Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tiny Soldier

It was Christmas eve. I was a young 22 year old mom with an 18 month old toddler, my first baby. It was the first Christmas in which she was susceptible to the excitement of the season. Her father and I passed on the mythology and magic of Santa. It was my favorite holiday. The magic of it all always turned me into a little girl, memories of staying up all night with anticipation and joy filling my stomach with butterflies.

You see, as a young girl most weeks did not pass without my brother-in-law taking advantage of my innocence. I lived this secret, sick life of being forced to watch pornography, being forced to touch a grown man's body, and being touched by unwanted hands. This secret life was my shame and tied my normal life up in knots. I lived in a constant state of fear, a heightened state of fight or flight that often left me immobilized. Like a soldier on the battlefield, I walked carefully and in full alertness, knowing that at any moment I could be attacked.

But then there was Christmas. It was the last completely innocent part of my life. Christmas eve was the one night left in the year when I didn't fear that my brother-in-law's searching, hungry hands would startle me awake. The one night left that I didn't go to sleep with knots of fear enveloping my insides. Christmas was my bliss, and for me, it truly was magic. It was the only day I could just be a kid again. Even as an adult, I became that deliriously happy child again at Christmas. So when I had a child of my own, the magic of Christmas multiplied in my mind. Another innocent child to share in my arrested development that occurred every December 24th through the 25th.

We lived only 40 minutes away from my parents and the plan was that we'd bring our first-born child, our excited toddler, and spend the night at my parents' house. I wanted to share this with my parents. I knew they'd love to see a small child awake on Christmas morning and run toward their pile of gifts. It had been a long time since they'd seen their own tiny children do the same.

"Dad," I said into the phone, with my heart beating rapidly, "you're going to make sure Mike isn't going to be there, aren't you?" My sister, despite knowing of the sexual abuse her husband perpetrated on me, decided to save her marriage. She was desperate that everyone should forget about what happened and welcome her husband back as if nothing had happened, but my sister's desire to live in denial did not interest me. I needed to know that my Christmas would retain its innocence and not be marred by being forced to interact with that man.

"Yes, don't worry, Alyson. I'll make sure Mike won't be here," my dad answered.

"Ok," I said with trepidation. I decided to let go of my fear and to just enjoy my Christmas with my family. I didn't want to think about my brother-in-law and didn't want the flashbacks to start again.

On Christmas eve, Russ and I loaded our sweet, little daughter into her car seat. We turned up the Christmas music on the car stereo and I regaled my little girl with stories of Christmas magic and excitement. I wanted her to feel the same high I did as a child as I anticipated Santa's visit and presents being magically lit by sparkling Christmas tree lights.

We pulled into my parents' driveway. I saw my sister's van, but wasn't concerned. I knew that she planned to come with her children, but my dad had guaranteed that Mike wouldn't be there, so I wasn't concerned. The three of us stepped into my parents' home. As I looked around, my heart jumped into my throat and I couldn't swallow it back down. I felt as if I might choke on what my eyes saw, but mind said was impossible. There was Mike. Sitting on the living room sofa. Laughing and talking with others. There was the man that made my childhood a living hell. The man who turned me into a tiny soldier, fighting a secret, disgusting battle, that left me with a lifetime of flashbacks. I broke out of my frozen position and ran down the hall to my parents' bedroom. There was my father, sleeping, and I yelled, "you said he wouldn't be here!"

I ran back down the hall, took hold of my husband, who was holding our little girl, and we quickly escaped, buckling our girl back into her car seat. Her look of confusion and sadness sank my heart. I now regretted those moments of building her Christmas excitement. This would not be the Christmas I had dreamed of with my first toddler. My dad was running toward our car.

"Ok, why don't you guys drive around for awhile, and I'll get rid of him. Call me and I can tell you when you can come back."

"We don't have a cell phone!"

"Just call at a payphone. Give me about 20 minutes."

We left without another word. Tears began to streak through my carefully done makeup and all the fear, anger, and confusion I had ever felt swept over me in an intense tsunami of emotion. But we did as we were told. We drove around town for 20 minutes. Our daughter was now crying and desperately wanted to be let out, to see her cousins, and celebrate Christmas, as was every little girl's right.

I picked up the dirty phone at the dark AM/PM gas station that was near my parents' home, and called home. My dad picked up. "He's not gone yet."

"What? You told me you'd get rid of him! Why won't he leave?"

"Well, your sister won't let him leave."

"Excuse me? My sister won't let him leave! Does she not know what he did to me?"

"Now Alyson, you've got to understand. There are kids involved here. Mike's kids did nothing wrong. She doesn't want to have to explain to them why their dad has to leave. It's not fair to them. She wants to have her complete family here."

My chest began to heave with pain at the injustice and rejection. "Are you kidding me? It's not fair to them? What about me? What about my screaming baby in the car? We are being forced to drive aimlessly around on Christmas eve!"

"Give me another 30 minutes. She just wants Mike here to open gifts with his kids."

"Seriously? So we are stuck out on a cold, dark night with no place to go while he gets to open gifts with my family! We have to miss everything!"

"Just give me some time, Alyson. You've got to understand."

"Yeah, I understand that you made me promise and now we're stuck out here!" I slammed the phone down as I began to tremble. My whole family, all my siblings and their kids were there, knowing what was going on, knowing that we were rejected. No one wanted to stand up to my sister. No one wanted to do the right thing and stand up for me, the victim of extensive childhood abuse.

That dark Christmas eve, spent driving to nowhere continued. I wept. My baby wept. And my husband was angry. Several times we stopped at a sad and lonely gas station to call home, only to be rejected again. Only to be told how it wasn't fair to my sister and the kids to ask Mike to leave. My sense of worth plummeted. I didn't matter; not compared to them. Those kids were more important than me. My sister was more important than me. My role in the family was now to suck it up, get over it, and bring the family back together.

Finally, after two hours of driving around on a night that had started out so promising, so full of hope, we were told that it was now ok to come back. It was after 10 o'clock at night. I walked into my parents' home, my face swollen with spent tears. No one acknowledged my obvious pain. My sisters-in-law and brothers, my mother acted as if nothing had happened. We heard Merry Christmas from some, but mostly they had a hard time even making eye contact with me. I saw the wrapping paper strewn about the floor and the Christmas goodies gobbled up, evidence of the celebration I had missed. As I tried to lift my own spirits and save what was left of my Christmas eve, I saw that my brothers and their wives and kids were packing up. They were leaving. No one cared to stay to help me recover, to help my daughter recover. They just wanted to go, to flee. They just wanted to leave to their in-laws, to continue their own celebrations. I was abandoned. I felt small and insignificant.

Christmas would never be the same for me again. That tiny soldier inside me was now back on duty 365 days a year.


  1. I am completely horrified. It's all so disgusting. All of it. Shameful. Shame on all of them. Every last one of them. They know me. I know they'll read this. Shame on all of you. Cowards.

  2. Thanks, Susie! That means a lot. I have even more horrible Christmas stories with my family, but this was the first time. It was such a shock and betrayal. Christmas has really never been the same again.

  3. And this was the first time I lost respect for my family. Everyone was too scared and cowardly to do the right thing.

  4. Ok. I just want to scream and hit and do some mean things. How DARE they. From the moment they found out what he'd done and decided to do nothing to protect you-- or any other child-- they became accessories to the crime. They were all given a moment and a chance to do the right thing. To heal you and see justice done and they all sat there like a bunch of self-riteous shits. They dont deserve you and they dont deserve your precious little family. Now I will try to behave myself :) I know that if I'm upset about it this much, you and your husband and children must feel a million times more hurt. Its sad when people are given a chance and do right and dont take it. That's not your fault. But you certainly dont have to sit around waiting for them to grow a conscience. Hugs!~

  5. Thank you for that, Heather! You have been so supportive with all of this. xx

  6. I am just astonished and sickened by the lack of action on the part of your entire family. I mean...if I found out someone did that to someone I love-- let alone my own child or sister--- I'd neuter him with a butter knife and ride him out of town on a rail. I cant believe they picked 'being polite' over defending a loved one.

  7. I would have stood up for you. Thank you for sharing your pain with us. I hope it's healing you and forcing your family to take responsibility for the part they've played in perpetuating this. Love you :)

  8. I know. It's ridiculous. The philosophy of my family is if something is unpleasant just pretend it never happened. And no one ever, ever wants to rock the boat. It is so unhealthy. The pretending and denial is the stuff that cancer is made of. I have been determined to have it differently in my family. We are open and honest, even when it's hard. It's important to me that no one bottle things up because it's uncomfortable. My kids must always feel that they can be honest and that we can talk things out. It's the only way to live.

    I still don't feel like I can talk things out with my family of origin. They are still in denial and I was actually told by one of the them this summer that they can't believe I'm telling the blog world that my family doesn't support me. He said my family has always supported me. Huh? My family has complete amnesia over the past. It's easy for them to forget all the times they betrayed me because they weren't the ones who were devestated. These memories have been burned into my mind and I know the truth.

  9. Hi, Val! Thank you so much! It's been very healing for me to write all this stuff out (I highly recommend it to anyone who's been through trauma) and at the same time it's great to get this out in the world where it can be shared with my family and others and hopefully help people realize that openness and truth are essential to a healthy life and family.

  10. I am heart-sick. And in your later comment about how they've been supportive? HAH - not!!! I took that as they're just indulging your rants and sooner or later, you'll get it out of your system and everything will be hunky-dory again. UGH!!!

    I hope that even though there are horrible memories of Christmas past, that you are able to bring that delight back into your life through your own sweet family.

  11. For your family to "choose" you and your truth, they in effect must surrender their own position in the family. Their denial includes the very real fear of losing what they have, and they may never be strong enough to do that. Be brave and know that forward is the only direction you will go, even if you have to leave some family members behind. You are doing the honorable (and undeniably difficult) thing by choosing to protect those children who remain in danger, even if other adults refuse to. Stay strong, and know that conviction, joy and love will help sustain you.

  12. that just breaks my heart. I'm so sorry that any child has to endure stuff like that. i think you should write a book, you have such a wonderful way with words. never having dealt with anything of that magnitude i can feel how you felt after i read your words. keep staying strong. you are a voice for others, probably even that monsters children. God bless.

  13. Seriously this just makes me sick. The picture in my mind of a man that would do that to an innocent child hanging out on the couch laughing with the family while you drive around is so wrong on so many levels. I really hope that he is not doing those things now to his own children.
    How many children have to be hurt in this world before people will stand up for what is right?
    I am so sorry these things happened to you.

  14. I'm honestly surprised by how ANGRY I am right if it were happening this very minute. I wish it was, actually, so I could storm in there and hit someone. And I never ever ever hit anyone. I want to scream!!!

    Am I projecting?!

    What amazes me most of all is that you didn't just open a can of whoop-a on him right when you walked in. I found myself wishing you'd create a scene, demand that he leave RIGHT THAT SECOND, and stop allowing anyone to pretend that he wasn't who he is. I am so furious!

    Okay, I really am so mad right now that it's clear I have some unprocessed stuff of my own. My own parents were in (ARE IN) eternal denial about my say nothing about my dad's actions. I've been able to move along in my healing and forgiving journey in a lot of ways, but I think that element is probably my least-resolved one. Even when I thought for sure that THIS TIME he'll get in trouble...THIS TIME I have proof of his deeds...nothing ever came of it.

    Oh Girl! I'm so sorry you have had to deal with this situation. So everlastingly sorry. You may have been a tiny soldier in terms of size, but in stature you're a giant!

  15. I learn more and more about your character as I read this blog...and I amazed, absolutely astounded at how strong you are. I think of the countless others in the world who don't have the courage to take a stand like you do. You'll inspire many others, I know you will.

  16. Oh Alyson, it makes me so sad to read this. So sorry that you had to go through all that you did on your own . I wish we would have known. We would have found a way to help you! You could be a voice for so many that also enduring abuse all alone. Have you thought about writing a book? You have such a wonderful way of expressing yourself.

  17. Reading this account brought me to tears. I know that there is nothing I can write that would take the sting out of it for you, except maybe to say that you are heard. You may have been unheard then, and your family may have discounted your feelings and your worth, but you are not discounted now. I am sorry that you have had to learn to protect yourself, instead of being protected by those whose sacred duty it is to protect you. I am sorry that you have had to suffer anything like this, and even more sorry that your children have ever had to as well. You are quite amazing to turn around and make Holidays special for your children, when there is pain involved in many Holidays for you as a result of others actions. You are a great mom. I don't understand your sisters actions. If I was married to a man and then found out what she found out (particularly if I had a little girl with that man) I would get out immediately and spend the next several years to decades helping my sister heal while healing myself. I pray that her children and others have remained safe from him, but I know that pedophiles do not cease to be pedophiles, and more than likely there are others out there who have suffered at his hands (perhaps even your sister). You are so brave, and you are in my prayers.

  18. I don't think I can any more support than has already been given. Keep going and leaving a trail. Love you!

  19. Unfair! Unfair! Unfair!!

    It's like you were invisible and blaneted to your family. I'm so sad for you...for the girl then, the woman now! I read this with a huge knot in my stomach, feeling it all. So sorry....feeling it all, sorry.

  20. Sariqd - You are right. They think by letting me rant, that is support. It is not. Support would be to protect the victim and to make sure the victim doesn't have to suffer the consequences of the abuse, like being left out of Christmas.

    Jenny - Yep, you totally get it. It's all out of fear for them. I have had to leave quite a bit of family behind. I have no relationship with any of my siblings except for one brother who is very supportive.

    LifeIsGood - Thank you for being so supportive all the time! I am actually planning on writing a book. I really want to help others who have been abused and then been betrayed by those they love after the truth comes out.

  21. dougandcheryl - I know. It is definitely a disgusting picture. When I hear about a brother of mine exchanging humorous texts today with the man who would abuse me like that, I can't believe it. They have all chosen to pretend it didn't happen and I hope their kids don't pay the price.

    Blue - You are so sweet! And I understand those moments when unresolved anger creep up. It's incredibly difficult to understand your family's and my family's mentality. It is very unhealthy and disturbing. They hide behind religion, but I know God doesn't want anyone living in denial and downplaying abuse.

    HeatherWasHere - I feel like I'm not worthy of your praise. Thank you so much! I love you, dear friend.

  22. Renee - Thanks so much! I have been thinking about writing a book lately. I really feel a need to reach out to people who have been continually betrayed and suffer from feelings of worthlessness. You feel so alone when it's happening to you.

    Hansonpatch - Thanks for all of your kind words. You're always so sweet to me! I'll never completely understand my sister's choices either. I know that it must have been done out of fear. She got pregnant with her 5th child only a couple of months after finding out what her husband did to me. I still find that utterly repulsive. I feel like she may have done that on purpose so that she would be forced to stay with him. As for the rest of my family, all that they do they say is in the name of "forgiveness". I really, really despise when people use the gospel as a cover for cowardice.

    Kaylynn - Thank you, friend! And thank you for always leaving words of support with me.

  23. Hey Alyson, I've been following this blog from it's inception. Thank you for your bravery. My heart aches after reading, but it also burns with the resolution to do everything to keep my daughters safe and heard.

    When I read your words my mind screams "RESTITUTION!" Restitution is an oft overlooked part of repentance. What steps has anyone taken to restore your loss of childhood, innocence and trust? When we skip from confess to forsake and expect forgiveness the repentance process is incomplete and most likely insincere.

    It is my hope that your civil case brings to light your truth and in it you find some restitution.

  24. Donna - Thank you! It is so unfair. I have never understood why my family has never realized how unfair, unjust their handling of this has been. It is blantantly wrong.

    Janelle - I agree wholeheartedly! Restitution is so intregal to the whole process. My family and Mike wanted to go straight from confession to completely back to normal. They totally bypassed the whole process. The repentence process he went through was a joke. Thanks for the comment! It's always nice to know that others in the church support how I see things.

  25. This breaks my heart--and makes me ill on so many levels.

    Like you said, restitution is critical and totally non-existent here. And your family? Oh, wow. They'll have a lot to answer for. I don't dare hope that Mike's kids aren't affected. Yet the whole family keeps him around to protect them. The irony is hideous.

  26. Heart-breaking. This makes me feel really angry at your family. What on earth were they thinking? I'm shocked by their lack of support for you. I know they're not all like that, but the ones who are are going to have a lot to answer for someday.

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