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Thysia Huisman describes alleged rape by Jean-Luc Brunel

Ex-model is one of three women accusing the model scout and friend of Jeffrey Epstein

Thysia Huisman had just turned 18 when, late one evening in September 1991, she arrived before the door of an imposing apartment building on avenue Hoche in central Paris carrying a small backpack and three photographs from her portfolio.

A young would-be model from Leiden in the Netherlands, she was impressed, but also alarmed. It was very grand, she says. A vast, grand apartment, right by the Arc de Triomphe. Fancy furniture, paintings on the walls. But it was his home.

Not long before, Huisman had met Jean-Luc Brunel in a chocolate shop round the corner from Models Office, the Brussels agency that had just begun to represent her. Its owners, Pierre and Marielou Eggermont, had said she must see him.

He was in his mid-40s and a charmer. He said: Youre unbelievable. Youre stunning. You must come to Paris, right away. I can make you a star, says Huisman, now a TV editor-in-chief, sitting in the kitchen of her home in a neat new suburb of Amsterdam.

Her agents were sure: Brunel could launch her. Karin Models, his agency, had done it before and would do it again: Monica Bellucci, Sharon Stone, Christy Turlington, Jerry Hall, Milla Jovovich all, Brunel has since claimed, owe their careers to him.

So Huisman, 46, went to Paris. She was so special that she was to stay in his apartment, Brunel told her. But within a week she had left, because on her fourth or fifth night, she says, Brunel who has been accused of supplying the late Jeffrey Epstein, his close friend, with underage girls spiked her drink and raped her.

Allegations of misconduct against Brunel date back decades, but he has faced no action. Huisman and two other former models have told the Guardian they were sexually assaulted by Brunel in the 1980s and 1990s in and around Paris, where he was a power player in the global fashion industry.

Brunel and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment. In a 2015 statement, Brunel vehemently denied involvement directly or indirectly in Epsteins crimes. I strongly deny having committed any illicit act or any wrongdoing in the course of my work as a scouter or model agencies manager, he said then.

But from the first evening Huisman met Brunel, she says, relating the events of 28 years ago with calm but clearly painful precision, the Frenchman was coming on to me. Really flirting. Like in a jokey way on one level, saying I was so lovely, that wed get married one day. But then also more menacing.

So when I asked where I was supposed to sleep, he said: Oh, my bed, of course. One time, later, he came into the closet where I was, locked the door behind him, and told me: You know, one day were going to have sex. I kept him away, made a joke of it, told him he was too old for me, and too short. A short, old Frenchman.

But Huisman felt deeply uncomfortable. There were lots of other girls there, some I recognised from magazines, she says. Maybe half a dozen. Young girls, certainly some underage, from Czechoslovakia, Russia, Yugoslavia. They looked sad. And these older, much older businessmen. It was obvious they were sleeping together.

Part of her wondered whether this was all simply normal for the fashion industry. Part of her realised it could not possibly be right. And part of her thought: I want to be a model, the whole world awaits, and this man can make it happen. I just have to be careful. Not drink. Stay in control. Keep focused. I thought I could handle it.

Thysia
Thysia Huisman was an 18-year-old model in 1991 who stayed at Jean-Luc Brunels apartment. Photograph: Courtesy Thysia Huisman

The first night, she slept on blankets on the floor of another girls room. The next day, Brunels assistant Pamela took her to the agency and to lunch. The third day there was a test shoot, and a couple of go-sees preliminary castings for multiple jobs. Every night there were dinners, groups of 15 or 20, in expensive restaurants.

One night, Brunel told Huisman that she could have a career in the movies too, and that his good friend the CEO of Miramax I realised later, Harvey Weinstein would be in Paris the following week, so I should really meet him.

Another evening, there was a man with wavy hair, in a black turtleneck sweater, black-and-white checked trousers. Quite striking. It was Im not 100% sure, I couldnt swear it, she says. But years later, when Epstein was in jail for 13 months, all over the news I saw him and I thought, I know that man.

On what was to be her final night in Paris, after a restaurant and nightclub, the party returned to Brunels flat, Huisman says. He gave me a drink. I dont know what it was, a mixed drink of some kind, he said he made it specially for me. I drank it and straight away I started feeling tired, woozy.

Her recollections after that, she says, are vague, but with really clear, like, snapshots like a fuzzy, unclear movie, all in slow motion, but with a few super-sharp stills. I remember he took me to his room, laid me on his bed, said I should relax. I recall him lying on top of me, me trying to push him off.

I remember trying to move, but not really being able to. Like almost being paralysed. I heard the sound of my blouse, a black blouse, ripping. I had a black skirt, too. I felt him this is difficult between my legs. Pushing.

She was awoken the next morning, Huisman says, when Brunels butler (he employed an Indian couple as cook and factotum) came in with a cup of tea. He didnt seem surprised to see me there, she says. Jean-Luc wasnt there. But I felt we had had sex. I had marks, bruises, on my inner thighs. I knew. I know.

She was naked but for a kimono that was not hers, her clothes in a pile on the floor. I just ran, she says. I was scared. I grabbed my clothes, rushed to the other girls room, got my backpack and left. Like a thief in the night. He was on the phone in the living room. I was scared what he would say.

On the street, she says, all the buildings were like moving. Everything sounded really loud. I felt totally disconnected.

Huisman mentioned the incident to her Dutch boyfriend, she said, but in the vaguest terms, and told no one else. I was really ashamed, she says. I felt really stupid. Guilty. Angry with myself. Over the years, she said, she told various friends of an unpleasant incident in Paris. I buried it, really, she says.

Her current partner, whom she met eight years ago, says she told him soon after they got together that she had been molested. More details emerged gradually over time, he says, until, two years ago, he heard the whole ugly story.

A lot of things happened at the same time, says Huisman. I started therapy and it came up. The #MeToo movement really stirred something in me. I began looking into Brunel; saw the scandals he was implicated in; realised the ties to Epstein; talked to women with similar experiences It feels good to have brought it all out of the dark, to realise I was not the only one and it was not my fault.

Justice may be too late for Epstein, who was found dead in his cell earlier this month while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. But she hopes Brunel will be prosecuted, even if he is now in his 70s. She has consulted a French lawyer and is considering filing a formal complaint in Paris.

I hope he gets punished, and the whole modelling industry gets a shake-up, she says. Im not deluded; I dont imagine my story will change everything. But if a few more parents are made aware, if a few more industry figures realise these predators exist Because, look, what really makes me angry I called Marielou [Eggermont], from my very first agency in Brussels, this winter.

I recorded the call. I asked, did they still work with Brunel? She said: Yes, as a matter of fact he was over a few months ago. So I told her exactly what had happened, why Id come back in such a rush. And she said: You know, he cant have done that. He would never do that. Jean-Luc, hes just too sweet.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/sep/07/thysia-huisman-describes-alleged-by-jean-luc-brunel

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The Texas boys were beaten, abused, raped. Now all they want is an apology

The youngsters at Cal Farleys Ranch in Texas were subjected to years of abuse. But the institutions feeble response has been a slap in the face to survivors

Steve Smith was just eight when his mother left him in the care of Cal Farleys Boys Ranch, a Texas institution for at-risk children. From the moment he got there in 1959, the place didnt sit right with him.

I cried probably more than any boy that I know that came out [of] there, just homesick, and I didnt take it very well.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, Steve was subject to the first of many beatings. For the following decade, he endured regular and arbitrary violence at the hands of staff. He also had to watch helplessly as his younger brother, Rick, was beaten by adults until he couldnt stand.

Along with the physical punishment, Steves pets were killed, and his friends were worked to the bone in atrocious conditions. Some boys, including Rick Smith, were also sexually abused while under the care of the ranch.

The ordeal has permanently damaged their lives.

At the kitchen table in his immaculate home in the Amarillo suburbs, Steve, now almost 70, goes through all of the details of what happened to him without showing much pain. Hes a tough man he served in the Vietnam war and was wounded in the line of duty and his piercing blue eyes only sprout tears twice.

The first time is when he describes how a succession of dogs he owned, all called Boots, were killed by staff members. The other is when he talks about what happened to his younger brother Rick, and how powerless he was to help him.

Rick, Steve, and six other men the Guardian spoke to named staff members responsible for the abuse, which lasted from the 1950s until at least the early 1990s. They say the abuse went beyond them, and was systemic, affecting hundreds of others who went through the ranch.

They say Lamont Waldrip, a long-serving superintendent, was one of the worst abusers. Last month, at the behest of a wealthy donor who wrote a cheque for $1m to build a new dormitory, the ranch named the new building Waldrip House.

The ranchs current CEO, Dan Adams, acknowledged the weight of the accusations against Waldrip, who died in 2013, but he said that other boys had had very different experiences with him and admired and liked him.

For the survivors who want to make the ranch accountable for the abuse and have been encouraged to break their silence after Steve Smith brought them together in a Facebook group this is an unbearable affront.

A very wealthy ranch and a revolt

A
A postcard of Cal Farleys ranch that Steve Smith has kept. Photograph: Jason Wilson for the Guardian

Cal Farleys Boys Ranch is accustomed to the generosity of well-heeled donors, but is less used to having its reputation called into question. Almost since its foundation, the Christ-centered but nondenominational institution has been a byword in Texas for juvenile reform and a can-do spirit. There is no suggestion that there is abuse at Cal Farleys now indeed, there is broad acknowledgment, even from advocates for the men, that current practices at the ranch are in line with the best in the sector.

With 100 direct employees and 526 across its subsidiaries, it is no small fish, and notable individuals from the ranching and oil industries queue up to serve on its board. Cheques like the one that funded Waldrip House are not unusual: the most recent publicly available tax filings show an annual income for the ranch just north of $56.8m. About $43m of that came from contributions and grants. The ranch also owns parcels of land as far away as California.

The ranchs founder, Cal Farley, was a professional wrestler and Amarillo businessman. He had been a prominent college athlete before he moved to Amarillo, where he gained prominence as the owner of a tire shop. Throughout the 1930s, he ran a sporting club, The Mavericks, which tried to channel the energies of troubled and abandoned boys in the panhandle. Eventually he was gifted land in Tascosa, a ghost town, by a local rancher, so he could set up a more permanent home for the boys.

But for all their organizational success, Farley and his staff had no special training to deal with wayward children. In 1950, the superintendent was overpowered and thrown in the river by a group of boys who staged an effective revolt, and for a brief moment they were running things to suit themselves.

In an otherwise laudatory biography of Farley published in 1959, A Shirttail to Hang To, this moment is presented as a major crisis for the ranch. The situation demanded immediate attention. One revolution or mass runaway would mean that Cal would never again win public support for his project.

Faced with a risk to the ranchs prestige, Farley replaced his superintendent with a professional wrestler named Dorrance Funk, who turned to violence as a solution to the discipline problem at the ranch.

In A Shirttail to Hang To, author Beth Day writes that in the wake of the revolt, Funks immediate problem was to command their respect and obedience. He would invite the big boys to work out with him on the wrestling mat Funk illustrated wrestling holds and techniques, and also managed to get over to each boy the suggestion of potential power After a round apiece with Funk on the mat, not one of the leaders of the embryo revolution suggested they might throw *him* in the river.

By the time Rick and Steve Smith arrived in 1959, there were about 250 residents, and Texas courts had taken to diverting young offenders out of the juvenile justice system and into the ranch. Those boys were thrown together in dorms with others who had never committed a crime, but whose parents could not take care of them.

They made me run in front of horses

Ed Cargill lives in New Mexico now, after a stint in the US army and some years of riding motorcycles all over the south-west. His time in Cal Farleys overlapped with Rick Smiths.

After years of living in what he calls a paradise for adult abusers, he made repeated escape attempts. Each time he was caught, and punished. On one occasion, he says, Lamont Waldrip delivered a punishment straight out of the Old West.

I ran away on foot and got about halfway to Amarillo when they caught me, using a helicopter. Lamont Waldrip and another staff member then took me 10 miles away from the ranch, and made me run in front of these horses all the way back. Anytime I floundered, theyd hit me with coiled-up rope or run over me with the damn horse.

Several of the men say that another escapee was dragged for miles behind two horses back to the ranch. Again, one of the horses was ridden by Waldrip. The man in question talked about the incident in a private survivors group on Facebook, which was set up by Steve. His comments were seen by the Guardian.

Cruel punishment wasnt the only ordeal students had to endure. Sexual abuse also happened, and Rick Smith says he was raped by another boy while under the care of the ranch.

The way Steve tells it, his brother has been nervous all his life, like he was hiding something. Just in the last year he told me that when he moved into Maynard [his dorm], one of the bigger boys said hed beat the hell out of him if he didnt sleep with him that night. Hes had it bottled up in him all that time.

Cargill says that the wife of a staff member was having sex with him and three other boys in effect, statutory rape. Its only in retrospect he has come to realize how damaging this was. I didnt realize how bad it was fucking me up. And, she was committing a fucking felony, he says.

As for Steve Smith, he recalls seeing a dorm parent make a boy take his penis out and hit it with a ruler.

He was screaming and begging and I couldnt do anything

For decades, the men say, a culture of abuse prevailed at Cal Farleys.

Martin (not his real name) was sent to the ranch in the early 1980s aged five after being brutally abused and mutilated by his father. Of that time, he says, if you wanna know what its like to die over and over again and watch yourself die in the mirror I know that.

On his first night at the ranch, an older male student dragged me out of the bed, and I went into the bathroom and he basically stuck his dick in my mouth.

Steve
Steve Smiths standard release form from Cal Farleys. Photograph: Steve Smith

When he committed a minor infraction not long after, Martins female dorm parent ordered him to jump in a trash can and scrub it in freezing weather.

When you put a little kid whos been tortured inside a trash can, upside down, and make it like a little prison cell and have him scrub You know, you got these tiny little holes at the top just to let a little light in, youre scared, youre freezing, you know?

Cargill says that his dorm parent would also encourage other boys to administer physical punishment. I saw him hit two boys with his fist and then tell the rest of the dorm, You better finish what I started or its all gonna happen to you.

So I watched as they literally beat these two guys half to death, and me and another guy tried to intervene. We didnt get beat up as bad, but we got beat up.

Cargill says their only crime is they were gay. Which, thats not my place to judge, or my place to punish.

Steve Smith remembers his helplessness while his brother was beaten mercilessly. A staff member did it. I heard Rick screaming at the top of his lungs so I ran down there. I looked into his room and the guy was beating the hell out of him with a belt. My brother didnt even have clothes on, just his underwear. He was screaming and begging and I couldnt do anything.

Afterwards, Ricks nervousness at being at the ranch led to a pattern of behavior that only led to more beatings.

I pissed the bed till I was probably 10, and for that they beat the hell out of me till I bled, he says.

Bill Varnado, who was there at the same time as Steve Smith, says you really didnt have to get in trouble for them to beat the hell out of you. Normally, he says, they used a belt, but as you got older they used their fists on boys.

Joe Stroud, who was there in the 1980s, says the ethos of punishment at Cal Farleys went all the way from how people treated themselves, down to how people treated animals, to how people treat anything. It was a culture of violence.

Its not that I dont believe it, its just that its past

Janet Heimlich, a former journalist, now runs a nonprofit in Austin called the Child-Friendly Faith Project. Through her work and in a book, she has worked to expose religious groups that abuse children. I am always in search of faith-based organizations that are really great, she says.

When she first wrote about Cal Farleys, she used it as an example of best practices in youth care. She still maintains that currently Cal Farleys appears to be in keeping with modern and humane standards of childcare, and says they run a flagship program for cutting-edge child therapy.

In 2015, after she published a laudatory post about Carl Farleys on her blog, Steve Smith left comments. He wrote about the constant abuse, and the beating meted out to Rick. Alarmed by what she was reading, Heimlich got in touch with Adams, the ranch CEO.

I asked Dan, Is what this guy is saying true? He said, Yes. But were evolved.

Heimlich decided to help Steve talk it out with Adams.

Their first conversation was a two-and-a-half-hour meeting on 23 March this year, which Heimlich attended as an observer via Skype. She observed that Adamss attitude to Smith was sympathetic. We were both blown away with what Steve was telling us. Every so often Dan would reach out and touch Steves shoulder.

On 7 and 8 April, the three of them met in Amarillo, first at a coffee shop, and then the next morning for breakfast. At this point, she started to become concerned about how the ranch was going to deal with Smiths allegations.

I thought that meeting was his opportunity to say, Heres what were going to do, but I was getting nothing from him.

At breakfast, she presented a draft letter suggesting the approach Cal Farleys could take. These included investigating allegations of abuse, setting up a fund for survivors medical needs, and ensuring that information on their website and in their marketing material was truthful and not misleading.

Adams, she says, was uncomfortable. Most of all, he was resistant to the idea of going public with any it. He thought that involving the media would not bring the men the healing they were looking for, she says.

At the same meeting, Adams told Heimlich that the ranch was planning to name a new dorm after Lamont Waldrip.

For survivors, she says, it was a slap in the face.

In conversation with the Guardian, Adams acknowledged that abuses had occurred in the past, but also reaffirmed his stance.

I cant deny Steve or anybody else their experience, he said. When asked if the behavior of staff at the time sounded like abuse, he responded, absolutely, no doubt about it. But he stressed that practices had changed, including the phasing out of corporal punishment since he took over in 1996.

I knew Lamont. And there are guys today that had very different experiences with Lamont and admired and liked him. In his early days, I think he probably was way over his head in terms of knowing how to deal with all those kids any time you have a system thats scantily staffed, and not trained, abuse happens.

Adams has no plans to change the dedication of the new building.

I do think when it comes to honoring founders or former employees, thats a collective thing, thats bigger than me, its not arbitrary. I think [a public apology] can be disruptive, because Ive got 260 kids out there that were working very well with, and we have a lot of younger people whose experience has been good at Boys Ranch, and a lot of families that count on us.

I dont say its hearsay and I dont deny it. Its not that I dont believe it, its just that its past.

I want somebody to stand up and say, Hey, Im frickin sorry

The men the Guardian spoke to say they have carried the scars of this experience for decades, as well as a sense that their lives have been misshapen by their time there. Many talked about extensive substance abuse, suicide attempts,
and incarceration among alumni.

Bill Varnado wants to be very clear that theyre not looking for any monetary deal out of this. What we would like is an apology from those people for treating us the way they treated us.

Martin asks: What did Boys Ranch take from me? I dont know. My sense of security, my sense of self, my sense of being comfortable in my own skin.

Arnold Wells says hes still not sure hes an adapted person in adulthood. It got ingrained into me for a period of five years that violence fixes everything, he says.

Ed Cargill says: I want somebody to grow a pair of balls, stand up and say, Hey, Im frickin sorry.

For all the abuse Rick Smith endured, he is more concerned to talk about his brother, and the years it took him to live down what happened to him, and to get past his drinking and anger.

Let me tell you, hes just so proud he didnt let it get him down. Because it was for a while, and he overcame a lot. He was headed for the wrong, wrong place.

Hes skeptical that they will ever receive an apology. Its not gonna happen. Because they are committed to the hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank. Theyre committed to that.

And because of this lack of closure, he also doubts he and his brother will ever get over it.

Steve and I will die. Well go to our grave and Ill guarantee you itll be one of the things we think about when we take that last breath: how they got away with it.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/20/texas-cal-farleys-boys-ranch-stories

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What happened when I discovered my brother was a sexual predator

Unravelling the central mystery of my childhood taught me the uncomfortable truth about toxic male behavior and what I, as a man, must do about it

Ive fallen out of touch with a lot of childhood friends, but how it happened with my Christie was different more sudden, and at the time, inexplicable.

Christie was my best friend. Her mother, Suzanne, was my mothers best friend since high school. In adulthood, they would get together for coffee once a week. I can still remember the times I spent listening to both of them hold forth on politics and relationships at the kitchen table while Christie and I would play hide and seek.

But one day, Suzanne stopped returning my mothers calls. Christie stopped coming over too.

My mom struggled with depression and it was a hard blow for her. I was always protective of her growing up, and I remember feeling angry, blindsided and hurt. Christie was my best friend, after all.

After a long decline from early-onset dementia, my mother died two years ago. She and Suzanne had never reconciled.

A year later, my half-brother Todd died at the age of 52 from a heroin overdose.

When I was in town for Todds funeral, Christie got in touch and soon afterward, her mother invited me over for dinner. And over glasses of beer and wine, Suzanne told me a series of painful truths that helped unravel one of the central mysteries of my childhood.

In the same conversation, I learned that my brother was a sexual predator, and that my mother was a rape victim.

Suzanne told me that Todd and a group of his friends had sexually assaulted Christies half-sister, Denise, in our home. Denise would have been about 11 at the time.

Suzanne couldnt bring herself to tell my mom because my mom was fragile, dealing with continuous conflict between my father and my two half-brothers, and had herself been raped as a teenager by an ex-boyfriend.

Not knowing what to do, she decided to cut ties and stopped talking to my mother. Christie, meanwhile, said she felt pressured at the time into not talking to me.

After our conversation, I felt numb for days. I pushed it to the back of my mind and did nothing for months. But then the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke out.

It prompted me to asked myself some hard questions. There have been women in my life I could have treated better, and missed occasions where I could have stepped up to the plate to be a better man.

Then I thought about my mother, who started a feminist book club when I was a child; womens rights were important to her. What Suzanne had told me that my mom had been raped, and that her parents refused to believe her or act on it made sense to me, and I was able to confirm parts of it by talking to her sisters. What could I, as a man, do to seek a small amount of justice for the women in my life?

Ultimately, it was a tweet from @sansdn, a feminist Twitter user in Sydney, Australia, that spurred me to action.

San (@sansdn)

It’s easy as hell to call people like Trump and Weinstein monsters. It’s not easy, however, to critique the men in your lives the same way.

October 16, 2017

I decided to do just that.

First, I spoke to a few of Todds friends. I didnt tell them about Denises story, but asked if they could share anything about Todds relationship with women when he was young.

One friend jokingly told a story about how his girlfriend woke one morning after a party to find Todd on top of her, and that he had to pull Todd off her. Man, Todd could be crazy! he said, thinking Id laugh with him.

I didnt.

In his book The Macho Paradox, Jackson Katz argues that sexual assault is a mens issue. Men commit the vast majority of rapes, and men have a special responsibility to hold both themselves and other men accountable for how they treat women and girls.

Men have to think about what role they play, and how they can use whatever platform of influence they have to make it unacceptable for men to act out in sexist and harmful ways, Katz told me. Not because they are nice guys, helping out the women, but because they have a responsibility as men in a sexist society. If they dont speak out, and they dont use whatever influence they have, then in a sense they are part of the problem.

But, as San pointed out, its all-too-easy to do that in a tweet or a Facebook post, when the man in question is a celebrity who is being publicly shamed.

The real work begins where you can have most impact closer to home.

And so I reached out to Denise, and she told me that she wanted to tell her story. As she would explain to me later, she wanted other victims to know about the importance of speaking up quickly about sexual assault so they can find the support they need.

We agreed to meet in person at her home in the western suburbs of Philadelphia, not far from where I grew up.

It was time to go home again. I caught a flight the next day.

Whenever we threw cookouts at our home, the adults would gather at the backyard patio, while the kids would go off and play, sometimes in Todds room in the basement.

Denise isnt sure exactly how old she was when it happened, but as far as he can remember, Todd was about 15, and she was 11 or 12. She knew Todd and his friends, and trusted them. She recalls Todd as the leader when a group of his friends encircled her and pinned her to a chair.

I didnt know what to do. It was very scary. All I see is me on the chair and all their hands everywhere on me, Denise told me. I dont hear what theyre saying. I got to the point where I was actually gonna threaten to spit on them. They didnt like that, but then I thought I cant really spit on them cause then theyll get mad at me, so again I felt powerless.

Jared
Jared Goyette and his friend Christie. Photograph: Jared Goyette

She isnt sure how long it went on for, but the memory of the emotions she felt then is still raw, many decades later. Fear, anger, and guilt, because she thought that she had brought it on herself.

When the boys paused for a moment, she bolted out of the room, and to her mother. But she was afraid to say anything directly.

I just remember going outside, trying to get my mom to notice that perhaps something was wrong, but not making it so obvious that all the adults would notice. I didnt know what to do and it was an instinct of mine learned from society that I couldnt say anything about it, because I didnt want the grownups to get mad.

Her mother told her to go play back inside, back to the room. Denise obeyed.

There, the assault continued.

At a moment when some are rushing to downplay the alleged sexual assaults committed against young girls by Roy Moore, the Senate candidate in Alabama, its worth saying that what happened to Denise in the basement of my childhood home was a life-altering event for her.

The shame and guilt she felt in that moment lingered, and grew, and spread. At 11, she played piano, the harpsichord, the violin, and sang in the church choir, but suddenly, her interest in music faded. Her mother knew something was wrong, but couldnt figure out what had happened.

She was extraordinary, and that ended, Suzanne said. She had to be talked into going to choir practice or talked into practicing. She just went into this little cave of her own making. And I thought it was because of something that was happening at school. I didnt understand what the impetus was that began that.

Denise described her descent as a domino effect: Your whole perception changes about how you think people look at you.

Years would go by before she would tell anyone.

There was another person I had to talk to while I was home: my other half-brother, Chris. Im 35, and hes 51, a year and half younger than Todd. He would have been about 13 around the time it happened, and I needed to ask him what he knew.

We met a restaurant. When I broached the topic, he asked not to be recorded, and the conversation grew heated. Later though, we talked over the phone, and he agreed to go on the record.

First, he denied knowing anything about it. I have no memory whatsoever of seeing this go on, or hearing about it, nothing, he said.

He did not speak fondly of Todd, however, recalling a time when he tried to bring a girl home only for Todd to make a move on her. He remembered Todds attitude toward women as being very confident and aggressive.

Im telling you, the culture was different in those times. Todd was jock, handsome. Of course he always thought the girls wanted him. Boys will be boys, Chris said.

Chris generally had two lines of thought. On one hand, he said that if what Denise described did happen, there was nothing right about it. But he also continually tried to shift the responsibility back to her, recalling times she did things that he said could have been interpreted as suggestive. There may have been a little promiscuity going on. Right? he said at one point. (Again, Denise was about 11 at the time.)

The conversation moved to our mother. He began by saying that he believed the story of her being raped as a teenager, and that hearing what our mother went through had upset him. For a moment, after what had been a draining conversation, I thought that we had finally found common ground.

But again, he shifted.

I think that sucks, but the other thing I remember now Ive heard a couple of different people, throughout the years is that our mother was a little promiscuous when she was young, he told me.

My heart sank. I mean, really? This was our own mother he was talking about. As we went back and forth, I concluded that the tendency to shift the focus back to the accuser was reflexive and almost hardwired in him, as I think is often the case for men of his generation. This is something many women know and have known, but I was discovering it first-hand.

Some of my earliest memories are of Chris swinging me by my feet as a child. He loves his wife and they have a solid relationship. Hes my brother and I love him. But what I found in our conversation was a painful example of the kind of attitudes that made Denise and Suzanne, as well as countless other victims, reluctant to come forward. And if I were to stay silent about it, or just shrug it off as the kind of thing guys say sometimes, I would, in essence, be participating.

I choose not to participate.

Denise slowly began her healing process, and eventually got married and then separated. She has a daughter in college and a son in high school. Both live with her, and all three perform together at church Denise and her daughter Cassandra sing in the choir, while her son Colin plays in the bell choir. Her children were in the room as she told her story. She wanted them to be there.

What I hope people get out of this is, that they should not be embarrassed about it. They should tell somebody as soon as it happens, so that you can get the help that you need and you can start to move on from it. And you can move on from it, Denise said.

I would say a lot of me has been able to move on, but theres still parts of me that need to be fixed. Knowing that these things happen, I feel that I have been able to be very open with my children. Let them know that if anything happens to them, they can come and ask me and I will not judge them and I will try and help.

I think people need to know that there are people out there that will help them and support them, she said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/nov/28/my-brother-sexual-predator-assault-weinstein-roy-moore

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