My mom grabbed my Dad’s arm and said, “This is too much we are going back downstairs”. That was the conclusion of an hour long, vicious fight with my Dad at our kitchen island. What began as a disagreement over our boys, developed into a full blown airing of grievances. While this fight was intense and angry, I was able to finally speak my truth to my Dad and by extension my Mom. The delivery was not great but the message was my truth.
In therapy, one of the main themes of my work is reframing my negative self-belief that I am invisible. The belief that no matter what, I will never matter. While I don’t blame my parents for my abuse, this feeling of getting abused right in front of my family and the small town I grew up in has always surfaced in my thinking. That belief fed the darkness and helped grow the ever expanding insecurity growing within me. Why didn’t anyone help me? How could people truly not know? It must be because I wasn’t important enough to matter to anyone. And when I truly felt that I didn’t matter to anyone else, it was an easy gateway into not mattering to or believing in myself.
It was actually after another epic fight in 2007, between my father and I, that my parents found out about my abuse.
The man from my turbulent relationship hated my parents. He could never truly control me with my parents in the picture. He picked apart every interaction I had with my parents, especially my mother. He hated my mother because 6 months into our relationship, on a hunch, she ran a background check on him. She was a social worker for 35 years, so she knew to trust her gut on this hunch. She found, and revealed to me, that he had a pretty sordid past. He had multiple DWI’s and a restraining order placed on him by a previous boyfriend which he violated resulting in an overnight stay in jail. The jail stay happened in the early months of our relationship, when we were still living apart, and he told me he was visiting a friend in the mountains where there was no reception. There was also a court date he had to attend once we did live together that he did not tell me about till much later. For the first year of our relationship, he had to attend anger management therapy as part of his plea deal.
He already had me in his clutches. Even after receiving all this concerning information, I was unable to break away. And from that point forward, he hated my mother and did what ever he could to drive a wedge between us.
He was truly the only person I ever disclosed to until recently. I started dating my first boyfriend just a few weeks after I broke things off with The Coach, so I didn’t have to disclose. We just treated that as my previous “relationship”. But the turbulent boyfriend knew it was abuse and held on to this information waiting for the perfect moment to punish my mother.
My dad and I just finished another epic fight and I had gone into his room to work it out once our tempers mellowed. My mom was concerned about the quick escalation of our argument and wondered aloud why I was so angry. In that moment, without any permission from me, he said, “Oh you didn’t know about his abuse in high school”. I made peace with my Dad and we left the next day. This man said nothing to me about disclosing my abuse to my mom. I had to find out a few days later when I called to hear her crying on the other end of the line. She told me what had happened.
The issue that I have with my parents is from 2007 onward. They knew of my abuse and we never truly spoke of it. It was like an elephant in the room. It would come up in passing from time to time but I would deny it had any affect on me and they wouldn’t push it any further. We were having parallel shame. I was suffering inside and hating myself. My parents were dealing with the shame of never knowing or stopping my abuse. Our parallel shames never crossed until this year.
This silence about my abuse only fueled the belief that I didn’t truly matter. If it was a big deal, wouldn’t these people in my life push for me to find help? Wouldn’t they sit me down and help me honestly accept myself as a survivor? That never happened so I kept living my life thinking it wasn’t a big deal and that I just had to keep pushing and gritting through life. The resentment and pain of this silence began to fester like an untreated wound.
This wound burst open as my Dad and I fought in our kitchen. Looking back on this particular fight, it felt like a forest fire scorching the Earth. However, the earth eventually cools and the forest grows back stronger. My relationship with my parents will continue to heal. My resentment will cool. We will grow back even stronger than before.
My parents asked me what I wanted to do. If I didn’t want to disclose, they would understand. If I did want to disclose, they would be there to support me. I explained to them that I feel a moral, ethical, and personal obligation to report my abuser. He still works with children in a position of authority. I also want him to answer for what he did. I want to create space for others who might have been abused by him to disclose. I wanted to hold accountable the people who have known about my abuse for years and did nothing. I want to hold accountable the head coach, a God in our town, who has known since 2007 and did nothing. It is time.
I worried that he would be able to slink away into retirement once we made the complaint. He could use his family or the Coronavirus as a shield to quietly retreat from public life. I worried he would wait a year or two and try to seek employment in another district or state. I wasn’t sure what to do.
My parents stepped into this moment to finally support me. My mom found where we should send our disclosure letters. This would cover the process of reporting him. My Dad contacted a close family friend who was once a journalist in my hometown. He thought she might be able to write my story. If she couldn’t write the story, she could probably point me in the right direction. He could run from a firing or resignation. He has in the past. He can’t run from my story. He can’t hide from my bravery. My story will always be there. For once, he will be the one with something lurking in the shadows.
I officially reported my abuse on July 7, 2020. I had my initial contact with the head of the Public Education Department investigative team. She outlined the process and painted a picture of the months to come. She explained the statute of limitations and how my case would be labeled either a 60 day or 2 year case. The statute of limitations being how long they have to investigate and make a recommendation to the Secretary of Education. She gave me the name of the lead investigator and said I should hear from him by the end of that week or the beginning of the next week. The Coach’s state teaching license is officially labeled “under investigation”. His school district will get a report of this development. He will know then. I hope he starts to sweat. I hope he can feel the world closing in around him.
I didn’t hear anything from the investigator for two and a half weeks. It made me nervous. I am still plagued with the feeling of insecurity and belief that nothing will happen because I simply don’t matter. I am still trying to push those feeling aside. I had trouble sleeping the first week after my disclosure. I would wake up and feel the magnitude of what I am doing. It took my breath away. Eventually, that feeling would give way determination. I know I am doing the right thing. This is the right thing to do.
I got up the nerve to call the investigative unit this week. A part of me just wanted to leave it alone and try to convince myself that I have met my ethical and moral obligation to report my abuser. The personal obligation is the one driving my forward. I need to show up for myself in this moment. I need to prove to myself that I can be strong a brave.
I sent out the following emails on Thursday, July 23, 2020
Camille called me immediately after my second email. She wanted to assure me that my case was not “low priority”. She said the only cases that filed as 60 day cases are ones where the employee was fired or resigned as a result of the disclosure or allegation. She explained that all other cases are filed as two year cases, but they usually don’t take two years. She explained that they are taking my complaint very seriously but at this time they could not share any more information about my case. It was good to get clarification. It was also good to show them that I will be that squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
I will let my family help me. I will accept the support. I will show up for myself and be brave