posted Jul 12, 2017, 11:31 AM by Bridget Derkash   [ updated Sep 18, 2017, 3:34 PM ]

So, I have struggled with putting these words on paper because until now I’ve felt it wasn’t my story to share, but HIS story.  It’s the story of 2 amazing people – my husband and our youngest son.  I’ve been writing about our family for the past couple of years, but have avoided tackling the most important part of our family HIStory.    But recently my husband and son have OK’d my sharing THEIR stories and through it all, I now realize it is OUR story to share.   

In 2015, we learned that our youngest and then 16-year-old son had been molested when he was 12.  He had gone to a sleepover at a friend’s house and was molested by the boy’s father.  He came home and did not tell anyone until 4 years later. 

How did this happen?  We had been vigilant in protecting our children from molesters and could not believe it happened to OUR family.   In fact, we knew that this would NEVER happen to our children.   Boy, were we wrong.

You may be asking why we were so certain this would never happen to our children.  The answer:  My husband was the victim of incest by his father for much of his childhood.  He held the family secret to protect his mother and siblings and the family name.  He accepted the label “black sheep of the family” as he struggled alone trying to deal with what had happened to him.   He did his part and kept the secret.

Before we married, he shared his painful secret with me.  I had no idea and had known his family for many years.  When we married, we knew that we would never let his father or anyone hurt our children.  We made a vow that one of us would take care of our children – no nannies, no grandparents, no babysitters, no one.  We swore we would make sure that what happened to my husband would not continue in our family and would never hurt our children.  When our children got older, we only allowed them to go to sleepovers with several children.  Safety in numbers was our thought – again we were wrong. 

When we learned I was pregnant with our first child, we immediately starting planning to move away from our small hometown.  We settled on a town in Florida; 600 miles away from home and when our oldest child was 4 weeks old, we moved to start a new, safe, protected life for our family. 

We did it! We could keep the secret from our hometown and thrive in our new world.  We had 2 more children and all was great. My husband had a successful business and our children were thriving and safe.

Things began to unravel when my husband was in his early 40s; he developed a rare esophageal disorder that usually occurs in later years if at all.  He had surgery at Mayo Clinic and physically recovered, but emotionally the trauma from his childhood was “choking” him to death. 

The economy was slipping and all around us, people were losing their homes and livelihoods.  We decided to make a change and moved to a new town in a different state.  We moved West to Colorado. 

Once again, we felt this was the right thing to do for our family and it proved to be a great move for us as a family, and a terrible move for 2 of our 3 children. 

Our eldest son was bullied from the first day we moved to town.  It changed him and he became angry and rebellious.  He and my husband were butting heads non-stop.  When he was 16, the conflict was so strong that my husband finally told him why he as a dad was so angry and broken.  My husband wanted to let our son know that the rage that he had was not caused by our son or directed towards him.  

It has been years since this conflict started and thankfully their relationship started healing as soon as this was shared.  They have a great relationship today.

Our daughter and youngest son were 14 and 12 when my husband shared his story with our eldest.  They were, what we considered, not ready and not old enough to handle the fact that their grandfather had hurt their father so badly. 

So, it came as a complete shock when we learned that our youngest son had not only been molested, but also that we had had no idea.  How could we not have known?  How did we, of all people, not pick up on the signs of pain and suffering that he held?

Several months before our youngest son finally told us his story, my husband had told he and our daughter about their grandfather.  They were 16 and 18 and we felt that they needed to know. 

When our son finally shared his secret, we asked him – “why didn’t you tell us when this happened” and he said – “I was embarrassed”.  We then asked, “when dad told you about his life, why didn’t you tell us then”.    He said, “I felt like you already had too much to deal with.”  Those may have been the most heartbreaking words I’ve ever heard.  

The molester was convicted and is currently serving time.  He will be released soon and is planning to return to the town where he hurt our son.    When we recently went to a parole hearing, the molester had 17 signed letters of support from community members.  No one, other than my husband and me, was there to support our son. 

If you gain no other message from OUR story, I hope that you understand that it is a shared story.  I will never fully be able to relate to the pain and trauma that my son and husband endured, but I know how it touches the entire family.  Healing is still happening for us.  Sharing our story will hopefully help others know that they are not alone and that there is no shame for survivors.  

Vicki is a mother of three and an advocate for the prevention of child sexual abuse.  Vicki and her family were served by River Bridge after her son disclosed abuse. 

Where Silence Ends
Healing Begins