Tonight I feel like sharing something personal. My motivation in writing this confessional would be to start the healing process, and to share our story so that if I can help just one person reach out and ask for help, then they too, can start to heal.
Some of you know the story, but for many of you, this will be new. In 2008, I received a phone call that would change my family's life forever. Two of my nieces had told their parents (my brother and my sister) that my mother's husband had molested them. At the time, it was suggested that I take my children in to be questioned by a detective to see if either of them had been molested.
As my head spun, I had a really hard time wrapping my head around everything. Both of my children, who were 9 and 16 years old at the time, denied any molestation by my stepfather. I had never heard of any accusation against my stepfather at the time, so it was real hard to believe. He was a stand up guy. Someone who was always there for you. Willing to help us financially, and emotionally. But my nieces were positive that he molested them. I figured if a 68 year old man had a history of accusations, then he was probably guilty. If there were no other accusations, then it was possible that the children were confused. I would give him the benefit of the doubt.
I made one phone call. Just one, and found out that 3 other people have accused him over the years of molesting them. But nobody believed them. How is that possible? 3 different kids, all spoke up and nobody believed them. They struggled, and continue to struggle in life. Substance abuse, depression, anxiety and fear have all but damaged these people for the rest of their lives. However, because of those behaviors, when they did decide to speak up, Nobody believed them . They believed the molester because he was a good person, a good citizen and would "give you the shirt off his back" if you needed it. People believed him because he was a pillar of success, paid for so many things and helped so many people. And these kids, who are adults now, lost their way in life and were discarded because they could not cope with what he did to them.
Going through 2008 & 2009 was very difficult. My mother took her husbands' side and devoted her every waking moment to his defense. We (her 4 kids) rallied around our children and defended them. We believed them and so did the DA. This case tore our family apart. In the end, Thornton A. Gillis was found guilty on multiple counts of child sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 2 consecutive terms of 15 years to life. For a 69 year old man, this was a death sentence.
If you want to read about it, click here:
On March 27, 2014 we were supposed to go back to court. My mother was petitioning for his release because he was on his death bed. The original DA and Judge were both coming back for this case because they knew how dangerous this man really is. They did not want him to get out. They really wanted overall justice for these kids. As my sister sat in an airport terminal, ready to board her plane to fly to California for the day, she received a phone call from the DA. Thornton (Gil) had passed away during the evening, in jail, where he belongs.
Finally, my nieces were able to sleep through the night. There were no nightmares to accompany them that night. No sleep aides were needed either. It was the first time in years, these girls have actually had a peaceful night of sleep. That was also a defining moment in my house.
You see, my 15 year old daughter, has been struggling with severe depression, impulse control disorder caused by trauma. For the last 6 or 7 years, my daughter has been slowly slipping away. Falling deeper into a dark hole. I constantly asked her if she was ever touched by him, and she would say no. I knew she struggled with rejection. Anytime she had "boy" issues, she would cut herself. She would self medicate with marijuana on occasion (she has been busted a few times by me). I chalked it up to her feeling so sad that my mom sold our house and we had to move. Or she was sad that she no longer had a relationship with her Grammy. That wasn't it.
A few weeks ago, my daughter came forward. Thornton Gillis also molested my daughter. She held on to her secret for so long, even after all the questioning, trial and everything. The reason she didn't say anything was because he told her, after touching her, that she shouldn't tell Grammy. Grammy would get very mad at her. My daughter is very compliant and would never want to upset her Grammy. Of course when Grammy found out about the other kids, she did get mad. She didn't question the kids, or stand by her children and grandchildren. She accused everyone of wanting to break up her marriage. My daughter saw this unfold and it sent her into her own private hell. My daughter told me that she was scared that if she did tell, he would come after her and hurt her. She also feared that Grammy would hate her or hurt her too.
What constitutes bullying or intimidation? My daughter was intimidated into silence, not only by this child molester, but by her own grandmother. There I said it. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's a crime. My daughter has been in emotional pain for far too long. She feared losing her relationship with her Grammy so much that she did not tell. You have no idea how angry this makes me. We will not be able to face him in court. We will not get justice for his crime. We will not be able to confront him or to shake my mother awake.
Instead, we will heal. We will take each day as it comes. We will live our lives and revel in each new milestone. We will overcome this pain. We will fight to be as normal as we can be. We will go to therapy and find tools to help us. We have each other. I believe her. I love her. I stand by her. She does not have to travel this road alone.
I will not allow anyone to glorify Thornton's life. They need to know exactly who he is. He may be perceived as a great man, but he wasn't. He had many secrets, and unfortunately, in order to keep us kids in our own private prison (another form of psychological manipulation), he took his secret to the grave.
Again, I write this in hopes that for at least one person out there, you will see this and break the silence. Please tell someone if you have been hurt, bullied, molested, or whatever. You need to speak up and use your voice. It's the one true weapon you have.