I got a Christmas card today from the child molester’s wife.
This is not an unusual event. For the past several years, this woman has persisted in sending me birthday cards, Christmas cards, Easter greetings—this despite what should have been a clear directive to her years ago never to contact me again. Yet she persists.
For years I evaded her ridiculous missives, but somewhere along the line one of my misguided relatives gave her my current address and so, for the past few years, I have suffered through a series of “greeting cards” from this woman. Usually I throw them away. But tonight, for some reason, I am moved to action.
You see, I have the misfortune of being related to her husband and, thus, I was one of his targets. I prefer “target” to “victim” because I decided a long time ago that what he did to me was not going to define me forever. And if I was a victim once, I am no longer. But God knows how many more children have come into his line of fire—how many of his own children? We cannot begin to know; his life is a lie wrapped in denial, embroiled in deception. We can guess, but we don’t have the luxury of the confirmation. Once, long ago, I confronted him in the belief that I owed it to his children to try to stop him. But I could not stop him. The lie was too strong.
But his wife is a great curiosity to me. When we undertook to confront him, my sister and I, in the process, we confronted her as well. Her anger was a sight to behold. She literally shook with rage. Not at him, of course. At us. For daring to tell. For daring to say what had happened and demanding—how dare we demand it!—an apology.
We never got it.
What we got was belligerence. What we got were threats. He would sue us. Yes, he would. For stirring up trouble. For making noise. For not going away quietly. Who were we to demand answers? He didn’t know why he had done what he’d done. He could barely remember it—maybe it never happened; it was that murky in his mind. He couldn’t be sure that he hadn’t done it—he could not say for sure that he had—as if anyone could say for sure that he had not molested his own sisters; that must be a common problem among many men, I suppose, not to know for sure whether they had sexually assaulted anyone–but maybe they hadn’t. And anyway, what did it matter? Just forget it. It hardly mattered any more.
Forget that we have any rights.
Forget that anyone has the autonomy to say “hands off!” We never heard of such a thing.
We thought we had to do whatever he demanded. That’s what we were told—so our mother taught us. Always respect your elders. Never give any lip. Do as you are told.
And he? He threatened to sue, and so I backed away. It was a long time ago and I was still shaky then. The idea of telling anyone was still new; I still had relatives other than him who wanted to shut me up. Who fervently believed it was my sacred duty to pretend that nothing had happened. Who thought the best way out of this mess was simply to “get over it.” Keep the peace. Make nice. Be still.
And she was one of them, this wife of his, the mother to his three boys and two girls. The girls we wondered about for years. You see, she had gotten over it; why couldn’t we? Or so she said. Her uncle had raped her. It’s a true story. Six years old and he assaulted her. Her parents took her to a doctor; nothing more was said. What happened to the uncle? Not jail. It was quietly decided that such an event should be ignored and she, a good girl of the Catholic variety, went along with that decision. And she got over it.
Until years later, when she married a man with a sexual attaction to pre-pubscent girls who were in no position to protest when he came into their rooms at night and yanked down their panties. When he forced himself into their mouths and ripped open their souls and destroyed their sense of themselves, they were in no position to protest. Their parents had engineered a household in which no one had any right to protest.
And he did not ever give a second thought to it, the damage that he brought to those children, six, seven, eight years old, crying alone at night, praying to be ignored, for once, please Jesus, please, please let him not see me. Let him not notice, for attention in that household was never a good thing.
And years later, this woman, the wife, who knows the whole story, who was confronted with it one cold February afternoon more than 25 years ago, this woman sits down to write me a Christmas card from the whole family—from her and her husband, the man who sexually assaulted me.
She writes this card with the full knowledge of what he had done and of his refusal ever to take responsibility for it.
Is this an act of generosity? Or spite?
Tonight I make a decision. This card is going back in the mail—return to sender, screw you, drop dead.
The child molester’s wife is a most curious figure. What world she lives in, what she has constructed for herself, the pretty lies she wraps herself in—the denial—will not be fed by me.
Tonight the letter goes out. My dear woman: you have to be out of your goddamned mind …