KARLY

“I’m behind you 100%.” This is a text I just received from my Mom. I had just let her know that I was going to purchase some pretty expensive vitamins to sort out my hormones post-chemo.

“I’m behind you.” “We’re behind you.” I started receiving these messages a few years ago after a LONG conversation with my parents after dying my hair purple. 

They were upset.

It took a long time for me to get to my main point in that conversation—“I love you, I’m glad you support and love me, but I'm an adult and I’m going to make my own decisions.” This statement shocked them. Of their five children I’m the only one who made it past the age of 22 without getting married. I’m 30 now, and still unmarried. They didn't know how to deal with my show of independence, although I was 25 at the time. It took them a night, but the next morning they called me and let me know that they loved me and would be behind me in the decisions I made for myself. 

This meant a lot to me, but it wasn't the first time I knew that my parents loved and supported me. I guess I always knew they did. Sometimes it just takes some communication when life doesn’t end up to be what they, or I, expected. 

I could say a lot about my parents and the way they raised me and how much love and support I’ve always felt, but it’s Mother's Day and I’m mainly writing this to express my feelings about a very specific kind of support my Mother gave me when I was very young.

I was sexually molested as a child by my grandfather. I wasn’t the only one in the family and one Christmas Eve I found myself in my closet with my sister. We were making a plan to tell. 

I don’t remember what we said to each other or our Mom. I was really young, four or five.

I don’t really remember what happened afterward. I remember the closet and having a secret I didn’t understand and not being able to really say much of anything. 

I know all the words now. 

For a long time after that I ignored it. Looking back I can see how it affected me. How I was less likely to talk about emotional things, or really to connect at all with my own feelings. I know why all the make-believe games I played took small turns toward a sexual nature. Why I was curious about porn, until I was caught looking at it and then never returned to it again. Maybe IT was why all those things are true about me, maybe they would have been true about me regardless. That has been one of the hardest parts of my experience, feeling like a product of the things that happened to me instead of a person in charge of my own decisions and personality traits.

I didn’t think much about what happened after we told our Mother; my grandpa died when I was almost eight and after that I pushed it to the bottom of my mind. I only thought about it in vague ways, without ever connecting myself to the person in the memories. In fact, the memories are all in the third person. I see myself being molested mostly. Not what I saw but an out of body picture of what it must have been like. 

It wasn’t until long afterward, in college even, that I talked to my sisters and parents about it again. And what I found out was what I always sort of knew. We told my Mom and she took care of it. She immediately believed us and she acted.

It wasn’t easy either. 

She really had to go to bat for us, and she didn’t hesitate. She called everyone up, and our family was big and very close, and she told everyone. Can you imagine? Having to tell the huge family you love about something that was going on without any of you knowing it? 

I know that it hurt a lot of people to know, and I doubt anyone was thanking my Mom for being willing to make it everyone's problem. 

No Mom hopes to deal with something like this, but the reality is that most women who are abused or molested are victims to someone they know, someone who's family. It’s no surprise that acts like these are deemed “misunderstandings” or “childhood imaginings,” no one wants to admit that their father, or sister or uncle would do that. 

But I’m thankful every day for a Mother who believed me and believes in me.