I put my earbuds in and pressed shuffle. A song called “The Abandoned” by Memphis May Fire started to pound in my ears. I immediately paused it, not sure if I could handle that particular song today. A few indecisive minutes passed, and I hesitantly clicked the song back on. As a line in the first verse played, I could feel stinging tears begin to sprout in my eyes.
“You will always be my father but I hope you know, it’s your fault that I’ll never know what that means.”
Today is the seven year anniversary of the day that law enforcement and child protective services removed my dad from our home. When I have explained the significance of the date to people in the past, I am often met with “But isn’t that a good thing?” Overall, yes, the intervention was positive in the sense that it helped to free me from his tyrannical parenting and abuse. However, his reign of terror was far from over.
Insensitive police officers, prying social workers, a million questions I wasn’t ready to answer, disbelief, anger, and invalidation from family members that continues to this day. In a way, the consequences that I faced when the abuse was revealed were almost as traumatizing as the actual events.
My case was ruled “unfounded” not because there was no evidence, but because I couldn’t handle talking to the investigators. I had not planned on opening up about my experiences when I did, so I was completely unprepared for the subsequent barrage of intrusive interrogations. It became clear after the initial interviews that I would not be able to participate in the investigation, so it was suspended and then ruled unfounded after one brief interview with a young social worker, an even briefer interview with a cold male police officer, and one video-taped meeting with a child psychologist that lasted a maximum of five minutes before I broke down and had to leave the room. There were no searches and no medical examinations; only three terrifying, triggering conversations with professionals I had never met before that couldn’t have added up to even an hour total.
The definition of the word “unfounded” is having no basis in fact; groundless; unwarranted. As if three detestably short interviews with desensitized strangers is enough to decide that my experiences never happened. It would be one thing if it was determined that there wasn’t enough information, but to use the word unfounded is heinous. No basis in fact? Who the hell are these law enforcement agencies and child protective services that are rife with corruption to say that the emotional, mental, and physical damage that was inflicted on me for 10+ years is not based in fact? I did not imagine the scars. I did not wish the bruises into being on my skin. I did not concoct the flashbacks that force themselves into my head every day. I did not create this horrific past for myself out of anger or for attention. And yet the legal status of my abuse is unfounded.
I can’t count the number of times that people have asked me the question “Aren’t you worried that he will do it to someone else?” I did not choose to not tell my story. I could not handle the magnitude of the criminal justice world that was unexpectedly thrust into my shoulders at age 13. I collapsed under the weight, and the lack of patience and compassion that I faced in the investigation process did nothing but ensure that I stayed down. Everyday I wake up and I am faced with the reality that my abuser is free and therefor free to abuse again. He is free to ruin more lives than he already has because I could not cope with the responsibility of protecting myself and the world from a monster that I still can’t comprehend.
Yes, today is the anniversary of my escape from the prison that my father built for me with the same hands that tore out my soul, but it is also the anniversary of the start of an investigation that remains one of my greatest failures.