Fixing Steve
April 9, 2015 11:26 AM   Subscribe

It had never, in my most repulsive nightmares, occurred to me that my dad might have molested my brother. I believed their unfixable, codependent-isn’t-even-a-big-enough-word relationship was about addiction and guilt and mental illness and hubris and narcissism. No other explanation was needed. When I read Steve’s name on that list while standing in my study with the Russians at my feet, everything froze: the air, my blood, my breath, my brain. I felt it was true. I believed it was true. And I wasn’t even remotely ready for it to be true.
-The Terrible Things I Learned About My Dad: On Abuse and the People We Love
posted by almostmanda (16 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, fuck.
posted by josher71 at 12:01 PM on April 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've read a lot of these 'I found out [person in my life] was a [rapist/murderer]" stories - can't help myself - and this is one of the most well-written ones I've seen (aside from this one.) It's all the more unsettling for the lack of certainty - everyone involved is dead, and the evidence is circumstantial, but it all fits together.

Also, there are some fairly disturbing details in there [BARBIE] from the author's time answering a crisis hotline, just FYI.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:12 PM on April 9, 2015


i sympathize with the way she's made it all fit in her brain - but coming from a family history stuffed with abuse, she is too kind to the memory of her father. the obvious answers are much more brutal, but probably much more true than the poetic explanations she's settled on. her father likely sabotaged her brother's treatment to keep his abuse secret. he likely joined the board to find more victims. he likely raped and abused many more than the three she settled on. steve was likely not his only child victim. steve was likely not his only male victim. she likely found herself in abusive relationships because of the patterns her father taught her even if he never directly abused her.

having said all of that - it must be such a mindfuck to find all this after all the loss has stacked up. for me the fact that many of the men in my family are sexual abusers, that many of the women are their victims who turn to enablers for the next generation, is something that has just been a part of my life since i was 7 or so. i've gone through my own phases of finding compassion for the abusers or the enablers, but while it might feel settled for a while, in my experience it always comes back. maybe it's different for someone who wasn't also a victim, i don't know...

thanks for sharing this. it's a hard read, but a perspective that is good to get aired out.
posted by nadawi at 12:13 PM on April 9, 2015 [24 favorites]


nadawi: this sentence really struck me:

My dad was not a monster. He had a monster inside, and although there is probably little difference to his victims, it’s made a difference to me.

You're probably right that things were much worse than she imagines them, but when the monster is a loved-one, emotions are not very cut-and-dried. As much of a monster he might be, you still have to somehow reconcile it with, for instance, fond memories that you have.
posted by tippiedog at 1:15 PM on April 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


absolutely - as a person with a family full of monsters - many who i have fond memories of, it's something i sympathize with. i actually just commented on the "monster or flawed person" issue in another thread.

i will say that one of the biggest monsters in my family died a few years ago - and even knowing about his crimes and cruelty before death, i found that when he died i was much easier able to think of the fond memories separate from his monstrosities. i was also able to forge some sort of relationship with his wife/probable victim/biggest enabler without him there. maybe since i wasn't a direct victim of his, maybe it's just the way it goes, but death gave a sort of peace i couldn't find while he was alive.
posted by nadawi at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm reminded, strongly, of the woman who tried to maintain a relationship with her serial killer father before realizing that he had seriously contemplated murdering her when she was a child. I think it's hard for us to recognize when someone we see as a person sees us as a thing.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:36 PM on April 9, 2015 [15 favorites]


I hope that I get the sort of peace that you found, nadawi, once the molester of one of my close relatives (because of whom she has suffered indescribably) finally dies.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:38 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


nadawi, I salute your ability to address these issues so reasonably and so well.
posted by Segundus at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


her father likely sabotaged her brother's treatment to keep his abuse secret. he likely joined the board to find more victims. he likely raped and abused many more than the three she settled on. steve was likely not his only child victim. steve was likely not his only male victim. she likely found herself in abusive relationships because of the patterns her father taught her even if he never directly abused her.

I mean, her dad clearly sabotaged his son's medical treatment, literally kept him incapacitated and in pain. Even without the rest, that's not something to forgive. Maybe it was to cover up the abuse, or just because he was a controlling asshole who liked to keep his son helpless and dependent. Or both.

And yeah, I wondered about the fact that she ended up in an abusive relationship too.

As for what else her dad did or didn't do, that's nothing she can know for sure, but were the truth known, it would probably be hard for her to face.
posted by emjaybee at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Halloween Jack - i think it's such a personal thing. if you had asked me before his death i would have told you i would never have looked kindly on a moment i spent with him, and that i'd spend the rest of his wife's life avoiding a relationship with her because of her part in not stopping it - but death is a funny thing. i have no idea if this will continue to the other abusers in my family. i really don't know if i'll feel the same way about my abuser when he dies (but i have always hoped that i'll live long enough to find out).
posted by nadawi at 2:34 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded, strongly, of the woman who tried to maintain a relationship with her serial killer father before realizing that he had seriously contemplated murdering her when she was a child. I think it's hard for us to recognize when someone we see as a person sees us as a thing.

That was the subject of a Metafilter thread, Deoridhe, was it not? He was a truck driver and took her to a diner when she was a teenager and seemed on the verge of telling her something portentous about himself that she didn't know, but some instinct led her to forestall the revelation by going to the bathroom and when she came back the moment had passed?

I don't remember whether she made it completely explicit, but I concluded she realized in retrospect he would have had to kill her if he'd told her -- and he did go on to kill another young woman soon after that, as I recall. What I thought, and couldn't tell whether she realized (if it was true) was that he needed to seek out someone else to kill whenever the impulse to kill her and perhaps her mother grew too strong for him to control in any other way.
posted by jamjam at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2015


Yeah, the article about the serial killer's daughter was what, last year?
posted by Peach at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2015


I have to agree that the author is engaging in a lot of self-deception about the sort of man her father really was; the first couple of paragraphs gave me a sort of skincrawling feeling of "creepy", not "desperate" or "pathetic". Reasonably well-to-do divorcé trawling "russianbrides.com" and sending out identical emails/letters to dozens of women describing his nonexistent widowhood? That's not "loneliness", or whatever, that's grooming behaviour. Looking for someone vulnerable to exploit. The dynamic of his looking for someone relatively desperate in a situation where he'd be in a position of control is...kind of telling when taken with the other things she learned. But those first few paragraphs made me very uncomfortable, because I read it as "exploitative and possibly predatory behaviour", not as "lonely old man seeking companionship" (and would have done even without the context provided in the original post).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 7:42 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Related, from earlier this year: When your father is the BTK serial killer, forgiveness is not tidy
posted by orrnyereg at 8:00 PM on April 9, 2015


Well-written and wrenching. The father had no concept of his son as a separate being. The son was infantilized and manacled to the parent. And how desperately sad that Steve experienced just one year on Earth without the man who'd warped his life so much.
posted by virago at 8:42 PM on April 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. Extremely well written, and an essay I had a lot of difficulty reading all the way through.
posted by zarq at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2015


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