Not sure how to begin. I'm new here -- to this forum, and to this situation with my husband. I'm old because I have worked as a rape crisis and domestic violence counselor in the past. I have published articles on trauma, healing, and vicarious trauma.
And yet here I am, feeling lost and scared and overwhelmed.
I will try to be concise, but there's a lot to relate.
My husband and I have been together for 5 years. This is the second marriage for both of us and we have two beautiful children (one each, and from our previous marriages) whom we cherish. We each navigated our way through difficult divorces, and, ultimately, found each other.
Since then, we have enjoyed a loving relationship, filled with laughter, intimacy, pleasure, and challenges -- the challenges mainly presented by the stepfamily dynamic, and certainly not out of the ordinary. Always, we have tried to be proactive in seeking the help of therapists who can help us sort out the challenges unique to stepfamilies.
In short, until this past Monday, I'd felt and assumed that my husband and I have a wonderful and fulfilling relationship, only challenged by typical stepfamily dynamics.
But this past Monday evening, my husband and I were talking about his sister, who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by an older neighbor child -- a young teenage boy. This is something I have known for years, and it only came up because we have been talking about how to help her with some practical challenges she is currently facing.
Because of my history in the field of trauma and crisis, I was talking to my husband about his sister's perspective and actions and how her history -- which remains largely un-dealt with -- might be informing some of her current struggles and decisions.
During the course of this conversation, my husband -- whom I love, respect, and admire -- disclosed some experiences that he too had in childhood, at the hands of the same perpetrator. The first experience he related was at age 10, when this boy -- probably 12 or so -- was building a fort in the living room with my husband. He asked my husband to put his penis under the blanket that was hanging between them. At first, my husband said no, but this boy -- I can only assume using the same language he must have heard from an abuser himself -- told him that it was OK, it was a game, and it would be fun. So, my husband acquiesced, but once he felt this boys hand on him, describing race car driving -- going into first gear, second gear -- my husband said he bit the boy's hand hard, through the blanket, and the episode was over.
Then he told me that a couple of years later, he began receiving phone calls at home every evening. Each time, it was the same young male voice on the phone, speaking very graphically and threatening sexual violence. If my husband hung up, this person would call back. So, eventually, my husband says, he just started taking -- and dreading -- the calls. The way he described his experience of this violence -- not what was said in particular -- but the microscopic way with which he examined the shag carpeting on the landing of his family's staircase while it was happening -- reminded me of so, so many of the survivor stories I've heard in the past. He isn't sure to this day who was on the other end of those calls, but he suspects it was that same neighbor boy.
While telling me, he didn't go into too much detail about what was said, and I didn't push for details, I only assured him that it wasn't his fault and that he clearly didn't deserve to be treated so. My training, at least, was enough for me to respond correctly during his disclosure.
He was, I think, as surprised as I was that he was telling me these things. He told me that he's never told anyone -- all this time. And I definitely don't think he was planning on telling me. For 35 years he's been carrying this secret around with him. He said the phone calls went on for months and months. He got one on Christmas Eve. Always, he would dread them. He said he also remembers notes to the same effect showing up in his locker at school. This person would know what he was wearing. Really awful and insidious stuff. He said he remembers living in fear that this person would finally emerge from the shadows and make good on all the threats of sexual violence my husband endured for so long. Because they only ever happened over the phone; they were never physically manifested.
Eventually, the calls stopped. His life went on. And he locked this darkness away -- deep inside of him.
Then he told me that a family friend who happens to be gay -- years later, when my husband was in his late 20's or early 30's-- told my husband that if he ever wanted an introduction to the "gay lifestyle," that he would be happy to provide it.
My husband kept saying he didn't understand what he had done or how he was "marked" to be the recipient of these communications, and for some reason they are, in his mind, linked.
I don't understand, and I am terrified. My husband and I have always had a very vibrant and healthy sexual relationship. Indeed, we have often said that our bodies feel like they're made for each other. And even since the disclosure, we have made wonderful, kind, sensual love.
But I am so, so scared. I'm scared that, after all he and I have both been through to find each other, that somehow this revelation, this memory resurfaced and menacing, will wash away everything that we have worked so hard to build as a couple.
I have been working overtime to find a counselor in our area to for him to talk to, and for me as well. We should both be able to start seeing therapists separately as soon as next week, and he is open to the idea.
But for my part -- and I don't want to sound selfish, because he's the one who suffered the trauma --I feel like I can't breathe. I can't sleep. I am consumed by fear -- and anger. I am so angry at the person who did this to him, for harming him as a child, and for causing damage to my marriage. And -- and believe me, I know what I'm about to write isn't fair, and I would never say it to my husband -- I don't understand why he continued to take those calls. Why he didn't speak up and tell someone.
I know, it's not fair for me to think these things, but I don't understand. I don't want any of this to be true.
I want my husband back and whole. I want the love and comfort of my marriage.
I am so scared that I am going to lose it all.
I am terrified, crying at my desk at work while I type this. And I am praying to the universe that someone will respond and tell me that it's all going to be OK...