January is “Human Trafficking Awareness” month. Our story is meant to aid in understanding the dynamics of this kind of child abuse—both victim and perpetrator—and especially to give insight into the violence of this particular kind of abuse. In the process of writing this—as you will see—it became obvious that sexual trafficking is one of the most violent of crimes against children. It creates shame and darkens the soul more than almost any other type of human desecration. It is told from my perspective as Vicki’s husband, with Vicki’s own words in subparagraphs throughout.
The Indian Summer
The year was 1988. Vicki had turned 39 years old that spring and I was a year and a half behind her. Our youngest, number eight, was a year old and we were incredibly excited because we were moving into the house I had been building for the past four years.
Prematurely pushed out of a small rental house, we were half camping in our dream home. With no kitchen, Vicki was cooking all of our meals outside on an open campfire while I put in a few hours of carpentry work into our new house each night after a long day at our drapery workroom. We had moved in with only an upstairs bathroom and a couple bedrooms; gradually I finished our bedroom and then the living room—dining room area. We both have fond memories of sharing and decompressing after those incredibly long days, days of dreams coming true, days of camaraderie and cooperation. We talked around the outdoor fire into the night, relished the Indian summer and enjoyed the kids, equally excited, racing around the flotsam of a house under construction.
The weather cooperated enough to get the kitchen in and we settled into a house that was 90% finished. But it was soon obvious that something was wrong as we sat down to eat dinner each evening at our new harvest table. Vicki sat at one end and I at the other, but to save her life, my wife could not find the right spot for our oldest daughter who was eleven. There wasn’t a right spot. If I would look in that daughter’s direction, Vicki was certain it was with a lecherous eye. In our brand new house, with the first table that fit our entire family, dinner often erupted with accusations and heated arguments. Our poor daughter was humiliated and sometimes ran from the table while Vicki and I slung recriminations back and forth ruining the meal we had so long looked forward to having as a family.
I did not understand my own behavior. I am not really sure what I was feeling other than a compelling need to protect my daughter. When I would try and be rational with myself, it did not help. I did not believe Jody was or would molest our daughter. I knew my behavior was bizarre, but I had a physical, overpowering need to jump between him and them any time he got physically close. And that is what I would do especially with the oldest. I was protecting my daughter, which my mother had not done for me—I was the oldest daughter in my family. To save my life I couldn’t explain my behavior but the compulsion was powerful. As it would turn out my body was already remembering things that my mind was not ready to accept. Even though I did not remember any details I knew the word “molested” applied to me. I knew that my father had molested me when I was eleven years old.
The information about Vicki’s childhood was not new. From the beginning Vicki had let me know that it came with her—a kind of package deal. She felt in some way that she was damaged goods and that I needed to know that. But the truth was that we both came from dysfunctional families and there had been an undertone of discord in our relationship from the beginning that occasionally erupted into scrimmages. Getting along was often difficult and we suspected it was, at least, partially due to our childhoods. We did way too much fighting and we knew it; we just didn’t know what to do about it even after several years of professional therapy. For her part, Vicki had started incest therapy that spring, but with all we had to do moving into the house it was only half-hearted. What we didn’t know was that her strange behavior regarding our daughter was merely the visible tip of a huge iceberg that we would yet learn about.
With our house flaring up almost every night at dinner, Vicki and I both saw the need to get serious about her therapy. And that turned out to be like opening a door and walking into a world that neither of us had known existed. In our wildest imagination we could never have dreamed it. We would go from the sordid further into darkness to raw evil and beyond into another world that strained credibility. It was hard to believe that Vicki could not remember some of the things that had happened to her as a child, but then upon further reflection, it easy to see why she would not want to remember her childhood. Who would want to live in that kind of world?
This chapter of my life is a really hard one for me. I have always loved kids partly because my mom did and partly because I saw so many hurt when I was growing up (but I didn’t know this at the time). I considered babysitting as a teen to be an honor, much better than dating. So it was not surprising that Jody and I had 5 kids in 6 years. That made 6 kids with my oldest from a previous marriage.
I did not recognize how much my oldest daughter looked just like me at age 11 until I began probing my inexplicable behavior. With only the vaguest memory of being molested at that age, I had promised myself growing up that the same thing would not happen to my daughters. At all costs, I was going to do it right this time; I was going to protect my daughter.
Donate or Learn More About our Work
If you would like to see the ongoing work we are involved with in Guatemala, please visit our website at www.safehomesforchildren.org. Our child advocacy work there is designed to keep families together which is the foremost deterrent to exploitation of children. Vicki does public speaking on child trafficking in the United States, and if you would like to support this work, you can make donations to Safe Homes and note its specified purpose. In the near future, you can submit donations or learn more about trafficked children at our new and specially dedicated site (launch and new address to be announced in an upcoming post).
Photo credit: “Autumnal Walk” by Tricky