Depression, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

I Always Knew

Even as a child, I knew that I could not give up. There was always something pushing me forward, and making me believe that tomorrow offered something better. In the darkest of times, I knew that there would be light. I didn’t know when, or how, but I knew.

When I felt like giving up and taking my life, I knew that I couldn’t. I knew there was a life I needed to live. When my mom was unable to love me the way I needed, I knew I would be loved. I knew there was good in people. I could see past their fear, and anger. I could see a scared child, much like myself, hiding deep below the surface.

Even when others hurt me, I felt sorry for them. I wanted to understand why they behaved the way they did. I didn’t hate the ones causing me pain, but I continued to offer love. Hoping, that maybe one day they could see what I saw. I didn’t want to give up on them, just like I was unable to give up on myself.

I never looked at myself as strong or brave, I just did what I knew I had to. I struggled almost everyday, until recently. With so many struggles pushing me down, it was hard for me to see, or listen to anything else. It was this knowing that helped me survive. The knowing pushed me to safety, even when I sometimes led myself astray.

What took me a long time to realize is, everything I ever needed was inside of myself. I didn’t trust my knowing, but it was strong enough to finally get my attention. Through the darkness, through the pain and depression it never left me. It patiently waited for me to see. I believe, with everything that I have, that this is why I am alive today.

This knowing is what fueled me. Fuel for my soul. The spark of light never completely  extinguished, and now it encases me in a golden glow.

I believe we all have this. We all know. I believe this is what gets us through the rough patches. The hard part is trusting that we have what we need.

My challenge to you is to trust that you know. Live life knowing you have what you need within yourself. Don’t give up, even when you want to. Stop, and listen. It is there. You are strong. You are brave. You




Child abuse, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized

A Peek Into The Monster That Ate My Mommy: Chapter 13

My sister and I were guests on the Dr.Phil show a couple of weeks ago, and since then I have received several messages from viewers. Some shared that they had been sexually abuse as children, and other shared that they know what it was like to have their mother not offer them any help. Part of my always felt like I was the only one who had a mother who was incapable of loving them, and hearing from others was both relieving and heartbreaking.

I wasn’t the only one.

As a mother myself, I cannot imagine not standing beside my child. I cannot imagine making them live in this world on their own. And, I cannot understand how a mother cannot love her child. I thought it was just me, I thought I was damaged. After publishing my book, The Monster That Ate My Mommy , I have learned that I am not alone. There are so many others that can relate to my pain, and because I know how much that hurts, I hurt for them as well. My mission is to help as many people as I can see that they are not the only one.

Below is a sample chapter of The Monster That Ate My Mommy . In this chapter I talk about my telling about the sexual abuse, and what led to the lie that continues to haunt me. In the book, I refer to him as “Bill.”

Chapter 13

DEB CAME THE next day, and Mindy introduced us. She seemed nice, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell anyone else my secrets. I hadn’t been able to sleep since Bill hit me, and my body was filled with adrenaline. The lack of sleep had caught up with me—I was exhausted.

“Do we have to do this today?” I paused as I looked at my feet. “I’m really tired. I just wanna go to sleep.”

“Honey, I’m sorry, but we have to go today. They’re waiting for us at social services.”

I let out a sigh and looked up at Hannah. She came over to me and took my hand. “Can I go with her?”

“No, I’m afraid not. No one else can go. She’ll be fine. There’s nothing to worry about.”

She was wrong. There was everything to worry about. Hannah hugged me and said she’d see me soon. Mindy stayed with Hannah as I left with Deb. Riding alone with Deb in her shiny silver BMW convertible was uncomfortable. We didn’t make small talk. I sat silently in the passenger’s seat as I fidgeted in my seat of black leather interior. My eyes focused forward as we got onto the interstate. The cold, fall day sent chills through my body as the heat from the car only warmed the surface.

Deb and I pulled up in front at the big brick building with a small white sign with green writing above the door—State of Vermont Department for Children and Families. Deb held the glass door open for me. As I entered, I saw a steep flight of stairs. I stood on the bottom step as I looked up and cleared my throat before I walked to the top. At the top of the stairs was a solid, heavy brown door. A piece of white paper taped to the door read “DCF: Social Services. Please check in with Receptionist.”

My heart raced as we entered the small white room. At the desk, Deb said, “We’re here to talk to the trooper.”

The receptionist used her finger to push her glasses up on her nose and pointed to a wooden bench. “Have a seat. Someone will be right with you.”

Trooper? What did she mean? Was I in trouble? The more I thought, the more nervous I became. Tears welled. This wasn’t the time or place to fall apart. I had to stay strong. The image of Bill kicking Toby flashed before me, and the anger returned. Anger kept my tears away.

The fear of the unknown circled in my mind. I sat silently as Deb picked up a People magazine and started reading it. She was so calm as she flipped through the pages. She didn’t notice my state of apprehension.

Finally, a closed door opened and a woman in a business suit came out. “We’re ready for you now.” She held the door open as I walked through. She pointed down the hall and directed us to the conference room. There was a long, rectangular table with maroon padded chairs pushed in around it. A police officer sat near the head of the table and asked me to sit down next to him. I was going to go to jail. Bill must have told them I scratched him. This was it. Mom always threatened to send me to juvie or the psych ward—whichever would take me. It was actually happening.

I was unable to hold back my fear. My body trembled as I pulled out the chair. The trooper saw my hands shaking and knew I was upset. “Jessica, I’m Trooper Clark. I just have a few questions for you.”

I began to cry. “I only scratched him because he was hurting me. I won’t do it again. I promise.”

Trooper Clark looked at me and said, “You’re not in any trouble. You did nothing wrong.”


“Really. We just need to hear from you what happened the other night with your stepfather and the other stuff you disclosed to your friends.”

I told Trooper Clark what took place when Bill hit me and threw me out of the house. I stopped there. I felt uncomfortable telling him what had occurred in the past. I wasn’t ready to re-release those secrets. I wished I hadn’t let them spill out to anyone. I wanted to rewind time and leave that part out. I couldn’t turn back, though— too many people knew now. If I didn’t tell Trooper Clark, someone else would.

I cracked my knuckles as I held my hands in my lap. My eyes almost closed as I took a deep breath. Trooper Clark saw I was uncomfortable. “I know it’s not easy to talk about, but it’s important. Take your time, and go as slow as you need. I’m not in any hurry.”

His compassion eased some of my fear. I told him what had happened when I was younger. He stopped me and asked for details. Every little detail. My stomach knotted as I relived those moments. Vivid images of that time replayed in my mind. I became angry as I said the words aloud. My voice echoed in the quietness of the room.

No one protected me then, but these people, who didn’t even know me, were trying to protect me now. I became united with them, and the repulsive things I had held in for so long poured out. I was torn between loving my family and being outraged at them. Everyone except Gram knew my secrets, but they made me keep them. They didn’t want to help me. They only wanted to protect themselves. I loved them, and I wanted them to love me, but what if they never could?

After talking to Trooper Clark, I was told I couldn’t go home. I was now in state custody. I was a foster kid. The social worker, Joan, talked to Deb, and she agreed to take me back to her house until they could figure something else out. I wasn’t going home. I wasn’t going to be able to have any of my things. I wasn’t going to be able to have Toby. Or my clothes. Or anything.

When we left the big brick building, I went back to Mindy’s house. Deb set up an air mattress on Mindy’s bedroom floor, and that was where I stayed when I wasn’t at school. Joan agreed to ask Mom to give her some of my things. The first couple of days, I had to wear my dirty clothes, and I didn’t have my backpack or anything I needed. Mindy’s family was nice, but it wasn’t home. I wanted my bed and my stuff. I wanted Toby and Gram. Since Gram lived next door to Mom, I wasn’t able to see her either. I felt like they were punishing me.

Within a few days, I had some of my clothes and my backpack. I had so much homework to catch up on, but I wasn’t up to it. I was depressed. I didn’t know what was going to happen from one day to the next. My world turned upside down. Trooper Clark said I didn’t do anything wrong, but I was the one suffering.

Thanksgiving was only days away. I hadn’t considered spending it without family. I had never been away from home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t want the day to come, but sure enough, it did. For Thanksgiving, I went with Mindy’s family to her grandmother’s house. The house was full of people. So many people I didn’t know. I was an outsider. Even though they tried to make me feel welcome, it wasn’t the same. There were too many strangers and too many eyes looking at me.

I wanted my old life back. The desire inside me was so strong. I had never wanted anything as much as I wanted to go home. Two weeks passed, and I hadn’t seen Mom or Gram. That was the longest I had been away from Gram my whole life. I didn’t like how it felt. Depression took a stronger hold over me, and I started to withdraw. Life was too hard.

Hannah’s parents saw how sad I had become. They understood how hard this change had been for me. I wasn’t comfortable where I was staying. They talked it over and decided to take me in. They took foster parent classes, and within two weeks, I was living with them. They let me have Toby too. I felt like I was home. Life was starting to look up.

Soon after the move, I was allowed to have a supervised visit with Mom, Kate, and Gram. Peter didn’t come to see me. Mom said he was working. I was so happy to see them. Gram was glad to see me too.

“I’ve missed you so much, Jessie.” She had tears in her eyes as she took my hand. “I just want you home. Wendy will get you home soon. Won’t you, Wendy?”

Mom didn’t say anything, and Gram didn’t wait for her to answer. “I love you, honey. How have you been? How’s school? Do you need anything?” Her questions filled the room. I knew she was sad. I could see how much she loved me, and it made me miss her more.

“I miss you too, Gram. I just want to go home.” I wiped my nose with my sleeve and sniffled in hard to try to make the flow stop.

“Awww, honey, you’ll be home soon. Right, Wendy?” Our eyes went to Mom. She shook her head and played with Kate’s mousy brown hair. “See? Your mother will get you home.”

I knew Gram wanted me home as much as I wanted to be home, but I also knew she still didn’t know the whole story. I knew Mom hadn’t told her the secrets. I wanted to let Gram know, but it wasn’t the time or place to tell her.

Kate played with the toys in the room and ignored me for most of the visit. There was something between us now. We were strangers. “Mommy, I wanna go home. I’m hungry.”

“Hush, Kate.” Gram put her finger to her lip and shushed her. “We are here to see Jessie. Don’t you want to talk to your sissy?”

“No. I wanna go home.” Mom put Kate on her lap and hugged her as she rocked her back and forth.

I longed for my mother’s love as much as I ached to go home. I wanted her to see me, to see the pain I was in. Rage boiled the blood that ran through my veins as I saw the love Mom gave Kate. Why can’t she just love me?

“We should get going. I have to make supper.” Mom stood up and took Kate’s hand.

Gram stood up too and grabbed me into a hug. “I love you, honey. If you need anything, call me.” She kissed my cheek and squeezed me tight.

“I love you too, Gram. I don’t know if they’ll let me call you.”

Gram looked at the mirror in the room and talked into it. “Jessie can call me, right?”

“Who are you talking to, Gram?” I raised my eyebrows as I looked at her.

“Joan. She’s on the other side of that mirror.” She pointed to the mirror and explained how the two-way mirror worked. I knew our visit was supposed to be supervised, but I didn’t know how.

Mom didn’t talk much during the visit and didn’t make eye contact with me. She occupied herself with Kate. She seemed upset with me, and the lack of emotion made me ache. Gram told Mom to hug me as they were leaving. When Mom held me, tears escaped from my eyes. Being in Mom’s embrace, even forced, felt good. As Mom hugged me, she whispered, “You know Bill never did those things to you.”

She would never pick me over him. I was afraid I’d never go home again. I became sad and angry. I changed. I was no longer a child. Once again, Mom made it clear she didn’t want to love me. She didn’t care if I came home, she just didn’t want Bill to get into trouble. He was more important than I was. I’d always believed that, but now I was sure. Gram was the only family I had. Gram and Hannah’s family. Hannah became my sister, and we were closer than ever.

People at school saw Hannah and me dropped off, picked up every day, and began to make fun of us. They had no idea what I was going through. They started calling us lesbians. I didn’t need that on top of everything else. I loved Hannah, but I was not in love with her. She knew I was having a hard time with it, so she suggested we just go with it. She thought we should agree with them and hold hands when we walked together. “If we don’t let them bother us, they’ll stop.”

We began holding hands when we walked to class or when we walked around town. We smiled when people called us lesbians. We were going to win this battle. And we did! People stopped calling us lesbians to our face. However, behind our backs, the gossip spread. I could handle the gossip. I just couldn’t take the constant ridicule.

Life at Hannah’s was good. We acted like sisters, and her family treated me like their daughter. I felt loved. They included me in everything. They bought the things I liked to eat, and whenever they brought Hannah something, they gave me one too. They treated us equally. It was nice there, but I missed Gram. I missed my old life. I still wanted more than anything to go home. Even though Mom picked Bill over me, it didn’t stop my desire to be with my family. Every day, I hoped I would hear Mom had kicked Bill out, and I could go home. I hoped, for once, I would matter enough for her to pick me. For her to love me. That day never came.

The more Mom proved to me how insignificant I was, the more I wanted her love. That was the way it had always been. She pushed me away, and I chased after her harder. Part of me hoped I would be enough, that she would realize she loved me, and change her mind. I remembered a conversation we had when I was seven. We were sitting in the car in the parking lot at the school, and I asked, “Mom, if you had to choose between Bill or us kids, who would you pick?” I think I surprised her with my question.

She looked at me and said, “I’d pick you guys. I’d always pick you guys.” She lied. She picked him. She always picked him.

The court proceedings started to see if Bill would be charged criminally for what he had done to me. I had to testify. I had to sit in the witness stand and answer questions. My heart thumped so hard and high in my chest, I thought I was going to swallow it. I didn’t want to repeat my story. I didn’t want to relive all that stuff. I wanted it to be over with. Bill insisted he was innocent, and Mom told them I was crazy. She said I was mentally ill like Ralph, and I didn’t know what I was talking about. Those words hurt. She wanted people to believe I was a sick person who didn’t know what actually happened. She asked the judge to send me away to a psychiatric hospital for tests to prove I was crazy. She said she was told by a therapist when I was younger that I was a danger.

I became quietly outraged. I had never talked to that counselor. I had told him every week I had a headache, and he let me take a nap. I didn’t say more than five words to him at any one time. He didn’t know me. Mom didn’t know me. No one knew me.

The judge dismissed what Mom was saying and ordered I go into counseling because of what had happened. I was worried the counselor would think I was crazy. I was worried that I was crazy. Mom spent a long time trying to convince me I was crazy most of my life. After a while, I questioned what she was saying. Maybe I was mentally ill. Maybe I was like Ralph. How could I tell? Crazy people always say they aren’t crazy—that was a part of being crazy.

I was careful what I talked to my counselor about. I really liked her, but I didn’t trust her. She was a student therapist, so our sessions were videotaped so her teacher, Dawn, could watch them and give her feedback. I hated the idea that I was on videotape at my most vulnerable time. I made up stuff to talk about. I rarely told her the truth. I said what I thought she wanted to hear. I hated going. I purposely missed my rides to my appointment. I hid in the woods until I saw the taxi pull away. After missing a handful of appointments, Joan started picking me up from school. She was on to me.

One day at school, I went to the pay phone and called Mom. I missed her and wanted to talk. Peter answered. I missed him too. I missed everyone. I asked if I could talk to Mom. I heard him tell her I was on the phone. She hesitantly picked up. “You aren’t supposed to be calling here. You’ll get me in trouble.”

“I know, Mom, but I miss you.” I started to cry. “I wanna come home.”

“You know what you need to do to return.” She started to yell and then calmed down. “You need to tell the truth.”

“I am telling the truth, Mom. You know what happened. You were there. You know I am telling the truth.” The anger stopped my tears. “I just want to see you.”

“Well, you’ll see me at DCF next week.” She was frustrated. I heard Peter and his girlfriend talking in the background.

“No, Mom—now. I want to see you now. I can skip school, and you can pick me up. I just want to see you. I want to come home.”

“No, we can’t do that. Not today anyway. Call me back tomorrow.” Click. She hung up the phone, and I returned to class.

I couldn’t wait to call her. It was all I could think about. I hoped she would change her mind and let me come back, at least for a little while. When I called her the following day, she told me she would pick me up, but I had to promise not to tell anyone. I made the promise, snuck out of school, and met Peter nearby. I was so excited to be home again and so nervous I was going to get into trouble. I had never skipped school like that before. Getting into trouble was worth it for me to be able to go home. Bill was at work and Kate was at school. Mom, Peter, and his girlfriend were the only ones there. I hoped returning home would feel like being home, but it didn’t. I felt like a stranger. Mom was not thrilled to see me. She may have been nervous that we were going to get in trouble or she may have been angry. I couldn’t tell.

After the initial awkwardness of being home again after months of being away, I went into my room to find a few things. It wasn’t how I had left it. People had gone through my stuff. They read my journal, used my pillows, and took my blankets. I was furious.

No one cared that I wasn’t home. No one had lost what I had lost. At the moment, it became apparent to me again that all they cared about was Bill not getting into trouble. They didn’t care I spent Thanksgiving with people I didn’t know or that all I had wished for Christmas that year was to be able to go home. They didn’t care about me at all. I was a thorn in their sides.

Even so, my desire to be home with my family overpowered my rage. I wanted to go home more desperately than I had wanted anything else before. The fact that no one wanted me hurt. I was used to rejection. I had been rejected my whole life. I longed for the normalcy of their rejection as much as I longed for their love. It was home, and it was all I knew.

When my visit was up, I gathered up my journal and my Tom Petty CD, and Peter brought me back to school. No one had noticed I was missing. That was the beauty of being quiet. No one knew when I was there, and no one knew when I wasn’t. I finished out my day and told no one of the visit. Hannah noticed I had some of my stuff and she asked me how I got it. I couldn’t lie to her, but I didn’t know how to get out of the mess I had created. I eventually told her about my visit and skipping school. She didn’t care—she just told me to be careful.

The visits continued, sometimes more than once a week. We always planned it when Bill was at work. I was okay seeing Mom, Peter, and Kate, but I didn’t want to see Bill. I resented him. I was angry he destroyed my world and turned my whole family against me. I was scared he would hurt me again if he knew I was there. I worried he would tell Mom I couldn’t come home. When Mom said she let Bill know about our visits, I didn’t know what to say. I stared at her. Why? He was winning again. We couldn’t even have this secret.

Mom said Bill wanted me to think about what I was telling the authorities. She said all I had to do was take it back, and I could go home. “Bill’s not mad at you. He knows you were just mad and said things you didn’t mean.”

I still didn’t know what to say. “He shouldn’t be mad at me. I didn’t do anything to him. I should be the one who’s mad.” I didn’t want to fight with her, but I was angry. I was hurt.

“Listen, Jessica. He wants to be friends.” She spoke in a stern voice. “You want to come home, right? Then just hear me out.”

“I do want to come home.” I began to cry as I imagined life before all this happened. “I want to come home more than anything.”

“Then listen to me.” Her voice changed as she said, “We think you should recant your story.”

“What does recant mean?”

“It means to take it back. We think you should tell them you were angry and everything blurred together. Tell them it was Ralph who did those things to you, and you only thought it was Bill who did it.”

“Ralph’s dead. I don’t want to say he did that stuff to me. You know he didn’t. You know what happened.” I became angrier. They wanted me to blame my dead father for touching me. He never did that. Ever. He abused me in other ways, but not like that. My stomach churned.

“That’s right, he is dead. He won’t get in trouble.” She looked at me. “No one gets in trouble this way.”

“I can’t do that. I won’t do that.”

“Fine!” she yelled. “I guess you really don’t want to come home that bad after all. Maybe you should stop coming over too.” She turned her back to me.

“Mom, no! Mom, please. I don’t want to stop coming over. I do want to come home. I do!”

She turned back around to face me. “Then you know what to do.”

Her plan sounded simple but blaming Ralph who couldn’t defend himself made me sick. He didn’t touch me in those ways. He often asked me if Bill had, and I always lied to him, saying no. This lie could be my ticket home, but I didn’t know if I could live with myself if I told it. I was a fourteen-year-old girl. All I wanted was to go home. I wanted my mom to love me. I didn’t know what to do.

Freshman year came to an end, and Joan allowed me to move in with Gram. I was sad to leave Hannah and her family, but I was so glad to be able to see Gram every day. She agreed to keep me away from Bill. Once I moved in with Gram, I was allowed to visit Mom, Peter, and Kate at their house. I didn’t have to sneak around anymore.

Since I was allowed to go to Mom’s now, she had to work even harder to convince me to change my story. She didn’t talk about it all the time, but she continued to bring it up. “Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to come home?”

“I’m happy at Gram’s.”

“Well, wouldn’t you like to do things with your family?”

“Gram is my family.”

“Don’t be a smartass. You know what I mean.” She was annoyed that my desire to be home had lessened. “You know if you don’t change your story, they will take Kate. You know Gram doesn’t have room for both of you. Do you really want to be responsible for her growing up without her family?”

I could not believe the burden she had put on my shoulders. I would be responsible for Kate growing up without a family? Me? Did she really blame this all on me?

“What do you mean?”

She went on, “They told us if Bill is found guilty, Kate will be taken away.”

“You didn’t care when I was taken away. Why should I care if she’s taken away? Why is that my fault?” I asked the questions, but I didn’t want to be responsible for Kate growing up without her family. I knew how scary that was, and I didn’t want my sister to have to go through what I had. I was lucky too. I had Hannah’s family and Gram. Who would Kate have? The more I thought about it, the more the guilt grew. I really had messed things up. I really should have kept my secrets. I should have listened.

“I care,” Mom said.

“Yeah…um—” I stopped. “Gram told me she needed me to help her today.” I left and went to my bedroom at Gram’s house. I thought about what Mom had said and about Kate and how scared she might be. I thought about the lie Mom asked me to tell. I thought about getting in trouble for lying to the judge. I didn’t want to do it, but I had no other choice. I could protect Ralph’s honor or save Kate.

Kate was seven. She couldn’t lose her family. I couldn’t be held responsible for that. She would hate me. Everyone would hate me. They already did, but maybe this could fix it. I knew what I had to do.

I walked back to Mom’s house and found her on the porch smoking a Newport. “I’ll do it.”

She was so happy that she had won. “I knew you would do it for Kate!”

“I’m scared, Mom.”

“Don’t be silly. You can come home. You said that was what you wanted.”

“I don’t want to go to jail for lying. What if they find out I am lying?”

“You’re just a kid. You won’t get in trouble. You are doing the right thing, you know?” She began explaining what I had to do next. “When you go to your counselor, you need to tell her you made a mistake. You need to tell her you were so angry and scared, you mixed up your memories. You tell her you remember who really touched you. You tell her it was Ralph that did it to you.”

“But I was ten when he died. He couldn’t have pinched my boobs. I didn’t have any yet.”

“Don’t be difficult. Just tell them you made that part up.”

“No. I didn’t make that up. I am not going to say I lied when I didn’t.”

“What do you think you’ll be doing? Lying. What’s one more lie?”

“I’m not comfortable with this. I’ll say the parts that could be him were Ralph, but I won’t say I lied. I don’t want to get in trouble.” I paused. “I don’t want to go to jail for lying to the judge. Are you sure I won’t get in trouble? Are you sure they won’t know I am lying?”

“If you do it right, they won’t.”

The next time I saw my counselor, I began to tell her this made up story. “I remembered something.” I didn’t know if I could continue. I started to cry.

“What did you remember?” she asked me handing me a box of tissues.

“I remembered it was my dad. It wasn’t Bill.”

“What was your dad?”

“He was the one who touched me in bad ways. He was the one that…molested me.” I couldn’t keep the tears in any longer. I sobbed as I heard the words leave my mouth. No! I screamed in my head. I wanted to tell her I was lying. I wanted to tell her Mom’s plan, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t risk it now. I had to do this for Kate.

I continued to tell her more of my new “memories” and told her I wanted to let the judge know I had made a mistake. She said she would tell Joan, and they would go from there. I know she questioned my new discovery. I know the timing of my being able to visit Mom without supervision had people questioning this. I waited for someone to fight me on it so I could tell them I had made it up, but no one ever did.

There was no turning back now. This was my “new story.” I had to go with it now. My guilt grew. What would Ralph think? He was going to be so angry with me. He would hate me. I knew he would know what I had done. The guilt began to eat at me. It ate my joy. It ate my pleasure. It ate my happiness. I was empty inside. I felt alone. The only person who knew what I had done was Mom, and after I lied, she stopped being nice. She had what she wanted.

I had to go to court and tell the judge of my changed memories. He asked me if I understood what happened to people who lie under oath. He said it was a big deal to make up stories, and he asked me if anyone had told me to say the things I said to him. “No…no…Your Honor. I just…just remembered it was my dad and not Bill.”

Then he asked me if Bill was the one who touched my breasts.

“Yes. He did.” I couldn’t lie about that.

He asked me if I was sure I wanted to change my initial story. I agreed. He ruled to allow the testimony that I had given previously modified in the record, taking the blame from Bill and placing it on my dead father.

I waited to hear what the findings were. I waited and waited and finally, after what felt like forever, we learned that I couldn’t go home because Bill had still acted inappropriately when he touched my breasts. The only way they would allow me to return home was if Mom was willing to have Bill leave. She was not. At least my lies helped Kate—the court ruled that Kate was not at risk and could stay at home.

Mom was still angry. She told me if I had changed my whole story, the judge would have let me go home. She didn’t thank me for the parts of the story I did change. She didn’t care about the amount of pain that lie caused me. They hadn’t completely cleared Bill, so she was still angry. Again, I saw I wasn’t on Mom’s list of priorities. Nothing I could do would make her love me.

That was a lesson I continued to forget.

If you have read this far, and want to know more, books are available on Amazon, by clicking this link.

#MeToo, #TeamKimandJessica, Child abuse, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized


1_IN_10One in ten children will be sexually abused before age eighteen.

One in ten.

Children who are sexually abused often feel alone. They feel shame and guilt for the abuse that is happening to them. Many are too afraid to tell, in fear that the perpetrator may hurt them or someone they love, and some who do tell are not believed or dismissed.


In most cases, the child is sexually abused by someone they know, and often trust. This can make it even harder for them to tell. By trusting the abuser, they might not know what is happening is wrong, or they may feel obligated to keep the secret.

risk_factors_3The abuse starts before a child’s eighth birthday for 20% of children who are sexually abused. When the abuse starts at a young age, the abuser has the time to “groom” the child, and make them believe what is happening is normal, or is their special secret. Abusers know the tricks that work to keep themselves out of trouble, and in control of the child.

Abusers are conniving people, who are looking to get their needs met. Many times, they have been abused themselves as children, but that does not justify their actions. They know what it is like to be on the other side of the abuse, and yet, they allow the cycle to continue. Instead of being a voice for the children, they place their hand tightly over the child’s mouth and steal their innocence. They know what it is like, and yet, they chose to harm a child.

My sister, my daughter, and I are in these statistics. The level of abuse varies for each of us, but the trauma caused at the hands of our perpetrators lingers inside of us. We have good days, and bad. We have days that we love ourselves, and others where we loath ourselves. There is anger and rage, guilt and shame. We question our worth. And wonder, “was it really that bad?”

Anytime a child is victimized, it is that bad. 

It does not matter if it happened once, or a thousand time. The scars are there. Trust is broken. And the world becomes a different place. Three girls were touched before their eighth birthday, by men we knew. We carried secrets inside of us until we were able to release them. And we fought back.We made our voices heard. We were brave. We were strong. We put one foot in front of the other everyday to carry us a little further from our past. The few moments of the abusers’ gratification left us with a lifetime of imbedded trauma. It is our choice to ignore it or to own it and work through it.

I believe there are more than one in ten children that are sexually abused. I believe the number is much larger, but they are not ready to share their secret just yet. I believe the problem is much bigger than we know. This is a problem that we need to help with, and telling our stories is the first thing we can do.

When we share our stories, the isolation a child feels is lifted a little. The more they hear of others facing what they are facing helps take away some of the shame. A camaraderie is felt, and the world doesn’t feel so alone. These are the reasons I share my story. I know what it feels like to wonder if I was the only one. The isolation alone was enough to crush me, and the fear of what other people would think of me caused me undue stress. I didn’t know there were others.

Our voices will echo throughout the land.

You are not alone.”

“It is not your fault.”

“You did nothing wrong.”

“You are strong.”

“You are loved.”

Tell your story. Share with others how far you have come, or how far you want to go. Together, we have the power to change the stigma attached to childhood sexual abuse.

#MeToo, Child abuse, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized

Break The Silence

When I was a little girl, I was taught to keep our secrets. I was trained to not talk to anyone. If I shared with anyone what was happening, I was told that I would get into trouble, or I would be made to live with my dad. Living with the secrets caused me to isolate, and keep to myself. I was labeled as painfully shy, and was sent to the guidance counselor on a regular basis.

A smile stayed on my face, to hide how I was really feeling. A smile keeps people from asking questions. A smile adds enough light to cover up the darkness. If a child is smiling, they must be happy. No one knew why I wouldn’t talk or engage in conversations, they just figured I was quiet.

And that is where the mistakes are made. Smiles can be worn as masks. Being quiet does not always mean a child is shy. But, how do we as adults know the difference? When do teachers have time to question if the smile the child is wearing is real or if it is hiding something? How do we know if a child is just quiet, or if they are being made to hide things? There are no good answers to any of these questions. There were adults in my life, who wanted to know what was going on, but I wouldn’t let them in. I was too afraid.

I was trained to keep quiet and to not let on that anything was happening. When I was alway from home, I was happy. I was safe, but I was still under strict orders not to tell. For the moments I was out of the house, away from the dysfunction, part of me knew that was where I belonged. There was never anything in me that made me think that I should let another adult in on our secrets. Even my gram, who I told everything to. I never thought that someone might be able to stop what was happening.

I look back at this time, and I wonder why. Why would I protect the people who were not protecting me? Why would I believe the lies they told me? I believed them because I did not know there was another way. I believed that I was the one who was doing wrong. If my own mother wouldn’t help me, who would? It was that one act that made me believe that I was unworthy of protection from anyone, and had me questioning if I really needed to be protected in the first place.

When I encounter six year olds, I wonder how I could have been so resilient, how I could have survived the things that I lived through. And then I get the realization, that maybe they know too. I know other children live the life I lived. I know there are other children who go to bed at night with the weight of other people’s burdens covering them tighter than their covers. When I see children, I know the secrets they are capable of carrying. I know the pain a quick smile can hide. I know that they need our help, even when they do not know it.

For thirty years I held all of the secrets close. I guarded them with everything that I had. When some escaped, I held the rest even closer. I did not want anyone to know the reality we lived in, truth be told, I didn’t want to face that it was reality. I did not have a voice for all those years. I let others mistreat me, I let them hurt me, and I let them own pieces of me.

As a mother myself now, I have to speak up. My voice speaks not only for me, but for my children as well. I hope, that my voice will be loud enough to speak for the children who have had their voices stolen from them. My voice will not be shushed any longer. I will speak my truth and I will never be silenced.

My memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy unleashes all of the secrets I held. It tell truths that took me a lifetime to understand. It shares all the things I was told never to tell. The words on the pages are my truth, and I will never again keep them hidden. Secrets are toxic. They are the poison that keep the wrong people in charge of us.

We all have a story to tell. We all have been given challenges to overcome. It is what you do with that challenge that matters.

You are not alone in your struggle.

You are braver than you think.

Never give up.

healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

We Only Have Time For Love

cemetery-2787610__340April 20, 1999 the Columbine High School was under attack by two students. They killed 12 students and a teacher, and then themselves. This day sticks in my head because I was a senior in high school, and it was the first time that I felt unsafe at school.

I remember going home and watching the news with my gram, and not understanding why they would do something so awful. As the names and pictures were shown on the news of the victims, I wanted to know why. I wanted to know why two boys, my age wanted to kill so many people. I wanted to know how the parents of the victims were going to live without their children, and how the parents of the two boys behind the murders were going to be able to live knowing their boys were capable of such hate. I just wanted to know why.

A month after the shooting, we were released from school early because of threats of a copycat type incident occurring. No threats had been made at our high school, but the school wanted to make sure we felt safe and allowed us to go home…just in case. I was relived to know that I only had a few more weeks of school left and the worry of dying at school would be behind me.

Fast forward to 2018 and I am a mother of three children who attend school. One in elementary school and two in junior high. It seems like everyday there is another school shooting on the news, and yet nothing is being done. I send my kids to school everyday and I wonder if they will return home. Parents do not have the luxury of being assured their child is safe while they are at school any longer. It doesn’t matter how many times we are told, “Don’t worry, it would never happen here.” There is no way to be sure of that anymore.

You can be the best parent on the planet, teach your child right from wrong, to love and be compassionate, but you cannot be sure the children they spend their day with have had the same. You cannot be sure that if given the chance your child might not do something you do not believe they are capable of.

We need to stop blaming people and start acting. If you see a child that needs help, help them. If you see a child that needs love, love them. If you see a child struggling, don’t ignore them. It just takes one person, one moment of concern to change someone’s outlook on life.


Don’t judge.


This is our responsibility. We owe it to our children, to our friends, to our neighbors. We need the sense of community back. We need to stop categorizing people. No one deservers to be thrown away. No one deserves to be bullied or called names because they are not like you. The world has too much hate, lets take everyone by surprise and be kind. We are all too self-absorbed; take a moment to think about someone else. Look around. Things need to change, and the best place to start is with yourself. From the inside out we can make changes and it may just cause a ripple effect.

The world is so broken, and all we can do it argue over who is right and who is wrong. If we stood together, and put all of our efforts together, big things could happen. What are we afraid of? What are we waiting for?

Think about the fear our children face each day as they enter school. Maybe they don’t think about being killed each day they open the school doors, but I bet they worry about what is going to happen to them, or be said to them. Maybe they are laughed at because their parents can’t afford the newest brand craze of the month. Maybe kids make fun of them because they think they are bi or gay. Maybe they are called names because they are overweight, too short, too tall, too skinny, too pretty, too quiet, too loud…you get the idea.  No kid is safe from harassment or bullying. Today they are good, but tomorrow it might be their turn.

There is no time for blame. We need to act now, create safe havens for kids to go to, to talk to, to learn compassion and tolerance. We can fight about guns vs. mental health until the next shooting. We can debate on Facebook, send thoughts and prayers to the families and the victims, but none of that will change anything. Think about what you can do now. Don’t wait. This country is suffering and we are running out of Band-Aids.

The only thing stronger than hate is love.

 “The value of love will always be stronger than the value of hate. Any nation or group of nations that employs hatred eventually is torn to pieces by hatred.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt




“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

healing, Hope, Tom Petty

Don’t Wait: Something Good is Coming

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released “Something Good Coming” in 2010 on their Mojo album. I did not stumble upon this song until 2012 as I prepared for my first live concert. This song caught me by surprise. It was song 14 of 16, and to be honest I didn’t really listen to the last two songs after I heard this one. It immediately spoke to me, and I had to believe, something good was coming…it had to be.

In 2012,  I was in grad school and was on the path to healing, except I didn’t know it then. Life was miserable, I was stuck in every aspect. Life was the same everyday, and hope was not something that I held onto.

“This is how it’s always going to be.”

“Nothing is ever going to change.”

“Why even bother?”

These kind of thoughts plagued my head. The negativity allowed for more to follow. Day after day I dreaded the next. I hated my life. I hated who I was. And then this song entered my world.

The words.

The melody.

The music.

All touched places inside me that had not been touched in so long. There was no way to escape the hope for better things while listening to this song. The more I listened, the more I believed. The more I believed, the more things started to change. Day by day, I was changing too.

When life got too hard, I would skip to song 14 on Mojo and let the song seep into my soul. Something Good Coming…

And there was. There was a better life waiting for my children and me. I began to see ways to change the things I hated. I saw things differently. Things could change, but the change had to start with me. I stopped letting life pass me by. I put actions into motion and everything began to fall into place.

It wasn’t easy. It was downright terrifying at times. When it became overwhelming I slid Mojo into the CD player and listened to track 14. A deep breath allowed the words to enter me in all the needed places and the strength to continue on came.

While in Orlando, FL at my first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert I was lucky enough to hear this song live. There is magic in hearing words live, feeling the beat of the music within your body, as your heart pounds in melody with the music. It was life changing, and the catalyst to the changes that came.


~2012 Orlando, FL

Every year after this concert, when a tour was announced, I knew I had to go. Nine shows in total. Each brought their own special memories. The 40th Anniversary tour came with an urgency to go to as many shows as I could. I didn’t know why, I just knew I had to go. The first show I attended was in Nashville, TN on April 25, 2017. This was one of those spur of the moment decisions. Not a lot of thought or planning behind it, but I had to go.

When I returned home, I wrote a much needed letter to Tom. For the past 22 years, his music had saved me, and I needed him to know. I took a break from working on The Monster That Ate My Mommy, and wrote all the things I needed to tell him. I didn’t know if he would ever read it, but I felt like I needed to try.

After I wrote the letter, I knew I had to see him from the front row. We had tickets to both Philly shows and the first Boston show. I checked ticket sites to see which show had front row tickets available still. Front row tickets to the July 1st Philadelphia show were within reach…and I jumped on them.

July 1st came, and as we made our way to our seats my heart began to beat in my chest so loud. It had been three months since I mailed the letter and I held on to hope that he had received it. From the moment he entered the stage, my face lit up, and a smile stayed on my face. We made eye contact and as I sang along the smile never left. As he sang he kept looking my way, and the smile grew. At the end of song seven, “Free Fallin'” Tom stopped in front of me and finished the song. For those few seconds I know he knew how important he had been to me. If he hadn’t read my letter, the smile on my face told my story. The story so many of his fans can tell.

It is a moment I will never forget.

During the tour, I didn’t know why I had an urgency to go. I didn’t know what made me get on the plane and head to Nashville. I didn’t know why I had to see him from the front row. On October 2, 2017, I knew. The time to make these dreams come true was on a ticking clock, and came with an important reminder to live.

Don’t postpone things for tomorrow. Our time here is limited. Don’t wait. Live while you can. This is a lesson  Tom had been teaching me since I heard the first song.

There are lessons in everything. Look for them. Learn from them.

And remember…something good is coming…always.



April 28, 2017

Dear Tom,

I want to thank you, for many things. The summer I turned fourteen I fell in love with your music. Wildflowers had just come out, and when I heard You Don’t Know How it Feels on the radio I felt like you were talking to me. I requested the song on the radio every chance I got, and for my birthday that year I received the cassette tape. I grew up with music, but for the first time, music reached me in places I didn’t know existed.

My childhood was less than ideal, as I grew up in an abusive household with both parents struggling with mental illness and addictions. We found food in the local dumpster when we didn’t have money, and I struggle with PTSD now because of the abuse. At fourteen, life continued to throw challenges my way, and in my darkest hours it was your lyrics and your voice that brought me comfort and gave me hope. Your words were all I had at times.

A few years later, I got mixed up with an abusive older man, and after five years of being trapped and scared the first song I played after I finally found the courage to leave him was Free Fallin’. At this time I was only nineteen, and did not live near any music stores and only had access to Wildflowers and The Greatest Hits. I played them both over and over again, and as before, it was what kept me grounded.

Later, my mom started buying me more of your albums and some of your photos (one was even allegedly signed!) and concert t-shirts off EBay. I was closed off to most people, but the one thing they knew about me was that I connected to your music. I treasured the music and the items, because I never imagined I would get the chance to see you live. I wanted to, but I lived in Vermont, and was with another abusive man, who I had three children with. He was jealous of the love I held for your music.

My gram, who raised me, and was my best and only true friend passed away. I sank into a deep, dark depression, and again, the only thing that brought color to my world was your music. The song that I listened to during this time was Don’t Fade on Me. That song said the words I couldn’t find: “You were the one who took me in…you were the one thing I could count on. Above all you were my friend….” Even now, after eight years, listening to this song brings me great comfort.

A couple years later my family lost everything we owned in a house fire. We had been having troubles with a neighbor, who earlier in the day had threatened to burn our house down, but the fire investigators deemed it accidental. As I stood and watched all of the things my kids and I held dear burn I felt like I had lost everything. All of my music was gone. All of the items my mom had bought me, that made me feel closer to you were gone. All of my gram’s things that reminded me of her were gone. My kids lost all of their toys. We lost pictures…we lost everything. It was devastating until I realized no one was hurt. We were all safe, and what we lost were just things. The song that helped me through this time was Square One. At the time, I did not know that this event was my square one. It allowed me the freedom to put things in motion to leave my abusive husband, and it also gave me a little money to be able to see you live. In 2012 I was able to fly (for the first time!) to see you in Orlando. It was magical. I never imagined I would get the chance to see you and hear you in person.

Living that dream made me see that I could do anything if I wanted it bad enough. The other dream I had since I was a little girl was to be an author, to write my life story. I began to write, but after 65 pages, I got stuck. It was too much to be transported back to all the traumatic events that I had not really dealt with. For two years I put my writing on hold. My mom had hurt me in many ways, I just wanted her to love me, but it was not something that she was fully able to do. I did not feel right exposing our secrets to the world, so I told myself I would write after she passed away. I never imagined I would get the opportunity so quickly, but last April I was at my mom’s bed side as she passed away. Right before she lost consciousness, the last words I spoke to her were “I forgive you Mom. I love you.” She held on for two more days and I was able to tell her all of the things I had been holding on to. Finally, at the end of her life, she was able to give me the love that I had longed for my entire life.

Two weeks after my mom’s death I sat at my computer and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. As I wrote I listened to I Forgive it All on repeat and cried. I really did forgive it all. Two hundred more pages fell out of me, and I have been working on my edited version, because I want the suffering to be worth something, I want to be able to help someone else that may be in a similar situation, much like your music and words helped me.

The songs that I have mentioned are just a few of the ones that have touched me. I wanted to keep this brief enough to let you know that I owe you. If it were not for you and your music, I would have lost my battle with depression years ago. You were a friend when I had none. I have seen you in concert four more times since Orlando, and have three more shows to go to this year. When you come on stage, a smile takes over my face and tears well up in my eyes, because I am grateful for all that you do for your fans and I wanted you to know that you matter. Your lyrics, your songs, your voice matter. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, but I wanted you to know.

If possible, I would be honored to use this as the epigram for my book, The Monster that Ate my Mommy: …there’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me, sometin’ good comin’ there has to be… Because of you, I believe this to be true.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Sincerely Grateful,

Jessica Aiken-Hall


Grief and Loss, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Four Months on This Groundhog Day

22195256_10159447341855711_7932537416085145978_nToday took me by surprise. For the past nine years I count down the days until February 2. Not because I am awaiting an adorable rodent’s prediction of the length of winter…because living in New England, we all know the weather does what it wants and in February we are almost guaranteed twelve more weeks of dreadful, dreary winter.

The evening of February 2, 2009 my world began to crumble as I received the call that my uncle had passed away, and I was the one to share the news with his mother, my gram.

I didn’t know what to say or how to phrase it, so I sat in front of my eighty-nine-year old grandmother, blinded by tears and blurted out the information. Her son lived over seven hundred miles from her for the past four decades. He visited every few years, and they talked on the phone almost as sporadically. He was her oldest (and favorite) child, and she loved him with all she had. I knew the news was going to kill her, but had no idea how quickly.

Soon after his death she began talking about hers. I shushed her as much as possible. “Gram, stop it…you are not going to die.”

“Jessie…I’m eighty-nine…I’m ready…”

I covered my ears and started to build the wall higher around my heart in preparation for what was coming. She tried to preplan her funeral, but I was not ready to help her. She wanted me to take notes to write her obituary, but I wouldn’t listen.

Denial is a beautiful thing, but only lasts so long. Regret however, can last a lifetime. Two months later my gram died of a heart attack. A broken heart. My world went black as she slipped away. Nothing made sense any more. I didn’t know who I was. Parts of me died that day too.

Without diverting too far from the point, February 2 always takes me back to that phone call, and the days that followed. Every year there are reminders of the day on the news, on social media, the radio…everywhere. My family members have a habit of dying on “holidays” -Flag Day, Groundhog Day, Thanksgiving, and Good Friday- so reminders of death-iversaries are everywhere.

As I connected the dots this morning, I could feel myself going down the familiar, well-worn path of grieving, I turned on Tom Petty to help ease the pain. And, like that, it worked. His words filled all of the empty spaces in my heart. As his voice hit my ears…tears began to well.

Today marks the fourth month since Tom’s passing.

While I am sad, I am also grateful.

I am sad that his life was cut short. I am sad that the world will think he’s “just another rock and roll star with a drug problem.” I am sad that he gave his fans his all, and because he worked so hard, and tirelessly, he was in an extreme amount of pain. I am sad that we will never be able to have new words written by his talented soul. I am sad that his family, band members, and friends lost him so young. I am sad that we all lost him so soon. I am sad that a simple mistake cost him his life. I am sad (and maybe a little angry) that opioids stole another life.

But I am grateful.

I am grateful of the gifts he left the world. I am grateful that his music heals so much for me. I am grateful that just the sound of his voice sooths my soul. I am grateful that he left behind so much talent. I am grateful that future generations will have his music. I am grateful that I was able to breathe in the same air as him at nine different concerts. I am even more grateful that I was able to catch his pick this last tour (two days before my birthday). I am grateful that Tom Petty saved my life, and gave me a sense that I belonged in this world.

His words are powerful, and reach people where they are at. In the darkness he brings light. In the light, he increases your joy. Pure. Gentle. Subtle.

Tom Petty’s music is the soundtrack to my life. I am not alone on that one. I have met countless others who feel the same way. From twelve to ninety, his music touched his fans. The lyrics snuck in through our ears and tangled around our hearts. No other music has ever done that to me, and I am doubtful it ever will.

My love for a man I never met keeps me going. It gives me hope and strength on the toughest days. It connects me with others, who love him too. We are in this together. As a fan, you are never alone. A family of strangers, who love a man and his music who has touched so many of us.

Thank you Tom for giving us all you had, and a little more. Thank you to his family and friends who shared pieces of this incredible, gentle, kind man with us.