When I was a kid I saw my dad cry once, when his grandmother died. He was a strong father that could throw a pop fly up into the clouds, handle his liquor, close a deal, and entertain the “unlikable.” I never witnessed anyone not liking him, never heard a bad word spoken about him. He was someone I feared if I broke a rule and went against, but I was never scared of him. He gave hugs and kisses. At times, I can remember discussions of money and finance in the family household taking place, but I was never fearful for our family’s well-being. I trusted his leadership of our house. I can’t think of anything he did wrong, any reason to blame him—anything to tell a therapist. He was and is a good father.
Now, as a father, I sit here and think about how many of the positive traits I saw in my dad don’t exactly align with mine. My son has seen me cry countless times—with “Toy Story 3” playing the agitator in the most outlandish epic family moment. My son has seen me act “weird” with alcohol. He has seen me lose jobs through firings and layoffs. He has seen people not liking me (even hating me on social media) and the emotional weight it played on me. He has seen me risk it financially and he’s probably questioned whether to even ask for 5 dollars to buy a video game if it put us in the slightest financial risk. But, perhaps the worse was when he saw me lose his mom.
In my mind, when I “lost” Kiersten, I wanted to present a strength to him, but to also let him know I was hurting. That it was okay to hurt. That eventually, I was going to be fine. But, the reality was he too was dealing with it on his terms. He didn’t seem to necessarily need me to explain where I was in my thoughts, he didn’t need to see my cry, or get angry—he just wanted a dad to be around when he wanted a dad to be around. So, except for a few slip-ups when I became emotional in front of him, we stayed off the topic of “mom” for a majority of our three-year separation.
In my mind, I also had a role I envisioned him playing. He would look at me with great awe. He saw my emotional strength and clarity of vision, he excused my momentary lapses of misplaced emotional outbursts, he prayed for me at night that “dad would win back mom.” In other words, I envisioned a “Disney kid.” And, every time I mistakenly used that Disney frame of reference he fell short, but not because he did anything wrong. He was doing everything right for himself. He was finding his own balance to all of this AND his side as well included a woman he loved dearly.
Is/was avoidance the best policy? Again, I’m no expert in what works for others but here is what I know. My son knew what I thought of his mother, he knew I still loved her. He knew I was sad. So, if he knew those things to be true for me why bother reminding him? So, I choose to focus on the “fun.” I separated my fatherhood from husbandry. I opted to play more than preach and laugh more than teach. My one stipulation I told him was,
“I’ve already been to school and I graduated. I’m not interested in doing school again. I ask that you take care of that for yourself. I’ve got the rest covered.”
In other words, I asked him to be responsible for the areas in his life that he could affect. I just wanted him to know that I had “the house stuff” under control. I don’t believe that I ever truly convinced him to not worry, but I made it a point to identify where I didn’t need his help.
We found common ground in sharing movies together and (without saying) staying away from movies that hit too close to our home life. Years later we would learn what those movies were and laugh that we had the same idea and sensibility to avoid them.
I also opted to not “kiss and tell” about any dating I was doing. I never spoke about any prospects for any long-term relationships either. I never had women stay the night in my house when he (or my daughter) were present. While he knew I would go out, I never meshed the two worlds.
I learned quickly that by him saying, “Want to watch a movie tonight?” meant that he wanted some father time. It was an arm around the shoulder moment that was good for both of us.
Just like I did, I’m sure there will come a day when he (as a dad or husband) look at what I did and purposefully chose a different response, reaction, or even movie for the moment, and that’s okay. I won’t take it personal, it will be his story.
-- Scott Hathcock
When Scott used to travel 75 percent of the time, we would call the period when he would come back from a trip “re-entry.” There was a little bit of maneuvering and compromising we both had to do, in order to come back together as a family unit.
We’ve had a different kind of “re-entry” since getting back together after being apart for three years. We’ve both grown a lot and feel so grateful to be where we are and we’re now marveling at the times we surprise each other, even after having known one another for 21 years.
On our way to Vegas this last weekend for a work event, we played a little game. Scott thought of it. We named 27 things we loved about one another. Why 27, I don’t know, but it was a fun number to pick. By the end of the weekend, as we just went through daily life, the list grew to 38 or so. I think we surprised each other with things we shared having been through everything we have endured together and apart.
I teared up when he said “I love your compassion for people you don’t know.” I didn’t realize that this was so important to me, nor did I realize the toll the last three years had on me having gone through feeling like I was doing something wrong when it came to helping others.
I shared with him how much I love his high level of emotional maturity and his huge heart, as well. He's one of a kind, truly.
We have moments like this, too…
Scott: “Was wondering about hitting the Hoover Dam on the way home.”
Me: “Um….I’ve been there but will go if you want to.”
Me: “Let’s go check out “x” place in Phoenix!”
Scott: “Um….I was there with so and so when I was dating her.”
Scott: “If I die while flying from Flagstaff to Phoenix with Paul, did I tell you we have a million-dollar life insurance policy.”
Me: “Wait, what?”
It’s like we’re rediscovering each other even though there’s a deep soul love and knowing underneath all of it.
Re-entry used to be thought of as kind of a tough thing because we were finding our groove again but now, it feels like a fun surprise.
I’m thinking we call the NEW re-entry, “So, funny you mention that, ….”
Dear women who are writing to me about having been with my ex,
Thank you. From the bottom of my soul, thank you.
I just received another email message this morning from a brave woman. I think that brings the count to 10, now. I know what you’ve been through from your gut wrenching accounts and from my own personal experience with him. Each time I read a new message from a woman who was pursued and abused by my him, my heart just breaks for all of us.
If you’ve written to me and would like to share more, please do. You can do so anonymously on my contact page or in comments, as many of you have.
I wish I could take your pain away.
I wish I could take the feeling of shame and stupidity away.
I wish I could get your money back, for those of you who loaned him money or paid the bills.
What I CAN DO is let you know you’re not alone. You’re not stupid. You’re a beautiful human being who opened her heart. That’s all.
I also want to stress one more thing.
Please get STD testing done, if you haven’t.
I was diagnosed with HPV after never having had it before nor ever having an irregular pap smear. It’s the eve of my appointment to determine which procedure they will perform to clear me of any early stage cervical cancer. This was caused by HPV. My doctor believes I contracted HPV sometime in the last three years. I wrote more about it here. The good news is that all other tests came back negative which is truly shocking, given the number of partners I believe he has had based on all of the messages I’m receiving.
I am here for you. I will listen. You are not alone.
Excerpt from one of the messages I received:
I too am a victim of his abuse like you were.......................I have been reading your blog and you are truly a hero to all of us that have been deceived by this monster. He disgusts me and I feel so stupid for falling for his BS. Karma as you have described seems to be waiting way too long to take effect. I know I should forget and forgive but its just so hard. By your posts you help ease my pain and the pain of so many others. As the tears are running down my face, thank you for all that you have done to stop this inhuman human. Your friend in spirit xxx."
In the wake of #metoo, I'm hearing from women it's really stirred up old emotions and memories of abuse that had been repressed for many years. I've been there. It took me three years to write this letter to my abuser after finding out about what I endured as a child.
I've thought a lot about this: sharing my letter I wrote and mailed (in February) to the man who raped me between the ages of three and six. I've wondered if sharing it publicly was the right thing to do--if it was too revealing. (I shared it initially back in February on this blog.) Then I thought about the people who reach out to me who are searching for answers. Searching for something that might help them heal their inner child.
There is no handbook for this. I didn't know how to start the letter, what to write. I had to trust intuition and just write what was in my heart and mind.
Maybe sharing this letter will help one other childhood sexual abuse survivor. I really hope it will.
February 5, 2017
I’m writing to you because I want you to know that I know what you did to me when I was little. Maybe you thought I wouldn’t remember. Maybe you didn’t care either way.
And here’s what I know. You sexually abused me and raped me when I was just a tiny child. Multiple times. The pain and damage you caused—the subconscious scarring—is something I’ve had to work very hard to recover from over the past three years. You see, I didn’t remember any of it until I was 40 years old.
There were clues along the road of life, like having to endure vaginal surgery at age 19 due to scar tissue from you raping me. And many, many other telltale signs over the years told the story of what I suffered because of your sickness, but the dots didn’t connect until three years ago. Until it all started to come back to me because I was ready to face it and heal from it.
Here’s something else I know. I’m not the only child you abused.
When I ask myself how in the world you could do what you did to a precious little child, there is a part of me that actually feels empathy for you because NO ONE does what you did (and may still be doing) unless it was done to you in some shape or form. Or was promoted within your family growing up. Cycle of abuse. But that cycle stops here. You weren’t strong enough to break the chain. I am. I’m not letting the abuse break me.
I pray to God you aren’t still abusing children and that maybe, just maybe, your past is catching up with you. Your conscience is screaming. And I hope you will not turn down the dial on the noise. That you will really think long and hard about how you conducted your life and the wake of pain you left behind you.
Know this: You may have violated my body but you did not break my spirit. I am proud of the strong, confident woman I am today and I’m proud to help other childhood sexual abuse survivors reclaim their lives.
I’ve thought about whether or not I truly forgive you and at this point, right now, I can’t honestly say that I do. I’m sure I’ll get there someday. But not now. What I do know right now is that everything I’ve endured in my life has made me stronger. I am the person I am today because I overcame what you did, and I’m grateful for who I am and the light I bring to this world.
You know how when you’re in the thick of an experience, it’s hard to grasp the big picture lesson?
Yeah. Me, too. Except with the lesson that walked into my life in 2014, I was shown very small glimpses along the way, but I didn’t want to see them as truth. Then, after the lesson of an abusive relationship walked out of my life, it still took some time to see all the pieces and truths coming together. I feel like in light of recent revelations, I’m finally there. It’s like everything came together in a movie trailer form. I’m talking wide-screen, technicolor, 3D format. Don’t you wish that sometimes these life experiences came with movie trailers BEFORE the lesson? Here’s my movie preview:
Lights go off. Projector flips on. The screen lights up.
A door to a bedroom closes. The five-old-girl inside is sexually abused by a charming, distant relative and blocks it from her mind. Fast forward about thirty years. At the age of 36, the once “normal” mom, wife, and business owner suddenly starts channeling messages from children in spirit who were sexual abuse survivors during their lifetime and/or who were killed by predators. Her work leads to partnerships with decorated police detectives around the country fighting for justice. Three years go by until the reluctant medium/mom/furniture designer starts to channel messages and memories of her own abuse by that male relative—a true ah ha moment in her life. Four months after this epiphany, she falls in love with a smooth-talking, sensitive macho man. She leaves her husband for her new life. She joins forces with her new love on both personal and business fronts, and then slowly starts to realize she’s in a controlling, abusive relationship with a man that does not like her working on cold cases that involve sexual predators. She thought, as he proclaimed to her, she was his soulmate—turns out, she was one of five women in his life when he started pursuing her. They split up and she starts sharing her journey publicly. Unsolicited emails and stories from other women he’d been with—some more than twenty years younger than him—flood her inbox making the next ah ha moment come into razor sharp focus. OMG. She fell for a predator. For the second time in her life, she trusted a predator. Now, what is she going to do about it?
(This is where I’d like to be shown as some bad-ass woman with bow and arrow like Jennifer Lawrence from the Hunger Games).
Ok, so back to what is she going to do about it. She’s going to share her story. Be a voice for others who can’t speak up. She’s going to refuse to be bullied into submission with fear tactics. She’s going to stand up for what is right—always. She’s going to tell her story honestly and authentically; owning and baring her mistakes, her triumphs, her regrets and her breakdowns. The ultimate aha moment comes in learning how and why she fell and then stayed in the relationship, unknowingly healing past wounds to ensure it never replay again in her life. She’s going to cherish the true love story that emerged from all of this—her lifelong relationship with her husband.
Lights go up again.
It’s really mind blowing to watch it all unfold from this vantage point. Every time I post a new blog, another new woman steps forward baring her soul and truth about her time with him, either in comment or private message. Never once have I received a message that says, “It was all wonderful. He’s a gem.” I truly had no idea so much was going on behind the scenes with so many for so long and right under my nose! (Let me just say, I always believe the women who bravely step forward. But the real OMG moments come when they share screenshots of conversations he had with them, where I can see his photo next to the predatory, manipulative things he said to them.) Thanks to social media, this type of predatory maneuvering is more rampant than ever. It’s so easy for these guys (and gals) to portray themselves as who they know you want them to be and line up back up "supply" on the side, and the soul mate never knows.
Just to be clear, I’m not a victim in this. This was one of my life lessons. A big one, no doubt. I trusted him blindly and I have learned so much. I believed he was who he said he was and he would never do anything to hurt me. Just like I believed in my relative who eventually raped me when I was five.
My hope is that if you have gone through something similar (maybe minus the talking to ghosts part) and want to share, please do. If you have information you want me to know, please contact me. You can do so anonymously by reaching out to me here on the contact form. To the women he’s currently engaged with, I’m here when you’re ready. No judgment, only compassion. I understand the pull, the connection, and the lessons.
Without the brave women who have stepped forward—some with names and some anonymously—I wouldn’t have been able to watch the trailer play on the big screen. I’m eternally grateful to them.
And I can’t wait to see how this movie plays out for the rest of my life.