It wasn’t too long after I was discharged from the hospital that Lou was accused of molesting another little girl. It was a daughter of someone who used to help out on the farm.
Lou was out on bail.
Lou had also been diagnosed with a lung cancer. Lou smoked both cigarettes and cigars. When he wasn’t smoking Lou was chewing tobacco. Lou had a definite addiction to nicotine.
I remember Lou had to wear Oxygen.
Cleo had little time. Cleo screeched about how much of a burden Lou was and how he was now worthless. According to Cleo, Lou was unable to “earn his keep.”
I tried to care for Lou as best a sixth-grade little girl could. In addition to my other “responsibilities” Cleo also expected me to keep up Lou’s chores around the farm. Milking and feeding the cows. Feeding the horses. Feeding the other animals. Mucking the stalls.
Cleo savagely beat and punished me for my inability to keep up with the responsibilities of running a working farm and caring for a near-invalid.
I had missed most of the latter winter and all the spring quarter of school in fifth grade because of being burned. Somehow I was promoted to grade 6 without knowing what a fraction was….
As the beginning of my 6th grade year rolled around, Cleo made it clear I was to finish all of my farm chores before school and begin the afternoon/evening chores at once upon my returning from school.
Cleo was back and forth as she was running her real estate office in Philadelphia. At least that was her story. In reality she was running a prostitution business. Cleo was arrested by Philly PD more than once for promoting prostitution out of a home she owned in Philadelphia. Cleo’s second hand man for her business in Philadelphia was a young thug named Felix.
I was attending the same Christian school of which I had been long enrolled. I missed more days of school than I attended that, but no one appeared to care.
At one point, Cleo brought Felix out to the farm to ‘help’. I used to call him, “Felix the Cat” because he possessed the talent of sneaking up, and pouncing seemingly out of nowhere.
Felix assaulted me at his pleasure.
It was a cold bright sunny day in February and I had attended school on that day. I returned home from school. Cleo and Felix weren’t at the farm.
I walked in the front door of the farmhouse. Lou was quiet and still. Something was wrong. Why was wrong with his head?
I tried to call for help but couldn’t tell the operator where the farm was located. This was before 9-11 was implemented in the rural area where the farm was located.
I was hysterical.
I don’t know how long it was before I remembered the nurse who had helped me when I was burned. She used to buy hay from Cleo. When the nurse found out I was back in Cleo’s care, the nurse had given me her phone number instructed me to call her if I ever needed help.
I had written the nurses number on the tag inside my little red boots. I wore my red boots almost constantly. I tore off my boot and dialed her number.
I don’t remember what I said. Within minutes the police arrived, followed by the nurse a few minutes later.
I was on the porch, pacing back and forth. A Pennsylvania state trooper was doing his best attempting to comfort a sobbing, terrified, hysterical child, but I wouldn’t allow him near me.
The nurse sat down on the front porch steps and held me as I sobbed. She sat there rocking and attempting to comfort me as police cleared the scene and the coroners office crew removed Lou’s body. I remember the nurse telling the crew removing Lou’s remains that they needed to take Lou’s body out of the back door instead of past me.
The crew removing Lou’s body obediently did as instructed.
At some point Cleo drove up. I don’t remember if someone had called Cleo. However the State Trooper who had attempted to calm me met Cleo as she was getting out of her car.
He gave Cleo the news. Lou was dead.
Cleo pointed at me and screamed, “She killed him! She was supposed to take care of him! It’s all her fault!”
Both the state trooper and the nurse were shocked at Cleo’s outburst and said I was in no way responsible for Lou’s death.
Lou’s death was ruled a suicide.
For many years–even well into adulthood, deep down inside I believed I was somehow responsible for Lou’s death.
The scene I came home to that cold, sunny afternoon haunts me until this day.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Would you please be so kind and sign the following petition asking all professing Christians to better address the subject of sexual abuse?
A Public Statement Concerning Sexual Abuse in the Church of Jesus Christ by Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.)