From Tracie: Sometimes I Feel So Much Guilt

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sometimes I Feel So Much Guilt

I have been triggered more than I expected by the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky child rape situation. My mind has been filled with thoughts of my own childhood things - thoughts of the other children who were abused and assaulted and raped by my uncle. And even though I know it is irrational, I feel a certain amount of guilt for those other children. That was my family member who did those things, and my family who enabled him, and my family who helped to cover it up.

I think back to another family whose names I can not remember. Chuck and Joanie....something. Chuck and Joanie were friends with my uncle and grandparents. They had little children. I did not spend a lot of time with the kids, but there is one instance I remember so clearly. So painfully clearly.  Shortly after my uncle died Chuck and Joanie brought their children over to my grandparent's house. All the kids went in the back to play, in the room that had been my uncle's.

Their oldest son was younger than me, maybe seven? six? I'm not sure exactly. What I am sure about, sure to the bottom of my heart, is that child was molested.

The past two days my mind has been filled with thoughts of that boy, his younger brother and sister. We sat in the back bedroom, and his conversation was full of sexual things. Thoughts and statements and ideas that do not belong to a child.

I emailed my mother to see if she remembered their last name. I want to find those parents. I want to tell them what I remember. I want to know if their kids, grown up by now, are okay. I want to tell them I'm sorry. Sorry I never told. Sorry I didn't stop it from happening. Sorry I couldn't protect their kids.

This is why, when I see people complain on facebook that Joe Paterno should not have been fired "in this way" and that he "did what he should have done by reporting the situation to Curley and Schultz" - I feel my stomach knot, and I want to scream. Because I was nine years old, sitting in that back bedroom, not knowing how to stop the madness I was witnessing, and not having come to terms with the things that were done to me.  But Joe Paterno was a grown man. A man who could have stopped a monster from raping more children. And he didn't do that.

If you know or suspect a child is being abused, please call your local police, or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. 


  1. Did you read my post today?? You really should.. sending you huge hugs..

  2. It is different. You were a child.

    Lisa (seekingelevation) recently wrote something on rewiring her brain by reminding herself to think differently. I too have had to do something similar with memories of me perpetrating the same viciousness on my little sister that was visited upon me. I could feel guilty until the cows come home (they are never coming home) but I was a child, and very much lost in the miserableness of adults who did not know/chose not to know/chose not to intervene/fix themselves.

    My responsibilities are in the here and now. To own up to my sister, if she needs me to. But also to be okay, to forgive myself, to not hear condemnation in everything I hear, whether from my sister or from random strangers/fb friends. Today is the only thing I can change.

    But then? You were a child.

    I hope that you will be able to let go and hug that kid (you) who did whatever she knew how to do to manage.



  3. So much love to you, Tracie. It's not your fault.

  4. Hugs and love to you today. (And every day.)

  5. Yes, you were just a child, Tracie. Growing up with a monster of my own, there is absolutely nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. Thank you for this. It means more to me than you know. {{{hugs}}}

  6. ♥ I had a huge comment typed out but Blogger ate it because of some error... but I want you to know that I am proud of you for being the courageous woman you are today. I am praying for you because I understand this completely. It's one thing to know in your head that you did the best you could when you were a child. It's another thing to make that connection with your heart. I'm praying that connection comes soon. I love you!

  7. I grieve for the children in that room, and for the children of Penn State. I grieve that an amazing person like yourself has so much to carry on some days.

    And the anger at that institution is raw.

    It's not your fault. And I'm so proud of you for your honesty.

  8. Your guilt is a gift because it is giving you the energy to speak up. You couldn't speak up as a child. You didn't have the words. But now? Now you are giving those words to others. You are so very very brave. So very courageous.

  9. I was just listening to a NPR talk show about this. One of the callers/speakers talked about how the discussion has gone over to the football program and school issues. Your post is so right about the real problem being covering up this awful crime. People don't want to talk about the real problem. It is too upsetting. Your post is doing the right thing. I'm proud to know you through the blog. While I don't post about such matters I'm grateful that people like yourself do. thank you.


  11. I have been thinking of you specifically with this whole travesty. I watched the press conference with the new coach and listened to him go on about what a good man Joe P is. It made me sick. This failing is not a small one. It is monumental. The asst coach did not report rumors but an actual witnessed assault. Even if Joe P thought his bosses were the appropriate reporting source (which they were not), how could he just let that go? It makes me soooo sick.

    You were nine. You were not at fault. You were a child. Your heart is so big and so pure. Give that sweet nine year old girl the hug you would give to any nine year old victim and tell her what you would tell any other victim. Tell her, "It's not your fault!"

    You are in my heart.

  12. All I kept thinking when reading this post was, you were a child yourself. The adults should have stepped up.

  13. Love you, Traci! But don't torture yourself if you can't find those parents. The knowledge might not be a good thing for them and their son is no longer a child in need of protection. Hugs!

  14. Oh Tracie, you are such a wonderful human. Use those feelings that you label as guilt, channel them as passion and courage. You already do. But don't use them to punish the child in you who did nothing other than act as a child.

    You are great. I don't visit enough often (your blog), but I am always rewarded when I do.

  15. Let go of the guilt. You were a child. I am sorry that you are suffering from this ordeal that affected your entire family. Child sex abuse is always wrong, and adults should never look away.

    So is sexual harrassment. If the allegations against Herman Cain are legitimate, he should be telling the truth. I am have experienced this firsthand, and it is humiliating.

  16. Yeah, hard not to extend guilt. I blew the whistle as a kid and adults told me that I was making problems and should be quiet. People deny what is obvious because, in part, actions are unthinkable and it means years of court and tmi and pain for everyone instead of just one kid perhaps. It's self-protection as well as protecting the pedo who is also familiar and perceived as irreconcilably good things too.

  17. You were a child. An abused child. You didn't know any better.

    Joe Paterno should have.

  18. Such a haunting memory. It's an outrage how the Penn State thing got covered up. My heart goes out to the innocent children.

  19. Dear Tracie,

    I too feel guilt for the ones that I could not save. As a little child, a toddler even, there was nothing I could have done. Yet I can become filled with sorrow at the thought of some others who were offended against and I could do nothing.

    As a society we need to blame those who abuse and those who won't life a hand to stop them, those who cover it up and protect child sex offenders. They are all adults and they should be held accountable for their actions and inactions.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.