When I was a young lass, I was sexually abused by an adult male who volunteered at the school I went to. It went on that entire year, and the next year I had the good fortune to change schools for totally unrelated reasons. Due to the standard-issue threats and manipulation that come with these scenarios (“I’ll kill your family if you ever tell them and take you to live with me once they’re dead,” “What we do is a special secret that nobody else can ever know,” etc.), I never told anyone. I pushed it down and just tried not to think about it.
Many years later, I had a friend confide in me that something similar had happened to her, and we swapped stories. She had done things the proper, tidy way: she told a trusted adult, the perpetrator was tried in a court of law, he was convicted, and he was jailed for a long time. Everything wrapped up nice and neat with a little bow on top.
She was pissed at me for not telling anyone about what had happened to me, even if it hadn’t been until years later (because what if it had happened to someone else?), but I pointed out that once it was past the statute of limitations, I couldn’t really tell anyone. Doing so when he wasn’t tried and convicted would come back on me as slander. So it felt like there wasn’t anything I could do. For a while, I left it at that. But it started to nag at me. Was there really nothing I could do?
I started by looking him up online. A basic Google and social media search were all I needed to find him (living far away from where I was, and I wasn’t sure if that meant good or bad things for my revenge, whatever it turned out to be as I had no definite plan then).
On his very public profile, I got some news that rattled me: he had terminal cancer.
It didn’t seem like he was going to drop dead the next day, but still, it was now or never if I wanted to get some kind of closure from him.
So I requested him on social media, and he accepted. I sent him the first message: “Hey, I’m (OP) from (school). Do you remember me?” He answered yes, and that was it. I asked for his phone number. “I just want to talk to you.” He said he didn’t think that was a good idea. I said, “It’s been so long, there’s nothing that could happen. I’m not mad, just sad more than anything, and I just want to talk. Now that I’m older, I want to understand.”
He believed me, and I got his number. I tried calling him immediately–straight to voicemail. He said he would set up a time for us to talk. Okay, fine. I can be patient. It only gave me more time to think about what I would do.
About a week or so later, I called him, and he picked up. I barely remember this conversation, and went through a lot of it on adrenaline, shaking like a leaf. He sounded… sick. Old and sick. Not intimidating, like he used to be. Not scary, not anymore. He asked me what I wanted, and why I was talking to him after so long. I said, “I just need to hear from you what you did to me so I know I’m not crazy.”
He said he couldn’t do that. I told him he owed it to me, and that it had been so long ago, the statute of limitations was expired so there was nothing that could be done about it. I said that I knew he was dying, and it would clear his conscience to talk about it and answer all of my questions–win-win, right? He still said no.
So I told him that was a shame, and that I’d hoped to get closure from him, but I guess asking his wife and son that I’d seen on social media would have to be enough. This was a bluff on my part–I knew that by telling him that, he could do preemptive damage control. If this didn’t work, I’d be out of luck.
He said fine. He first said in a very bland sort of way, “I was inappropriate with you back then.”
Not good enough.
I pushed and pushed and pushed until I almost thought he was going to hang up, and he finally admitted it, in detail. I thanked him and asked if his conscience felt better. He said yes. I said good, that was all I wanted for both of us. I hung up.
I had recorded the whole thing and uploaded it to cloud storage and sent a link to his wife and his (adult) son. I explained that I had found them as a mutual contact on social media, and since he was nearing the end, I thought they might appreciate knowing some of the memories he shared with me about the time he volunteered at that school.
I never got a reply from his wife. I didn’t expect one, but still, I was a little disappointed.
It took about three months, but then I finally got a message from his son. It was glorious.
He wasn’t the guy’s son, he was his step-son, and he’d never liked the guy from day 1. He’d told his mom this repeatedly, but she insisted he was just bitter about his bio dad leaving and told him to get over it. Something just felt off about him, and now he knew what it was. He apologized to me for how the guy had hurt me, not that it was any of his fault–they didn’t even know him back then yet.
He told me that he knew his mom hadn’t replied to me, but she had listened to it. Afterward, she had left him. While he was dying of cancer. The step-son said this guy didn’t have family of his own, and that he and his mom and his own kids were all he had left. They severed ties with him.
Best part: the wife never actually married him, and even if she had, when she left, it wasn’t exactly like there was time for the guy to contest anything in court. He was fading fast, and that stuff can take a year or more to get settled. He didn’t have that kind of time. When she left, she took all the money (it was all hers, he hadn’t worked in a long time due to the cancer), she took the closest thing he had to family, and the best part: without her, he no longer had the money to pay for his private health insurance.
I thanked the step-son for contacting me, and asked if he could do me one more favor: tell me when it was over and he was dead. He happily agreed.
A few more months later, I got the news: he died alone in a state hospital. They weren’t going to publish an obituary, although the step-son had decided to have him cremated so that he could just scatter the ashes. No plot, no lasting proof that this man ever existed.
Apparently he had spent the last few months writing constant letters to his now-ex and step-son, calling them, texting them, everything. Neither one had responded, and he died alone, knowing that what he had done had eventually ruined his life and taken away what mattered to him.
I thought it was a pretty fitting ending, although in the end vengeance just felt meh. I always wish that I hadn’t believed him back then and had just told someone.