INCEST – A FAMILY TRAGEDY
The Holzinger Story
(Reprinted from LIP- Special Edition, December 2003)
“I’ve had some memories come back,” I said. “I think my father molested me. I made a list of all the memories that point to it.”
It was my first visit with Martha. After a year of being haunted constantly by memories, I was crumbling fast. I realized that to save my sanity, my son, my job, and my house, I had to find out what was going on. I needed help.
I called my HMO. What coverage did I have for mental health? They sent me to a counseling service close to my home.
Martha nodded. She never asked to see the list. Instead she asked me simple questions; “Do you have happy memories of your childhood? Are you married? Have you ever been married? Do you have children? Tell me about your son’s father. Do you date? There are a lot of available men. You’re an attractive woman. Why don’t you date?”
“How many brothers and sisters do you have? Where do they live? What do they do? Are they married? Do they have children? What does your father do?
I felt guilty. “He’s a professor,” I said softly.
“Becky,” she said, “Professors are known for this.”
“Oh,” was all I said.
I said he and my mother were well known in the Lancaster community. They were liberals in a conservative town. They were Quaker pacifists and deeply involved in the American Civil Liberties Union.
She listened. Then she briefly told me about sexual perpetrators and what makes them abuse their children. She said that when fathers abuse their sons, it is not necessarily homosexuality. It is about aggression and power and control.
She listed a few of the effects of sexual abuse – low self-esteem, poor choices in life partners, an inability to form intimate relationships, alcohol and drug abuse.
Well, there was looking in a mirror.
I called a friend as soon as I got home. “There are patterns to these things!” I said. “Patterns!”
On my second visit Martha asked how I was. “I’m tired,” I said. “Very, very tired.”
“You’ve been thinking about this for a year?” she asked.
I nodded. “Non-stop for a year,” I said. “I can’t think about anything else. If I’m not thinking about memories of the old boyfriend, I’m reviewing every memory of my childhood and my parent’s relationship. I don’t sleep. I don’t eat. I can’t think about anything else.”
And I felt guilty. All of my brothers and sisters were saying this was not possible. They said our father may be a deeply flawed human being, but he was not capable of this.
My house fell apart. I needed a new heater and electrical system. I missed my third appointment and didn’t call to reschedule. I felt guilty. I decided to brave this on my own.
Then, on April 13, 2002, I received the e-mail that is printed on the front page of this paper, “An Open Letter To Tom Holzinger.”
I made another appointment. “Would you read this e-mail?” I asked. I didn’t know.
She nodded. I handed it to her.
Watching her face as she read it is something I will never forget as long as I live. She was shaking her head by the second sentence. In the middle she was saying, “Oh, my.” After finishing she looked directly at me and asked, “Is this man homeless?”
“No,” I said.
There was fear in her eyes. “How many children does he have? How old are the two boys?”
She looked at the e-mail again, and again asked me with the same fear in her eyes, “How old are his sons.”
I grasped the concern. “It’s too late,” I said. “They’re almost grown.”
“Becky,” she said. “It’s obvious he was sexually abused as a child.”
I could barely speak. She told me that when boys are abused, their emotional growth stops. They, of course, can go on to college and jobs and marriage, but their emotional growth is stunted. And, she said, his actions indicated a tremendous level of hostility.
Well, that fit like a glove.
My very first question was, “It didn’t have to be my father, did it?”
“No,” she said, “It didn’t have to be your father.”
I cut the meeting short. I was stunned. As I was about to leave, I asked, “Is it okay if I tell my sister what you told me?”
I watched her brain digesting this question. I almost thought I could see it ticking.
“Becky,” she said, “After you leave here you can tell anybody you want what I said to you tonight.”
“Oh,” was all I said.
As I was about to get up from my chair she looked me directly in the eye. “Your family is not normal,” she stated.
“So there goes the normal family; right out the window.” I said as we walked down the hall. I had so much to learn.
When I got home, I screamed for my son. I called both my sisters and my former sister in-law. I called a friend who knew my brother, one of my sisters and myself. “Ding, ding,” she said, “There’s your answer.”
His sexual behavior had been notorious for years. He was obsessed. He would pick up anyone. He would sleep with anyone. In family circles it was well known and we would roll our eyes and say, “Well, you know how Tom is.”
Here was the beginning of an answer. I thought he should know. I called him. I said, “My therapist says it’s obvious you were sexually abused.”
There was a pause. “It didn’t have to be Dad, did it?” he asked. “No,” I said, “It didn’t have to be Dad.”
There was another pause and then he said, “Well, that is ridiculous. I wasn’t abused. I remember my entire childhood and nothing happened.”
He said he wanted to talk to my therapist. He wanted to get all of this “straightened out.” I had no idea if Martha would agree. She was more than willing as long as it was in my presence.
The next few days at work were the hardest I have ever experienced. All that occupied my mind was that someone had done something terrible to my brother. Something terrible to a child.
. There was no turning back now. I would never miss another appointment. Finally, after over a year, I knew that I would find the truth in that little room with Martha. And I knew, no matter what, I had to know the truth.