The day after I remembered my abuse, I went to a police station to give a statement. I knew nothing about the process I was starting. I sat across from strangers. Officers and Detectives I had seen at parades and events around town and on Facebook. But I didn’t know them.
I nursed Bess and asked them if I could close my eyes during the retelling, because I was embarrassed. They were wonderful. And I left feeling a newfound freedom. They had believed me. For a decade as a child and teenager, my father had always told me the police wouldn’t believe me. He was wrong.
During those early months of the investigation in two states, I wasn’t allowed to say much. We didn’t want him to run away before a District Attorney could do her job. So I pretended like nothing had happened. Only a very small group of people knew what was going on. Even now, many details are just not discussed. But I worked tirelessly with two departments to help them get whatever they needed. I completed a timeline where I tried to remember (and give detail) about every instance of abuse in my life. It was hell. But I kept going, because I was determined to do everything in my power to get him imprisoned.
People often ask me why I fought so hard to get him incarcerated. Why I felt the urgency to go public after the trial. Why I didn’t just go to therapy, get over my issues, and move on with my life? Silently.
The answer is pretty simple. I didn’t want him hurting anyone else. I’m not his only victim. And I can’t go back in time to the first time he abused me and make it right. Get him arrested and incarcerated all those years ago. Save all those other people from him. But I can help others now.
By going to the police, his crimes were out in the open. When I sat in that first interview, I had no idea if he would still get prison time after all these years. Statutes of limitations are tricky things. But I knew keeping quiet gave him the power to keep doing what he was doing. And, like most predators, he was getting “better” at it. I knew that I couldn’t sit around when he was most likely grooming and abusing new victims.
Some people, who are no longer part of my life, said I should’ve just let it go. It was so long ago. What did it matter now? I responded that it mattered to me. I was worth it. And it mattered to all the people he wouldn’t get to abuse because I was speaking up. They were worth it.
He stated in a report that he was going to move back to my area after he was done serving his sentence. So when I had been on the fence about how much I was going to share publicly, that was the catalyst for going to the blog. I wanted as many local people as possible to know what he had done. What he was capable of. If he thinks he’s moving back here, that’s fine. But thousands of people know the truth. Tens of thousands of people have read and shared these posts, which will make it harder for him to abuse the next person.
Going public was not just part of my healing process. It was my way of saying, “You aren’t fooling anyone.” Just recently, someone stopped me to say she had appreciated him as a pastor and wanted to know how he was doing. “Well, he’s in prison for being a child molester.” Her face was shocked. “How do you know it’s true?” “Because I was one of the children. And he had multiple affairs, stole all my mom’s money, then tried to kill himself to cover everything up.” Then I walked away. One more person who knew the truth. I want this area saturated with people who know. I want him to be recognized for what he is. Not what he says he is.
Some accused me of being bitter. I’m not bitter. I’m smart. I know that predators are less likely to strike again when they can’t hide behind the facades. Blame it on being the oldest child, but I feel a duty to protect others. And I’m using my tiny corner of the internet to do it. And I’ll keep using it. Because I’m in the minority. Most people who are abused will never tell anyone. Never go to the police. Never go public.
But maybe one person will read my posts and take that first step to say, “I’m worth it. And I can help stop this person from hurting others.” I was victimized long enough. I’m now a survivor. That freedom is worth every moment of hell it took to get here. And it started with a trip to a small police station in the middle of America. Where a scared-out-of-her-mind woman nursed a baby girl, while simultaneously protecting her from the grandfather she will never know.