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.

My Mother

The real meaning of mother’s day

November 22nd.

I have come to understand that my mother knew and chose to do nothing.

When I was 18 or thereabouts, I wrote my mother a letter telling her what my father had done to me. That he’d raped me and sexually abused me, beginning when I was quite young and continuing for years.

To her credit, she said believed me immediately, that it was “something he would do”.

She told me afterward that she spend the next several months crying and hiding from my father at night by sleeping in their bedroom closet.

Women leave their husbands for a lot of reasons – alcoholism, physical abuse, cheating or because they just don’t love them any more. Not my mother. My father drank himself unconscious almost every night. He slapped her at least once, an action I heard from the next room, and which my brother witnessed. He raped me, beginning when I was five years old. Despite clearly being in distress, and showing no signs I could discern that she felt anything for my father but revulsion, she didn’t leave at any time during my childhood, or in the 14 years after that letter. I begged her several times to leave, told her her duty as a mother and a feminist demanded it, but she didn’t. She told me afterward it was because no-one would help her.

I’m not sure what kind of help she needed. She traveled regularly, visited her relatives, who seemed to care about her, and was in enough contact with feminists to have access to information about shelters and welfare. She never asked me for a plane ticket or a place to stay to help her leave, or anything else. Fourteen years later, she finally left, but not because of me. She told me that since I was no longer in danger, she could take her time and leave when the time was right. She said she’d finally left in order to have a relationship with her children, two of whom would no longer have contact with her.

During my childhood, my father was known to make inappropriate sexual comments to adult women, including my mothers brother’s wife, my aunt. The insult he paid her was so severe my uncle and aunt severed contact with my family over it, but no-one wondered, to my knowledge, whether his daughter was at risk.

Except perhaps my mother.

A couple of years after I wrote her the letter, my mother, trying to repair her relationship with me, attended a joint therapy session with herself, her therapist and I. During this session I asked her to do a basic listening exercise, where I said couple of sentences and she would repeat back what she heard. There, in a different city from my father, with her therapist present, rather than repeat a simple sentence, that my father had raped me over a period of about ten years, beginning when I was about five, my mother ran screaming to the bathroom. She could not do it.

When I was little and being raped, it was just down the hall from where my mother slept. My father would drink himself unconscious, then wake up a few hours later, dragging his clumsy hands along the hallway to the bathroom where if he intended to rape me, would go in and pee. He would then come out and enter my room, which was directly across from the main bathroom. If he intended to go to sleep, he would continue down the hallway to his bedroom and pee in the ensuite bathroom.

I believe she must have known, and that’s why she didn’t leave later on, that she’d already decided long before to stay, no matter what.  If his drinking, hitting her, verbal abuse and the embarassment of his sexual sleaziness was not enough reason to leave, what was the rape of a daughter she could not have truly valued?

All of this, the hand dragging, the stumbling down the hallway, the peeing, the flushing in the middle of the night made some noise. I know I heard it. I’d lie awake waiting for the sounds that would indicate I was in danger or safe for the night. One night that I know of, that my mother admits, she intercepted him after he left the bathroom and was entering my room. She steered him down the hall to their bedroom. She claims she just didn’t imagine he’d abuse me.

Clearly I don’t get my imagination from her, since I am quite able to imagine abuse. However, perhaps that’s not fair. I didn’t need to imagine it.

So now that I stare all this in the face, waiting for my father to die, what do I say to my mother when she wants to get together for the holidays?  How do I respond to her when she wants to hang out, have lunch and visit, when she’d like me to make a fuss over her for mothers day or visit her at her home? I can’t imagine it.

Note added May 2012:  A few years later than this post, I found proof that my mother had known about the rapes, in the form of scars on my body from injuries she would not have been able to miss.  Later posts in this blog describe that process of learning about the scars, as I was experiencing it.  I have since severed all contact with my mother, who was a criminal accomplice to the rapes. These scars also validated several memories of the assaults.