my room and went and told my mother. I remember my step-dad beating the crap out of Tony and he was no longer aloud to visit. I felt terrible and sad for him. I didn’t want him touching me, but I didn’t want him beaten like that either.
Tony was neurodivergent, although that term wasn’t used back then. He seemed “normal” to me except occasionally he would have seizures and his eyes would roll back into his head while his body convulsed. As we grew up and became adults, it was clear that Tony didn’t act as mature as people his age. He could not get his driver’s license because of his seizures. My grandma, his mother, died when he was only twenty-one. He was already living in a group home by then because my grandma didn’t have the fortitude to deal with him.
Tony died in his early thirties. I was told that he died of exposure. He had been locked out of his group home in inclement weather and literally froze to death. It still makes me cry to this day. Tony and I never had a chance to talk as adults. I never got to ask him about the abuse we both suffered from his step-dad/my step-grandpa.
When I began studying child sexual abuse eleven years ago, Tony was on my mind a lot. I always knew in my heart that Tony only tried to molest me because he was being molested by his step-dad/my step-grandpa. All my research confirmed what my instincts had told me all along. It became so clear to me that my step-grandpa had groomed my grandma and my mother. It was no coincidence that my step-grandpa married a single mom with a history of abuse and a small child. It was no coincidence that my step-grandpa got my mother a job working the night shift and offered to have me live with them during the week. That is what grooming looks like, small incremental steps that look like someone offering help and coming to the rescue. They get everyone around them to trust them, think they are such a great person and that you owe them.
While writing my book and reflecting back on that period in my life, it became painfully clear that my grandma had to have known my step-grandpa was molesting me and Tony. She died when I was nineteen, long before I had done any research on child sexual abuse, so I never had the chance to talk to her about it. I have forgiven her. I know that she was a victim of my step-grandpa just as much as I was.
There is a study called The ACE Study. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Over 17,000 adults were surveyed by asking 10 questions about their childhood and researchers found that how high your ACE score is on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, the greater the risk of a whole list of health issues, substance abuse, delinquency, and shorter life expectancy. I have an ACE score of seven.
The study showed that those who have been abused have a life expectancy of 10-20 years less than those who have not been abused. Studies also show that child molesters never stop molesting until the day they die. I hate knowing these statistics because I have been abused and so has my daughter. It seems like a cruel joke the universe has played on us that we were the ones who were abused, and we will suffer the consequences while the abuser has the potential to live a full life expectancy.
Resilience plays a huge roll in changing those statistics and I am as resilient as they come. I am determined to beat those odds and help my daughter and other victims of abuse beat them too. Now that my step-grandpa has died, I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Knowing he was out in the world and not knowing if he had access to kids was tearing me apart inside, little by little.
Now I can say #TimesUp for you mutherf*cker, but I’m still standing.