I get the shakes when I let myself “go there.” I hate that. (I really am normal. I am!) I don’t want my trembling hands to reveal that any part of me has been broken. I want all of myself for me, for my family, with not a single molecule wasted on feeling damaged. I only have one life and I want to use my time being awesome, not crying about how my father took something from me.
It always goes like this: I say to myself, “I’m so normal. I haven’t been affected by who my father is.” Then I allow myself to analyze, and it becomes: “OHHHHHH FUCK. Yeah. I really am a product of my environment.” It’s as if every choice I’ve made in life has been to remove myself as far as possible from that other life. Married with two children. Subdivision with HOA. Picket fence and organic garden in the backyard.
It’s almost funny.
It was going to be either picket fences or stripper poles, I suppose.
I know I have to stop denying the truth of it. If my hands are shaking, they’re shaking. I can’t pretend they’re not. And, on the rare occasions I tell “the story,” I can’t stop my voice from quivering. It goes all warbly and there’s not a damn thing I can do to stop it. I can’t prevent that limp-wet-rag feeling that follows any conversation on this topic, similar to the feeling one gets after a night of too many drugs. I know that, after writing this, I will need a nap.
So I have to admit that I have been affected. I am not happy about this admission.
Not that there are no benefits to having lived with a pedophile. (I’m sorry, but you say lots of strange things when your father is a pedophile.) I have what I jokingly refer to as “pedo-dar,” as in, pedophile-detecting radar. Because I heard the strange things my father said, witnessed the inflated defensiveness and excuses, I know what it looks like. For example, pedophiles do things to make people terribly uncomfortable and then claim it was “just a joke,” and accuse everyone of overreacting. My father used to “pretend” he was going to rip our towels from around us when we walked by his recliner after showering. He would grab the corner and tug just hard enough that if we didn’t clutch the towel for dear life, we’d be left standing naked in the middle of the living room. When we finally confronted him about this, he threw up his hands in mock defeat: “Come on! I was just joking!”
There were other things. I call them “tells.” He always seemed to be having a wardrobe malfunction at the hem of his shorts. Tickle fights went on past the point of discomfort; they felt too intimate. For every female he ever met, he commented on her physical appearance. For the younger ones, he would try to make it sound harmless: “She’s so beautiful.”
He asked my seventeen-year-old friend to “come over sometime… alone.” (That was the first time I really knew. Before that, I only suspected.) He used to ramble on and on about the appearance of my friends, paying particularly close attention to the ones who dressed provocatively. Even now, on the rare occasion that I visit him, he cannot seem to refrain from commenting on my body. “Finally starting to put on some weight, I see! That’s okay, a woman should have hips!” Or something equally revolting.
Wait – see him? I know. It’s weird that I still see him at all. Please reserve judgment on this, as you are not me. I’ve wished him dead enough times, believe me. But I still care about him. The part of him that is terribly broken, the part of him that was sexually abused as a child, suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia and dropped out of school in the tenth grade – the part of him that became a monster – I can put that part of him out of my mind for one hour every six months, while we have lunch at the Applebee’s near his dilapidated house.
I permit this, because I remember a time when he did not seem so broken. My father is a carpenter. He built our house. He painted my bedroom, installed ruffled curtains and put together a four-poster princess bed. He built me a swing-set, from scratch, of his own design. He built me a wooden doll house with a roof covered in tiny wooden shingles that must have taken days to glue on. In the woods near our house, he carved out paths for us, and installed a tree house. With scraps from his jobs, he constructed a play house in the back yard, furnished it, and installed working electric lights. And best of all, in those times, he didn’t look at me funny. He was trying to be a good man, a good husband, a good father.
Sadly, my sister came along three years after me and doesn’t remember much of this. Plus, it was my sister’s friend who bore the brunt of our father’s burgeoning curiosity in the years before I knew what was going on. My poor sister knew all along, sworn to secrecy by her best friend. On the day we confronted him about everything, the day he shook with strange, animalistic sobs as we three women packed our things, my sister’s face was made of stone. She cried, I think because it is just pathetic to see a grown man hiccup and snot like that, but she did not yield in her coldness towards him. I was the one who felt sorry for him. Or maybe not for him, exactly. Maybe for what could have been. What should have been.
My sister has not seen my father in years.
But, because I had a chance to see his good side, there is a part of me that still loves my father. Not that I root for him. I certainly don’t wish him success. I have even wondered many times if I would be capable of putting him in jail.
I watch him shuffle through his wrecked life with missing teeth, terrible vision and a gnarly beard, sitting alone in his broken-down, stuffy hot house. Next door is our long-time family friend who finds a way to forgive him for who he is while also keeping an eye on him. My father has no wife to make him sandwiches. The grandchildren he has will never sit on his lap.
His life now is not jail, exactly. But it is close.
wow. Just so much wow.
Such a powerful piece. Thank you for finding the strength to write it and I’m sorry you had to experience it at all. Much respect and love to you.
What? I’m left asking the same question. How in the world did you come out so awesome from something so horrible? This is heartbreaking. Did the friend ever go to the police?
I can’t imagine how horrible this must be. You’re awesome and I’m happy to know you. This just makes me love you even more for overcoming so much.
And seriously, stop going to Applebee’s.
Thanks for writing this Kristen, I imagine it was hard. And thank you for sharing the signs to look for.
There are no words to describe the respect I have for you for writing this article. Many will benefit from knowing they are not alone in their mixed emotions or having had to suffer through such experiences. thank you for sharing.
It’s 30+ degrees here in Vancouver & I just got full body chills. Your humanity for this poor, hobbled creature of a man is what stands out the most. So much love and respect for you, my girl.
You never really think about the families of the ‘monster’ when you see the Oprah show or whatever, but you really put a face on it and made it relatable for all of us with the picket fence and organic garden.
I got chills reading this, because this is my exact situation. The comments my father would say to my friends and I, the pedo-dar that only children of pedophiles are unfortunate enough to have, the revolting lack of acknowledgement that my father has; you described it all. I am an only child, now a mother of 2 kids…one of which was abused by my father, and my mother who still lives with my father, is mentally ill. I had no one to turn to, and no one who believed my church-going pedo dad was anything but a loving father and husband. I’m 31 now and my kids have no contact with him, but the lingering pain from experiencing a loving father turn into a predator will plague me, I fear, for the rest of my life. Thank you for sharing. It helps knowing im not alone.
Every once in a while I try a “my life is better because I have one less child” “joke” and sometimes it works. For me. At the end of the day and in the morning and all day in fact, I’m the one that has to live my life. Life doesn’t come with manuals and I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge I have. Sounds like you are too. No judgement from me.
I feel like I need a nap after reading that. I applaud you for your strength both then and now. Sharing this couldn’t have been easy, but it is definitely something we should all consider when we’re cursing these men. They had another life and a family who are also suffering in the fall out.
This had to have been hard to write, but thank you for sharing it with us, because it’s an amazing piece.
Mama, I’ve got nothing, just ((((hugs)))). Some secrets are too big to bear, and there is no human being on earth who isn’t broken in some way. Some are broken in ways that make them break others, too. I’m so very sorry that your dad is one of those.
You’re stronger. He took whatever good he had, and poured it into you, and into your sister. You took that good and built it into something fresh and new and you’re pouring it forward into others. Hold on to that. You are the best he was able to accomplish. Absolutely, you’re affected. How could you not be? But you’re not tainted. You’re not damaged. You’ve chosen to recognize that he’s broken, and to find what can be redeemed by keeping strong boundaries and by living your life. There’s something powerful in that.
Just came across your piece…my story is very similar, even down to my younger sister not speaking to our father. And, I, too, occasionally visit him and talk to him. I can’t explain why…and no one else understands why…he’s my dad.
You have just told my life story, even down to your father’s occupation and current life – with one exception….it was his own daughters and sons, not a friend. My heart aches for all of us who have gone through this (and those who will, unfortunately). We may be broken a bit, but we are, in some ways much stronger for it. I have so much respect for you for doing what you are doing. Please don’t stop. This needs to be brought into the light. Thank you.
I know this is several years after you’ve written this, but I feel like you’re writing something similar to my life. No one understands the pain of the shocked family behind these men. My father is currently serving time in jail for touching a young girl inappropriately a very long time ago. He admitted to it. I have times where I’m furious and times when I am sad. I don’t understand how the man that raised me was capable of that. He taught me how to drive, how to ride a bike, how to throw a softball. He encouraged me to follow my dreams and called me every day the first year of college because I was suffering serious depression. Some days I think it’d be easier to not talk to him, but he’s my dad. He’s the reason I had a roof over my head and food on my table and why I was able to go to college. People think it’s easy to throw that away because someone commits a terrible crime. I did too… until it was my reality.
I was a boy, am now a man, and I have lived with the knowledge my father is a peado, and used me to full-fill his needs. The above is part of my healing. So, I just want to say I appreciate all what has been written, and and am sorry you and us other survivors have gone through what we have. You are very brave, and I wish you all that is good in this world. Look after yourself.
Thanks for reading and sharing your experience Shane. Look after yourself too.
Thank you for sharing your story. I had a similar experience growing up with my father. When I found out I was pregnant I moved 600 miles away from him. However, that was 600 miles away from the rest of my family as well. Its been five years since I have seen him and I talk to him on the phone sometimes. He seems normal… like he is sorry and changed. I know he hasn’t, but there is something inside of me that feels sorry for him. My mom is sick, and I have to move back home. My kids are 4 and 1 and my husband are all moving back with me. My husband hates my dad, he knows everything that happened when I was a kid. I am worried that I am going to let myself be manipulated by my dad again, he wants to see my kids…. I know I shouldn’t let him anywhere near my family. How do I stop feeling sorry for him, how do I distance myself?
being attracted to 17 year olds does not make you a pedophile. that is totally normal.
Thank you. Sincerely. This is spot on to my life. I had to find out my father molested two loved ones of mine when they were younger. My family found out 3 years ago. It’s the hardest I’ve had to deal with. You go through a grieving stage considering the person you once thought of as just eccentric and unfiltered is essentially dead and a living ghost of shame haunts you with phone calls of how sorry he is. I truely know he’s sorry. He too was sexually and physically abused as a child and I feel for him. But I can’t help but think of how selfish he was to our whole family and the ones he directly inflicted this pain on. He didn’t think of them. He didn’t think of the pain that still inflicts them to not trust. Any sensible person should sympathize with that. I don’t quite understand. I forgive him, but do I wish I had something more inviting when it came to family dynamics. I wish I didn’t have to go to limited family gatherings where there’s still an elephant in the room. And yet, he took me to the park, protected me, allowed me to express myself without judgement, am I allowed to honor that? I still don’t know.
Pedophiles repeat the behavior. By not putting him in jail you are complicit in all the rapes that have happened since you found out.
Thank you sharing
The secrets of all of this abuse are tearing generations after generations apart
Thank you for stopping it
This resonated with me so deeply. I went through something very similar. Having a hard time finding women out there who had one for a father. At this point after all that’s going on talking to therapist doesn’t help, nor my best friend’s nor my fiance. I need to talk to somebody who gets it. And I feel so alone.
my dad is also a p***
my dad is also a pedo. Here’s how it began he is a sex addict all his life whenever he went online he would search for sex and stuff i found out his browsing history. Thats when things got worst he got Alzheimer he doesn’t even know what he is saying he even forgots my name sometimgs he doesnt know what he is doing or saying we cannot understand him, And that’s when he saw my neighbour who is 13 year old girl he found interested in her everyday. He would stand near our house window and examin her all day i thought he was ok until he started showing his pen*s to her. i was shocked idk what to do now that’s his hobby now he wakes up at 4 and look through the window everytime. its about 9 when he goes to work after he comes back he started to continue he even jacking off to her and my dad is 55 years old.Everyday i loose my temper idk how to tell someone about this. Am really mad about this its been driving me crazy sometimes i think of killing him(my own dad) because people like this deserve to die. sometimes the neighbours slightly caught him but he still doing it till now. i don’t know how much i can hold this idk what will i do when this gets out of hand.
My father is also a paedophile, he never touched me but his friends did. Everyone makes excuses for him. I have had enough though, especially as he hangs around with one of his friends who abused me as a child. He also posts things on Facebook, and leaves comments on young girls posts. That was the final straw because on of these girls, well I work with her Mother and I am a teacher in the same college that her mum works at. I also have my own daughter now and young teen girls coming here for private tuition, I don’t want him to make them feel uncomfortable! So I have finally said enough is enough, you are not damaging my career, you damaged me long enough. Its a horrible thing to come to terms with. Thank you for posting. I relate so well to you all the best.