Friday, June 17, 2011

Little Lizzy, Uncle Tinny and 'They'

Nine-year old Lizzy was an affectionate, outgoing, sensitive child. There were only a few people she met that she didn’t like. One of the people she didn’t like was her Uncle Tinny, and they way he innocently hugged and kissed her cheeks in the presence of her family and cousins. She was his favorite niece, and had been for about three years.

When Lizzy and Tinny were alone, Tinny dropped the hugging and cheek kissing facade. He would slip his hand under her dress and fondle her private part. She was old enough to know that she didn’t like his hands on her, touching her. Tinny told her what he was doing was normal.

“All little girls like their uncles to touch down there,” he told her. “You can’t tell June and your daddy cause they won’t understand. And they might come and take you away from her and Dallas.”

Tinny didn’t tell Lizzy who “they” were and Lizzy didn’t have the wits to question him. She knew she didn’t like her uncle touching her, but she didn’t want “they” to come and take away from her family. Tinny reminded her repeatedly every time he got her alone. She endured his kissing, hugging and fondling.

Tinny wasn't married. He was Lizzy's oldest uncle and her mother’s only brother. In the eyes of his family he could do no wrong. He pretended to be affectionate toward all of his nieces and nephews, even cousins. He hugged, kissed and played with all of them to cover his tracks, making sure no suspicions were raised. Who would believe her if she told how he played with her under her dress. Her mother and father would scold her for making such a ridiculous accusation. June and Dallas taught her that lying was a sin.

“You can always tell me and your daddy what’s on your mind,” June told her. “No matter what it is, you can tell us, okay?”

They would both remind Lizzy of how much her uncle loves all of his nieces and nephews. As far as everyone in the family knew, no girls had been molested by anyone inside or outside the family.

When Tinny came to their house on Saturdays to take Lizzy to cartoon matinees, unbeknownst to June and Dallas, trips to the movies were often skipped. On the occasions they did go, Tinny would make a big deal of how Lizzy laughed and had a good time. He stressed that Lizzy wouldn’t have room to eat supper because she ate so much popcorn, candy and soda.

“You’re spoiling my baby,” June would say. “Next time I’m going too, so I can eat popcorn and candy with her.”

“You know you’re welcome. We can all be kids together,” Tinny said, hoping June was joking about going to the movie with them.

On the Saturday they didn’t go to the movie, Tinny took Lizzy to his apartment, where they would stay for a couple of hours. He freely fondled Lizzy, all the while reminding her that “they” were going to take her away from her parents if she told them about their "game." Lizzy liked dresses but she gradually started wearing blue jeans, thinking they would protect her from Tinny's touching. At night she pulled covers over her head. One night June went into Lizzy’s room to hang some clothes in her closet. She noticed Lizzy’s head was completely covered.

“Girl, you’re going to smother yourself to death if you don’t get the cover off your face,” June said, thinking Lizzy was asleep. She reached to pull the cover off Lizzy face. Her daughter was holding onto the covers for dear life.

“What’s wrong, baby?” June asked, looking concerned. “How come you suddenly sacred of the dark?”

“I just want to cover my head,” Lizzy lied. "I'm not scared."

“If you’re comfortable I guess it’s alright.” Had June pulled back the covers she would have seen that Lizzy was fully dressed in blue jeans and blouse buttoned up to her neck.

Keeping count of the days, knowing that in three more days she would be going the movie with Tinny again, Lizzy asked June if she could call her cousin Lamont to see if he wanted to go with them. June told her to call and see if Ester would let him go.

When Tinny came to pick her up on Saturday he was disappointed to learn that they would have company. He smiled to hide his disappointment. “Can I go with y’all every Saturday, too?” Lamont asked, excited.

“We’ll see,” Tinny said. “You mom might have something for you to do. Never can tell.”

“Next thing you know you’re going to have all your nieces and nephews wanting to go with y’all. I wouldn’t wish that on nobody,” June said, kissing Lizzy on her forehead. “Have a good time, and don’t eat too much junk just because Tinny is willing to buy it!”

At the movie, Tinny sat Lizzy in the middle seat, keeping his hand on her knee. She was too uptight to have a good time. Lamont was having such a good time eating popcorn and drinking soda he didn’t notice how quiet Lizzy was. Tinny took Lamont home first. On the way to Lizzy’s house he told her to unzip her blue jeans. He fondled her as he drove. A block from her house he told her to zip her pants. She quietly obeyed.

As one year rolled into another year and another year, Lizzy turned 12. The molestation was getting more intense. Tinny began sticking a finger into her vagina, staring her in eyes, asking if she was enjoying it. June and Dallas noticed that Lizzy was changing. She was growing irritable,  eating more than usual.

“If you don’t slow down on that food, you’re gonna start looking like you aunt Mattie,” Dallas laughed on night.

“I’ll put her on a diet before I let that happen!” June said. Secretly, she was curious about Lizzy new eating habits.

Lizzy couldn’t tell anyone about the pressure on her. She still believed that “they” were going to take her away from her parents if she told on Tinny. Her frustration and guilt mounted more and more each day, especially when Tinny came to visit.


Lizzy's English teacher recognized Lizzy’s personality change. One day she told Lizzy to stay a few minutes after class. Sitting directly in front of Lizzy, she asked what was wrong. “You can tell me, sweetheart. I hate to see you like this. You’re too smart to neglect your grades. I’m worried about you.”

“Nothing is wrong with me, Miss Lacy,” Lizzy said, her eyes straying away from the teacher.

She cupped Lizzy face with her hands, the way June does. Lizzy began to cry. “There. There. You don’t have to cry. Whatever is bothering you, just get if off your chest. If you like, I can call your parents.”

“I can’t tell,” Lizzy said, sobbing.

“Tell what, Lizzy?”

“They will take me away from my mommy and daddy.”

The teacher gave her a Kleenex to wipe the tears from her eyes. She knew about Lizzy’s unspoken dilemma. All the signs were familiar to her; grades falling, the erratic behavior, an insistence on wearing jeans, hiding as much of her body as she could. Mary Lacy had been molested as a young child by her step father. Only difference is, he threatened to kill her mother if she told about their “game.” When she turned 18, she told her mother about the 10 year ordeal that ended with her getting pregnant by her stepfather when she was 17. He left town before she and her mother went to the police. She had to baby, giving it up for adoption.

“Who is “they” Lizzy?”

“They will take me away from my mommy and daddy,” she repeated. She couldn't explain who "they' were. Only Uncle Tinny knew "they."

“There is no ‘they’ Lizzy. No one is going to take you away from your parents. I’m going to take you home. I want you to tell you parents what you're telling me.”

“I'm scared to tell them. They'll be mad at me.”

“No they won’t. They love you. They'll understand. I know what happened to you. But I want you to tell your mommy and daddy. You’re not alone in this. Your parents will understand.”

They drove to Lizzy’s house in silence. As they walked up the steps, she squeezed Lizzy’s shoulder in a show of support. June was surprised to see the teacher. She immediately thought Lizzy was in trouble. “What did my little girl do?” she asked smiling. Her broad smile wasn’t real. The change in her daughter was of great concern to her and Dallas.

“She didn’t do anything, Mrs. Shipper. Lizzy is a good girl and a good student. She has something to tell you. I’m going to leave so you two alone to talk. I think it will explain why her grades are slipping.”

“Will you stay, Miss Lacy?” Lizzy asked, her eyes and voice pleading for the teacher to stay. She needed her support in case June didn't understand.

Lizzy told the about the molestation, when it began, the Saturday trips to the movies and to Tinny’s apartment. As she expected, June couldn’t believe Lizzy was talking about her brother. He loved children. He would never touch a child inappropriately, let alone molest one of his nieces or nephews. Or cousins. He loved his three sisters, none of whom he touched inappropriately.

Lizzy added another surprise to her story. Tinny had began forcing her to touch his "private part." Lizzy said he took her hand and guided it to where he wanted her to touch him. She closed her eyes and obeyed him. His hot naked erect penis repulsed her. She told him she didn't want to touch him again. He told her she would get used to it, because she would be touching it more often. He told her one day "I''m gonna stick it in you.” Lizzy had no idea what he was talking about.

June was beginning to feel sick to her stomach. She put her hand to her mouth. Still she didn’t want to believe what she was hearing. “Baby, are you sure you’re talking about Uncle Tinny? I can’t see him doing something so ugly to his niece. I just can’t see it.”

Lizzy looked at her Mary Lacy for support. She was regretting telling June. Tinny knew his sister wouldn’t believe such a story about him. Mary spoke up, telling June about her early introduction to molestation that led to a pregnancy, and giving up the baby for adoption.

“I’m gonna be sick!” June ran to the bathroom. They could hear her vomiting. She came out 10 minutes later, her face stressed. “Come here, baby,” she said to Lizzy, her arms outstretched. “I’m so sorry I didn’t realize what was happening to you. The signs were there but I was too blind to see them, or pay attention. I don’t know how I’m going to tell your daddy. He will kill Tinny. I can't let him go to prison for killing your uncle.”

Lizzy understood what death was. June explained it to her after the death of Dallas's mother. The idea of her loving father killing Tinny scared her even more.

“You're not alone, Mrs. Shipper. Most parents don’t want to believe a family member would molest a child in the family. But it’s not unusual,” Mary said. "It's more common than you think."

June’s mind was spinning. She remembered her brother’s obsession with Lizzy. His buying presents for her. Lizzy's faked illnesses, his babysitting her on Sundays. Dropping by after work, at least three days a week, pretending to be hungry, eating supper with them. They would tease him about being a poor cook.

“I’m gonna have to find you a wife, one that can cook so you’ll stop eating that fast food.”

“I can’t wait until you find her,” Tinny said, pretending he was interested.

June’s thoughts were turning to harming her brother in a deadly way. Tinny was on the way to destroying her daughter's life. She didn’t know what the affect would be on Lizzy. That one thought added to her rising anger. How much was Lizzy's future going to be affected by this trauma? A  floodgate of remembered clues were overwhelming June.

“I’m so sorry, baby,” she apologized to Lizzy again. She started crying, causing Lizzy to cry.

“Don’t cry, mommy. Don’t cry.”

“I’m leaving now. I'm happy Lizzy revealed her uncle before something awful happened.”

“Thank you, Miss Lacy,” June said between sobs. “I appreciate your help in getting Lizzy to talk. I wish she would've told me first.”

"Sometimes children feel more comfortable telling someone other than their parents. It's all out now. That's all that matters." June thanked Mary again.

Lizzy and June were sitting on the couch, holding onto each other when Dallas come home. The second he stepped into the living room he knew something was wrong. His wife and daughter were not pulling a joke on him like they sometimes did. There was no humor in the solemn room.

"Just listen to what she's gonna tell you. If I could help it I wouldn't let her tell you. I'm scared of what you might do," June said.

She didn't know how she would stop Dallas if he grabbed his gun and stormed out the door, enroute to Tinny's apartment. She had to keep him calm, making him understand that it will be better to call the police. She knows how difficult it is to reason with Dallas when he's angry. Upon hearing what Tinny had done to his little girl, he would be a hundred past angry. He often said he would "kill a rock" about his daughter. Lizzy is the baby neither he nor June ever thought they would have.

Still standing in the middle of the living room, Dallas said, "This better be good one you fixing to tell me. Somebody do something to my baby?" he repeated. June winced. There was an edge in Dallas's voice.

"Sit down, honey and let Lizzy talk. Promise us both you won't do something . . ."

"I can's make no promises until I hear what Lizzy got to tell me. It better be good."

"Go a head, Lizzy. Tell your daddy what you told me."  After Lizzy told repeated her story, Dallas was calm. He walked upstairs to their bedroom. June knew that he was getting his gun. She ran upstairs to stop him. She couldn't let her husband go to prison.

"Dallas, listen to me. It ain't worth it. We can file charges against Tinny. Let the police take care of this. I don't want you getting in trouble."

"I'm not gonna get in no trouble. I just gonna take your low down brother to jail myself for what he did to my baby. I'm making my own arrest."

"Well then, I'll go with you."

"You stay here with Lizzy. I can handle this." With that Dallas walked out the door, the tucked in his waistband. June prayed he wouldn't anything foolish. "Please, God. Don't let him get in trouble."   

Questions for the reader:

1. Is there an Uncle Tinny in your family?

2. Does Lizzy’s story sound or feel familiar?

3. How would you handle this situation if it were you?

4. What should June and Dallas do about Tinny?

Uncle Tinny comes with many faces. He is usually adored by family members and friends, all of whom will defend him until they learn the real truth. Uncle Tinny is everywhere. Leave a comment telling other readers how you would remedy this problem.

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