He wrote it down.

Our intention was to dance on his grave.


My beautiful cousin, who I’d not seen in 35 years, and I set out to dance on our grandfather’s grave. Our first dilemma was, of course, song choice. You have to have the right song. We bandied a few song titles about, Alanis Morrisette was a front runner.


We drove to the town where he lived, and where he is buried. We drove to the town where we were abused. Driving down the picturesque New England roads, I felt a little faint. Mary felt a little barfy. We pulled into a store parking lot, and Mary spent some quality time behind a dumpster, hurling. It happens.

We weren’t entirely sure where the cemetery was, so we pulled into a police station to ask for directions. I said, jokingly, We should go in and file a police report. Mary said, What would happen if we went inside and filed a police report?

I said, Let’s do it.

We walked in, after Mary barfed again, and there was a darling older police officer behind the glass window. Mary told him we were looking for the cemetery- and I had a moment of, We’re probably not REALLY going to do this. Then my beautiful cousin, who is the bravest person I know, said- And we would like to report a crime.

That got his attention.

She said, Our grandfather sexually molested us 35 years ago, and we want to report him.

We were ushered into a conference room, where a young officer came in to talk to us. He handles all of their sexual assault and rape cases. He introduced himself, sat down and proceeded to ask us questions about what happened. Names, addresses, dates. I called my sister, and put her on speakerphone. We were all crying.

Sweetie, I said, He’s writing it down.

He wrote it down.

We said, This happened to us, and he listened. He WROTE IT DOWN.


I cannot begin to tell you how powerful that was.

He said several times, I don’t want to open any wounds, so if you don’t want to answer this, that’s okay. Finally I said, The wounds are all still open. Obviously. What do you want to know?

I found myself saying, to a police officer, I was raped. I never thought that would happen.

Then Mary asked a question I would not have thought to ask, but the answer to which I really needed. She said, What would have happened to him, if someone had reported it? The officer told us the procedural things, he said he would have interviewed us, he would have interviewed our grandfather, he would have corroborated what he could. And then, he said-

I would have driven down the street and arrested him.

That is what should have happened.

We know there is nothing to be done. We know there will be no consequences, and no justice. Life is staggeringly unfair, sometimes.

But there is a record. We walked into that police station holding the jagged shards of our story, of our childhood, and said, LOOK. THIS HAPPENED. And Officer Paul Smith bore witness. He wrote it down.

In few days, the police report will be available, and Mary will go get three copies. Or, if she makes good on her threat to send it out in lieu of a Christmas card next year, maybe many more. But, at least three. We will each have a copy.

We asked Officer Smith if anyone else ever comes forward about our grandfather- because we know with absolute certainty there are MANY more victims- to please give them our information. We want to meet them.

At that point we thought we were still going to go to the cemetery. Officer Paul offered us a police escort.

I think it is important to note, in the face of so much awfulness, that people really are mostly very good. He was so kind. He took it so seriously. He honored our loss.

Mary decided she’s not quite ready to dance on his grave. That’s okay. We’ve found each other again. We’ve got nothing but time.

That’s where this was supposed to end.

Then I got a call this morning, from Officer Paul. He said, Can you come in? I have something I want to tell you guys.


Mary and I just got back.  We were at the police station for hours.  Talking to a mama.  About her daughter.  She told us what happened. Officer Paul wrote it down.

Guys, I don’t quite know what to do with any of this.  It’s a LOT.  I have a crushing headache, and Mary and I have made an agreement that we will spend the rest of the night talking about Adam Levine’s abs.  That’s it.  That’s all we’ve got.  BUT- my world is lighter than it was yesterday.

1,053 Comments on “He wrote it down.

      • It is actually easy to talk about now, because the story is no longer my WHOLE story, just a piece. As soon as I reclaimed it, it lost its power over me. It’s why I am so determined to help other survivors take their stories back. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Reblogged this on Mended Musings and commented:
    It’s hard to describe what I feel when I read a post like this. Sad, of course, but there’s so much more. I feel like God is lifting me up, I feel hope and I feel renewed sense of purpose. These cousins are amazingly brave and whether you’ve found your voice or are still trying to find it, I pray this post gives you wings.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s been almost 40 years ago since my grandfather did this to me, and I’m sitting here in my bed crying like a baby. I just talked to my sister and we may do the same thing as a part of our healing process. I’m not angry anymore, but when this is done to a child it’s the “gift that keeps on giving”. We are forever altered. Forever affected. And when we do things like you two did, we heal a little bit each time. Prayers and love for you both!!

    Liked by 5 people

    • I read your comment the other day while I was away on business, and have been thinking about it ever since. “Forever altered.” Yes. That’s true. BUT, sweet sister, we get to decide HOW. Stronger. More compassionate. Justice seekers. Resilient. We choose, once we stand inside our stories and own them. WE CHOOSE. I am right here, next to you, holding your hand. Let’s choose together. xoxo

      Liked by 5 people

  3. Wow, I am at a complete loss as to what to say, except GOOD FOR YOU!!! The scars, wounds and alteration of a childhood that held trauma NEVER goes away. However, this just sounds so incredibly logical and healing and powerful and helpful! In church every Sunday there is a ritual in both the Catholic and Anglican faith where we turn to each other and say “Peace be with you”….after reading this story this ritual has a lot more importance to me. My hope and prayer for you is that this truly does add another layer of healing for you.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. When this came in my email, I knew it was going to be powerful so wanted to wait until I had quiet time to read it. That was now. And wow. I am shaking from the power of this. From the strength of the two of you. From the kindness and humanity of Officer Paul. From your showing that when things go horribly wrong and can’t be fixed in the way you might choose, they can still be better in other ways unforeseen.

    Thank you for stepping into this, and for sharing it.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I’m moved beyond words.

    So glad he wrote it down.
    So glad there are abs to fawn over.
    So glad tomorrow is another day.

    Blessings upon your dance moves,

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Bittersweet tears…for you and for the people in my life who were victims of abuse. Thank you for courageously sharing this powerful story. Please know you are making a difference. Keep being brave…

    Liked by 3 people

  7. This is the second time that I’m reading this and here I sit crying happy tears for you again. You are an inspiration to me. ❤ I just may have to do this myself one day. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Much love!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I am so very happy someone listened to you! No one listened when I was raped at 7 yrs old. When I confronted my father with his parents’ ritual abuse from the time I was 5 at 15 yrs old, he beat me up. When I reported HIS abuse to our pastor, all he did was ‘counsel’ my father. When I picked up a gun to kill him, my mother talked me down – then bought me a new wardrobe. I am blessed with an incredibly loving husband, and a couple of good therapists, who have helped me through this. There are sometimes I still have flashbacks. Now I have a way to cope, although back then I had my horse to escape on for a little while. Now I have dogs and a loving family that understands. Being taken seriously is such an incredibly powerful and healing thing. God Bless you both as you continue on this journey of healing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Suzy. I am so incredibly sorry that happened to you, and that your bravery in telling was met with such ignorance. I am so thankful that you found your way through that despair and into the sunlight. You miraculous girl xoxo


    • Suzy, I am so, so sorry you went through all of that. It probably didn’t feel like it at the time, but I’m glad your mother talked you down from killing him. I have not been through this myself, but reading your story (along with Laura’s other posts and many of the comments), I can certainly see why you wanted to. You are incredibly strong and brave to have kept moving forward, especially after being beaten when you told. I’m so glad you have a loving family and supportive environment now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Suzy, my heart aches for you. Reading your story is all too familiar. It makes my belly somersault. What a remarkable person you are. You rose above it. You were able to break through. I applaud you for your resilience and for your loving family who you deserve. Yay, you. M

      Liked by 2 people

  9. The Validation is crucial. I was believed. After 33 years and a 4 year legal process the trial of my abuser starts tomorrow. I so needed to read your story just now. Thanks for your courage in sharing it.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. He was acquitted at mid day today. To say I’m shattered and gutted is an understatement. I’m destroyed as he was the last one left alive. They all got away with it.


    • Oh God. I am so, so sorry. That is devastating. You were so incredibly brave to push forward. Sometimes there is no justice to be had, even when you do every right thing. I can’t imagine the frustration and betrayal you must be feeling right now with the justice system. I hope you know, though, that there was still merit in coming forward and speaking your truth, if only because it frees your soul. Maya Angelou said, ‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’ I believe that, friend. I do.

      You stepped into the light. You were SO BRAVE. You spoke your truth. Your abusers could never do that. You are ten times the man any of them could ever hope to be. And you WERE believed. The police and the DA would never have gone forward with the case if they didn’t believe you. Professional people, WHO GET IT, believed you.

      I believe you.

      I will be praying for you and carrying you in my heart today.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so sorry your legal case ended this way but know you won the moral case, the case for brave and strong and good and right. You stood up when it was easier to not and you told the truth. When you did that you stepped into the light and moved beyond the things that happened to you. You are stronger than you ever knew and you get to stay in the bright light! You’re in my thoughts and prayers. With love, J.❤️

      Liked by 3 people

    • Oh my. I am so, so, sorry…. I can’t even imagine…. My abuser died before I told anyone, so I don’t have any kind of reference for that kind of pain. But whatever the court system decided, I hope you know that you did the right thing. It may seem like he “got away with it” but really, he didn’t. You stood up to him. You told the truth. There were people who believed you or it would have never gone to court. He cowered behind lies…. knowing you were right… knowing that you had the strength to stand up to him… to tell the truth. Lies hold you prisoner. He may not be behind iron bars, but he IS a prisoner. Truth sets you free. So keep telling your story… IT MATTERS! And not just to you but to so many like you. Find freedom in truth and hold your head up high. He is bound by his lies and his secrets. You are not. You’ve stood strong and courageous and have broken those bonds. You are free to soar, Renaissance Man. Paint your story with bold colors and amazing beauty. Sing it with a strong and steady voice. Your pain matters. Thank you for trusting us with it.

      Liked by 4 people

      • My abuser… my step brother….died a horrible brain cancer death. There is no grave to dance on. No one would have believed me .Bringing it up would cause a divorce between my mom & step dad. My mom would never forgive me so I kept my mouth shut from 4-12 yrs old. It took 50 yrs. to say anything. Now I’m in sexual abuse counseling. . going on 5 yrs. But now I can talk about …most… of it but only to certain friends.


    • For what it’s worth, I believe you. My adults didn’t ever believe me, and when abusers get away with it, it is profoundly unjust. You don’t know me, but I will hold a space for you today. I’m so sorry all of this happened to you.


  11. Its just gone midnight here and my head is still spinning my stomach is churning and I have to face my bed. There is so much going through my head. Over here in Australia in court previous guilt or crimes cannot be discussed in a trial. Only the events or event that a person is charged with. I understand that because it is designed to make sure an innocent person isn’t found guilty in error. So I don’t blame the system because I understand it. What has upset me and hurt me deeply is the sneaky conniving way his legal team got the acquittal. The original case was going to include four survivors. Myself, one other male and two females. He pleaded guilty to assaulting the two girls. Then his legal team used a little known legal precedent in law here in my state of Victoria to get my trial separated from the other males. By doing this the evidence that we would give could not corroborate with each other. With the other male he was found guilty in 4 of 7 charges. In my case as there was only one charge he was found not guilty. He legal team seized on a discrepancy around a date (which after 34 years is hard to confirm) and because his other offending could not be disclosed the jury were not convinced beyond reasonable doubt that he had done what he did. Even though in court his legal team contrived an alternative scenario of events. If one thing comes out of this is that the Crown Prosecutor (I suppose the Australian equivalent to your District Attorney) is going to write a submission to make changes to that piece of legislation so that this cant happen again. The other hurt I know when she finds out will come from my childrens mother who has mocked me for doing this and now will do so even more given that I lost. I hurt because I survived 11 years of abuse by catholic nuns, brothers and priests. From 1970 to 1981 inclusive. This one was the last one left alive so sometimes today and I’m sure it will feel this way into the future it feels like they got away with it.


    • Oh. I am glad he was found guilty of some of the other charges, but I cannot imagine the pain, frustration and disappointment you must be feeling. As far as what your children’s mother thinks- honey, lay that down. That is not yours to carry. Anyone who would mock someone for seeking justice is not someone whose opinion should carry any weight with you.

      I hope that out of this miscarriage of justice comes some fundamental change in the law. It won’t help your case, but you could be part of the reason other survivors going forward are able to get justice for themselves.

      I know nothing I can say will make it any better, but you have been on my mind all morning. Please take care of yourself right now, okay? Get some help if you need it. This is a LOT to process.


      Liked by 2 people

    • I am so, so sorry. I can’t tell you anything better than what anyone else here already has, but I want you to know that I, too, believe you, and I am in your corner. I don’t know how some defense lawyers can sleep at night. It’s good to know that he did get nailed for some of what he did, but I wish it had included you, too.

      I agree with Laura about the opinion of your children’s mother. I’m sure it won’t be easy, but you did some massively difficult standing up for yourself already — you can do this. You might or might not feel as if you can use this opportunity to say to your children how important it is to stand up for what’s right even when people don’t treat you well. I don’t know their ages or if that would feel right to you; it’s just a thought.

      If you haven’t already, I hope you will consider looking into counseling or support groups for people who have experienced this kind of pain. Wishing you better things ahead.

      Liked by 2 people

    • It is so disheartening when you do the right thing but don’t experience the right outcome. Amidst the swarm of emotions you may be feeling I hope you rest on a sense of accomplishment and courage for doing such a brave thing – coming forward and sharing your truth. When I was preparing for trial where I faced my attacker after 21 years, one truth that I held onto was “vengeance is mine, I will repay” Rom 12:19. I have to believe that justice will be served, in time. I wish you peace and comfort. So many of us are thinking of you and standing in solidarity with you. Be well, brave one.


    • I’m so sorry! Just finished a three week trial in which the defense pulled out every trick he could, including trying to use the court processes to have the case thrown out. I know you feel crushed, but you’re not. Please be good to yourself, esp. now. You’re not alone!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Your friend who lost his court case is a very brave man. He did the right thing even though the outcome was wrong. Please let him know he is in prayers for healing and grace. Hope he is proud of himself for taking this difficult step in his healing. Though I don’t even know his name, God does. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am so sorry that happened to you. My grandfather recently got out of prision. He was arrested for sending naked pictures to a teenage girl. It makes me sick because he had touch my sister and many other girls but the statue of limitations were up by the time he was caught. What made me really sick is he was allowed to go to church where there were children. Nothing was done about it for a long time. Every one had to be quiet. He was all kept under the table. Finally he was thrown out of the church and he just moved on to another and then another. He was arrested again but for a shorter time. My sister ran away because of it before he was arrested. People like.. its just so messed up. I am glad you got closure. I’m sorry that happened to you. NO body deserved that. ((hugs)) thank you for sharing this with us.


  14. I just re-posted this on FB–have been so moved by the story, and it came to our family at a time when we really, really needed to know of others who were finding vindication and healing! Thank you! My daughters and a couple of additional victims went in to the police department in Portland, re-reported what happened to them as children…the police heard them, took down their reports (thought they’d reported in ’97, and SOL laws seemed likely to preclude them receiving any justice…), and then actually reopened the investigation! Their abuser just began his twenty-year sentence. http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2015/04/happy_valley_pastor_mike_spero_1.html

    Liked by 3 people

    • that is AMAZING! I am so glad they were taken seriously and that they got some justice. Reading that just made my day. I am so sorry your daughters went through that, but what WARRIORS they are for going back all those years later to stop him.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I am so sorry to read your stories. Your stories and my personal experience is the reason I produced Pursuit of Truth Film. http://www.pursuitoftruthfilm.com
    My son disclosed to me his senior year at college that he had been abused by a family member from ages 7-11. Our legal system consistently fails adult survivors of child sexual abuse who seek justice against their perpetrators.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t know you, but thank you. I’ve been dealing with something like this for about 40 years. I’ve written a substantial piece I plan to post soon. It takes courage to call out those who abused us, even after they’re dead. Peace and hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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  18. I was molested by my grandparents around my 5th birthday. As hard as this is my grandmother was also part of this abuse. They abused my mom when she was a kid. Four more family members abused in the next 11 years. Life has not been easy, but it never is.


      • Thank you

        I have taught school over a 30 year period and worked with survivors in some way over a 28 year period. I have run workshops, retreats, started up groups, and started a company Creative Healing via the Arts. The best thing we can do is live a good life.

        At 31 years of age someone hurt me again. It was abusive and it was with a trusted person 21 years older than me. This was the start of my adult abuse which included being locked up in a house for 10 months in 2006. I am doing well I am marred have 3 step kids and one wonderful wife. I am also published in a few places. One is in the book “In Cabin Six” edt by Jill Kuhn


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  20. Reading this make my heart fill with joy. My two sisters and I are currently waiting on a trail against my grandfather. I believe I wasn’t the first. Until this year, I thought I was the last. I live in a completely different state now. I had told myself I was being paranoid for years. Sadly I was wrong. We’ve lost most our family over it. I don’t like being away from my siblings and mother. I will not move back to that small town. I just hope that my sisters will stay strong and graduate. Maybe move away after this is all over. Thank you for your story. It meant a lot to me.
    Love Katelynn

    Liked by 1 person

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  25. My heart goes out to all who have suffered in this way, but know that these sick people have not gotten away with it – God knows what they’ve done, and one day they will answer to Him. Mark 9:42. I pray you will be able to find peace and healing.


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  31. I have re read your story for a second time, and all the comments.
    My abuser is currently serving 5 yrs for abusing me over a 15 yr period. He systemically abused his two sisters and his first cousin when he was a teenager, then his two daughters.
    Unfortunately he has severe dementia now and is not deemed suitable for therapy.
    The court process was extremely difficult, to receive a guilty plea at the last minute saved me from having to go thru a trial.
    I found my mantra and it got me thru the tough times. “I found my voice and I will not be silenced”.
    I hope you are all able to find YOUR voice, you are all amazing, strong, resilient people. Much love.
    PS I’m looking forward to doing some dancing of my own one day.


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  33. I’m so grateful to you for sharing this story. Thank god for that policeman, knowing you needed to tell your story and be heard and believed. I’m convinced that when we all learn to tell our stories and harness the power we release by doing that, we can change the world. We WILL change it.

    Guess it’s time for me to do this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Officer Paul changed our lives on that day, and we are forever grateful to him for it. You are absolutely right. I formly believe that whatever story we are not telling, the one we;ve attached the most shame to- that’s the story in charge of our whole lives. That’s why Mary and I started Say It, Survivor. We decided to take our experience of telling our stories and the healing that brought us and try to give the same experience to other survivors. For more information on what we’re doing, go to sayitsurvivor.com


  34. I can barely type this through the tears. It was 26 years ago, I was 15 and at a party. I was so innocent at the time, I’d only kissed one boy. By the time I was dropped off on my mothers doorstep early the next morning, covered in bruises, bleeding, my jaw swollen from being punched, that innocence was gone. I didn’t tell anyone. Nobody wrote it down. I was afraid to write it down because then it would become real. You are both so extraordinary and brave. I admire your courage.


    • I am so sorry that happened to you, Brandy. YOU can write it down, though. You can take your story back. We either own our stories, or they own us. Period. If you ever want to tell your story, if you ever need to lay down that dark and heavy thing, you can send it to me. I read people’s stories every day. It’s the great honor of my life.


    • That’s heartbreakingly true for so many people. I believe you, for what that’s worth. And if you need to tell your story to someone, you can tell it to me. I will bear witness for you.


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  36. Dear Friend (Can I call you that? Your writing makes me feel like we are friends.),

    I just want you to know that this piece of writing has stuck with me since ainread it two years ago in a way I can’t describe. The way you shared your story and exposed that human desire that we all have to be heard and understood. While I wish it was a story that didn’t exist in the first place, I’m grateful to have heard it. Thank you dear friend. -Roma


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  39. Just read this again. I read it the first time when this post was originally published. And it has not lost its wallop. I got choked up, I smiled, I silently cheered, I cried. I am SO sorry this ‘man’ happened to you. But I was chilled when I read those words in the narrative ‘He wrote it down’ and I GOT the significance of that for you. Well, as best I can since what happened to you is not anything I can ever fully wrap my head around.

    Anyway, this remains an incredibly powerful post. I thank you for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. This post IS doing its work… I am absorbing and leaning into this, Laura, and I thank YOU for a post that you wrote as you said in about twenty minutes with no edits and had not a clue as to how it would continue to send its ripple effects both inward and outward.
    What a vital reminder of what a sacred vessel we can be for one another to simply hold the space, be a heart with ears and to write it down as Officer Paul did for Mary and for you.
    In gratitude,

    Liked by 2 people

  41. I first read this blog and commented over two years ago when a link was sent to me by a colleague and advocate. I am still the person primarily responsible for investigating reports of sexual assault (as well as dating and domestic violence) at a small private college, and the power of this idea, “he wrote it down,” still informs my work. I am simultaneously encourage and saddened to say that we have ever more reports each year. My encouragement stems from the belief that we have created a culture of reporting and are now hearing about a greater portion of incidents. My sadness come from the knowledge that the problem persists, not just in a liberal arts college, but broadly within all societies. I continue to write everything down and use this blog as a touchstone when I feel worn down by the stream of reports. Indeed, as the e-mail telling me about a new posting arrived today I have dozens and dozens of pages of investigative documents spread across my desk–along with my lunch.

    Please keep reporting. Perhaps one of the most disheartening parts of my job is when I hear someone make a report that they carried with them for years and are only now sharing. It is a personal journey and choice when to report–and speaking out is the only way for people who do my work to hold people accountable.

    Thank you.

    Gary G.
    Portland, Oregon


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