In last week’s blog, the four words above constituted a throw-away line that dealt with a serious issue—having a relative in my life who was also a pedophile. Unfortunately, those words impacted far too many of my readers, and so I’m going to do a Paul Harvey here and tell the rest of the story, and then we’ll be done with it.
Yes, my grandfather, Henry Busk, was a pedophile. I was seven years old and we were in South Dakota on summer vacation when he took me and my younger brother down to the lake to “go fishing.” He molested me with my little brother sitting only a few feet away and totally focused on his fishing pole. Since my brother was little more than a toddler at the time, he can’t be held responsible for being unaware of what was going on. And it only happened to me once. I never told because I figured if it was my word against the word of a pillar of the Lutheran Church of Marvin, South Dakota, who was going to believe me? And besides, somehow, I believed that what had happened was my fault.
It wasn’t until years later, while comparing notes with my three sisters, we learned that he had victimized all four of us. And while we told each other about it, none of us told our parents, not even then.
More time passed—decades actually. Grandpa Busk died sometime in the late sixties or early seventies. I have zero interest in remembering the exact date, but I do remember what happened next. My first husband and I were living on the hill west of Tucson and teaching on the reservation. One afternoon while in Tucson on business, my dad stopped by to visit. He had just returned from South Dakota where he had attended Grandpa Busk’s funeral. At some point he turned to me and said, “I don’t understand why none of my daughters came to my father’s funeral.” That’s when I decided it was high time someone told him why, so I did.
When I finished, he got up off the sofa, strode over to the living room window, and stood there for a long time staring at Kitt Peak in complete silence. Finally he spun around and said to me, “If I’da known that, I would have taken my shotgun and shot that son of a bitch!” It’s the only time in my life I heard my father utter a bad word.
That was a healing moment for me. My father’s instant belief in what I had told him was a blessing far too many abused children, including several of my readers, never received. And it’s why Norman Busk is not only my father, he’s also my hero.
More time and more decades passed again. In the early eighties, it occurred to me that in the books I had devoured as a child—the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls—there was no mention of what had happened to me. I decided to do something about that and wrote a children’s book called It’s Not Your Fault. The book is no longer in print, but it’s the story of a little girl whose not so nice grandfather is coming to visit. In her case, the person who believes her is a school nurse.
About that time, I was also working on Until Proven Guilty, the first Beaumont book. It’s the one in which he meets, falls in love with, and marries a very troubled woman named Anne Corley. That book went on sale in June of 1985.
Nine years later, on my 50th birthday my gift to myself was doing a talk at a local high school where students had been encouraged to read some of my books before my appearance. After the talk and during the Q and A, a young man stood up on the gym bleachers and asked, “Where did Anne Corley come from?”
Thirteen years after writing the book and nine years after publishing it, and while standing in a gym filled with 1600 high school students, I suddenly figured it out the answer. I was Anne Corley, a woman on a mission—a self-appointed vigilante—traveling the country, and taking out pedophiles who were … never charged and never convicted. I was her, and she was me.
After that realization dawned on me, I ended up standing there and telling all those kids the same story I’ve just told you. At the book signing afterwards, a tearful young woman, most likely a freshman, came up to me and said, “The same thing happened to me. What should I do?” I pointed to a nearby counselor and said, “Go talk to her.”
On reflection, it’s probably a good thing none of us girls told on our grandfather because I believe Norman Busk would have done exactly as he said. Evie would have had a tough row to hoe raising seven kids with a husband in the slammer, but I’m pretty sure she would have made it work.
While I was out walking this morning, one more thing occurred to me. I believe there’s a rule that you’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead. Guess what? I’m breaking that one. My father was in his seventies when he learned that he had a half-sister, the product of his father having abused a friend’s daughter. After it happened, the family packed up, left South Dakota, and moved to California. My father didn’t know a thing about it until she contacted him almost seventy years later.
So yes, I’m speaking ill of the dead. Henry Busk isn’t here to defend himself, but so what. Like Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein, he was protected by decades of silence, and he got away with the crimes he committed. That private silence was finally broken in 1970 when I told my father, and since then I’ve broken my public silence.