A need for understanding

Why hearing “the other side of a story” is so important.

I ran away from home in 1975 at 15 years old, never to return. I had tried to run away several times before, but always came back. Finally, the abuse I received at home got to the point where I finally made the decision to break free and never come back. It was one of the best decisions of my life, but certainly not an easy one.

This is a long story, so I will leave out many of the details, but soon after I ran away, my high school best friend at the time, Dave, had two older brothers, Rick and Jon, that were living together in a little house in the central part of Tucson. They kindly allowed me to move in with them.

I continued to attend Sahuaro High School and landed a job at Jack in the Box, at Speedway and Swan. Incredibly, as of today’s date (Nov. 29, 2021), they are still located there.

I worked the dreaded night shift, mostly weekends, not punching out at times until one or two in the morning. After getting off late one night, sometimes after 1:00 in the morning, since I was not old enough to drive and did not have a car, I started to walk back to Rick and Jon’s house where I was staying; thankfully, it was within walking distance.

Like a fool, and not wanting to walk all the way to the house, and being worn out after a long nights work, I stuck out my thumb on Speedway in hope of hitching a ride. A foolish idea.

Speedway Blvd. is one of Tucson’s main streets; back in my day, it was a popular street with young people to show off their fancy cars, do a bit of drag racing, and “hang out” along the many businesses that still line both sides of the street. But at this time of night, it was empty of traffic, with only the occasional car passing by. But as “luck” would have it, someone stopped to give me a ride.

He was an older guy, driving a four door car. When I say “older,” I mean older than me; he was probably in his 30’s or so, while I was only 15 or 16 at the most. But one thing caught my attention as soon as he stopped and I opened the passenger side door: he was wearing a bath robe.

Now, I thought this was weird, but at my young age, I threw caution and common sense to the wind, and because this random stranger stopped to provide a much appreciated lift, and there were few cars on the road, I hopped in.

We exchanged the customary greetings and I believed I commented on his unusual attire. He said he couldn’t sleep, and taking a ride in his car would help his insomnia. I thought this was a plausible reason for why he was dressed this way and we continued with our conversation.

But it turned weirder—fast. Suddenly, he asks, “Do you like puppies?” Surprised at such a bizarre question, I think I responded, “Sure, I guess.” I mean, who doesn’t like puppies? And at this time in the early morning, I wasn’t thinking too clear. “I have a puppy,” he replied. “Great,” I said.

“Would you like to see my puppy?” he asked. At this point, I knew this stranger was out to lunch, not playing with a full deck. Driving around at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, wearing a bath robe, and now asking me if I wanted to see his puppy, raised some serious red flags.

“Not really,” I replied, “I’m pretty tired after working all day and night and I’m just wanting to get home.”

“Do you want a beer?” he then asked. At this point in my life, living with my older buddies who were hard core partiers where they seemed to always be partying, drinking, and smoking weed, I naturally fell into their hedonistic lifestyle, so the thought of having a beer after a long night’s work was something I could agree with.

I assumed this offered beer was there in the car, so I said something like, “Sure!” He says, “Ok. My house is really close and I will go get some.”

“Oh, you don’t have any with you, here in the car”? I asked, a bit confused.

“No, but my house is just around the corner and we can get some there.”

“Oh, ok,” I replied. Bad thing to say.

He soon makes a right and drives for a few minutes down some side streets, continuing to chat. He wasn’t lying when he said he lived right down the street, because before I knew it, we were turning into his driveway in front of a creepy looking house shrouded in darkness and lined with spooky looking bushes. If I was feeling bad vibes from this guy before, my “spidey sense” ratcheted up to full alert.

He stops the car and turns off the engine. “The beer’s inside…come on in!”

I knew I was in trouble at this point, but I also knew I had to play my cards right. One wrong word or move and who knows what this pervert was going to do, so I nonchalantly said something like, “No thanks, I’m really tired and need to get home.”

“Oh, come on! It will just take a minute.”

“No, that’s ok, thanks.”

“No, really, come on in…it will just take a minute.”

I need to explain about my physical appearance at this point in my life. I had nearly snow white (when seen in a certain light), blond hair and was skinny as a rail, standing about 5’6″ tall or so and weighing, at the most, 125-130 pounds, maybe less. Clearly, this perv did not feel my physical presence was something he needed to be afraid of, so he was more than willing to push his agenda.

I, on the other hand, had spent my entire life being abused by men in my family, and I just ran away from my stepfather who was one of the worst abusers I had to deal with in my young, troubled life. So I think, somewhere down deep in my soul, there was steel that was formed even at that point and I turned to this guy and said, “No, I’m not coming in. I’m tired and want to go home.”

Evidently, something in my answer and perhaps the way my body stiffened informed this guy that I was not about to walk into his house. So he said, “Ok, I’ll be right out.” True to his word, he went into his darkened hovel and, within what seemed like only seconds, came back out with a six pack—missing two cans—carried in one of his hands, held together by the plastic rings that beer back then was packaged in.

Getting in the car, he hands the four cans to me. I think I broke one out of the plastic rings and said to him, “Do you want one?” and he said, “No, they’re all yours.” Another bad sign.

When he went in the house, I was going to bolt, but as soon as I began to open the heavy car door, he was already coming back out with the beer in his hand. Not wanting him to know what I was planning on doing, I did not pull the now partially opened door shut, not wanting him to hear it close and give away my plan of getting the hell out of there.

He pulls out of his driveway and, instead of turning south back to Speedway, the opposite way we came, he turns north, heading out into the blackness of this run downed, dimly lit neighborhood.

As he was backing out of the driveway onto the street, he had to go over the gentle curb that transitions the street to the driveway. As he does this, the door I partially opened now rattles, and continues to do so as he turns north and begins to drive slowly into the darkness.

I’m now trying to shut the door to stop the rattle, but having no luck. It’s stuck between the open and shut position, and since I’m not familiar with how the door opener works, not much is happening and it continues to rattle. I push and pull and push and pull on the lever and the door and nothing happens.

Noticing this, he slows down, and I think, comes to a complete stop. He then reaches across my legs to grab the handle, and then suddenly grabs my right leg, closest to the door, and starts to drag me towards him.

I react like a rattlesnake without thinking, my survival instinct instantly kicking in. I knock his hand and arm away and immediately grab the handle of the door, yank it up, shoving the door out with all my might; it pops open and I bolt out, running down the street.

I will never forget the sound of this pervert’s voice that instantly changed into a high falsetto as he called out after me, “Don’t you want your beers?” But I was already long gone.

I have often replayed this horrific scene in my mind, wondering what would have happened to me if that door did not pop open. I believe God was with me at this moment, though I hated God at this point in my life.

What if I had frozen in fear when this homosexual pedophile grabbed me and started dragging me towards him? What if I did not fight back and knock his hand and arm from my legs? What if that stuck door failed to open and I was trapped inside? What if I had been stupid enough to have taken him up on his offer of a cold beer inside his house? God in heaven, who knows what would have happened? But I praise Him that I escaped, but this scarred me for life.

Why do I tell this story? And why am I including it on my blog under the heading of “Divorce and PAS”? What’s the connection?

Though I have not gone into much detail about my personal connection with PAS, discerning readers will “do the math” and correctly determine that I have children who have suffered—and still do— from PAS. What reader’s have not discovered is how terrible the damage has been both to myself—and more importantly—to my children who are, to this day, helplessly ensnared in this pathological form of child abuse. They and myself have been separated for almost 20 years now.

In the minute amount of contact we have had in this time, one of my daughters (I will call her Michelle) has mentioned the great hurt she has experienced because, as she would put it, I abandoned—or purposely dropped out of—her life during a particular critical part when she desperately needed me.

Unfortunately, there is a grain of truth in her accusation, like I have pointed out in other parts of this “Divorce and PAS” section when I state that PAS thrives in an environment of half-truths that the alienating parent uses to their advantage to further the ever growing rift that is purposely created by this parent to divide the child/children from the other.

The kernel of truth to what Michelle said is the fact that I was not there for that critical portion of her life when she needed me the most. This pains me more than words can adequately describe because I knew, before I dropped out of their lives, that something like this would happen.

The other kernel of truth to her accusation against me was that, yes, I did drop out of her life, and not only her life, but her younger sisters as well. And again, I knew by doing this that it might wreck psychological damage in their lives, but it was a risk I felt I had to take.

But what is not true is that I dropped out of their lives willingly. This is the lie that originates from the very pit of hell itself but was brilliantly used by my ex to poison their innocent and vulnerable hearts and mind against me.

Here is what actually happened, though I will discuss it without going into all the details due to time constraints in a forum like this. Hopefully, though, I will provide enough information and details for those who read this post so they will understand why I made the decision I felt I had to make.

After my ex divorced me a second time (I married her twice and she divorced me twice, a story all in itself), the process of alienation between myself and my daughters gradually began to rear its ugly head. What is critical at this point in the story is how blindsided I was to the entire process. It was years in the making, this slow separation that occurred between my children and I, happening so gradual, in fact, that I failed to understand exactly what was happening. It was, I believe, only after we were hopelessly separated the second time that I, after desperately trying to figure out what happened, came upon PAS doing an internet search.

One of the reasons that makes PAS so insidious is that it is a relatively recent phenomena. Here is an insightful statement from an article on Wiki:

“The term parental alienation is derived from parental alienation syndrome, a term introduced by Richard Gardner in 1985 to describe a set of behaviors that he had observed in children exposed to family separation or divorce whereby children rejected or showed what he interpreted as unwarranted negative feelings towards one of their parents.”

As the articles states, “The idea that children may be turned against one of their parents, or may reject a parent unjustifiably during family breakdown, has been recognized for centuries.” But PAS takes this turning of children against one parent to an entirely new level which seems to have blossomed almost in conjunction when “no fault divorces” found increasing acceptance and popularity in America.

I don’t want to get sidetracked here, so please allow me to give just this snippet amount of history and commentary on PAS and move on with my story. What I suggest to those who are reading this post, if they desire more information on the background of PAS, to read through my other articles in this “Divorce and PAS” section which will get you going in the right direction.

It was clear to me that I was losing my children; I could literally see this slow but certain transformation happening with their attitude of turning against me. Again, it was slow at first, almost imperceptible, but the gradual hardening of their hearts against me was clear and certain. As time progressed and I was flummoxed as to what was actually happening, this hardening process quickly increased till it came to a breaking point.

Again, I won’t go into all the details of how this break came about because it would take too long, but one specific event happened where, with a heart that was broken beyond comprehension, I had to let my daughters go.

And I have already given you the background in the story of what happened to me with the homosexual pedophile, for this event scarred me to such an extent that it contributed to setting the stage for my reasons for dropping out of my children’s lives.

My youngest daughter (let’s call her “Aimie”) seemed to be taking the divorce the hardest of my three children (all girls). What I mean by this is she exhibited the most intense anger and hatred against me and reacted with the most emotional backlash and greatest degree of disrespect. This one time sweet, curious, lovable, creative, boisterous, fun-loving little eight or nine year old girl who I immensely delighted in and adored, and who loved me, came to a point where she sat on one of my leather overstuffed chairs in my living room and looked at me with astonishing unbridled hatred and venom, tossing one or two cuss words at me. It was shocking and unbelievable behavior that I had never seen her rise to this intense level before.

Before this particular outburst, of course, I had seen similar behavior expressed in increasing disrespectful behavior and a hardening of her emotions and feelings towards me—and not only with her, but with her older sisters as well. But Aimie concerned me the most, for she began exhibiting such intense malice towards me that I become concerned that my safety might be at risk when she was with me. I even put my guns in a safe place in my house and hid them from her and went so far as to lock my bedroom door at night just in case she acted out on her rage and do something violent to me while I slept, like stab or shoot me. Crazy thinking, I know, but true.

After her display of pure malice while she sat on the leather chair, I told her she could not speak to me this way and sent her to her bedroom to cool off, which she shared with her older sister. She complied, and then, to my horror, when I walked in later to check on her, I found she had opened the window, broke through or bent the screen, dropped down to the ground, climbed up over a four or five foot privacy wall that enclosed a small front patio, and ran away!

(It’s important that I inform my readers that this venomous hatred from Aimie was part of the brainwashing she and her sisters were suffering at the hands of my ex wife. I’m not blaming them for these emotions and do not wish to have anyone accuse me of putting them on a guilt trip for their actions and feelings. I’m simply reporting the facts, understanding they were victims manipulated by a pathological and lying con artist. This is what PAS is all about.)

I cannot describe my emotions when this happened. A primal fear gripped the very core of my soul and shook me to my roots. It was like I went into a fog where I could not think or see straight, and I think my vision even blurred. I was momentarily paralyzed, not able to comprehend that my little girl had run away, taken off, and to who knows where.

You see, I knew what could happen to her. You read my story above. But the things that happened to children and teen-agers like myself back in the middle 1970’s were nothing compared to what was happening then: child sex trafficking, human trafficking, murders, rape and mutilations of young girl’s, etc.

My townhouse was not in a bad neighborhood, but the area surrounding our complex, outside of its borders, was a busy one. The Foothills Mall, a major shopping/retail center with a Wal-Mart next to it, was just to the west of our townhouse community, within walking distance.

There was a main street, La Canada, not more than four or five houses away to the east and she could have reached that street in seconds from our house where she ran away from. There was another busier street, Magee, just to the north which she could also reach in less than five minutes or so. All this to say, we did not live out in the sticks some where in relative isolation but in the midst of a busy metropolitan city.

Thankfully, my ex also lived in this townhouse development, on the same street, 14 or 15 town homes from mine, but around the curve, closer to the other much busier street, Magee. But my mind was so screwed up with fear and irrational thinking at that point that I don’t think I considered she would naturally go there, which she did.

I believe I called the police, but even now, almost 20 years later after that fateful moment, I still shudder at the thought and I can’t remember the details. She had done the one thing that my mind simply could not properly deal with and I was paralyzed with dread and fear of her being picked up by some pervert, becoming another child statistic of some kind of abominable crime…like what almost happened to me those decades ago.

In fact, that event is so traumatic to my mind that I’m possibly forgetting some important details. My other daughter Michelle may have ran away after Aimie did, maybe the same day, but I can’t remember. But for some reason, I only distinctly remember that I, for some reason, only had Aimie with me that particular afternoon and her other sister was not there. But again, I could be wrong in my memory which still, to this day, can bring back trauma.

Looking back, all Aimie did was run or walk to her mom’s house around the corner, about a four or five minute walk or so from my place to my ex’s. But what is so important to this story is that I never let my kids out of my sight when they were with me, even when I was married to their mom. I watched them like hawks because I knew that child abductions could happen in seconds, anywhere, at any time. And though she went to her mom’s house, she went by herself without anyone with her, and this was unacceptable to me.

Maybe some people will read this and say, “Roy, you are blowing this all out of proportion. You’re letting paranoid fears cloud your mind and rob you of rational thinking.” Honestly, I can care less what anybody thinks about me and the decisions I made in this situation, and paranoid or not, every parent has to decide for themselves what their comfort zone is concerning their own children. All I know is what I went through in my life and how that, and many other things, shaped and molded me into the parent I am today.

After the dust settled and I knew Aimie was safely home, I talked with her about this. She told me, again for the hundredth time, she did not want to see me any longer and did not want to come over to my house. The same old song and dance imprinted on her mind from the brainwashing she was receiving. But this time, she said if I forced her to come over, she would run away each and every time.

I finally died at this point. It was the last dying gasp of a ruined, defeated father. Every primal and irrational fear I had deeply buried in my troubled past came to the forefront and I knew I could never risk her running away again. It was too much for me to emotionally handle. I had to let them both go. Better, far better, they stay safe at their mom’s house where I did not believe they would run away and, to keep them safe, I agreed they would no longer have to come over.

By the grace of God, I had escaped from that pedophile decades prior. Though I was only 15 or 16 years old at the time and scrawny, I was a tough kid, athletic, and in decent physical strength. But what chance would my tiny Aimie have against such a criminal as I had to face in that car so long ago? Could she break free from an adult male pervert grabbing her legs? Would she have the needed strength to push open and break free a large, heavy stuck door, like I did? And would a criminal who had her in his car, if she did manage to escape, would he have let her get away like that perv let me go, or would he have ran after her, taking her prisoner and maybe beating her to death on the spot in some sex-fueled rage?

The facts are, no, she would not have been able to escape that type of situation like I was able to. She’s a little girl, without the strength of a teenaged boy who was familiar with physical violence against him and had got to the point where he wouldn’t take it any longer. She never had to face such abuse so she had not steeled her mind against it, nor had to develop a “fight or die” mentality like I did. She would absolutely not be able to deal with an attacker like I dealt with mine because she was far younger, was a little girl, and did not possess the strength to fend off an attacker like I did…and I didn’t have much strength at the time either, but certainly more than she possessed.

The chance of her being harmed, raped, murdered, or sold into sexual slavery by running away was statistically far more possible than what I faced, and even my chances in that particular circumstance was not promising. I was fortunate to escape—lucky even—but the few things that added to my ability to escape (my being older, stronger, male, familiar with abuse, etc.) were not a deciding factor with Aimie. She would be a sitting duck.

I could not allow her or her sister to ever get in a situation like this again. And I knew, from experience, that the first time you run away is always the hardest and the scariest; but like anything else, you get used to something the more times you attempt it. I did not want her to “get used to” running away because each time you get a little more savvy and familiar with the process. “Running away” was a door I did not want her to walk through or become familiar with opening, becoming a viable option to get away from having to spend time with me.

My ex wife had finally won. Her victory was now complete. There was no possible way I would create a situation for my daughters that would cause them to risk running away again. And if the situation that prompted them to do this—by coming over to my house to spend time with me—was the cause of their running away, logically I would remove that cause from their lives, even if it meant I would no longer see them.

I understood, at least partially, the consequences of doing this. I knew it was not the best choice for any of us, especially for my daughters. But what could I do? I did the only thing I felt I could do for their safety: agree to their incessant demands I no longer be a part of their lives or risk them being raped, murdered, or kidnapped by perverts or sex traffickers if they hit the streets as runaways.

I don’t think I saw my girls much, if at all, after this. It was over. Again, my memory is so messed up, so traumatized, I can no longer remember the details, but this was the end of my relationship with my kids.

Almost 20 years later, I ask myself, would I have done anything differently? I honestly don’t know. But again, Aimie, and I believe Michelle, her older sister, both told me they would run away if they were forced to see me. I knew, of course, from my own past, from my own experience as a runaway, that if kids are intent on running away, nothing can ultimately stop them from doing so. At some point, an opportunity will present itself and they will take advantage of it if that is their desire.

I think I would have made the same decision if faced with the exact same circumstances today. In actuality, it was the only decision I could make. I’ve learned you cannot force someone to love or spend time with you. It must be voluntary. My kids had told me more times than I could remember that they did not want to spend time with me nor come over for my parenting time. It was a slow death, constantly going back-and-forth, until that fateful day when the final blow was struck and I was knocked out of the ring, down for the count, beaten to a bloody pulp.

And this is how a partial truth like what Michelle said so long ago, that I had abandoned them, has a ring of truth to it. Did I want to? No, of course not. But for every action there is a reaction, as the old saying goes, and I guess, the unintended and unforeseen consequences of me saying good-bye to my daughters was that I would not be there for them when they needed me the most. Life, as most people have probably figured out, can be hellish, pure and simple. A living, depressing and dark nightmare of unprecedented proportions.

For those children or adults, affected by PAS, I would like to say, “There is always two sides, at least, to every story. If one of your parents is out of your life and you have never sat down with him or her and heard their side of the divorce story, you are unable to understand what happened to you and why things turned out the way they did. Your puzzle is missing lots of pieces, and you are not hearing the total truth but a manipulated version of that truth filled with countless colors of deception and outright lies. And if you ever want to know the complete truth, to complete the puzzle, you need to hear their side. It’s as simple as that. They hold the missing pieces of your puzzle.”

I have been forced to search for a silver lining to this dark cloud that cast such a deep shadow over our lives. Though I lost all contact with my children, I do not believe they ever ran away from their mom’s house. This means they were not roaming the streets by themselves, at risk for being abducted or harmed by the inevitable consequences of living as a runaway. I find comfort in this, and though it does not bring me all the comfort I have yearned for through this terrible situation, it does provide some hope that I made the right decision. Of course, I could be wrong, and perhaps there were better alternatives, but at this point in my life, I can’t see any other choices than the one I was forced to make to keep them safe, to keep them off the streets and becoming runaways like I had been.

Shortly after this, I dropped into the worst depression of my life. Sitting one afternoon on the leather sofa, drinking a beer all by myself, right next to the one my daughter had sat on when she looked at me with such hatred in her eyes, I thought, for the first and only time in my life, of committing suicide. Never in my life before or since then have I had such a thought, but losing my daughters was something that almost put me over the edge.

Like I mentioned above, I still have little, if any, contact with my daughters. It has taken me almost 20 years before I have been able to speak or write about some of the issues that happened back then. I have found a small amount of peace, but wounds such as parents and children receive when they go through such dark times can never be fully healed. It is an unfortunate reality of divorce, and a particularly pernicious reality for victims of PAS.

But the old saying, “where there is life, there is hope“ provides some helpful perspective and needed comfort. My hope and fervent prayer is one day I might see and hug my daughters again, and that they, too, would receive the healing and understanding they also so desperately need.