Years ago, a friend, someone in the field of counseling, gave me the idea to write this letter. A letter to you, letting you know how your actions and, thereafter, lack of actions caused years of considerable pain and stress on the lives of many people. I should have written this letter back then but didn’t because I didn’t want to hurt anyone. So, my choice not to put it all on paper then was kindness both to you, Dad and the rest of the family. Today, I am not looking to be kind. I am only interested in telling the truth, something you have never told, at least not in regards to yourself, your children or your step-children.
As children, S and I, just four and five years old told you about J Jr. coaxing us into the box car, and then violating me while he made S hold me down and watch. Pulling up my dress and ripping down my panties, touching me, violating me, forcing his penis between my legs, ripping away at all that was pure in my heart. What did you do? You did nothing. You told S and me that you would handle it- you would also tell Dad about it and he would handle it. Then, you called Aunt Rose, Uncle J, J Jr. and their girls over after dinner, where I was forced to be around J Jr. , the pervert that abused me just hours before. All of the kids, including myself, were sent to play so the adults could talk. What did you talk about Mom? It wasn’t the abuse that I suffered at the hands of J Jr. just hours before. No it wasn’t – I learned that from Dad years later when I confronted him. You never told Dad, Aunt Rose or Uncle J.
Dad confirmed that years later in his own words saying, “A father would never forget being told that his child was sexually molested, sexually abused or raped.” And I believe him. You know that it’s true, too. You can deny it, but it has been confirmed, not just to me but to S also. You never told Dad. Why? What was your reason, Mom? I spent years being mad a Dad for not protecting me. How can he protect me if it’s something that he knows nothing about? How Mom? Do you feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror?
Let me remind you about another one of my childhood experiences that took place shortly thereafter. I say remind because you were told about this, too, and you did nothing. Not long after the incident with J Jr., it happened again. Only it was P Jr. this time. He got the other boys involved too; M, T, and S. M and S never participated but T was never very bright and he was little himself, probably to afraid to stick up for himself. In my bedroom, on Prospect Street, P Jr. would open up the closet door so that if you or Dad walked down the hallway, you wouldn’t be able to see what was going on before he could cover up his acts. After M refused to participate and T did what he was told, P Jr. gave S instructions on what he wanted him to do to me. He wanted S to have his turn. S was too afraid to stick up for himself, he told me that as he lay down next to me and then when P Jr. went back to his room S said, “I don’t want to do these things.” He was a scared little kid, just like me, Mom, a child, with his innocence being ripped away from him. This was the last time that S and I were friends and the last time that we got along. I would like to think that it is because he feels like he failed me as my big brother. First having witnessed what J Jr. did, and then having to witness what P Jr. was doing. I can understand if he feels like he failed. But he didn’t – he was just an innocent little kid like me, Mom. This was life with P Jr; M and T. The boys, that you; yourself protected and cared for why you neglected the hearts, minds and bodies of your own babies.
The night didn’t end there for me, though. P Jr. made sure he got what he wanted before the night was over. Forcing his fingers inside me, prodding and poking in places his hands didn’t belong. And the next morning, hurting I came to you and I told you what P Jr. had done and what he wanted S to do and you said, “Damn it, Kerri. You need to stop all of this nonsense. A little girl doesn’t behave this way.” Then, you laid me down so you could look at my vagina. What were you looking for, Mom, evidence to cover up?
I felt safe coming to you Mom. I depended on you for protection, to discipline them – to make them stop hurting me. Instead, you shamed me, made me feel bad, worthless and dirty. Why? Why would you not protect your children? Why?
This was my childhood, Mom. If P Jr. didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep either. And you, the person I was counting on – the person I came to and cried to – you didn’t protect me and you didn’t discipline him. You didn’t stop him from hurting me and so the abuse continued and not just with me, but also with other family members. He sexually abused other family members because you didn’t put a stop to it. If you had disciplined him and gotten him help, people would have been aware and he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to hurt anyone else. Why did you allow this to go on Mom? Why?
When you and Dad decided to separate and you called us (S and I) in the kitchen to ask us if we wanted to move with you or stay with Dad, I only chose you because P Jr. was staying with Dad. At seven years old, I was trying to protect myself. Protect myself, Mom. Something you should have been doing.
Let me tell you about my first memory, Mom. It was at the age of two. It was in the winter of 1972, when we lived in the Phillipsburg housing projects. Remember those days? I do, and I remember them very clearly. So clear in fact, that I remember the color of my pajamas. They were baby blue, footed pajamas that zipped all the way up the front. The reason that this memory stands out in my mind so vividly is because I believe that it is the first time that I was sexually abused by P Jr. This is where it all started.
How much older is P Jr. than me; six years? So if I was two, he was eight. You should find this very disturbing. At the age of eight, he was inflicting sexual acts on other people. Regardless of his age, he was a very disturbed child, and today he is still a disturbed individual because he never took responsibility for and never received punished for or gotten help for the crimes he committed back then.
Let me tell you more about my first memory Mom. Because this is the night I was raped of my innocence. It was ripped away from me with P Jr’s touch. This experience was life changing for me. This is where my childhood died and my life as an adult began. It was forced on me, Mom, at two years old. Two years old, Mom, and still today it’s all very clear, burned into my memory, all the way down to the color of my pajamas.
Dad and you were both home that night, in the next room. He was screaming for you to call the police because someone was outside trying to steal his blue Ford truck. I could hear you running down the steps to get to the phone. I remember every little detail. I even remember seeing the glare of the police car lights shining off of the bedroom window. Both criminals – the one trying to steal the truck and P Jr. – the one raping your daughter – got away with their crimes.
This night may not have been the first time that I was sexually abused but it is the first time that I remember being abused. At two years old, I didn’t really know what is going on, I just knew that it was wrong and that I didn’t like it. I was scared and confused, Mom. I was even angry. Why didn’t I tell you then?
Because I was two years old, I was just a baby. I didn’t know how to tell. My mind wasn’t mature enough to understand it. My childhood was life in an environment where for years, I suffered sexual abuse under your nose and you did nothing to stop it. This letter doesn’t tell it all, not nearly. The sexual abuse goes far beyond these words and the ongoing effects of that abuse remained a huge factor in my life causing me considerable pain and stress for a very long time. It is only by the influence of Aunt Jean, Grammy, Lori and Sherry, along with the grace of God that I am the person that I am today.
You owed it to me to protect me, to honor me, to keep me safe, Mom, but you did none of those. I was just a little girl – just a four-year old little girl when S and I both told you. What happened to you handling things? The only person in that house that was handling things was P Jr. handling me in ways that he shouldn’t have been and you did nothing to stop it.
Here’s another memory, Mom. When I was six years old I was taken to a bare spot in the woods where P Jr; S., T, and the neighbors the F boys were. I remember having my pants pulled down – panties and all – by one of the older boys. They ordered T to drop his pants and climb on top of me. T did what the older boys told him. The older boys were cheering T on – egging him on. Telling him to try this or do that. I was crying and pushing him, telling him to get off of me. The older F boy, standing there with his penis in his hand said “Get up let me try.” I screamed “no” and started pushing T off of me again. The oldest F boy said, “Come on Kerri, I have just the thing for you.” Then he said, “T, sit up and pee on her.” The others chimed in “Yeah pee on her, T.” And so T did. This is because of you, Mom. Because you did nothing when you were told about J Jr. and P Jr; they talked and every boy in the neighborhood thought he had rights to me. We were your children, Mom, and you did nothing to protect us, nothing.
Remember taking me to the doctors, Mom, because my vagina was so sore and swollen? He asked you if I masturbated, and you laughed. I had to ask you what it meant because I had never heard the word. Then, you told the doctor “NO.”
Leaving the doctor’s office, I repeated, out loud your conversation with the doctor, in front of you and I laughed. I have also brought it up many times over the years, not because it was funny, Mom, but because of how pathetic you were not telling the doctor the truth. The truth about why I was so red, swollen and sore. You never volunteered any other information and never put a stop to the sexual abuse. For me and the resentment I had towards you then – is the same resentment that I have today. At four, when you didn’t protect me, it put a distance between us that can never be bridged, never. Why didn’t you protect your children, Mom?
And then there was the time, Mom that we lived on Watson Place back in the housing projects. I was ten years old. P Jr. escaped from whatever lock up he was in at that time. He escaped with another guy named Fred. They came straight to our house and you let them in and gave them both a place to stay. Your place was a one stop shop for P Jr. A regular 24-hour motel for perverts; he had food, someone to lie for him, a place to sleep and access to me. And P Jr. was not even your child, but I was, Mom.
As I napped on the couch, I woke to find Fred touching me. While I was sleeping, you left the house, leaving me alone with a stranger, a criminal that just escaped from lock up. You left me alone with him. He held me down and laid himself down on the couch beside me. He told me to relax – said it was all good. It wasn’t good Mom. Nothing about it was good. No, I never told you about this, why would I? You never did anything but shame me when I told you in the past about J Jr. and P Jr. – this was no different. You didn’t protect me then, I knew that you wouldn’t protect me this time. Why didn’t you protect your children, Mom?
I wish I knew Fred’s his last name today so that while I am giving my speeches at the local churches and various high schools and other events I could advertise this rapist to the world like I am advertising you and the others.
That very same night P Jr. made his way to my bedroom to have his fun. He wanted to try anal sex. Sounds like real fun for a ten-year old, doesn’t it, Mom? This is the night that I spent sleeping on the cold bathroom floor after he was done raping me. I was in pain and I was seeking shelter in the bathroom, while you, my mother, slept down stairs on the couch. Was P Jr. a child then? I was. Why didn’t you protect your children, Mom?
Because of your neglect, P Jr. not only took away my innocence, but my birthright to grow up in a safe and loving environment where I could explore healthy sexuality when I was ready instead of being forced with no choice.
Shame, silence and fear – that was my childhood, Mom. The only places I could go and be safe were my Grandparents and Aunt Jeans. I don’t want to hear any excuses about how we were all just kids. That is just a way for you to justify not having to deal with the truth while it’s staring you in the face.
Let me tell you about Uncle Bill’s house, Mom. When you went away to boot camp, Uncle Bill decided to fondle me (this wasn’t the first time) and masturbate in front of me. S. witnessed that too. He walked right into the room where it was all taking place. Then he blamed it on me and said, “Sissy you shouldn’t have been in there by yourself.” I wonder who he learned that from, Mom? He was a child just like me. If he doesn’t remember these things, it’s because his mind as either blocked his memories due to emotional trauma, the drug and alcohol addiction he struggles with or he inherited that wonderful quality from you of sweeping things under the rug. Out of sight, out of mind – right Mom?
Everything P Jr. added to our lives was bad. But the worst for me was when he raped me as I slept in my own living room when I was fifteen years old. How old was P Jr. at this time, twenty-one? This was when I overdosed and tried to end my miserable life. Where were you, Mom? Not that you would have cared anyway. You would have done like you have always done, shamed me and swept it under the rug along with all the other consequences and responsibilities that you didn’t want to deal with in life. You shamed me for my attempt at killing myself. You didn’t care about the reasons why – you simply didn’t want to deal with it.
What about all the times I was rushed to the hospital because of hyper ventilation due to panic attacks I was suffering brought on from the anxiety and overwhelming stress that I was under because of all of the molestation, sexual abuse and rape, Mom, the abuse that you didn’t care enough to do anything about. Instead, you placed the blame on me like you did everything else. Why, Mom, why?
Kids aren’t supposed to raise themselves but that is exactly what S. and I did; myself more than S. I say this because you always treated the boys better. Maybe it’s because of that whole “sweep it under the rug” trait. That is how they all function in life. You favored them and it was obvious to the whole family. It wasn’t jealousy – the excuse you give for you own shortcomings, Mom, it was disregard, disregard towards me. Everyone saw it. That is why I sought out the guidance of Aunt Jean, Grammy, Lori and Sherry. I wanted a better life. And today I am better for their guidance. Why didn’t you protect your kids, Mom?
Over the years, people have often asked me why I don’t talk about my childhood. This is why, Mom. There is nothing good to tell about my childhood. I didn’t have a family. I had life in prison …That’s right…..because you didn’t protect me, I had a life sentence and I hadn’t committed a single crime. It’s terrible what rape does to you. It takes years and years to get over it, and you never fully heal from it. It haunts you and haunts you and haunts you. It is physically, emotionally and spiritually painful.
I said I was abused and sexual abused but I wasn’t abused, Mom, I was raped. Any time someone touches you, forces themselves on you or makes you do something sexual that you don’t want to, it is rape, Mom. Society can call it whatever they want, but it is rape. They are not sexual predators or child molesters; they are rapists and they should be labeled as such.
I have spent many of nights living in fear, Mom. At two years old, taken from me was the power over my own body and power over myself. Do you know what years of rape does to a person, Mom? It doesn’t just rob them of their innocence. It strips them of their integrity and it drains them of their dignity as a human being. What was done to me was repulsive and degrading, vile, filthy and disturbing. And, because I told you and you did nothing but shame me, I was fearful of tell someone else. Because of your words and the way that you made me feel when I came to you as a four-year old, I blamed myself, and I didn’t want to shame myself any further by speaking out.
I knew what was being done to me was wrong, but after coming to you, Mom, and hearing your words, I felt that it was my fault. I knew that if I exposed it to anyone else, you would place the shame more on me than on them. You didn’t protect me at four years old, so I had no faith in you protecting me at any time. I was too afraid to tell anyone else. I had told the one person who was supposed to protect me, supposed to love me and keep me safe – You Mom, and you made me feel worthless, ashamed and improper. I wasn’t going to tell anyone else for fear of losing their love and respect. I didn’t want anyone to dislike me or to shame me anymore than I was shamed by you. So it festered deep inside of me, it enraged me, it poisoned me and it undermined my being. It became my shame and my shame alone. Why didn’t you protect me, Mom? Why didn’t you protect us?
My whole life was a struggle. I struggled just trying to survive, every day. I didn’t do well in school because I was so consumed by the stress of my life – my life full of sexual abuse and the emotional blackmail that followed me. I smoked cigarettes (another fine quality that we were taught by the older boys), and I dabbled in doing drugs and drinking alcohol to cover up my pain. It didn’t work though because it only killed the pain in the moment and when the drugs and alcohol wore off, the pain was still there. I did it because I was angry Mom. I had a right to be angry, because sweeping it under the rug doesn’t get rid of the dirt and scum on the surface. It doesn’t make things better. I can understand why S has struggled with alcohol and a drug addiction for years. It is only by God’s grace that I didn’t. Why didn’t you protect your children, mom?
I don’t believe in ghosts but I know what it’s like to be haunted, Mom, because I was so deeply hurt throughout my childhood. Your failure to protect me didn’t just hurt me, it hurt the others that P Jr. abused, it hurt S, it hurt T, it hurt Dad, it hurt Sherry and it will hurt the rest of the family and the extended families when the truth comes out. Why didn’t you protect your children, Mom? Do you know who your children are?
As children we gain our self-esteem and our self-confidence from the value placed upon us by the adults – who we trust and who we depend on. Back when S and I first told you about the abuse, if you would have reassured us that we hadn’t done anything wrong and we had nothing to be ashamed of, and, most importantly, if you would have put a stop to the abuse, it would have changed our whole world. It took me years to understand this. To understand, that those that hurt me, the guys that violated me, molested me, raped me and you, the one that covered it up, y’all are the ones with the problem – you’re hateful, immoral, people. I didn’t do anything wrong. Why didn’t you protect your children, Mom?
P Jr. reappeared in my life again when I was twenty-two. I was sleeping at your house when I woke up to find P Jr. kneeling over me, his hand almost down inside my underwear. When I jumped up to defend myself he said, “Come on sis, it will be fun.” How old was he at this time, Mom, twenty-eight? Was he a kid then Mom? No he was and is a sick, very disturbed adult. Why didn’t you protect your children Mom?
Later in my twenties, against my better judgment, I reached out to you and told you about the years of continual sexual abuse, hoping to get answers. What I wanted from you was love, understanding and empathy. I wanted you to accept what you know is true—not deny the seriousness of the implications. I wanted you to accept responsibility for the ways you failed me, for the pain you inflicted and the abuse that you allowed others to inflict upon me. You are the common denominator to all of the abuse that I suffered. None of it would have ever happened if you had protected your children. Is that too much for you to take responsibility for? I already know the answer to that, and I ask only because you have never made an effort to do so.
Sometime later I found out that you made a joke about my confronting you and you told other family members that I said I was molested by 14 different family members and others. Yes, you did do this, probably to cover up your own shame.
I can’t even be mad at you for that fallacy because your behavior is foolish and incomprehensible. You have no concept of life, right or wrong, love, and most importantly morals and/or responsibility, and that is not something to be mad about. It is actually very sad, and very, very disturbing.
Raping a child is a deplorable act of violence, but covering it up – allowing it to continue to happen – what kind of person does that? That is just unthinkable. It’s heinous!
Your motives and movements over the years I have never understood. You made no effort to protect your, own children. Instead, you protected those that hurt us. After being told by your own children, ages 3 and 4 years old, you protected them – the abusers. You didn’t speak a word or raise a hand and you did nothing to put a stop to it. You didn’t ask questions because you didn’t want to admit that it was happening. You didn’t want to deal with it. You didn’t want to stop it. You didn’t want to confront the situation or you would have asked, you would have looked, you would have listened, but instead you made it my problem, you made it S’s problem – the abuse that I had to suffer, the abuse that S had to suffer (witnessing is suffering), and the pain that you caused. You’re immoral. You are a very sick individual. How do you look at yourself in the mirror?
P Jr. has a young girl living in a house with him now. How old is she Mom? Does it even matter to you? Does it matter if he is raping her? Do you care? Her age doesn’t matter to P Jr. He is only concerned with scratching his own perverse itches. How old is he now, forty-four? I have done my research, Mom. I have made many phone calls and I’ve talked to the District Attorney’s in several states. Are you going to stand up for your kids, Mom or are you going to continue to protect a rapist? A rapist that isn’t even your own child?
Everyday my life is contaminated with feelings, thoughts and sensations from the past. At one time, I was devoting a huge amount of time, constantly analyzing everyday situations which effectively took over my life, as I tried to recover from the emotional harm done to me as an innocent child. Over the years, I deadened the experiences by denying to myself that it was all happening or had happened. Then one day, I started talking. I decided not to keep quiet anymore, I was furious and I met my rage head on. I fell in love with it because, in my rage, underneath all of the pain, I found my voice. Not just my voice, but the power and determination for it to be heard. For years, the abuse made me feel like a cripple, but now I have a fight in me and I’m taking back what I lost, Mom. That rug that you’ve been sweeping things under for years, I am now going to shake in the face of the world.
My healing began a long time ago by making a change in myself, a change in my life because that was all I had the power to change. I turned it all over to God, and I accepted myself and started to live in truth. I let go of all the secrets I’d been forced to carry. The truth is painful for me, but I accept it and have learned deal with it. The pain is not gone, Mom. It will never be gone. I just learned how to tolerate the pain and to manage the emotions that I don’t like.
In changing, I removed myself from the people (you/S/P Jr. /M) and the things that were used as defenses to cover it all up, and I started talking, Mom. I’m not being silent anymore. This whole situation has hurt enough people and could have been prevented had you done something to stop it when you were told in the beginning by your own babies.
There are no answers from you. I don’t even want to hear anything that you have to say. I’m not interested in your plausible excuses or lies or anyone’s memory of convenience. I am not interested in hearing from you or anyone else that you did the best that you could. That’s far from being true. That would apply only to a person that actually tried to put their best efforts into something. Whenever people say, “She did the best she could,” I think about all of the abuse that you could have put a stop to. You could have explained the situation to Aunt J or Grammy and left us in their care because they would have gladly taken us. So, I will never agree that you did the best that you could, because you didn’t. Claiming you have a mental illness is not acceptable either. I agree that you are sick but it’s not an illness. There is no excuse. I do believe that you loved me with all that you had. Unfortunately, what you had, was very, very limited, and being given to children other than your own.
I’m no longer ashamed or afraid. My adult years taught me that the most powerful thing that we have in life is our voice. So I’m talking and I’m talking loud. I’m using my words, my life story, towards the good of others. I’m telling it, and I’m channeling my anger to help others heal. I’m doing this by using my own voice. I will no longer accept responsibility for the violence committed against me and I have the right to tell the truth and I’m not responsible if other people can’t deal with it.
The anger over the years motivated me to seek revenge and the best revenge that I can get is to not only live right and be happy but also to talk. Talking isn’t just educating others and helping me heal, it is exposing the people who have abused me and it is putting the shame and the embarrassment where it rightfully belongs, on them and on you, Mom – the ones that have hurt me.
I appreciate how blessed I am now. I have a peace about me that I have never known. When I look in the mirror today, I am proud of the reflection looking back at me. I am so proud of the person that I am today, the person God intended me to be. My childhood, as terrible and unhappy as it was, made me rise to a new level of strength in myself, and that is a gift from God. Being weak, pulling on the strength of God is what gave me the courage to face these things in life, to address them, to deal with them and to accept my part in them.
As a teenager, I had already hit rock bottom and I had no more strength emotionally to fight the demons. For years I struggled, just having to look at you, all of you and being around you – being a part of what you considered family. It isn’t family, Mom, it’s a living hell. I couldn’t carry the burden anymore, the burden of the pain and the emotional blackmail. The sadness alone was killing me. It took me years to realize that there was no possible way for me to move forward unless I surrendered to it. It would take that to move on. And, it is only by the grace of God that I am where I am at today.
It is so much easier to be a coward and do wrong than it is to be courageous and do right. Courage is where your heart is, Mom. Not just your heart but also your spirit. It’s your beliefs. It’s acting according your beliefs. It’s facing your own convictions. Having courage is expected by God. Living your life honestly with integrity is your way of showing God your appreciation. God has promised us forgiveness, and He sacrificed the life of his Son to make this forgiveness available. Our gratitude towards him is shown in our deeds, living right and doing right by others.
My primary purpose for writing this letter is because I’m worried that when you die, you won’t go to Heaven, Mom. You hit rock bottom years ago when you turned your back on us, your own children after being told about the sexual abuse. Now, your life is coming to an end, and you will have to answer to someone much greater than anyone here on earth. Are you prepared for that? Or are you going to take a chance and wait until you are standing at God’s feet to be confronted by him about your being disingenuous and not taking responsibility and not protecting your kids? Do you even believe in God?
I also wrote this letter to let you know that I forgive you. I truly forgive you. A long time ago, I gave up the hope that the past can be different. It can’t be. And I believe that true forgiveness heals you of your past so I made peace with my past so it wouldn’t screw up my future.
I accept you for exactly who you are, Mom. I’m not trying to hide my feelings or sugarcoat them. I’m entitled to all of these feelings and you deserve to hear them. You painted this picture of yourself for me. No one else did, you did. This is your legacy, your M. on the world; this is what you’re leaving behind. This is how you will be remembered.
Don’t bother trying to write me back or calling me. I am not interested. You should have worried about doing right by me when I was little. There is no getting right with me – you need to work on getting right with God.
I pray for each one of you. I pray for Dad too, to heal his pain. I pray that God will help each of you heal and I pray that He continues to lead, guide and direct each of you in everything that you say and do. And I pray that you all will start to listen when He speaks. I also pray that each of you will repent and ask for forgiveness, and I pray that when you do, you receive it because you are sincere and God can see it in your hearts. I also ask others to pray for you. Each time I give a speech I ask everyone to pray for each of you, and we do.
P Jr, J Jr, S, you and the others, will never be half of what I am today unless you all take responsibility for what has been done in this family and admit the truth. Until you do that, you will suffer with demons every day in life, as you will in death. Do you want to go to Heaven, Mom? Do you care how you will live your life through eternity?
P Jr. needs to acknowledge the hurt and suffering that he has inflicted on me and S, starting at the age of two. I was the innocent victim of repeated rapes at the hands of him and I am still dealing with and learning to recover from many of the consequences, Mom. However, much of the harm suffered is irreversible.
Send this letter to whomever you want, Mom. Make a million copies if you want. Just like the last one you mailed all over – these pages are filled with your shame not mine and that is exactly how everyone will see it. You did this to me – to us – to your kids. You are responsible for all of this. So if you are looking for someone to feel sorry for you, it’s not going to happen. If mailing this letter to everyone in the family will make you feel better – do it – hurt them just as you have hurt your own children. I spent years being mad at you but not anymore. What you did hurt me but it’s not the end. God has something so much bigger planned for me – for my future. I forgive you, Mom, and for me, that is all that matters.
My Mothers Legacy of Shame
From the personal journal of Kerri Bishop Reece
Healing Kerri – written May 5, 2003