In honor of transparency, I have to be totally honest. I become very angry when I see Al Franken put in the same category as Roy Moore and Donald Trump...because, make no mistake, there are differences and degrees to sexual abuse, assault and violence. I myself am a survivor of childhood sexual assault and rape. Roy Moore and Donald Trump are both child molesters. The victims they abused were children, except in the case of Trump- well, he's an equal opportunity abuser, so he goes after women as well. But is there a difference between the victimization of a child versus an adult? I believe there is. The reason I believe there is? Because child molestation is murder. It is the murder of joy and innocence, and it is the murder of a vulnerable, not yet fully formed personality.
At the ripe old age of 9, I was molested by a family neighbor in my old childhood stomping grounds of Fallston, Maryland. The man's name was Gene Jennings, and he lived near us, right down the road from the fire house, high school, and unfortunately, my family home. He had horses on his property, along with a barn and hayloft, which was usually housing a litter or two of kittens. And of course, little girls loved playing at his farm. It was a pedophile's wet dream.
I remember the morning started out just like any other Saturday. It was warm, sunny and blue, with large, friendly clouds passing slowly and lazily overhead. I rushed through breakfast so I could go next store to the barn, intent on spending my weekend brushing and playing with the horses. Mr. Jennings was always so generous when it came to allowing little girls to feed, brush and even ride the horses.
So God-damned generous.
It's funny how your world can be forever broken with one, single event. My entire world, her world, changed in an instant. I was brushing a horse named Jill, working intently, trying to remove the bot fly eggs from her legs and belly. Suddenly, Jennings was behind me, whirling me around as he grabbed my arms and pressed me face first against the stall partition. He pushed into me aggressively and began putting his hands under my halter top and on my buttocks. I tried to pull away, but he was so much bigger and and stronger than the child I was at the time. I felt a wave of fear break and wash over me, so intense it stopped me from breathing, from moving. I was as still as a corpse...burning hot with terror and shame.
I was 9 years old.
I was a child.
I was dying.
I remember the sound of the horses in their stalls, shifting impatiently from one leg to another. I remember holding on to the edge of the wooden trough...so hard the wood bit cruelly into my hands, splintering into my skin and making it bleed. I would later find my lip raw...bitten and bloody as well, while I waited for the hell I was going through to end. "Please make him stop, it's a bad thing...Please make him stop, it's a bad thing..." was the mantra that looped over and over again in my head. I was no longer there, I was somewhere else, a pin point of light in an infinite universe, watching while another little girl struggled against a living, breathing monster in sheep's clothing.
After what felt like a lifetime of his rancid, trembling weight pressing me into near suffocation, he backed away from me. I was able to break free. I ran...RAN...toward the light of the open door, toward freedom and safety and...
"You'd better run home now. You've been a very bad girl." His poisonous, venomous words rang loudly in my head. I ran from him, but I could never outrun those words. Oh my God...had I really somehow caused this? Was this MY fault? My child's brain could not comprehend his words, not entirely...but they did the job he had intended, none the less. I was shamed into silence. I had a secret- a burning, shameful, horrible secret, so great the weight of it would crush the little girl I had been. She died under the weight of it.
She was only 9 years old.
She was a child.
When I left the barn that day, it was darker. It was colder. And, it continued to be darker and colder from that day on. The sweet, joyful, animal-loving, tree-climbing, hide-and-seek playing little tomboy died. What was left was someone a little colder, a little angrier, and a whole lot sadder. The good parts of Kathy were murdered that day, and I was left to suffer alone in her place.
As a daughter, a sister, and a niece...I was suddenly terrified at this apparent new power I had to turn good men into monsters. After all, Gene Jennings had been a pillar of the community, a God-fearing, Christian family man. He had a long white beard, just like Santa Claus. And like his doppelganger, he too would hook horses up to a sleigh and ride through the neighborhood, throwing candy to the kids when the holidays rolled around. If I could turn a man like that into a monster...what about my dad? My brother? Did all men have monsters hiding somewhere beneath their kind and compassionate smiles?
Remember now, most children are told to listen to adults. When I was a child, I was taught at an early age to respect those living in the adult world. I was told they were there to teach, mentor and nurture. But when adults become predators, and children are sexually abused, they tend to become overly promiscuous with inappropriate boundaries, because their understanding of those boundaries is suddenly twisted and fragmented by the adult predator. They begin to question everything and everyone in their life. They start to see themselves as objects. No longer worthy. No longer valued. After my own assault, my life pretty much read like textbook study of consequences associated with female sexual and physical abuse.
The childhood victimization I suffered at the perverted hands of the monster once known as Gene Jennings changed the entire direction of my life. It murdered that little girl-child, so full of promise. It cheated me out of a normal life, and it changed the person I would later become. I hated myself, the way I looked, the way I felt. I ran away from home multiple times, tried committing suicide twice during my early teen years, and I was using drugs and alcohol regularly to self medicate my broken soul. I was raped when I was fourteen by a twenty-two year old high school drop-out, because I no longer had a working, inner barometer to guide and keep me out of trouble. Eventually, I became an adult who married a violent monster and spent nearly a decade being abused physically and emotionally on a fairly regular basis.
Do you see a pattern now? Do you see why child sexual assault is so reprehensible? My entire family lost their little girl that day...the Ghost Girl named Kathy...and they didn't even realize she had passed.
The President of our country is a sexual predator of both women and children. He is shilling for another child molesting politician, Roy Moore. These two putrid excuses for manhood have destroyed countless lives, and they have murdered an abundance of innocence, joy and childhood. These are the predators, and those like them- that must be stopped and forced to face the consequences of their horrible, abusive and murdering actions.
Mr. Jennings never had to face the consequences of his actions. He lived surrounded by the safety and security of his terrible secrets. I know of at least four other girls that were molested by him. And yet, when he thankfully died, there was probably a gloriously written, front page obit in the Aegis, pontificating on his righteous and honorable life, well lived. But this is my story, and there are millions of other's just like it. Out of shame and self oppression, I never told anyone until I became an adult.
Healing truly began when I finally came clean to my dad during one of our afternoon coffee discussions. After I told him the entire story, he asked me "why the hell" I hadn't told him right after it happened. I took a sip of my coffee, looked into his eyes and said, "Because you'd still be serving your prison sentence for murdering him." My dad stared out of the porch window, and we sat in silence for a bit, watching the breeze blow tree branches gently from side to side. He finally spoke up and said, "You're probably right, I would've killed that son of a bitch." He reached over and grabbed my hand. "I'm so sorry you had to live with that, all these years. I love you."
And just like that, the sky brightened, and the healing began. I was fortunate to have some of the best male role models...like my dad, my brother, my cousins and uncles...and I was able to see that in the long run, not all men carry the monster inside, lurking just beneath their surface.
But I live in fear for our up and coming generation of girls and boys...children forced to exist and grow up in a country led by one of the biggest predators of all. The time has come for us to yell these stories from the top of our lungs. We must be loud and obnoxious in our defense of women and children everywhere. We can no longer afford to live in silence. There are stories that must be told, and healing that must take place. The health and well being of our species depends upon it.
“A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then its finished; no matter how brave its warriors or how strong their weapons.”― Cheyenne Proverb
Stay safe, courageous and strong, all of my beautiful sisters! Stand in unity, because the road we travel is long. It is long and dark, indeed.