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Chris's Story

I know that this story isn't any more important than any other story here. Also, I can't really call this "my" story since it really is also a part of some other people's story, so I have tried to keep things out that would hurt them.

It's long. If you can be patient, please read it. Maybe you have some insight to share. Maybe something here will help you. I don't know, but I hope.

My parents married young and were not well prepared for the responsibilities of a family. They divorced when I was two, my brother was four and my sister one.

My mother remarried and divorced within a year. She couldn't deal with the situation she was now in, and over time began to drink a lot.

I never thought of the way we lived as abuse or neglect. Sometimes when I read stories about children who felt abused or neglected, I wonder how they knew. To me, my life was just my life. I can remember when dinner was ketchup sandwiches, and then ketchup soup. I know there was time with no dinner, but I didn't find these remarkable. I just felt intelligent when I figured out I could make something like tomato soup from ingredients I found in the house.

When my brother and sister made friends with other children and would go do things, for some reason I stayed home. My memories of my childhood are of being alone in a house, alone in an apartment, etc. I remember that I used to sleep under the bed and for a time in the closet. I remember that the closeness of the confined area made me feel safe. A year or so ago there was a television series about a guy who grew up living in a cardboard box. I remember that I used to feel safe and happy when I could climb into a box and close it.

What I am learning now is that what I was supposed to be learning more about myself back then. My interaction with others would have helped me to define myself. Like looking in a mirror, I suppose.

When I was eleven we were taken from my mother's custody and placed with my father and step mother. My first real memory of my step mother is when she came to my room one evening and sat at the foot of my bed facing me in her pajamas and asked me if I wanted to learn anything about girls.

I never did anything with my step mother. Over the following years she many times made propositions that were more and more direct. I never realized that this was abuse, I just thought she was not being respectful to my father. I remember that she used to have me rub sun tan lotion on her, I wonder if that was sexual for her.

Anyway, in my teenage years I followed pretty much the same old pattern. After school I would go home to my room and close the door. I would bar it closed by wedging a chair between it and the wall. I spent my days watching television which is where I "learned" about life.

It turns out I suffer from depression as well. I don't know if this is caused by my habits of isolation but sometime I "realized" that for the sadness to go away I needed a family. I wished my father and mother could be back together. I figured that when I grew up and got married that the empty feeling inside would go away and that I would be "whole". I didn't realize this was a decision. To me it was something I just "knew".

I moved out at seventeen and worked for the Church of Scientology for a while. Then I lived on the streets for a while. I had no real drive or purpose in my life and I would only do enough work to keep me fed.

When I had worked for the CoS I met Mark Goen and he taught me to play Dungeons and Dragons. One day I put my name in a file at a game store and met some other D&D players and this was really my first experience socializing. Unfortunately, since most of my interaction was through the characters in the game when I practiced my understandings of life they worked fine in story telling and I never knew how far off I was.

One day a guy I worked with who had played a couple of D&D games with me told me he had met a girl and wanted to go on a date with her but didn't have much money. He wanted me to run a D&D game for the two of them and I agreed so that Friday he brought her over to my place (I shared a motel room with an ex Viet Nam vet) and I ran a game for a while. She stayed with me that night and he went home alone. I never saw him again. I married her.

A lot of people told me that I shouldn't marry her. While I was married a lot of people tried to let me know I was making a mistake. But, I had "learned" from my upbringing that all I needed to do was to love her completely and she would become the wife and mother my family needed. As you can guess my marriage was frustrating and disappointing.

My twins were born within a year of my marriage. My son has cerebral palsy.

Before they turned two my twins were taken away from us with allegations of physical abuse. When we went down to the first court date I thought they were going to apologize for taking the kids away and give them back. Instead, they told us that my daughter had a broken wrist and broken ankle. I was shocked. Also, we had been interviewed by a social worker before court. We thought she was there to help. Those who have had experience with social workers in the CPS system know how that worked out.

I don't remember when it "came back to me", but within a few days of that court date I remembered something. I recalled that a few nights before my daughter was taken away I had been awakened by a tapping noise. I didn't wake up fully, but instead had groggily gone over to where my daughter was tapping her foot. I was not awake enough to speak, so I took hold of her foot and pinched it some and held it still. Instantly she began tapping her hand instead. I did the same with her hand. She stopped tapping. I had not meant to hurt her and she didn't cry or anything.

I knew that this is what happened to her. That I had been the one who had broken my baby daughter's bones. After the way things had gone at court I was terrified. I knew that if anyone found out what a monster I was I would never get to have my children back. Instead I decided to continue with my denial. I sold all of my things and hired an attorney.

The police asked us to take a polygraph. I tried to fool it and it worked out well, my results came back "Inconclusive". My wife's came back "Deceptive". For some reason it didn't occur to me to wonder why. Instead I was just happy that something might distract blame from me. After all, since her report said she lied, I thought that everyone would know that this meant the polygraph was just inaccurate and nobody would wonder why I hadn't come back clean.

During the civil case there was testimony that my daughter's x-ray showed she had previous fractures and that the fracture that she had been taken away for showed bone growth from being more than 10 days old. I "knew" both of these things were lies being told with the intent of taking away our children. I never questioned what had really happened because I knew that I was guilty. The doctor also said that in order to cause breaks like these the arm and leg would have had to have been twisted until they broke. "What lies," I thought.

In the end our children were returned and we were sent to a parenting class that I paid close attention to so I would never again hurt my children. Looking back I am very grateful about this because otherwise I would not have had any tools at all for raising my kids.

My wife gave birth to another daughter. There was no similar incident in her childhood.

After thirteen years of marriage that had deteriorated into such a cesspool that I threatened suicide about every other month, my wife left me. She ran off with a lesbian who was so ugly that looking at her actually made me feel ill. Her teeth were rotted from years of substance abuse. I guess feeling that my wife preferred this affected me.

The next couple years is a nightmare of me trying to get my marriage back together and my ex wife using my caring in ways that destroyed me. Somehow I felt the only chance I would ever have in my life at happiness was to make that marriage work and I couldn't understand why nobody else could see that. I got a lot of the "Be happy she's gone" remarks. In therapy these days I have discovered that whatever definition I had of myself did not survive this period. I don't know if I really had a "self" before this, but I didn't after.

Although the courts tried hard to give my children to my ex, since she has never really cared at all about them her behaviour let me gain custody after a couple years.

Late last year we moved to a new area. I thought of this as us starting all over and I hoped it would be a fresh start. Instead, the isolation deepened my depression. My oldest daughter also suffers from depression and I misinterpreted this as loneliness, just as I felt.

So I decided we should be friends so that we wouldn't feel this horrible loneliness. Unfortunately, I had no idea how friendship was supposed to work. I had no concept.

My daughter was at a time in her life (she was fifteen) when she was discovering herself and questioning things about sexuality. I saw this as an opportunity to provide her with information that she would otherwise not get. Information I did not get as a child that I regretted not having. I wanted her to understand life differently than I did, because I didn't want her to make the same mistake I had.

I never "had sex" with her. However, we did things that explored sexuality. I refrain from details here because she is involved. Nothing we ever did was intended to give sexual gratification to myself or her. Neither of us was sexually aroused by the other. Or not that I know of.

One day I was picking the kids up from school when the police met me instead of my daughter. They told me that my daughter said that I had been having sex with her. I was shocked. I didn't understand what she was talking about or why she was doing this. I searched my mind to find some reason. I answered the cops questions and returned to work without my children.

Because I had lived with my depression for so long I knew that I would kill myself if I did not take action. I went to a doctor and got a prescription for Prozac. I started therapy immediately. Without my children there was no purpose or value to my life and I didn't want to stay alive, but I knew that if I killed myself my daughter would blame herself for it and I knew that this scar wouldn't heal.

In therapy I told about every detail of everything that had gone on in my home. My therapist said something about, "Some boundaries had been crossed." I agreed but I didn't know what she meant. Then later we were talking about my ex-wife and she drew me a little diagram about how my "boundaries" were set. From that diagram I realized what was wrong. Lightbulbs went off in my head for hours.

I was elated. The Prozac had been doing wonders in controlling my depression and now I knew what the problem had been with my daughter. Suddenly I knew I could gain control of my life.

But then I started to realize what it meant from my daughter's point of view. I realized how I must have hurt her. Even the Prozac couldn't stop me from crying. I called my attorney (in the civil matter, I had not been charged criminally) and tried to tell him about what had happened. He told me to just wait for the report from Child Protective Services. He cautioned me to not discuss the "underlying criminal matter" with the social worker.

Because I wanted to get the truth out in the open, I went to the social worker and tried to tell her the whole story. I didn't mention any detailed incident, but I tried to explain what had been going on.

So that you will know, here it is: My daughter was developing personal boundaries normally. I had not. Whenever she would say or do something that defended her boundaries, I would be hurt, taking it as a rejection of our friendship. Whenever I would say or do something that would cross those boundaries she would be hurt, taking it as an act of sexuality. Over a period of months my daughter came to believe that I wanted to have sex with her and that I wanted her to be my wife.

Looking back I feel so frustrated. I can see how so many things were perceived so differently by the two of us. I can only guess what kind of hell she was going through. She did try to tell me. However, I had no idea what she was saying. I thought that she just didn't understand friendship and that she would be happier when she grew up if I could just show her. I was totally and completely wrong.

Anyway, the social worker paraphrased a little. She boiled my three hour tear filled conversation into, "Mr. Rehm thinks the problem is a boundary has been crossed."

I also tried to explain my history of depression and how much of a difference I felt the medication was making. I knew that if it hadn't been for this I would have killed myself already. I didn't tell her that but I tried to give an idea about what problems depression causes and why solving this was important to the future of my family. This was paraphrased into something about me being depressed over my divorce.

I knew that the police were investigating for criminal charges. I wanted to go and give them a full statement. I wanted the truth to be told. The civil lawyer had told me to not talk to them, but I hired another attorney and told him I wanted to make a statement. This lawyer never actually talked to me about the case. When we met at the police station for me to give my statement, I tried to tell my lawyer what had happened but he stopped me. "Was there any penetration?" he asked. "NO!" I replied. He told me not to make a statement and I didn't.

The police told him they were going to charge me and I made an appointment to turn myself in. Then I again tried to talk to my lawyer about it but he had to leave and a few days later I fired him.

When I turned myself in they charged me with one count of lewdness with a minor. I bonded out and hired a different lawyer. I went to the lawyer with a five page typed statement describing in detail everything that had happened. I wanted to go to the police and the DA and give them full information. He told me that this would be a mistake and that we should just wait to see what their case was at the arraignment. I gave the statement to my therapist.

Last Wednesday I went to court and was officially charged with twenty three felony counts of child molestation.

When I left the courthouse I was not in a good emotional state. I cried some. I was in shock some. I had to wait for over an hour for a ride and while I was waiting I thought about my situation. I am not Christian, but in my life many times I have received strong setbacks that seemed like my world was destroyed. During these events at some point I would look at the sky and say to "God", "F*** you. This isn't going to stop me." or the like. I would mentally "get back up" and begin again to build a new world.

Somewhere on the steps I started to do the same thing. I turned to "God" and said, "Thank you." and started to cry. What I realized in that moment of defiance was what had really happened here. Those twenty three counts (I still haven't seen them so I really don't know what they say) represent pain to my child.

What I wanted most was to be a good father but I wasn't. I had not known I was hurting my daughter. If she had not had the courage to come forward I would have kept on hurting her and she would have gone through life just as messed up as I had. What was happening here was a chance for her to have a normal life. No matter what it took, I wanted that for her. Even if it meant spending the rest of my life in prison as a child molester. What father would not give his life to save that of his children?

When I went back to work the next day everyone who knew what I was going through saw my newly cheerful self and said things like, "Hey, it must have gone pretty good in court!" or some such. Nobody could understand how I could at all be happy faced with what I had been charged with.

But now all I want to do is help my daughter to heal. I don't want her to blame herself for anything. I want her to understand that the curiosity and feelings she had was normal and healthy and that the problem was that I was supposed to help her define her personal boundaries by providing feedback that helped.

I want her to know how proud I am of her. How thankful I am that she helped me by making all this happen. I don't want her to think that I am angry or upset. I love her and if she hadn't come forward I don't know how bad things would have gotten but it sure would not have been what I want for her as her father.

However, I am not allowed to contact her at all. I have written letters to my children and my therapist says that she will try to get the letters to them.

I have learned so much in the last few weeks. I am a little depressed that I could not have learned all this years ago. But my life is what it is. I am not angry at anyone. I love my parents (my father passed away). The police and the DA are simply trying to protect my children.

The only people that I have been continually disappointed by are the people at Child Protective Services. The "Social Workers" there have never exhibited a behavior that seemed to be directed at helping. Like the police and DA, they seem to be all about blame and punishment, but these are the people who are supposed to have the training to understand human issues.

I hope I haven't bored you, but as I sit here in my empty home I feel a desire to talk.

Please e-mail Chris at crehm@ibm.net.

Go back to the Survivor's Sanctuary's lobby.