Our story is meant to aid in understanding the dynamics of human trafficking and 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.
Part 5: The Letters
By the following spring Vicki’s memory work had attenuated, and her perspective on her childhood had completely changed: Her father had been a monster—a man without restraint. His oldest daughter had simply been there for him and his pleasure. She remembered incidents from age five into her middle teenage years. The latter were the most difficult to handle because she felt she ought to have said or done something—why hadn’t she? Why had she simply blocked it out of her mind? No wonder she had gotten pregnant and then married and moved of the house—because she had been afraid of her father and wanted to get away from home.
I had a difficult time reconciling this information with the man I knew. Vicki’s father was charismatic with a host of friends and had run for mayor, but in private he was at times crude and demeaning to his wife. He was also very generous. If we were in a financial pinch, he seemed to know and would give us a little money to help out. In many ways he was a more engaged father, than was my own father. Years earlier when I had started a carpentry business, he had run advertising for me and gotten my business off the ground. Despite his occasional indecent jokes, I had grown fond of the man. What made the most sense—and what we both hoped—was that her father had grown out of that behavior; it was part of the past.
“It’s time to confront your parents,” Isaac announced suddenly at the beginning of one of her usual biweekly sessions. “. . . your father for what he had done and your mother for not protecting you.” This was standard procedure in the healing paradigm for incest of the time. Isaac wanted her to write personal letters to each of her parents, noting with specific, but not graphic detail -the sexual abuse: how it affected her over the years, and how she felt about it. He also warned Vicki that her father was not in a therapy group like the offenders that she had come to know and trust and may not respond like these men had.
While reliving the memories had been difficult, this was terrifying to imagine. She did not know how her father would react; she hoped he would repent like the men in her therapy group and apologize, but it would seem out of character for him. And she was afraid that the stress would be too much for her mother, now over 70 years old. Vicki could only imagine how her mother would feel when she saw the profound cost of her maternal neglect.
I had something going on in my subconscious that said If you ever tell, something bad will happen to you. I was absolutely terrified of writing these letters, but I had committed to doing what Isaac said and overcoming the PTSD I suffered with, so I spent time first panicking and then figuring out how I could write them. I decided I would draw that strength from my religious and spiritual convictions. I felt like I would be able to gain the strength I needed and write the letters in the visitors center of the Washington DC Temple –a place our faith considers to be most sacred and holy.
The two letters went off by certified mail in mid-July. To get away from the telephone that she knew would ring, we scheduled a two day trek along the Appalachian Trial. The kids were sent to friends’ houses. Vicki had earned the time off and it was refreshing to body and soul. But it was not long enough. As if on cue, we had not been home more than a few minutes when the telephone rang. It was her mother: ”We’re coming up there right away and have you committed to a psyche ward.” “Okay, come up and meet me at my therapist’s and we’ll talk. And then you will know the truth and Daddy may go to jail.” Her mother quickly backed down and over the next few weeks she begrudgingly admitted that it was possible that her husband may have been involved. Then she waffled and absolutely denied it was possible. Her position was difficult to read: she did not want to lose her daughter, but she did not want to antagonize her husband, who categorically denied everything.
This was the beginning of a four year hiatus from seeing her father. Her mother came alone to visit a couple times a year, especially wanting to see the grandkids. It was too painful emotionally for me to see him, especially since he insisted in denying everything. At this time in my life, my PTSD was horrible and just being around my father could affect my sleep and emotional well-being for weeks. It also hurt our family life because I was so unstable.
Several months later, when I was beginning to process my anger, I called my father and asked him to help with the therapy costs. Although we were bartering on the costs of each session, transportation and meals added up. There was no reason I should be paying both the emotional and financial costs of this. Without hesitation my father agreed. “Just don’t tell your mother.” Thus my dad admitted, at least to me, that my memories were real and he was taking some responsibility.
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).
Follow this series on Tuesdays of each week (read previous posts, 1-4 here).