The Twice-Yearly Horror Of Celebrating Holidays With Your Predator

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio, Kristen Prahl, Mlenny, Kaboompics .com, cottonbro studio, nck_gsl, AlexRaths | Canva
Young girl haunted by her predator

Before he exposed himself as a pedophile, I loved Joel.

He was like an uncle to me — a super chill uncle who always seemed to have a blissed-out look on his face as if he was on some really good drugs. But he wasn’t on drugs, just very good at hiding the monster he was inside.

Every Thanksgiving and 4th of July, Joel was invited over to my family’s celebration. His sister, Janet, was a long-time friend of my mother, and she and her husband, John, usually drove up from Los Angeles to San Jose to spend those holidays with us.

Since Joel was divorced and a struggling artist, he came too.

If my mother was in one of her dark moods or my parents were arguing, Joel was a safe place to land.

I shudder thinking about how as a child, I’d climb up into his lap and sit with his arms around my waist. I felt safe.

Sometimes I’d imagine what it would be like to have a father who was so relaxed and placid, not one filled with fear and worry like my dad.

My dad had his issues, but he was a loving and caring father without a heinous hidden personality like Joel.

RELATED: The 2 Physical Traits Pedophiles Have In Common, Says Study

When I was fourteen, Joel started paying more attention to me. I learned what "highly charged" felt like from him. It was as if he was observing me with all five senses and licking his chops like a cartoon wolf.

He had moved into a tiny house across the street, and I’d make excuses to go there and spend time with him.

It took me a while to realize he wasn’t talking down to me like a child  he was flirting with me.

I thought I was in control when I decided he’d be the one I lost my virginity to. It felt like everyone was having sex and it was well past time for me to experience what everybody was talking about.

An older man whom I trusted, and one who probably hadn’t been with a woman in years was my best bet.

Joel would be my first.

I pitched the idea to him of us having sex as if I were asking for his help on a Science project.

Yes, he said, that might be fun.

And why wouldn’t he?

I was insecure and couldn’t see how highly desirable I was, but Joel could.

RELATED: If You Were A Victim Of Child Sexual Abuse, You Need To Read This

Fantasizing about having sex with Joel was one thing, but when he grabbed me and stuck his tongue down my throat, I nearly threw up. I struggled out of his embrace while trying to maintain my cool, and asked him for something to drink.

Joel, sensing that his moves hadn’t sealed the deal, led me into his tiny living room, got me some apple juice, and started his presentation.

What is it about deviants who get off on sharing their trophies and telling of their crimes?

Instead of slowing down his seduction, Joel chose to show me his shoebox full of pornographic Polaroid pictures of himself with naked young girls.

Girls of every shape, size, and ethnicity.

None of those young women were over 21 and most were much younger.

There were so many disturbing pictures, but his gross comments made the whole thing even worse.

"Here’s Lisa, she’s a wild one."

"Brigid took some special attention, but it was worth it."

"Sandy screws like a hooker."

"I bet you’re like Nancy. Shy at first, but then insatiable."

And on and on it went. A neverending listing of conquests and ratings that was supposed to sell me on the idea of having sex with him. Joel had satisfied customers whose pictures would be their testimonies.

With his big box of pics, he sat down next to me, and between pictures, he’d squeeze my shoulder, kiss the back of my ear, or stroke my hair. Then, worried I wasn’t getting turned on, he used my hand to rub his crotch.

I was afraid to move, horrified for all those girls, and myself. I could see the disgust and revulsion the girls were feeling because I felt the same.

His breath smelled like day-old egg salad, his belly hung over his pants, and his bald head seemed to be sweating. How had I ever found him attractive or safe?

When I couldn’t take any more of his perverted show and tell, I awkwardly got up from the couch, grabbed my sweater, and told him I’d come back another day for my de-virginity.

I never went back to his house but that didn’t mean I never saw him again.

RELATED: A Letter To 10-Year-Old Me, Who Was Repeatedly Sexually Abused

I didn’t tell any adult about my experience with Joel or how he was a sexual predator and abuser. My mother would have blamed the other young women for not saying, "no," and would have offered me no sympathy or concern.

I couldn’t tell my dad, because I felt guilty that having sex with Joel was my misguided idea and I didn’t want him to be ashamed of me.

For the next four years of Thanksgiving and July 4ths, I sat across the table from my predator. I didn’t look at him, I didn’t ask him to please pass the potatoes, and I didn’t return the conspiratorial looks he gave me.

I didn’t understand how he could act as if nothing had happened. He’d exposed some of the worst aspects of who he was, and he had no problem being in my family’s home celebrating with us.

While he was stuffing his face with cranberry sauce and turkey, I was holding myself back from jumping on the table and screaming the truth about Joel.

I was still a child in many ways and didn’t know how to express my rage, so I kept silent and dug my fingernails into my palms.

It was a relief when Joel moved to Daily City — far enough away to make coming to our house for the holidays a hassle.

Joel taught me that what somebody presents isn’t always who they are. He may have looked like a kindly uncle type, but he was the worst kind of predator.

Sexual abuse of children and minors is incredibly common.

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 have experienced sexual abuse from an adult. Girls are far more likely to be victims of sexual abuse; the organization reports that 82% of all victims under 18 are female, and those who do suffer from assault and abuse are more likely to also develop mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and drug abuse.

There are ways to help child abuse victims.

Want to get involved to bring an end to child sexual abuse? There are a few things you can do. There are organizations like Prevent Child Abuse America that are good places to start and that are always looking for people to donate their time and money to their efforts. The organization also suggests writing to local elected officials to support policies that bring an end to sexual abuse, and of course, the simplest thing to do is to keep eyes and ears open and to report abuse when you see it — and to always take children seriously when they say they're being abused.

RELATED: I Honestly Don’t Know How I Survived My Childhood

Christine Schoenwald is a writer, performer, and frequent contributor to YourTango. She's had articles featured in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Woman's Day, among many others.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.