Jenn Richardson – One of the True-Blue Heroes
Special Release for Child Abuse Awareness Month
Written by Tracy Fricke
President and Founder of I Am A Survivor Photography
The more I meet new survivors, the more I realize how much we all have in common. We have come to the point of healing where we want to remember yesterday, embrace today, and envision tomorrow with goals and aspirations for our healing and the changes we want to see in society and our own lives. Similar characteristics intertwine our lives into one universal understanding of how child abuse has impacted our past but has also made an impact on our present lives. While our brains think logically, our hearts yearn for the normalcy that other people had in their happy and healthy homes growing up. And yet when we come together, we are the normal ones. The joys of meeting someone with so many similarities that set us apart from others, but bring us together with each other and we can finally feel accepted by someone who knows and understands us for just being us. We do not have to pretend to be someone else, hide our true feelings, or wear a mask of happiness when we truly feel frustrated, afraid and alone.
Jenn and Chris were so down to earth and I knew from the moment I got out of the car, that there was a positive feeling around them that abuse survivors often detect when they trust another person. As an adult survivor of child sexual assault, physical and mental abuse, as well as neglect before I was 7 years old, my body is in constant fight or flight and prepared at any moment to take on a stressful situation even when one does not exist. Growing up, I never knew what was going to happen day to day, moment to moment actually, and so therefore my little body in order to survive had to be on constant alert for someone or something to hurt me.
I will admit once I got out of the car, I had to question my surrounding a bit and double check with Jenn and Chris that they were not mass murderers as we met in a park offset of the road, surrounded by trees, a bridge with running water and nothing else. Not another human being in sight so would be the perfect place to murder someone so I though I would just double check that they were not going to hide my body in the woods. After they assured me that I was safe, we went ahead and starting taking pictures throughout the beautiful scenery. Meeting strangers is always a bit awkward in the beginning as you begin to form your judgements of their personality and vice versa with them forming a judgement about me, I am sure. The more we walked and talked, the more comfortable we felt with one another. At an earlier time in our communications, Jenn had spoken with me about her child abuse story and we were waiting until everyone on her side knew before we shared with I Am A Survivor Photography members and the rest of Facebook and the world.
Jenn’s stepdad came into her life at the age of 4 and filled the void of her biological father. Her stepdad taught her to tie her shoes, count money, tell time, and write her name. Jenn really felt like her soon to be stepdad loved her, as he was a part of her life but he was not her father yet. He did so much for her that even her mother felt comfortable keeping him in their lives and they later married when Jenn was 8 years old.
At 8 years old, everything in the relationship between Jenn and her stepfather changed for the worse. He began to ask her inappropriate questions like what is a “bj” or if she knew what a lesbian was and many other inappropriate, awkward questions for an 8-year-old child. He also began asking an 8-year-old neighbor girl the same questions and the other child went and told the school and named Jenn when she told. The school contacted children services, the sheriff, and her mother. Jenn remembered being questioned by the advocates of social services asking if she had been touched on parts of her body and since the touching had not come yet, she answered truthfully and said no. Her stepdad was kicked out of the house for two weeks but then her mom allowed him to come back.
Jenn said after he came back, he must have felt like he was off the hook because now he wanted her to start taking baths in front of him. She said that he would light a candle and let her play with her bath toys, while he just sat and watched her. Her mom was working the 2nd shift so Jenn was left alone with her stepdad in the evening hours. He began touching her by wanting to touch her breasts and her behind but was careful not to mess with any part of her vaginal area. Jenn said that from ages 8 to 12, things escalated very slowly. As they escalated, her stepdad would begin to have her measure his penis with a measuring tape. He would make her pay him compliments on his genitals and if she did not repeat what he said, he would slap her in the face with his penis.
At the age of 12, he began making her give him oral any chance he could almost on a daily basis while he was rubbing on her chest telling her he was going to have to beat the boys off with a stick. Jenn said that sometimes her mom would be home but he would catch her in the basement or while her mom was in the shower. He manipulated Jenn and told her if she told anyone, the authorities would come and take her little brother away, which was his son with her mom. He lied and told her that her mother knew and did not care because Jenn was a “known” liar after the first accusations and nothing came out of it so no one would believe her now. Shortly after, he began entering her bedroom at night and then after he left, she could hear him having sex with her mom.
As Jenn got older and became a teenager, he became more aggressive because she now knew that what he was doing was wrong. He then started buying her presents, t shirts, iced coffee and giving her money to hang with her friends even if her mom said no. He would argue for her to be able to do anything she wants to do even if her mom did not want her to do something. When she was almost 16, her mom yelled at her because she had found a note on the floor that was supposed to go to Jenn’s friend. In the note, she was sharing with her friend what her stepdad was doing and saying whatever messed up thing he had done the night before. Her friend was a rape victim so Jenn trusted her and she was an outlet for Jenn. Her mom appeared to be in shock over the note she was reading and the accusations Jenn was making against her stepfather.
Then her mom decided to leave her stepdad and he would continue to call and try and convince Jenn to tell her mom and everyone else that she was lying so he could return to the house. Jenn was given a polygraph and passed and he was given two polygraph tests that came back inconclusive. The detective told her was yelling and screaming and pulling no stops at trying to plead for his innocence. Unfortunately, after everything was said and done, it was Jenn’s word against her stepfather so it all became crickets, nothing ever happened and charges were not pressed against her stepfather.
Jenn begged to go and live with her Bio Dad but he wanted nothing to do with her and was an alcoholic.
After talking about her story, Jenn is currently working on her relationship with her mother and rebuilding the trust and communication they once had in order to find peace in a terrible situation for Jenn in childhood but a potential for a future with her mother. She and Chris are so wonderful for each and you can see and hear how much Chris truly loves his wife. He came from a different upbringing and has daughters of his own so he has a difficult time understanding how or why anyone would want to hurt or abuse their daughter. While Jenn and I share so many similar characteristics of an abused child who shows little to no emotion while sharing our stories, his wife’s story brings Chris to tears as he wants to protect the woman he loves from the man who brought her so much pain and was supposed to be her protector. Jenn has made leaps and bounds in her recovery over the years and is ready to take steps to begin helping other survivors of child abuse. She is beautiful, courageous and a wonderful mom despite all odds of repeating a cycle, she has knowingly taken steps to make sure her kids are safe and well aware of their surrounding and how adults should protect children and not cause them harm. She has found the perfect protector and companion in her husband who has his wife and family’s needs first. I loved meeting both of them and seeing what true love looks like and how her children and family are the start of a new generation and the end of the cycle of abuse.
Thank you Jenn and Chris and I look forward to our future photo sessions with the family and our continued relationship. I truly know that I have found two new friends in my life and a fellow survivor to grow in this life with into a bright future.