Heather's Story—Her Step-Grandfather Gets Sentenced to Prison for 135 Years!

Dear Dr.Patti

My name is Heather. I'm 21 and I wanted to thank you for writing your book. I never thought I would find another soul on earth who could understand exactly how different every case is. You're amazing if I do say so :) It took me three trips into the self help section of the bookstore to finally get the courage to buy your book. Honestly the line for checkout seemed like forever. But the torture of that moment was well worth it. I could now walk into a book shop and buy every book on the subject and look the cashier in the eye. Something that means a lot compared to how I was before.

August of 2008 my older cousin Violet's mother passed away. I knew from a very young age that Violet was also abused by my step-grandfather. Violet never knew about me, but she was terrified for me. The same way I was for my younger cousin Sally. There is exactly eight years between Violet and me and Sally and me. On the night Violet's mother passed away I was with my best friend in the entire world, Heaven (yes that is her actual name), and I heard that Violet had asked that my step-grandfather not be at the funeral. Then I heard that my grandmother and her sister (Violet's mother's sisters) would not attend the funeral of their own sister if Charlie (step-grandfather) wasn't allowed to go.

My other cousin Kim was telling me this and I remember gripping the steering wheel of my car so hard my knuckles were white. I said nothing to her but drove to the store with Heaven and her boyfriend. When her boyfriend got out of the car to go in the store Heaven stayed behind. She knew something was up. As soon as the door shut behind him she asked me what was wrong. All I can remember is saying is, " My family is really F***ed up and things are going to hit the fan tonight that no one is ready for." And then I was crying and she was crying.

When we got back I just unloaded on Kim and Heaven. I don't even remember what I said. I can see their faces and their mouths moving but I can't remember one word that was said except how I started it off, "I know why Violet doesn't want Charlie there, because the same thing happened to me." That's it, I just remember asking that they not tell my parents. They respected my wishes but the next morning I was folding clothes with my mother in her room and she said, "I heard Violet asked Charlie not to be there and now your grandmother and aunt are being stubborn." And then it was just like word vomit. I couldn't hold it back, "I know why Violet doesn't want Charlie there." She dropped the towel she was holding and eyed me over the bed. "Why?" she demanded. And all I could say was, "Because the same thing happened to me," and then I hit my knees and begged her not to tell my father as I started hyperventilating.

She did tell my father and then the next thing I know I'm on the back deck with Kim, my mother and father, and my cousin Angie, a police officer, (Angie also happens to be Violet's half sister) and they are arranging appointments with detectives and asking me about evidence. And when I had to tell them about the pictures that were taken, (Kim and Violet are also in the photos. Though Kim was never actually touched. And she hasn't told anyone.) my mom lost it. I don't remember the rest of that day. I kinda blanked out after that bit. (They never got the warrant for the photos so they could still be in that little shack of a house.)

I had to miss the funeral because Charlie was there and I couldn't keep up the facade anymore. Violet was told the day after the funeral and then I was sent to see a detective. She was truly great and a best friend of my cousin Angie's but that little interrogation room was hell. The next eighteen months were devoted to a trial from hell. I lost 3/4 of my family but Violet and I are closer than ever. What family we do have left are amazing. My mom and Dad stuck by me the entire time as did my mothers parents. I haven't talked to my dad's mother, Charlie's wife, since the night of the funeral. She renounced me and said I was doing it all for the money. I didn't sue them and yet I know it would help my parents. We have had to move in with my mother's parents because my mother and the rest of us refuse to live in that house where so many horrible memories are and where Charlie and my grandmother's house is right down the street (where 99% of the horrible abuse happened.) I also failed out of college and lost my job when I went into a sort of dark hole during the trial.

He did get sentenced to three life terms and 135 years in prison. Violet didn't have to go through with her case because of that. Which was a good thing because she has to be high or completely wasted to go back to where her memories of the abuse are. She handled it differently than I did. I turned to my books and to my writing. She turned to drugs and guys. She's better now and has been clean for over two years. My little cousin Sally I get to see next month and her mother wants me to sit down and ask her if she ever got "hurt". It will be hard because if she says yes it will kill me. Violet blames herself a lot for me and yet I tell her the truth that she couldn't of helped it. But I see where she's coming from because I'll feel the same way if Sally says yes. The good thing is she's in fifth grade so she has a great amount of her life that she gets to live like a normal kid. Something Violet and I never got. It makes everything worth it on the really bad days to remember Sally's future.

I have a new job and I start school May 10th to finish my nursing degree. I also have two books on the market to be published and Violet and I are determined to write a book together that shows it's possible to get through a court case and still heal from abuse.

The things that haunt me still are my night terrors, triggers, and the idea that I may never have a family of my own. I have had to deal with so much in the past but honestly it seems like nothing to me now. I mean when someone asks you how you got through it what I really want to answer is "What else was I supposed to do? I didn't know any different. It started when I was four or five and didn't stop until I was fifteen. I didn't know any better until it was too late. Fear and shame had me locked in silence."

But now facing the future scares me. I don't have the ability to blank out anymore. I think I used that ability up because I did it so often as a kid. Now I can't stop the stupid memories coming back. It's not all the time now, thanks to the medications from my therapist, but the bad days are bad. Thanks to your book though I can see a light at the end of this tunnel. I know this was long. Sorry for that. I just kinda unloaded.

...........Heather. Survivor of nearly sixteen years of rape, incest, and abuse. (I can say that out loud thanks to you :).

Dr. Patti responds:

Dear Heather;

         Your story is heart warming. The fact that your step-grandfather got three life terms is remarkable! It gives us all hope that sometimes there actually is justice. The court system is not consistent with punishing the abuser and so often girls have to deal with being re-abused through the court system with the cross examination and the results. So bravo to you for coming forward and bravo to the courts in your state for punishing this monster. !! You are also very lucky that your family stayed on your side and helped you to feel empowered. The fact that the other more than half the family has turned against you makes it even more clear how much your parents love, believe and trust you. You do need to be grateful for that.

         I think the one thing you have to really look at is why you did not trust your parents could protect you and stand up for you. I am going to guess that you were under the spell and in a fog from a sick, demented, powerful monster; your step-grandfather. Sometimes girls get so in a trance and are basically brainwashed as in a cult—they believe that there is no way out for them and that they or their family will be badly hurt, maimed or killed. You start to live out that crazy fantasy and you cannot get yourself past it, you also probably "checked out" so much during the molestations that it became a "normal" occurrence. You were in a tortured pattern and you did not know how to stop it. You are totally right about "fear and shame locking you into silence." That is what happens, but more often than not, the girls mother will not stand by her in the end, and she does not tell until she is out of the house and the rejection from her mother will not quite devastate her as much as if she had to face her mother day after day. In your case, your mother has stood by your side.

         And full disclosure: You and I have met since you have reached out through the Girlthrive Blog and I have met your mother. I am so touched by the relationship you and your mother have. I know this is the key to your healing. Also the fact that you know that you have helped Violet in her healing, and now Sally will be safe. When we met I told your mother that she will not get over this. And I believe she won't. She did not protect you, she did not open her eyes and follow her intuitions and go forward to speak out until she could get the truth from you...... She will never forgive herself for that. But as I told your mother, you my friend, will heal. You will thrive, you will have an amazing life and amazing family, and you will NEVER let one of your children be abused in any way. As you and your mom get even closer, she will slowly forgive herself, as she sees one success after another come to you in your life, as she sees you smile, as she sees the sadness in your eyes turn to light.

................................Much love and admiration, xo dr. patti.

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