Authors: Terri Ann Leidich
Over the next weeks, Alice once again pushed her fears, along with the articles,
to the back of her mind as she concentrated on trying to do better with the house,
herself, and especially her kids. Then, one day when she was changing the sheets
on her bed, she found one of her many magazines wedged between the headboard and
She was alone in the house and sat down on the bed to read. The magazine had an article
on incest. This article was even stronger than the others, and it gave signs to watch
for in your children. Alice hurried through, hoping not to see anything that she
recognized in Sarah, yet the words glared at her from the page. Alice's mind fought
the horror of the possibility. She knew Jake was disgusting in many ways, but even
he wouldn't do something like this. He just couldn't.
Sarah was really late again tonight, but Alice waited up for her. Her stomach was
in knots, and she had not been able to eat anything at dinner or even from her private
stash. Jake was bowling, and Alice had tucked Sam in bed, a ritual she had just recently
started with him. She had seen a program on television that talked about how tucking
your children in at night gave both the child and parent a sense of security, so
she had tried it and found it felt nice. She had been tucking Sam in every night
for over a week now, but they always waited until Jake was gone.
When Sarah finally got home, her hair was a mess, her face was flushed,
was buttoned incorrectly, and her skirt was askew. Sarah was barely in the door when
Alice blurted out, “Sarah, I wanna talk to you about your father.”
Sarah's expression turned quickly from irritated to scared. “What about?”
“What did you mean when you said the other day that your dad doesn't leave you alone?”
The article she'd read told Alice not to talk to Sarah alone, but she didn't want
someone else there when she asked her daughter these questions. A powerful motherly
instinct was surfacing in Alice that pushed her to protect Sarah. A few months agoâeven
a few weeks agoâAlice would not have believed that Jake could do something like this,
but now she was beginning to realize that Jake was capable of a lot of mean, sick
things. She just hoped he hadn't done them with Sarah.
“I didn't mean nothing. I was just mad. Leave me alone.” Sarah tried to walk past
Alice toward her bedroom, but Alice blocked her path.
“Sarah, I don't believe you.” Alice tried to make her voice soft. “You never said
stuff like that before when you was mad. Why now?”
Sarah suddenly resembled a little girl. Her huge, sad eyes stared at Alice as if
she was trying to decide what to do. A tiny gasp escaped through her lips. “You know
what I meant.”
“No, I don't know what you meant,” Alice murmured, horrified. “At least, I ain't
“I don't want to say it.” Sarah clasped and unclasped her hands in front of her as
she lowered her eyes to the floor and her voice became painfully soft. “You know
what he's been doin'. He's been doing it for years.”
“No, Sarah, nooooooo!” Alice cried as shock took over her senses. She had asked the
question and part of her expected the answer she got, but she wasn't ready for the
impact of what it meant. “I didn't know.”
“I don't believe you.” Sarah's voice rose in pitch. “How could you not know? My bedroom's
next to yours. How could you not know?” Sarah's face contorted in pain.
“Baby, honest,” Alice pleaded with her child, needing to hear the truth, yet dreading
Sarah started to sob as she sunk down onto the sofa. Awkwardly, Alice tried to put
her arms around her daughter, but Sarah pulled away. Usually Alice
wouldn't try again,
but tonight she reached out and placed her arm around Sarah's shoulder. This time
Sarah didn't fight her. Alice didn't touch her kids a lot. She didn't know how, but
lately she had been trying. She wasn't touched a lot when she was a kid, and the
only time Jake touched her was to hit her or to have sex. But now she curled her
daughter up next to her. Jake could hurt herâhe had for yearsâbut he damn well better
not be hurting her kids.
Yet, he was. Sarah just said he was. Earlier today, when Alice had called the 800
number listed in the magazine article, the woman who'd spoken to her told Alice that
she and the kids didn't have to put up with Jake. She had given Alice a local number
to call, and Alice had been thinking about it. But now that she knew Jake had been
hurting Sarah like that, she had to call.
He's really hurting her, isn't he?
Alice wanted to run into the bathroom, lock the door, and puke her guts out, but
Sarah needed her. As Alice held her daughter, Sarah's sobs died down and she began
to talk. “He started touching me when I was just a kid.”
Pain flooded through Alice, but she remained silent as she pulled Sarah closer, trying
to show her that she was safe, but not wanting to interrupt the flow of words that
were now coming fast from Sarah's trembling lips. “He would come into my bedroom
and touch me down there. It wouldn't last long.” Alice felt her daughter tremble.
“He would get this funny look in his eyes, then he would go into your bedroom, and
I would hear him grunting and groaning and sometimes I'd hear you cry.”
Bile rose in Alice's throat, but she took a deep breath as she gently cradled Sarah's
head against her chest. “I felt so bad,” Sarah said. “I thought you were crying because
he had been touching me.”
Sarah suddenly pulled away. Her lips quivered as she spoke. “Now that I'm fifteen,
he has sex with me.” She broke into a sob, and Alice curled her arms around her daughter
and held her tightly.
As Alice gently stroked Sarah's hair, the sobs died down, and her voice was once
again just above a whisper, causing Alice to bend in close in order to hear the words.
“He's been doing that since I was about twelve. And he said if I ever told you, he'd
kill us both.”
Small tremors of shock ran through Alice's body.
Three years! Why didn't I know?
What kind of mother am I?
Sarah turned toward Alice with anger blazing in her eyes. “But I'm sick of it, Mom.
I'm sick of him. I'm sick of you. I'm sick of being afraid to be with boys unless
I'm having sex. I know how to have sex with them. I just don't know how to be with
them any other way.” Once the words started flowing from Sarah's mouth, they were
like a gushing river that couldn't be stopped.
As Sarah talked, shock and fear subtly shifted, and Alice felt strength grow from
deep inside of her. Jake could hurt her, but he wasn't going to hurt her children,
not any more. Alice was experiencing a devastation so deep she wasn't sure she could
crawl out of the chasm of darkness, but at the same time, she knew she had to find
the strength because of her children.
Alice walked with Sarah to her bedroom, told her to lock the door, and that she would
figure out what to do.
Alice was in bed but wide awake when Jake came home. Tonight, he left her alone.
The next morning after Jake left, Alice called the local abuse hotline to try to
figure out what to do to protect herself and her children. She knew she had to leave,
but she didn't know where they would go and what she would do to support them. She
had married Jake right out of high school and had never worked a day in her life.
The woman on the phone told her about a shelter they could go to where they would
be safe until Alice could figure out the rest. So, Alice made up her mind that she
would tell Jake they were leaving, and when the kids came home from school, they
would pack up, leave, and go the shelter. From there, she would figure out the rest.
The woman on the phone told her not to talk to Jake by herself. Alice was told she
was in danger and that a welfare worker and the police would be dispatched for her
protection when they were ready to leave, but Alice didn't pay attention to the warning.
Besides, Jake wasn't home, and she hoped he was drunk somewhere and wouldn't be around
when they left.
But that afternoon, Jake came home and plopped on the sofa to watch television. She
mustered up some courage and told Jake that they were leaving. Jake just laughed
and told her she was dreaming, that she wasn't going anywhere. She insisted she was,
and Jake raged that if she ever tried it, he would kill her. Then he beat her worse
than he ever had and left her lying
on the floor, bruised and beaten while he stormed
out of the house, warning her that she had better be there when he returned.
The kids were in school and Alice was all alone, so she just lay where she had fallen,
clutching her ribs as she curled into a pitiful, hopeless heap. Reality sunk in that
he would kill her if she left, yet she also finally accepted the fact that he would
probably kill her if she stayed. Alice felt trapped.
Thoughts raged through her mind as the numbness left her body, and Alice took a very
clear look at her life, for perhaps the first time. She knew that Jake was mean and
abusive, yet she needed him. She was scared to death to be with him, and scared to
death to be without him. For years it had somehow been okay for him to beat her because
her small world had convinced her that it was just a part of being a wife. But now
she knew he was hurting her kids too, and Alice's spirit started to rebel, yet she
didn't know how she'd find the strength to change things.
Jake returned around suppertime, angrier than ever and very drunk. Alice quietly
made a meal and put it on the table, feeling Sarah and Sam's eyes watching her every
move, taking in the many bruises that were turning dark blue and the way she carefully
moved and often put her hands on her ribs. As they ate in silence, Sam's nervous
hand accidently knocked over his glass, spilling the contents across the table.
Slamming his hand on the table, Jake yelled, “What's wrong with you, boy?”
his belt to Sam, followed by putting his fist through the wall before finally slamming
the door behind him as he got in his car and sped away.
Alice hurriedly gathered Sam's bruised body to her, and Sarah, looking pale and scared,
huddled next to them on the floor of the living room. During her hours curled up
on the floor after Jake's beating, Alice had resigned herself to the fact that she
would just watch Sarah very closely and not let Jake near her. She felt terrified,
trapped, and unable to leave with no place to go, but as she held her shaking children
against her, the fierceness of a mother lion surged forth as Alice became determined
that Jake wasn't going to hurt Sarah or Sam ever again. She would see to that!
With trembling hands, Alice called the local emergency number she had been given
by the abuse hotline. She was told to pack some clothes for each
of them, lock the
door so Jake couldn't get in, and wait for the police car that would be there within
minutes. They each scurried to their rooms, stuffed clothing into plastic grocery
bags, and gathered together near the window by the front door, waiting for their
Not long after he left, Jake's car came screeching back into the driveway, and he
ran to the front door like a man on fire. When his shoulder hit the locked door,
he bellowed like a bull, “Let me in right now! Damn you, Alice! You don't lock me
out of my own house! You'll pay for this!”
He kicked in the door and was advancing, with his fists clenched, on the terrified
trio just as the police car arrived. The officers ran through the open door and tackled
Jake screamed, “Get your hands off me! This is my house! You can't stop me from getting
into my house!”
Two of the officers handcuffed him, took him outside, pushed him into the backseat
of the patrol car, and drove away.
Alice, Sam, and Sarah stood huddled together, sobbing as a social worker arrived
and a police officer helped them out of the house and to the waiting car. They remained
silent as they drove away.
It was late at night and the shelter was quiet. While the beds were not comfortable,
they were clean and she and the kids were safe from Jake. Alice glanced at Sarah
lying next to her in the double bed sleeping peacefully. Just then, Sam moaned in
his sleep, and Alice pulled herself out of bed and walked quietly over to him. She
gingerly sat on the edge of his bed and watched him while love and sadness washed
Up to this point in her life, she hadn't thought a lot about love. The only love
she had ever received had been from her parents and Jake, and from those two experiences
she hadn't found love to be something that anybody would really want. In her childhood,
her father had very little to do with Alice or her sisters, unless he was yelling
at them. And her mother had made sure they had meals to eat and clean clothes to
wear, but if she wasn't doing housework, she was sitting in front of the television,
telling them to be quiet. Any love she had received as a child had come from her
sisters, and even that had disappeared
as they got older and went their separate
ways. Then she had married Jake, and in the beginning, he worked and she kept house,
and occasionally they would get together with friends and go out dancing. She remembered
some laughter and feelings of being cared about in the very beginning of their marriage,
but that was over twenty years ago.