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Hidden Emotional Wedges: Part 3
“To forgive, we must first acknowledge that what happened was wrong and caused pain. We pardon the fault because we too are imperfect.”
This is my attempt to acknowledge things that I’ve never been able to really acknowledge. These things have caused me indescribable pain. This is the final part of my "Hidden Emotional Wedges" articles. Click here for PART 1 or PART 2
We all need a support system. Every child is entitled to have two parents who serve as a strong emotional support system. For children who are sexually abused, a support system is even more critical. I had no emotional support system before I was sexually abused by my grandfather at age 12, which makes the lack of one after the abuse a foregone conclusion. I’m going to detail how my family failed me, not for revenge or to be vindictive, but to hopefully help show others where we must not fail children as parents, guardians & relatives.
For me, it all starts with how my mother’s parents failed her.
The only mistake my grandma Maxine Van Wagoner made, that I’ll mention, is that she married my grandpa, Jay Van Wagoner. I know nothing of what led to her making such an awful decision so I’ll leave it at that. Once she married grandpa Jay, she also became a victim of his godless brutality.
Now on to grandpa Jay. Born, Alvah Jay Van Wagoner. Jay claims he was sexually abused by his father, Alvah Ephraim Van Wagoner. Alvah Ephraim left his wife and family when Jay was young. Jay also claims that he was sexually abused by his father & was later abused by multiple men that his mom would bring home from the bars she would frequent.
A quick side note: 80% of people who are sexually abused do NOT become abusers themselves. It’s no excuse. It may be part of the reason the 20% go down that path but I think there are stronger factors at play.
Here are things I’ve learned about Jay from my mom and from Jay’s own mouth:
-Soon after marrying my grandma he hired a male prostitute and had sex with him, Jay claims, to see if he was gay.
-The first time Jay raped his oldest daughter Christine was when she was 2 years old. Grandma tried to divorce him at that time but he wouldn’t let her. This I learned from Jay’s own mouth. I hate to imagine what was said or done to get her to stay and not inform the police. Grandma’s life-long drug addiction makes a lot more sense to me now. Later, Christine told everyone that Jay had abused her, but nobody believed her. Christine is now a drug-addicted homeless person.
-Jay would beat young women to a bloody pulp even while screaming for him to stop. Aunt Christine and my cousin Jaime are the two I know this happened to.
-Jay was a perfect example of a hypocrite. He loved going to church and pretending to be a righteous person.
In addition to this, my mom’s account of living with Jay make it clear that he has been a monster for a long, long time.
How my parents failed me: Part 1
The first 8 years of a child’s life are the most critical for establishing discipline & feelings of self esteem, confident, curiosity, social skills, etc. Children need individual attention. Not just with being fed, & clothed & put to bed, but truly focused on. What are their strengths, how can we develop those as parents? How can we nurture them, make them feel secure & loved. On the part of the parent, this takes time, focus, discipline & more than just verbal expressions of affection. Marvin J. Ashton once said:
“The world is filled with too many of us who are inclined to indicate our love with an announcement or declaration.
True love is a process. True love requires personal action. Love must be continuing to be real. Love takes time. Too often expediency, infatuation, stimulation, persuasion, or lust are mistaken for love. How hollow, how empty if our love is no deeper than the arousal of momentary feeling or the expression in words of what is no more lasting than the time it takes to speak them…
I would point out to this mother and father and others that feeding is more than providing food. No man can effectively live by bread alone. Feeding is the providing by love adequate nourishment for the entire [child], physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. Keeping is a process of care, consideration, and kindness appropriately blended with discipline, example, and concern. Keeping is more than providing four walls and a roof. All of us need to be constantly reminded it takes a heap of living and loving to make a house a home.”
My mom deserves a lot of credit. I like to call her “Mother Abraham” because she escaped following many of the the destructive patterns set by her idol-worshiping father. But coming from such a hellish childhood, she bears some unhealed wounds that continue to plague her & her relationship with her children to this day. She doesn’t know how to connect with her children. How could she? To learn anything we need to be taught & we need people to model the correct way for us. Who modeled the correct way of raising children for my mom? No one, jack! Sure, she learned a lot about what NOT to do. But that wasn’t enough to teach her all the essential emotional practices needed to raise happy, healthy children.
My dad, on the other hand, deserves no credit. My mom was in a miserable marriage when I was born. Five years and three other kids later they finally got divorced. After the divorce, our father was mostly absent. Phone calls for birthdays, occasional summer visits. I’ve already said this to my dad, but when you divorce your spouse, you don’t also divorce your children. Every child has a right to be raised by a mother and father. Divorce doesn’t free any parent of that obligation, no matter the distance.
From age 5 to age 10 my mom raised six children all by herself. And boy, did it stretch and test her. I can’t imagine having to do something like that. And it was no picnic for her children either.
Now, let talk about us kids. My mom was raised by monster-Jay, her level of happiness in her marriage to my dad was low, & raising 6 kids by herself for five years probably almost killed her. How likely is it that we children received an adequate amount of love, attention, emotional support & one-on-one parental coaching? Listen & you might hear me laughing uncontrollably. I believe me & my siblings all developed unhealthy subconscious beliefs about ourselves. Even if I hadn’t been molested, I’d still need to heal from the effects of my childhood, from the failure of my parents. I probably wouldn’t need the intensive therapy I’m dealing with right now, & maybe it wouldn’t require therapy at all. Maybe it’d just require becoming aware of what I was deprived of as a child, becoming aware of what children need from their parents, grieving & letting the Lord heal my wounds.
While my mother definitely improved on what her parents did that doesn’t mean that our family wasn’t devastatingly dysfunctional. When grandpa showed up at age 12, my self-esteem was low & my desire for individualized & focused love & attention was high. A perfect opportunity for a pedophile.
How my parents failed me: Part 2
Dr. Michael P. Nichols wrote, ”Stop arguing with your kids...If you allow your children to become rival forces, the relationship becomes dominated by a struggle for control." Family life was often good. But only when there wasn’t a disagreement. If I agreed with my parents we were good. But when it came to sharing feelings, frustration, anger. That’s a big no no. Rival forces, struggle for control. If there were issues, we were often gathered together & told collectively how badly we children were failing our parents. Guilt trip city. It was our responsibility to keep the peace, not our parents. To this day if try to address inter-personal issues, the response is the same thing from our mom, “my kids think I’m a horrible mother.” Let’s put that one to rest. She isn’t a horrible mother, she just doesn’t know how to mother.
This type of parenting led to my exile. I was twelve years old & in 7th grade attending Landmark Junior High in Glendale. I was in a certain class & made friends with a kid named Johnny, who apparently was in a gang. We were just in-class friends. One night I get a call from someone saying “I heard you’re talking trash about my boy Johnny”. “Nope”, I said. “You heard wrong.” “Well, you better not or I’ll kick your butt”. The person then hung up. I told my mom about it. She gets angry at me because she doesn’t know how to deal with any kind of conflict or negative emotion. Next thing I know she’s talking about shipping me off to live with grandma & grandpa in Vernal, UT. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t enough to send me away. I was a good kid & my parents definitely had the resources needed to get me the help I needed. Why not send me to a different school? Why not send me to live with my biological father? Why send me to the man you grew up with & should have known was not a good person?
So I go lived in Vernal for a year, during which time Grandpa becomes my best friend. He introduces me to great literature, classical music. He pays attention to me, does things with me, focuses on me & loves me as an individual. Something I’d never had before.
After the year was over, I go home to Glendale, where my parents are still arguing with their kids. I hate it. I try to voice my discomfort. “Well, should we bring up mistakes you’ve made?,” my mom asks vindictively. “Andrew thinks he’s better than us”, says my step-dad. These types of comments hurt more than I can say. These are supposed to be my parents. They’re supposed to love me. Why don’t they love me? They don’t. My parents do not love me.
That summer after 7th grade we drove my oldest sister up to Rick’s college. Grandpa accompanies us on the trip. He never had done anything like that before. I know now that he was still grooming me. And boy, did my parents help him out. The entire trip I’m arguing with my parents and they’re pushing me away as the pedophile is reeling me in. Grandpa invites me to take a road trip with him in August to Washington when he visits my aunt. That sounds way better than being at home. Special delivery for Jay Van Wagoner.
How Jay failed me
He molested me while we were on our road trip in August when I was 13. That’s all I need to say about that. A couple years ago I went to the Utah court records & found grandpa’s court case file. In it I learned that grandpa molested me & raped me in my sleep the entire year of 7th grade I was living with him. My therapists say I don’t show any signs of repressed memories, which means that grandpa most likely drugged me the times he molested me. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find any therapist or psychologist who thinks that I was the first person he’s ever drugged & abused.
Of the many wounds that this abuse created, one of the worst & hardest to overcome, & I have overcome it, is the feeling that I was partly responsible. Apparently this is a common belief among sexual abuse victims. Elizabeth Smart even said that at one point she didn’t want to be found because of the shame she felt. Though extremely difficult, my therapists, my current bishop & the Lord have helped me to finally see & know that it was in no way my fault.
How my Aunts & Uncles failed me
Even in court my grandpa blamed me. “I was there and suddenly I was a boy and he was a man," he said in court. Some of my aunts & uncles believe him. Still. Which ones, I’m not sure. At least my uncle Mike Van Wagoner, who I remember calling my mom & chewing her out for turning grandpa in. “You’re out to get him”, he said to her. I have another uncle who thinks that grandpa is a good person who made an isolated mistake. Again, given where they came from it makes sense. Jay’s family has a long history of drug abuse, promiscuity & crazy.
Note: Despite my grandpa blaming me in court, Seventh District Judge Lynn Payne, who is now retired in St. George, gave my grandpa an insultingly lenient sentence. Sarcastic clap for Mr. Lynn Payne.
How my parents failed me: Part 3
First, I later learned that my mom hesitated to turn in my grandpa. “But he’s my father,” she said with self-centered dysfunctional melodrama. She didn’t even have a good relationship with the guy. One of the reasons, I believe, that she did this is because my mom has a subconscious fear of confrontation & conflict with her parents & siblings. When the subconscious is afraid of something, it’s intense & powerful & can lead a person to do things you normally wouldn’t do. Even betray your own child. I told you the subconscious is freaky.
At some point, my mom took me to a therapist. I don’t know how long that lasted. I don’t remember much of it. All I know is that my parents didn’t see me through to full healing. They didn’t understand the healing process, they still don’t. As a parent, if your child is abused, you are 100% responsible to oversee healing & recovery until that child is of age. My parents put in a mild effort at best. This is how the issues with grandpa became a “hidden wedge” in my life. I didn’t know it was affecting my life in certain areas, & was confused about how it was affecting my life in other areas. I didn’t understand what it did to me & I didn’t have any support system to help me see what it did & what it would take to heal. And worst of all I battled with guilt that it was my fault. A belief that would torment me for the next 23 years of my life. Soon after grandpa molested me, my relationship with my parents became business as usual. Navigating such things is too much for a teenager to handle alone. But I was alone & crippled.
How I failed myself
Over the next several years I delved deep into pornography addiction & mild promiscuousness. I was addicted to relationships. The thrill of liking someone & having them like you was something I was desperate for. I never got to the point of being a Harvey Weinsten (or even an Al Franken), but I used people & I hurt people & in the next life I hope to fall at the feet of a few individuals & beg their forgiveness. I know that the abuse is a reason, but it’s not an excuse. No matter what happened to me as a child, I have the ability now to make the right decision. That’s the realization I came to when I finally overcame my addiction to pornogaphy at age 26. I didn’t need to fix anything with grandpa before I fixed my relationship with God. We can heal spiritually before we fully heal emotionally. And I credit this epiphany as the reason for the journey of emotional healing that the Lord has taken me on over the last 10 years.
So that’s my story of being abused. Thanks for reading. This has helped a lot to share this. This is my attempt to acknowledge things that have never been acknowledged. These things are wrong & have caused deep, hidden pain. These things have been in the dark. They have lived on & continue on as subconscious hidden wedges. I’ve never received an apology for most of these things, but I don’t need one to move on. Now, after acknowledging these things I can work on forgiving. A recent Ensign article states,
“To forgive, we must first acknowledge that what happened was wrong and caused pain.”
“We must work at our own pace and recognize that healing may come slowly.”
“Forgiveness and trust are two different things. We can forgive without developing a trusting relationship. If someone continually hurts us, God commands us to forgive, but we are also responsible to set boundaries to keep ourselves safe.”