Daddy’s Little Girl

I’m sure you have been hearing on the news and reading on-line about the 11-year old girl in California who was abducted 18years ago and yesterday found to be alive and kept prisoner in a hidden backyard compound.  As with Elizabeth Smart and Shawn Hornbeck, people find it unbelievable that the victims stayed, and even bonded with their abusive captors.  My kids weren’t abducted, but the scenario hits close to home.

Six months before her fatal car accident, Mary learned that her husband was sexually abusing her oldest daughter.  As quickly as she could, she and the kids moved out of the house and into a shelter.  It became clear that he had been abusing her son as well – both of whom were his step-children.  At the time of her death, those were the only abuses she was aware of.  The younger girls, his biological daughters, were only 6 and 4 and did not disclose any abuse when the counselors talked with them.  Mary didn’t think anything had happened to them because Ron doted on them.  Especially Megan.   She was the princess and could do no wrong.  She learned quickly, too, that all she had to do was say “Kenneth did it”, or “It was Cristi’s fault”.  If she had to, she could even blame the baby – and she would escape any consequence. 

This created a hateful dynamic among the kids – most especially between Megan and Kenneth.  Kenneth was already the target of Ron’s anger and frustration, and to have t0 take the fall for Megan made it even worse.  Megan is an incredibly bright girl, and she learned very early on that if she was upset, she would just antagonize Kenneth.  She could express her fear, anger, resentment, etc., and Kenneth would be the one who would get in trouble for picking on her.

Megan was truly “Daddy’s Little Girl”.  She often went with him when he ran errands, he took care of her at bath time and tucked her into bed.  She was always on his lap – drinking in the attention and going out of her way to please him.  Mary saw him as a loving, caring father.  She assumed he only abused his step-children.

Several weeks after the kids came to live with me, Megan and I were in the car.  I can’t remember why, but she was the only one with me.  This sweet, sad little 7-year old asked me with a shy, quiet voice and a tear rolling down her cheek why she didn’t get to see her daddy anymore.  I told her that it was because he hurt Kenneth and Cristi.  She said she knew he hit Kenneth and hurt him, but she never saw him hurt Cristi.  And he NEVER hurt her.

I explained to her that he hurt Cristi in a different way.  I asked her if she knew where her private parts were.  She said yes and correctly pointed to them.  I told her that Ron touched Cristi in those places.  Megan looked very puzzled and said to me “That isn’t hurting.  That is how a daddy shows you he loves you.”.  I had to pull over.  My heart was racing, I was holding back tears and my urge to murder this man.

I asked Megan where she heard that – and of course she said from her daddy.  I had to tell her that he wasn’t telling her the truth – that when grown up men touch little children there, it is really hurtful.  She didn’t believe me.  She didn’t believe me for a long, long time. 

Perpetrators of abuse, especially on child victims, manipulate and brainwash their victims.  They keep them isolated from the world, they tell them that bad things will happen if they ever tell, they convince them that they are the only ones who can really love them and take care of them.  Humans are social beings – and the need for contact and interaction is so strong, that horrific acts and conditions can be tolerated – and even accepted as all that is deserved.  

Anyone that has had even a high school level intro to psychology understands the impact deprivation and isolation has on the psyche.  Grown, trained men have not always fared much better in prison camps.  How could one even question the motives of these children?

The sad answer to that, is fear.  People can become so afraid that if these children could be so manipulated and broken, it could happen to anyone.  It may be easier for some people to blame the victims than to face their own uncertainties.

All I know is that my heart broke for Megan, to think that she believed that those cruel, selfish, horrible acts were expressions of love.  I knew that if she continued to hold those beliefs, she would perpetually re-enact those experiences – becoming a life-long victim of sexual predators of all types and ages, and likely becoming a teenage mom.  I also knew that I could not directly confront her beliefs, punish the behaviors she had learned, such as dressing suggestively (yes, even as a 7-year old), being coy with men, climbing on the laps of male acquaintances…

Tom and I worked together to find ways to lovingly and supportively redirect her to appropriate social interactions with men and women.  We made sure that we both took extra time and effort to lavish her and the other kids with expressions of love that are true and honest.  We always answered her questions about Ron, appropriate touch, and sex.  We also constantly told all of the kids that they are lovable, beautiful, wonderful kids – what happened to them was not their fault and they didn’t deserve it.

I pray everyday for Elizabeth Smart and Shawn Hornbeck that they have people in their lives that will help them understand that they made the right choices when they were captive – their choices kept them alive to finally be reunited with their families and communities.  I will now add Jaycee and her children to these prayers.  I hope you will too.

Copyrighted 8/28/09

One Response

  1. Oh Meg!!! I had no idea Mary’s babies we going through this HORRIBLE ordeal!! I think about her everyday and pray I could bring her back to us, not just for my sake, but for her kids and family. I know the children are in the best hands possbile living with you. I read your blogs and can just feel the love you have for these loving children. Thank you for sharing not only the happy times, but the ‘crappy’ times too. You are the best Aunt / mom for these children and the best sister Mary could ever dream of having. Love you!!!

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