Personal Development

Autobiography | Chapter One: A Fellow Partaker of Suffering

Chapter completed Thursday 11 February 2016

Second Corinthians 1:3-7 (NKJV) states: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.  Now if [I am] afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which [I] also suffer.  Or if [I am] comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.  And [my] hope for you is steadfast, because [I] know that as you are the partakers of the sufferings, so also will you partake of the consolation.”

As a child, my life was dysfunctional, to say the least.  My mother’s psychological illnesses were (and still are) complex and chronic.  She was dependent on alcohol and other substances, including marijuana and cocaine, to numb the unresolved pain of her childhood, one taken by brutal violence and rape.  Her judgement as a parent and person in general was impaired.

My “Daddy” – or the man who raised me as a young child and my mother’s husband (though they were separated) – was always very loving and affectionate toward me, albeit he had a volatile temperament toward others, especially toward my older brothers.  He was obese and had other various health issues, including a permanently injured leg with a foot without an ankle that limited his mobility.  I would say that he was ignorant and irascible as a parent and person in general, but I never doubted his love for me, and I adored him.

With both parents indisposed (and you will see more of what I mean by this as the story of my life unfolds), my siblings and I were basically left to fend for ourselves against the ailments of society – prematurely exposed to drugs, violence, and sex from both TV and reality.  Dysfunction was our normal, and we didn’t know any better.

Sorrow at Sunset

One of my first memories – or at least I have come to the conclusion that it is one of my first memories – is one of sorrow.  I must’ve been about four, maybe five, years old. Mama had left me and my two-year-old half-sister, Lynn, at a temporary entrustment (perhaps either in respite care or a group home) one late afternoon.  To this day, I am still unclear as to exactly why; though, I have a general idea, given how mentally unstable she was.

I can vaguely remember Mama’s hugs and kisses goodbye at the door inside of the residence before she took her leave.  But, what I remember most about that day is kneeling on the couch in front of the window later that day, staring at an orange sunset in bewilderment.  Even though an explanation that we would be staying there short-term was given to me, I still couldn’t understand why Mama had not yet returned to take us home by this point.

“Look, Lynn,” I said to my baby sister, who must’ve been on the couch next to me, or at least nearby.  “The sun is going down. Where’s Mama?”

Of course – being that young and not accustomed to being away from my mother beyond a certain length of time – I felt panic, wondering if I would ever see her again.  We only ended up staying at that home for less than a month, I believe, with a woman caretaker and a few other children. I only have two additional memories of our brief stay.

It was either during a nap or at bedtime.  It was still light outside.  Lynn and I laid on a bed in a smallish room, waiting on our bottles of formula.  There was a little boy in the room with us, on a cot nearby.  I could see our caretaker, who was in the kitchen preparing our bottles, from where we were laying.  The next thing I remember is tasting the formula, which was disgusting. But, I drank it anyway – even though I was accustomed to (cow’s) milk at my age – for the sake of nostalgia and missing my mother.

I can also remember taking a walk outside with the caretaker.  I don’t know if we were on our way somewhere specifically or if it was just a leisurely stroll.  We were on a sidewalk, chatting along the way, though I do not recall the subject. On our right side was a tree-lined wooden privacy fence in somewhat disrepair.  Brown, dead leaves were huddled along the base of the fence and scattered about on the sidewalk. I was happy.

Sodomy & Molestation

I was five and six years old when I was sodomized in a graveyard by a boy from our neighborhood, allegedly molested by my mother’s boyfriend, and molested by my biological father – all on separate occasions.  The following timeline composition is an abridged compilation of records from the Charlottesville Department of Social Services – with interruptions of my memoir, feelings, and additional notes of afore-mentioned event(s) in {brackets} – in regards to my sexual abuse.  

March 30, 1997

Social Work Emergency Department Assessment

Chief Complaint: Sexual abuse by mother’s boyfriend, Jeremy; physical abuse by brother, Preston.

Presenting Problem: Franklin {biological father} and his wife Diana {step-mother} brought Amber {me} to Culpeper Memorial Hospital this afternoon because they suspect that she has been sexually abused.  C.M.H. staff referred them to the University of Virginia Children’s Medical Center for further evaluation.  Dr. [Redacted] examined her and found that she had an abnormal, enlarged anal area with an anal fissure that was more than 12 hours but less than a week old.  Amber’s response (compliance and withdraw) to the exam was also abnormal.

{I can remember a bit of what happened when Franklin and Diana took me for the abuse evaluation at the hospital on March 30th.  I recall sitting on the examination table in a hospital gown with one of those hospital tray-tables, coloring a picture of a bird with a blue crayon, waiting for the doctor.  Even though I was compliant, I remember feeling scared after the doctor came in and told me to lay down in order to perform the exam.  That’s as far as my memory takes me regarding that; back to the assessment…}

Franklin and Diana became concerned after their 10-year-old son/step-son, Leonard, told his parents that Amber had been “sexually harassed.”  After hearing Leonard’s statement, Diana went to find Amber. She was curled up in the fetal position in her closet. She told Diana that her mother’s boyfriend had hurt her and pointed to her vaginal area, and admitted that he had made her take her panties down. When given Barbie dolls to demonstrate with, Amber put the male doll on top of the female doll.

{When I told my half-brother, Leonard, that Jeremy “tried to have sex with me,” we were talking and play-wrestling on Franklin and Diana’s water bed.  I don’t remember how it came up, but I was upset and confused. Our father had already molested me at least once, maybe twice, by this point. I suppose I needed someone I could trust a burdensome secret to, and I didn’t know how to tell.  Leonard and I – we were close, and I thought the world of him.

I actually don’t remember Jeremy molesting me, but I thought I would address what I do remember regarding the incident that I was referring to when I told Leonard that he did.  In nothing more than my panties (which was normal for me as a child to not be wearing anything else at home or even around the neighborhood in the warmer months), I wandered into Jeremy’s room where he was knotting a Bugs Bunny latch-hook kit.  He may have been under the influence of either alcohol or marijuana.

There were empty brown glass beer bottles scattered throughout his messy, dimly-lit room.  A maroon-colored sheet hung loosely over his window. I vaguely remember chatting with him. The rest is shrouded by fog, but I think that I may have come on to him and flaunted myself to him.  Even though I later told investigators that he tried to touch me when we lived in West Virginia when he was drunk, I doubt he molested me.

After I told Leonard not to tell anyone my secret, he went to tell anyway; and I hid in my bedroom closet, laying there on the floor until Diana came in.  I can’t remember our exact conversation. At one point, she left for a brief amount of time. While she was gone, I can remember drawing on my teal sweat-pants with a black pen as a distraction from my feelings.  I probably remember that detail because I received a mild rebuke from her after she came back and noticed what I was doing – more guilt on top of my shame.  Back to the assessment…}

Franklin and Diana also reported that Amber has two scars on her abdomen from knife wounds that her brother, Preston, had caused.  She also has bruises every time they see her, also reportedly caused by Preston.

Franklin also stated that Amber’s mother had told him that she was sodomized by a neighborhood boy sometime ago and that the situation had been handled.  However, Franklin has many concerns about how this was resolved and recognizes Amber’s need to have counseling and long-term help.

{When we were children, my siblings and I played in a dilapidated graveyard near our neighborhood.  On one such occasion, my older brothers, David and Preston, and I went there to play with a boy from our neighborhood.  He was closer to David’s age, I believe – about 9 or 10.  I was about five years old.

There was a dirty, ragged mattress on the ground.  The boy pointed to the mattress and instructed me to pull down my panties (I remember they were white with frills on the back, except I wore them backwards because I liked the frills in the front) and lay down.  Because I didn’t know any better, I did.  I don’t remember protesting.  He pulled his pants down, laid on top of me, and entered me.

“Does that feel good?” he asked.

“Yes,” I breathed in reply.  But that was a lie. I was aware of what he was doing to me, but  I had mentally disconnected from what was going on. I just told him what I thought he wanted to hear when in actuality I was confused about what was happening and just wanted it be over.  I was relieved when my brothers must’ve noticed and ran home to tell our mother.

The next thing I remember is sitting on our kitchen counter-top with Mama frantically examining me “down there” as she worriedly asked, “Are you bleeding, Amber?”

That’s all I remember regarding the sodomy.  Back to the assessment…}

Amber was very calm throughout her hospital visit and seemed comfortable with Franklin and Diana.  She told the nurse that she is very afraid that Social Workers are going to take her away from home because that’s what her mother told her.  The nurse also reported that she “just tranced right out” during the physical, unlike most children who get very upset. Amber would not talk to the social worker or doctors.  

Social History: Franklin believes that Amber is his daughter but has not yet taken any paternity tests.  He states that he was having an affair with Sue at the time of Amber’s conception and that all possible parents agree that he is the father.  Also at that time, Franklin was married to his current wife, Diana, and Sue was living with her current boyfriend, Jeremy.

{It wasn’t until early spring of 1998 that Franklin and I – along with Mama and Daddy – took the genetic test, which determined that I was, indeed, his biological daughter.}

Sue has allowed Franklin to visit with Amber since they came to the conclusion that he is the father.  He has taken her to his home in Culpeper for visits from one to four weekends per month.  Sue and her family returned to Charlottesville from an unknown town in West Virginia about a month ago, and they currently reside at the Salvation Army homeless shelter; Franklin had visitation while they lived in West Virginia as well.  He is very interested in proving that he is her father and pursuing custody of her.

Assessment: Amber is being sexually abused.  She has physical proof of anal penetration (enlarged anal opening, falling open spontaneously; anal fissure, not actively bleeding; no obvious trauma near vaginal opening).  She has been stabbed and repeatedly bruised by her brother. Immediate intervention is needed to prevent Sue from taking Amber back into her care while Jeremy is around and violent physical abuse among siblings is occurring.  Amber is a very confused and scared little girl who is in need of more protection and care than her mother is able to provide at this time. There are also grave concerns for her three maternal siblings, that they may be victims as well.

Franklin and Diana seem to genuinely care about and be concerned for Amber.  They already treat her like their own daughter, and she has her own room at their house.  If upon C.D.S.S. assessment and clearance they are deemed appropriate and safe to care for Amber, they should be given that opportunity immediately.  This child cannot handle any further trauma.

Plan: After calling the Charlottesville Social Services C.P.S. worker who was on-call to alert them of the situation and to get their opinion on sending Amber back home with Franklin and Diana, it was determined that Amber will return to their home.  Franklin and Diana reported that they had previously agreed with Sue that Amber would stay with them for this week.  Formal report will be faxed to C.D.S.S. this evening.

April 1, 1997

Home visit made to Amber, who was visiting with her father in Culpeper for spring break.  The interview was conducted by [Social Worker] and Detective M. of the Charlottesville Police Department.  Detective M. taped the interview.  To the surprise of the interviewers, Amber revealed that Franklin had sexually abused her, not Jeremy.  Amber seemed very believable and was very clear that the perpetrator was Franklin with whom she was currently visiting.  She indicated that it had happened in her father’s bedroom.  Amber had difficulty talking about the sexual abuse, but she drew several pictures, which will be sent along with the tape-recording of the interview.

{I can remember at least two instances where Franklin acted sexually inappropriate toward me.  The first time was the one he later admitted to. It happened in February 1997, according to Franklin.  He was wrestling with me after a bath, trying to get me ready for bed in his room.  I was laying down on his bed, still naked, and he was tickling and playfully kissing me on my chest.  From there, it suddenly turned “adult.”

“Tickle your belly up or down?” Franklin asked me.

I don’t remember my reply or if I even said anything at all, but it soon became apparent what he meant.  He started licking me “down there,” but I wasn’t there for the rest of it – I had mentally detached myself from this confusing reality.

The second time must’ve occurred after the first time in February but perhaps before the end of March.  We were in the car on the way to his house, perhaps for one of our regular visits. We were close when he pulled over.  I was in the passenger seat with “blankie” (my favorite blanket), and he asked me if I remembered what he did that first time he molested me and wanted me to do the same thing he did to me to him.

He showed me his penis but I noticed it was wet.  At the time I thought it was urine, and I refused.  He didn’t force me to put his penis in my mouth.  Instead, I believe he might’ve molested me again the same way he did that first time; but I only vaguely remember shifting positions to sort of laying down horizontally across the seat and keeping “blankie” close to my face to console and protect me.}

Interview with Amber’s mother, Sue.  Upon returning to Charlottesville, the social worker told Sue of the suspected sexual abuse, and she and Sue returned to Culpeper to take Amber home.  At that time, it was learned that Diana had overheard the interview and told her husband that Amber had named him as the perpetrator.

July 15, 1997

Dispositional Assessment

{After a 4-month long investigation, the disposition founded was “Level 1, Sexual Abuse, Intercourse/Sodomy and Molestation of Amber by her father, Franklin.”

What!?  Sodomy by Franklin?  I doubt he sodomized me.  I think I would remember that, but I can only vaguely remember those two instances where Franklin acted inappropriately toward me, and neither seemed to be an incident of sodomy.  Unless that’s what happened during the part I can’t remember during the second inappropriate encounter with him, but I don’t believe it. That anal fissure could’ve been from a number of things.

On with the assessment…}

Summary of Findings: Amber was sexually abused by her father on at least one occasion, while visiting him on a weekend.  Amber stated that he touched her vaginal area with his hand and tongue. Franklin stated that he kissed and licked Amber on her chest and genitalia.

Incident Related: Franklin stated that the incident happened at his home in Culpeper about five months ago in February 1997.  He reported that he was wrestling with Amber and trying to get her ready for bed.  His wife was not at home.  Amber couldn’t remember exactly when it occurred, but she thinks that it happened in the spring before Easter.  The incident consisted of at least one occasion, where Franklin kissed and licked Amber on her chest and genitalia.

Child Related: Amber is 6 years old.  She is the product of an affair between Sue and Franklin.  Her home with her mother is somewhat unstable, and they’ve moved around a lot.  Amber has had visitation with Franklin throughout most of her life.  Amber is very loving to anyone who shows her attention.  

Caregiver Related: Franklin is currently married and was married during his affair with Sue.  He takes Amber to his home for weekend visits. He has concerns about the unstable and somewhat violent environment Amber has at her mother’s home.

Sue is closely involved with Social Services in Charlottesville where she currently resides.  She needs structure and guidance to be able to care for herself and children. Sue has many mental illnesses and past unresolved physical and sexual abuse.

Family Related: This family has many stressors.  They are limited financially and frequently have housing problems.  They need a lot of assistance from Social Services in order to stay together.  It is the worker’s understanding that Charlottesville D.S.S. is meeting their needs.

Assessment: Given the above disposition of risk-related factors, this case is considered to be high-risk in that the child is in jeopardy of abuse/neglect, and intervention is necessary in order to protect the child and/or other children involved.      

Consequence

First Grade was over or at least approaching its end, and I – along with my mother – was summoned to testify in the case (plea hearing?) of the Commonwealth vs. Franklin.  The date was set for June 17, 1998 at 9:30 p.m. at Culpeper County Circuit Court.  I wore a colorful floral print dress with a jean vest and sat on a bench outside the courtroom, chatting with Franklin before the case.  I don’t remember the conversation being negative in any way, and I remember him smiling at me.

Seven months later, in mid-January of 1999, he shot himself while awaiting sentencing.   I wonder what he was thinking as he pulled the trigger. Was he scared of prison? Was he ashamed of what he did to me?  Maybe something entirely different?  Sometimes I wish Franklin were still alive so I could let him know that I forgive him, but I can only hope that he repented and made himself right with God before he died.

As for the other two instances of sexual abuse, there was nothing to forgive.  If anything, I was in the wrong for my ignorance.

Healing & Hope

Time and Jesus – mostly Jesus – heals ALL wounds, though scars remain and sometimes the memories are unbearably painful.  I don’t think about it often, though, except for lately as I write my memoirs.

Mostly, I miss Leonard, even after all of this time.  It’s been about 20 years, but I sometimes still have that little girl’s longing in my heart for my family, no matter how dysfunctional, to be together.  Maybe one day Leonard and I will meet again, hopefully in this life.  Hopefully.

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