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The (Incomplete) Process of Forming a Correct Opinion

March 17, 2009
I have a friend whose older half-sister was molested by my friend’s father, (the molested girl’s stepfather). When I was first told this story, when we were all still teenagers, a year or so after it happened, the story was somewhat different than it has been for the last few years. I do not think the story has been intentionally told differently, but told how it was told depending on how the circumstances of what happened was being processed by the people suffering the consequences of the situation at whatever time their side of the story was being told. The telling of a story, including slight and sometimes monumental changes, in itself aids in the process of coming to terms with the events that make the story.

Stepping away and looking at the bigger picture, one can see the role fluidity plays in a narrative. I believe it contributes to the victim’s (who is telling the story) healing. This I recognize as only a right of a victim, not the right of a perpetrator. For a perpetrator to engage fluidity in a narrative is to provide an opportunity for revision, a revision that more than likely favors the perpetrator and, if heard by the victim, exacerbates her suffering. I am not a big fan of get over it or it’s time to move on, although I do know how it feels when I am neither victim nor perpetrator but am affected by the paralysis of the situation. I am tempted to scream out, can we fucking move on. The insensitivity in that declaration reminds me of the scene in Iris when the husband, out of angry helplessness, in the middle of the night, in bed, screams profanities and hatred at Iris. She is lost in dementia and he can do nothing but wait it out. Helplessness often invokes the get over it and the just move on and I will be glad when this all ends attitude. However, sensitivity should prevent that potentially cruel attitude from ever overshadowing compassion for another human being, particularly a victim. Intellectually, I know this. However, emotionally, I can feel two opposing sentiments at the same time.

When we were teenagers and I was visiting my friend one day, her father had come over to get some of his things. It was obvious that he no longer lived there. Perhaps I inquired, maybe I was told, but I was told by my friend that her father and her half-sister had been in a relationship. Sex. Of course, I was shocked. I was young and stupid. And when the mother found out, he was thrown out. Although the following version of the story is denied now, I know I remember being told that the half-sister was an attention seeker, hence, enjoyed the advances of the stepfather, even, accused of wanting to take the father away from the mother. The half-sister was sent off to live with an aunt, and shortly after, went off to college. The mother and father never legally divorced and never again lived together.

My friend and her mother continued to live in the house that they all lived in (as do they now). I know that it was important for the mother to have a house. She was a child of the Depression. A black girl-child of the Depression. She grew up in a small rural southern U.S.town. At twenty, she had a baby. I don’t know the circumstances, such as if she was married to the father or not. Then, a few years later, she had another baby, by another man. Then she had my friend by another man, her husband. So, as a woman with three children, two from previous men and living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, it meant a lot when her husband moved them out of that area and into a better house (the house), in a working poor and blue-collar class neighborhood with some upward mobility oriented folks sprinkled about. Also, there were bigger yards and lovely trees. It was a step up. Incidentally, before they moved out of the poorest neighborhood, the boy-child, the second born, was playing outside in the front yard when he stumbled upon a loaded gun and shot himself dead. He was only five years old. The police knew that the gun belonged to a known drunk who lived across the street, but no charges were ever filed. It has been almost fifty years now. The mother does not visit the child’s grave. I suspect, like everything else in her life, she has learned that she cannot financially or emotionally afford to do anything but move on.

When the mother found out that her husband was molesting (raping) (or a victim of seduction as the old story went) her first born, she threw him out. However, she made an agreement with the husband/molester/rapist/stepfather/father. If he continued to pay the mortgage until the house was paid off (at the time, the next twenty or so years) she would not press charges.

Thus, the rub, for my friend.

My friend’s father died a little over a year ago. Since his death, she has been reliving the whole incident regarding her father and her older half-sister. She is now angry, openly angry with her mother for not pressing charges. I would even say she basically hates her mother because of this. No angle I have presented for her to reconcile with her mother is satisfactory (and I’m not even sure that she should reconcile with her mother). I asked her what exactly could her mother say or do to make it better and she has no answer. How her half-sister is dealing with it, being the main victim and all, I don’t know. The mother has maintained her position that they needed a house. My friend calls her mother greedy. I’m not dismissing that charge, however, we have very different definitions of greedy if that modest house denotes greediness.

Although I understand strict principles and convictions, such as pressing charges against a man who has molested my daughter, I also understand the desire for stability. Personally, I would, without a doubt press charges against a man who has molested my daughter, including if said man is her father. I would not think twice about it. My principles brace me for a life of instability. I live that life every day, the squeezing out of groups, the unpopular treatment. Convictions make for lonely country. On the other hand, I am not a child of the Depression. I did not experience trying to raise two, then three small children in a very hostile and unstable time and place (in the late 50s and early 60s in the south). I know poverty. I know single motherhood, but in a different time under different circumstances. The molestation/rape took place in the mid-70s. Would the police have seriously prosecuted a black man molesting his black over fourteen year old stepdaughter? What would they have done with his story of seduction? Yet, the mother should have tried. Right? The mother should have shown her daughter that no man should ever, ever take advantage of (that phrase in itself is a story), rape, molest, etc. Nevertheless, she didn’t, and now the aftermath ensues.

When I was fifteen, my paternal-uncle and I fell asleep on the sofa watching television. I woke up in the middle of the night to his fingers trying to dig (???) outside of my clothing into my vagina. I escaped, cursed him out and went to bed. I did not tell anyone at the time, fearing some how it would be construed as my doing (It was only days before I heard my mother tell him that she thought I was having sex. I was not!). He never had biological children. His wife was infertile. Now, she is dead. He does have an adopted son. He has lots of property and sometimes I think how I am entitled to that property when he dies. Of course, I am not entitled so I broke down why I have that recurring thought and I concluded that he owes me. He owes me for the violation. To this day, my mother has refused to acknowledge his violation. As well as my sister or any of my brothers. I am a liar, they say. I feel sordid thinking of gaining his property. Yet, it still seems that I am owed something. My friend claims it is pimping. But how can it be pimping? Pimping is not something done after the fact, but before the fact. Exploiting and pimping would require prior intent of procuring something, such as her mother willingly giving her daughter to her husband for the house. Pimping is not the right charge for the mother. Moreover, not pressing charges is not acceptable either.

I know my friend needs me to hate her mother with her, but I have been unable to hate her mother. I do hate her father though, and feel as if he is not getting his share of her anger, regardless if he is dead or not. And, still I do not have a confirm opinion on the situation, and because I have not sided with her wholeheartedly, I feel like I am betraying her.

7 Comments
  1. atheist permalink
    March 17, 2009 9:23 pm

    Yes stability. And it is becoming more important as we once again fall back into depression. The males who use money against women like that, either to get them into bed, or into a marriage, or into a house, or even just to shut their mouths are rapists, pure and simple. And in his case, a double rapist. An uncle of mine who tried something similar to yours is now jobless. I enjoy this very much. Very very much.

  2. Rent Party permalink
    March 18, 2009 1:42 am

    What a great post.

  3. Hegleah Marita Doyle permalink
    March 18, 2009 2:19 am

    And now I am back as Hegleah? FFS.
    I’m really sorry about all this. I feel like I have internet personality disorder. atheist, Hegleah, awfisticuffer
    Are all AtheistWoman.

  4. Mary Sunshine permalink
    March 18, 2009 4:33 pm

    TFGK,

    Thanks for the great post.

    As female children, most of us are born into captivity. As adults, we can only struggle to minimize the degree of that captivity.

  5. Sha permalink
    March 19, 2009 2:02 pm

    I read this article in the NYTimes this morning and my straight hair curled into a bad perm.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/fashion/19brown.html?th&emc=th

    I thought that I became a feminist and vocal supporter of women's rights 40+ years ago so that today's women wouldn't ever let some of these thoughts pass through their (supposedly) growing brains. I was obviously wasting my time.

  6. Mary Sunshine permalink
    March 19, 2009 6:19 pm

    Hi Sha,

    Yeah, I saw that story and left this comment (it’s #16)

    Mainstream pornified culture celebrates male violence and contempt expressed towards women.

    So, of course, huge numbers of teenage girls fawn over this batterer.

    — Mary Sunshine, Canada

  7. MargaretJamison permalink
    March 20, 2009 1:21 am

    You know, what you say about feeling owed, I’ve felt that. But it always seemed as though getting whatever thing I thought I might be owed came at the cost of continued interaction with the asshole. I would need to continue to tolerate him in my presence, make niceties with him, bite my tongue, *forgive* him even. Which is, of course, what your friend’s mother had to do. I mean, I don’t fault her, but I guess, like you, it wouldn’t be worth it to me.

    And can I just add, men are fucking sick. For every man out there actually raping the children in his care, whether in families, schools, churches, or camps, there are dozens who admire him, more who envy him, and even more who empathize with him. Which is why no woman can trust male institutions to strike them a better deal than the one they might be able to make on their own.

    Now, if only women could get by without making deals with *any* men on an individual basis, or with any of men’s institutions.

    Margie

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