(Save The 1) It was Y2K New Year’s Eve the night my uncle first began making advances toward me. I was 12 years old and he was 19, married, with a two-year-old son. My mom allowed his family to move in with us, and inexplicably moved them into my bedroom, since my three sisters were already sharing a room. The inappropriate advances continued, as he and his wife argued more and more. Eventually, his wife and son moved out, and when I was 13 and he was 20, he began molesting me in the middle of the night. I was scared to death.
My mom and step-dad were suspicious of what was happening but were scared to say anything because my grandfather would have killed someone. My mom and her sisters had been molested by my grandfather when they were growing up. When my grandfather found out she had told someone, he showed up and put a gun to my mom’s head, threatening to kill her if she ever breathed a word. So my mom would tell me, “It happened to me. I just needed to suck it up.”
I know what it’s like for someone to have that fear instilled in you, but I don’t understand allowing horrific things to happen to your children without one ounce of remorse. My step-dad just wouldn’t speak up and still won’t. He is very passive and people easily take advantage of him because he doesn’t defend himself, let alone his family.
It just became a thing that my Uncle Lenny started sleeping in my room more frequently. One day, child services showed up at our house and said there was a call stating that my mom was letting a man sleep with her daughter. They brought my mom, my uncle and me into the living room, and I just fell mute. My mom and my uncle controlled the conversation and denied the allegations. She never told the social worker that the man was her brother, so they didn’t find any cause to intervene, and closed the case.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t speak up, and my answer is: I don’t know. I wish I would have now, but then it was almost a way of life. I didn’t feel I had any choice in what happened to my body. What if I would have told? What then? I would go to live with a family member? They were each as bad as the last.
When I became pregnant at 14 years old, my mom freaked out! She told me she wasn’t getting into trouble for this crap, so she took us to Tennessee to get married because it was out of state and they figured no one would make the connection that we were closely related. I don’t even know if he was divorced yet, but my mom signed papers to emancipate me so she wouldn’t be responsible for me any longer. But we got into a fender bender that day and never made it to the court house.
A couple of months later, at 15 years old, I started bleeding and went to the doctor’s office. I ended up miscarrying that pregnancy. Surprisingly, this doctor never made a call to child services, and never inquired of me as to who got me pregnant. Today I realize it was this doctor’s responsibility to report this situation. I could have been freed back then.
My mom then moved the family to Florida with my grandfather, but said she didn’t have a room for me. I was stuck with my uncle. My whole family assumed I was his responsibility. It’s just bizarre to contemplate, but this was the hell I lived in.
I always felt my mom could have stopped the abuse from happening, but my grandfather pushed for it. I guess he didn’t want his son to get into trouble because he was just as much of a creep.
My uncle and grandfather took me back to Alabama, where I became pregnant again by my then 22-year old uncle when I was 15 years old. This son is now 14 years old. Regardless of the horrible circumstances — conceived in incest — I loved my baby and would do anything to protect him.
I withdrew from school and homeschooled through my 10th grade year. I hated school, though I got good grades. It was painful that I had to see all these kids who seemed to have it all going for them, while I was trapped living in a hell with no hope to get out.
My uncle had always been verbally abusive, with pushing, shoving, and jealous rage. But when I became pregnant with my son, the abuse intensified. Lenny would tell me, “I have a son. I don’t want another one!” Well, too late – he should have thought about that before molesting his under-aged niece. I think his anger came from fear… fear of being caught or of going to jail. He would choke me, sling me around by my hair, try to crash the car with us in it, and beat me.
I would go to my mom’s and beg her to help me leave — to get away from him. She would tell me that we had children together, and if anyone found out the “secret,” I would go to jail and my kids would be taken away. She convinced me of this and I believed her. I’ve kept this secret until now.
This abusive life continued until I left him for good. It just progressively got worse and worse each time. When I did try to leave, he even had his sisters come after me and beat me.
When my son was born, I instantly loved him. From the very first time I laid eyes on him, my love was unconditional. But I was terrified the hospital staff would somehow find out the big secret and take him away from me. He received my maiden name. Under “father” on his birth certificate, it is “unknown” because the family all said it was best, to keep Lenny safe.
At 18, I got pregnant by my uncle for the third time. My son was sickly and the doctors wouldn’t listen to me. After a lot of doctor visits and my persistence, my son was sent to a children’s hospital where he was eventually diagnosed with Krabbe Disease — a disease where children inherit a defective gene from both parents. I remember the doctors asking us if the two of us were related, because they said that this is a disease usually seen when the mother and father are related. Again, I was terrified because he was there and because my mom had convinced me that my children would be taken away.
The day my son was diagnosed, I was six months pregnant in my fourth pregnancy, with my third son. At this time, the doctor informed me that I shouldn’t have any more children with this man and should consider aborting my pregnancy. I was stunned a doctor would suggest such a thing. My son’s life expectancy was 13 months, and at 13 months, he coded and had to be life-flighted to Children’s Hospital. That was on a Friday, and Saturday, I went into labor with my third son and gave birth on that Sunday. I signed my release papers and went to live in the Ronald McDonald house with a toddler and a newborn so I could visit my son in the ICU during visiting hours. His life story is a story in itself. The whole time my son was there, I felt safer because my uncle was at home, working, partying, and having sexual relations with others. I was free from him, even if just for a short while. My main focus was my children.
After about six months, my son finally got to leave the hospital and came home on life support. I was his caregiver and had a nurse to come watch him while I slept at night.
My uncle was always an alcoholic, but he started doing drugs as well. I hated him. The very sight of him turned my stomach. He stole my life.
My son died on January 9, 2008, and that changed everything for me. I was able to start distancing myself from my uncle and I went to work. He hated it — the more independent I was, the more abusive he became. So he demanded we marry on January 22, 2008. I knew it wasn’t going to last and that I would soon find a way out, but I did what would keep the peace at the time.
The night I knew I had to get out soon, he had been threatening me early in the morning, and I hid. He turned the power off, and I heard him cocking the shot gun. I spent my whole life trying to get away from him, but at that moment, I knew that if I didn’t do it soon, he would seriously hurt me or likely kill me.
I got up one morning for work — right after him, I loaded my car down and left. I never went back to him.
I filed for divorce in 2008, but he refused to cooperate, and then he filed for a divorce. After gaining the courage to leave him, I was abandoned by my family and after a year or so, I found myself homeless. With no funds to hire an attorney and too ashamed to tell the court about the rape and incest, my uncle had legal custody of my sons for two years, and wouldn’t even allow me to see them for six months at a time.
I was able to get on my feet. I married a wonderful man, and we were able to regain custody of my two sons in 2012. However, I still lived with the shame surrounding the abuse. I didn’t even tell my own husband. He found out two years ago and he was very angry that I had kept this from him. At that point, I told him that I was afraid that my children would be taken away. He was very understanding, telling me it wasn’t my fault and that I was a victim. This is the first time I was able to really open up about it because someone cared. That gave me the courage to fight harder for my children.
With the support of my husband, in 2015, I went to the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Dept to report the rape and incest. Because there is no statute of limitations, the Sheriff pressed charges, but only for the rape and not the incest because, he said, “it wasn’t necessary.” It went to a Grand Jury, who found my uncle not guilty, saying there was not enough evidence!
The Sheriff’s office told me how common these cases were despite thinking they don’t happen often and said that, most of the time, nothing ever gets done with them because too much time has passed or the jails just can’t hold them. I was told, since he is not an immediate danger or currently raping me, odds are he would walk free, and he did.
All of this time, my uncle has had a court order for unsupervised visits, but I’ve been in contempt of court for the last two years. I finally broke my silence this week and told the court about the rape and incest because there was an emergency hearing for him to see my sons at Christmas.
At my hearing on Dec. 21, 2017, in DeKalb County District Court, Judge Steven Whitmire struck my pleading from the record and said I wasn’t allowed to mention the rape or incest. I kept telling him, “This is not in the past. That man is my uncle!” But the judge said it’s irrelevant and awarded my rapist three days of unsupervised visits during the holidays.
I’m terrified. I had to fire my court-appointed attorney because she didn’t want me to tell Judge Whitmire my children were conceived in incest and told me that it wouldn’t matter. I’m astonished that she was right! But this is far from over.
My voice hasn’t been heard. I won’t be silenced any longer and I want to encourage others to do the same. I want to advocate for laws to terminate the parental rights of rapists. No rapist should have parental rights – especially a child molester.
On Dec. 20th, I went back to the Sheriff’s office stronger and bolder than ever, and this time, I was sent to the District Attorney’s office and the D.A. says that with DNA evidence proving he’s my uncle, as well as proof of my pregnancies at 14 and 15, they shouldn’t have any problem prosecuting him on the incest and statutory rape charges.
My son died, as well as my first unborn child, because of this man’s actions, and I have to live with that for the rest of my life. My uncle did more than molest me – he took my child’s life. He caused both of those deaths because of the genetics involved. He should be charged for raping me, and also for the death of my son, and my unborn child who I miscarried.
I was a shy little girl who wouldn’t raise her hand and speak out in class, but now, I am outspoken and one hell of a go-getter. One of my favorite quotes is, “The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow.” To anyone else who has been abused, don’t let your past define you in the sense of dictating your present choices.
I was so mad at God when I found out my baby was dying. I cried out: “After all this crap I’ve been through, you now take my baby too?!” I didn’t see why, but now I do and I will not let my son’s death be in vain! I will avenge his death if it is by protecting my sons and helping other girls in similar situations.
So I ask you, what are you going to do to advocate for victims? Don’t tell me “abortion” because this wasn’t the babies’ fault. Every child has a purpose. Help rape victim mothers so that they can be protected from the rapist!
BIO: J.C. is a wife, mother of 5, and is keeping her identity private at this time.
Save The 1 President Rebecca Kiessling — an attorney herself who has handled this kind of case in Michigan, has been networking to find pro bono legal counsel for J.C.. If you would like to assist with this effort, or if you would like to help contribute to a legal fund for J.C., please contact Rebecca.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at Save The 1 and is reprinted here with permission.