- The Holzinger Story -
A FAMILY TRAGEDY
(Reprinted from LIP- Special Edition, December 2003)
Tom began the conversation with, “Emily, Anne and I have discussed this and we do not believe it is possible that our father abused Becky. We are very concerned about her. We just want her to get better and go back to the happy person she used to be.”
He was quick to add, “Nothing happened to me. I remember my entire childhood and no one abused me.”
Martha nodded. “Tell me about your parent’s relationship?” she asked. “Does your family except new members, i.e. spouses, readily?” She asked. “Tell me about your father.”
Tom was more than happy to fill her in. I didn’t disagree with any of his answers to the questions.
“No,” he said. “Our parents never showed affection for each other. They didn’t ever kiss or hug or hold hands. They argued a lot.”
“No, when they met the woman Quyen was going to marry, they grilled her for forty-five minutes. My mother grilled her. Quyen and I were squirming in our seats.”
“No, my father was not involved with his children. He didn’t have any time for us. He didn’t play with us. He didn’t want us around him or under-foot.”
“He was a tyrant,” he said of my father. “An absolute tyrant. He was the absolute ruler of the household.”
I told him at the end of the conversation that none of my brothers and sisters were there for my last four years at Sylvan. They had all left by my freshmen year in high school. I was there alone. They didn’t know what had happened.
He again said our father was not capable of sexual abuse and asked, “Why don’t we ask Martha if she thinks the man I described could be capable of this?” He was his usual arrogant self – sure of what her answer would be.
Martha told him in no uncertain terms that the man he described was capable of sexual abuse. “It was his house. He felt he could do whatever he wanted. You were his children. He felt he owned you. He felt he had the right to do anything he wanted.”
Her answer sent a chill through my spine. I hadn’t told her yet, but in one of my memories of abuse, my mother said the exact same words to me, “It’s his house. He can do whatever he wants.”
And it would be months before I would question how my brothers and sisters, and me, could have possibly thought the parents and the family that he described and we grew up with could in any way be considered typical or happy or healthy.
The phone call lasted the full hour of my session. As I left, I told her I couldn’t wait until the next visit to discuss it. But before the next visit, the road I was on was going to take a horrific turn.
Tom, Emily and Anne knew what was going on in my life. We shared a mutual childhood and I had been e-mailing and calling with questions and fact checking memories for close to a year.
My younger brother, Steve, was adopted from Vietnam as a baby when I was a teenager. I had not kept him informed. Before Tom’s phone call with my therapist and me, I had established a cell phone call with Steve for the day after.
I briefly filled him in. At 3:00 p.m. on a phone in my office at work, I listened as Steve said very calmly, “Well, let me tell you what happened to me. Tom molested me when I was thirteen.”
All hell broke loose. The e-mail I sent to my brothers and sisters entitled “Brotherly Love” is printed in this paper. I sent my son to Canada to spend a week with Tom one summer when he was eight. I had had trepidations. Something in my gut told me better.
But Tom was insistent and I thought my sister’s boys would be there as well. I had put my son on a plane alone to visit his uncle – a pedophile.
I was in a panic. I was in a rage. I got physical symptoms - rashes, backaches and the insomnia got worse.
. My brother, the brother who got almost a perfect score on his SAT’s, my brother who went to Harvard, my brother who had all the potential in the world – my brother is a pedophile. The anthropologist and the Radcliffe graduate raised a pedophile.
I told Tom he was out of my life until he got help. It was too dangerous. I was beginning to understand the long-term effects of even one sexual violation.
I could not put my friends and family at risk. I began to fully comprehend one of Martha’s statements; “The tentacles of sexual abuse are extremely long and reach from one generation to the next.” I had thought all along it was only me. I was in the house alone for four years.
No, this was taking an unbelievable turn. My father had molested several, if not all, of his children.
The depths of this tragedy staggered me. How had this been kept a secret? And who were these people who could have done this to their children?
I began an investigation into my parents. On August 4, 2002 I sent the following e-mail to a former colleague of my father:
“Thank you for your nice reply. I will sum this up as briefly as I can – I am in therapy because I have had memories come back and I believe my father molested me in my teens. Several weeks into therapy, it also came to light that my brother, Tom, was sexually abused as a child. This came as no surprise to those who know him – he has been ‘sexually conflicted’ for years and endangers himself and others by his actions. It also came to light several days later that Tom molested my younger brother, Steve (adopted from Vietnam) on several occasions when Steve was in his teens. That sealed it. Tom is in complete denial and says nothing happened to him as a child because he remembers his whole childhood. For this and several other reasons, it points directly to my father. I should say that this does not mean my father was homosexual – it was a means of power, aggression and CONTROL. I also have reason to believe that I may have at least one half-brother. Yes, this is dirty, nasty stuff that still amazes me and stuns me. Tom’s twin, Emily, has withdrawn. Anne and I have never married. Anne was in therapy for several years a long time ago and Steve NEVER goes home. This is not a pretty picture of a family – and I have to get to the bottom of it.”
“So I guess I am looking for insight into my father’s “character.” The words ‘hot tempered’ seem to follow my father. Did you see signs of that? ‘Arrogant’ and ‘aloof’ also seem to follow him. Would you agree?
“Finally, I guess, if you haven’t answered it will all of the above questions – what did you think of my father?”
“I am sorry to inundate you. If someone had told me two years ago that I would be doing this, I would have told them they were crazy. I have been on an amazing and unpleasant journey for almost two years now. I have to get to the bottom of this. I have to know the truth.”
I received an astonishingly honest, insightful and kind response. No, he certainly didn’t say my father was not capable of this. In fact, it would hit me that no one I spoke with had that response. It was the water cooler effect – everyone who knew him had an inkling that he was not as he presented himself in public.
After sitting with another colleague for more than three hours, I said of his Civil Liberties work, “He’s a phony. He’s a fake. That is not who he really is or how he leads his life.”
The colleague just smiled at me. He had figured that out a long time ago.
No wonder my parents were so obsessed with secrecy. Growing up, we were told over and over to keep things a secret. They worried constantly what the neighbors and others would think. They would tell us over and over again not to embarrass them. All of their children agree on this.
Finally, I understood why. They were leading double lives. They had so, so many secrets to hide. It was only two weeks ago that I made the beginnings of a list:
· My father is an alcoholic.
· My father is both physically and verbally abusive to my mother and has been for 57 years.
· My parents have a loveless marriage.
· My father is not brilliant. He is not a great scholar or intellect.
· My father never got his Ph.D. because his dissertation was so stunningly bad and lacking in humanity, that the noted scholar in the field responded with an article listing steps to be followed to prevent such a travesty from ever being written again.
· My father has a violent temper.
· My father is an arrogant and insecure man who is desperately in need of being in CONTROL at all times.
· My father is a cruel man.
Of course, they had the monster of all secrets to hide – incest.
Many people have told me that my parents are old. They are in their twilight years. What is the point of dredging all this up? Why go public with it and hurt them?
Because the long term effects of sexual violations on boys and girls are incomprehensible. Incest is awful. It destroys individuals and families and it goes on to countless generations. It happens in the “best” of families. It must be stopped. The only way to stop it is to make it public.
I knew there was no happy ending to this story from day one. I have that phrase written everywhere in my notes. That’s part of the reason I resisted my memories for over a year. There will never be a happy reunion with my parents. There may never be a happy reunion with any of my siblings.
But, now, I am hopeful. Maybe there will be a happy ending.
Martha always reminds me that the ultimate goal of my therapy is to become a happy and contented person, at peace with myself and comfortable with who I am.
My name is Becky Holzinger. I hope to survive incest.