A Dad’s Voice Part 2
Was it me?
The most shocking thing was that his actions were so clever, ruthless, sly, manipulative – I didn’t know this side of him and it was the total opposite of the person I had known very well from birth till disclosure.
Our families got together all the time, everything was normal. The adults sitting around the kitchen table “chewing the fat” over the week’s news, planning family trips, playing cards and listening to music – everything a typical family does (well our family anyway!) The children, 4 most of the time, sometimes more would be off doing their “thing”, be it upstairs on the PlayStation, outside in the garden or watching a film, the stuff kids do. Nothing, not anything made me think something is untoward here, FOR FOUR YEARS!! With hindsight myself and (I should imagine) the vast majority of people in this country faced with this had been thinking –
Stranger danger!! keep your child safe from them, the shifty looking man, the lone person in the park, stereotypical perpetrators.
The other, so I found out, completely wrong and dangerous view is “this type of thing does not happen to families like ours.”
My feeling for a long, long time was that yes, stranger danger was covered (looking back, maybe a little too much) and then I had totally let my daughter down by not protecting her from HIM. I knew HIM (so I thought) for years’ worth of birthdays, Christmases, holidays. During the period of abuse, it should have been blindingly obvious. But it literally never once entered my head.
I think it’s just not natural to suspect your nephew or someone you think you know so well.
But no, with hindsight he was so cunning and clever and had used such strong coercive behaviour with my daughter, she would never have opened up to anyone about what had happened. It only stopped when he was interrupted one day while the abuse was happening.
It took months and years to understand how I could have missed it, only to eventually understand that he fooled not only me, my wife, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, mum and dad, as well as his friends – literally everyone who knows him.
The reason is (in my view) that he was able to cover his tracks completely. As I said, this side was completely different to the person I’d thought I knew.
My wife and (more importantly, I suppose) my daughter never blamed me for not seeing it. I however, for those months and years knew I WAS to blame.
That feeling of guilt has changed over time though.
I think what helped was speaking to the people I’m closest to. Normally for me that would have been my sister, but because she was part of it that wasn’t possible. I talked a lot to my wife. I also spoke initially to one good friend who I knew I could speak to about it. We had a family support worker at The Green House very early on too. She gave advice and later on conversations that felt like therapy.
I think it was from thinking it through, and thinking it through with others, that made me rationalise it differently – every one of them kept helping me see that I hadn’t seen it, of course I hadn’t expected it, and the pain and anguish was caused by his actions, not mine.
The police reiterated that too – I think we were really lucky with the police in the advice they gave and the ears they listened with. Even our doctor was helpful. So in a way we were lucky with that, I know some people don’t have that.
Me and my wife are talkers, so that really helps us. I think if you’re not a talker to have to step into this sh*t-show and not be able to open up must be even harder. I’d say if someone is like that it’d be worth them trying to find someone they can open up to.
Everyone that I was speaking to kept saying the same thing – that it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me letting her down, it was purely and simply about his actions and the pain they caused. I hadn’t done wrong, he had fooled everyone. As a collective of friends, The Green House, and the police I kept hearing this and eventually it was like the penny dropped.
Every situation is different. Every persons experiences are different and everyone’s way of dealing with things is different. What I took from this whole situation is there ARE people (friends or professionals) who can get you to see things clearly as an “outsider” and they can help re-focus and to come out of the fog.