What kind of punishment suits my father? my mother?
I’ve long thought that the punishment within my reach that would be most appropriate would be to sue him into poverty. An added bonus is that it would also take away my mom’s dubious reward for staying with him all those years, protecting their shared equity.
Yes, I could, and did, pursue criminal charges against him. I filed a police report against him, and 7 or eight years later when the crown investigated (yes, it did take that long) they decided they had a good case to lay charges. The way the crown prosecutor explained it to me, abusers make terrible and uncredible witnesses because they’re lying, and people can tell. However, in those days, the norm for a daughter accusing her father of abuse was for her to just be grateful it was over after the 3 years of agonizing and life-sucking legal proceedings, and to be disheartened with the three year or suspended sentence slap on the wrists given to men who have done the worst think one human being can do to another, barring murder.
Because of this, and the fact that I was about to move to another region with my then boyfriend, I told the prosecutor that I did not need him to pursue the case on my account. If he wanted to pursue it to protect the public or other victims, he had my support as a witness, but I didn’t need him to do it on my account. He called me (or did he write, I forget?) and told me that they would have pressed charges but for my letter. I still kind of regret not going forward, having him dealt with for good, a closure I’m now looking to receive from his death from cancer, hopefully soon.
But suing him into the ground would be much better than a slap on the wrist. I’ve spent thousands of dollars over the years on therapy. I’ve spent a thousand dollars this year alone, directly related to his abuse and my mothers complicity with it.
So I had a look on the internet about it. I couldn’t determine the legal time limitations on suing someone damages relating to sexual assault or parental breach of fiduciary duty. Apparently, due to the work of some blessed feminist lawyers, the clock doesn’t start ticking on limitations until the victim realizes the harm she experienced is related to her childhood abuse. However, I realized that about twenty years ago, so I think I might be out of luck. This isn’t really fair. It takes a long time for a woman to heal enough and be in a strong enough place with herself that she could sue the bastard for the abuse she’s spent most of her life overcoming. The statute of limitations is supposed to prevent cases with really stale evidence coming forward. The evidence I have, namely the effects on my person, are still there as much as they were twenty years ago, I’ve just learned to cope better, so it doesn’t really apply in my case. Whatever evidence the police compiled when they investigated twelve or so years ago is probably still there somewhere.
My only legal victory is the knowledge that the police in my home town know he’s a child sexual abuser, that they hauled him down to court and read him my charges against him. And it probably terrified him. According to my mother, the police officers treated him the way one would expect or hope to expect they would treat a man who rapes children. This is the small piece of justice I have, knowing that the police in his town know what he is, and he knows they know.
A real source of betrayal is the fact my mom refused to speak to the police about it. Was she afraid of perjuring herself?
Dancing on his grave will have to be enough. Dancing in defiance and relief and victory and celebration.