Jason speaks with Kristen, a mother, wife and outspoken advocate from Michigan. Kristen bravely shares her family’s story of harm, both within her family and as a result of the criminal legal process that denied them the healing that they earnestly sought. Themes explored include interfamilial sexual abuse, generational trauma, family separation, incarceration, restorative justice, aspirations for reconciliation, primary prevention and more.
Resources discussed include the Safer Society Press, Stop It Now, the Children’s Advocacy Center, and Therapy with Harming Father's, Victimized Children and Their Mothers After Parental Child Sexual Assault.
For more information on efforts to revise Michigan’s public registration scheme, visit https://www.aclumich.org/en/SORA.
[00:00:00] Intro: Everyone has a voice. A story to tell. Some are marginalized and muted. What if there were a way to amplify those stories, to have conversations with real people in real communities. A way to help them step into the power of their lived experience? Welcome, To Amplified Voices, a podcast lifting the experiences of people and families impacted by the criminal legal system. Together, we can create positive change for everyone.
[00:00:27] Jason: All right, welcome. Our guest is a woman by the name of Kristen. I recently heard testify at a public hearing in Michigan over Zoom, and I thought would make a perfect guest and I asked her and she said Yes, thankfully, and thank you, Kristen and good morning.
[00:00:51] Kristen: Yeah, Good morning, Jason. I'm actually really excited to be here. Being able to talk and share my story is something that's healing to me. My name is Kristen. I'm a wife and a mother. I have a bunch of Children and I don't know thinking about talking about me. There's so many things. I love babies. I love Children. I love mothering. I love my family. My husband and I ran a small business, which was a website, and ah and I've been pretty passionate about that, running that for 14 years now. And until we were impacted by the criminal justice system, I really felt kind of like I had a great life, almost a storybook life, even if there's stress with having a lot of rambunctious kids. But I've always been kind of passionate and out spoken, but I never really saw the direction that my life would go or what would impact it. But, yeah, I'm really happy to be here and just kind of to share my perspective as a wife and a mom.
[00:01:47] Jason: Awesome. So you're in Michigan? Did you grow up in Michigan, You guys grew up with Michigan.
[00:01:52] Kristen: My husband grew up in Michigan, but I grew up in the South. So I was born in Georgia, grew up in South Carolina, and we came here because this is where he's from.
[00:02:01] Jason: So tell the listeners a little bit about why you were testifying and what you said.
[00:02:09] Kristen: So I was testifying against the House bill. That is so. Michigan has a registry, just like many states for people who have committed sexual offenses, and Michigan's registry has come under a lot of fire and the sixth Circuit Judge Cleland has said that many aspects of the registry are unconstitutional and Michigan needs to change it. So there's been a lot of work over the past, I guess probably almost four years at this point since this has been ongoing and Judge Cleland finally kind of said, You guys need to figure this out So there was a lot of discussion and coming to the table about that, and then this House representative in March, at literally in the early days of the pandemic, just kind of slipped this revised registry bill in under, like under everybody's, you know, kind of under the table. I guess it felt really sleazy, to be honest, and it's really bad. I don't feel like it addresses what the judge says, and I felt the need to testify about that because my family has been and will continue to be directly impacted by that. And what I said is, I'm coming from a pretty unique perspective. I think I think they're I know, because when you refuse to sit down and shut up, you find out that you're not alone. But I know that there are other women in my position and other women and my daughter's positions. So our situation is unique. As I said before the House subcommittee, I'm the wife of a survivor of sexual abuse, and I am the mother of a survivor of sexual abuse. And I didn't say this to the House committee, but actually reflecting on it further and most of the daughter of a survivor of sexual abuse on an intra familial sexual abuse for all of those. So it's been interesting for me because, as you can guess, with my daughter being a victim of intra familial sexual abuse, it was my husband who did the harm and we came to the place, and I'm sure that Jason will get into this a little bit more. But we came to the place where we decided that as a family. We were working with our local Children's advocacy center, which has been a wonderful support for us. Everybody in the family was getting counseling except for my husband, which is another topic. But you know, the therapist kind of signaled that she and I were thinking in a similar way. Both of us really wanted to explore forgiveness, healing a level of restorative justice rather than just throwing him away. I like Stop It Now, which is an advocacy organization, they say when you love them both, and that's kind of the position that I found myself in. And so for us, our experience with the criminal legal system, as I like to call it because there's no justice in it, has been terrible. It was a system that cared really Only about convictions and numbers and nothing about healing. And I'm sad to say, But I feel like people need to know that most survivors don't find any healing in it, even if they may desire more than what we wanted. So it's as far as you know, quote unquote punishment goes so that, you know, we didn't find any healing. And for us, the registry represents a life long barrier to the possibility of healing. And it's not based on anything. I'm kind of analytical. I'm a researcher, and I started asking questions kind of as I started coming out of the shock and the fog. You're getting me years into this, so at first I was definitely in a dark place. a really terrible place and in a fog. But I started asking questions and researching and discovered that, you know, the registry just doesn't work. And to me it distracts from what is most important, which is primary prevention. Because when I look at what happened in my family, what happened to my husband, how he was treated when he tried to disclose his abuse many years ago, and then what happened to him as he went in a downward spiral after losing his job, which is no excuse for what he did. But it is important to start trying to explain it, because we have to explain it if we want to prevent it in the future.
[00:06:11] Jason: You've put a lot out there. I want to just pause for a minute. So a couple of thoughts before we talk about your husband I had a couple questions specific to what you just said. One of the things that struck me and a couple other people I know were tweeting about it after you spoke. When you testified, the response you got from the legislator from the person who is running the hearing. Do you want to share what that was?
[00:06:37] Kristen: Yeah, that was Representative Filler. And he is the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and he told me to “have a nice day,” and it was just I guess when you think about the impact of what I'm saying and I'm first of all, you know, the vulnerability that's inherent in coming before a public committee and sharing a story that's really quite terrible and tragic And then, you know, for him to tell me to have a nice day to me, it signaled, you know, is this person even listening? Is he even to and just even understand
[00:07:11] Jason: you were so emotional. And you put it all out there and you shared that. You shared stories of abuse in your family. You shared all of this, and the response to me just didn't seem human. And that's what. But that's not the first and last time that that's ever happened, right? Yeah. So anyway, I just have to pause. So you are saying you're husband actually was looking for help. Tell me a little bit about that. What happened when this is before this latest incident that, uh, that could have been prevented Let's put it that way.
[00:07:46] Kristen: Yeah, I feel that way. Yes. So, um so this happened well before we were married when he was a young man and he went into the service, he went into the Air Force and he actually he had two different incidents where he tried to disclose and get help. One was when he was in basic training, which, you know, is we know, even with Air Force basic training, supposedly being the easiest, it's still a test of endurance. Physically, mentally, emotionally. And he was really struggling. And so they had him. See, I guess a counselor or somebody like that. Um while he was in basic training and he tried to disclose their and was basically told you, no, buck up and drive on. You'll be OK. And then later he tried to disclose again in the context of the service. And I feel like today this would probably be treated differently because the military probably has protocols in place now. But then they just told them, you know, get over it. And he tried. Like I said, he tried to disclose. He said, You know, I want to work on this and handle this, and I'm scared. He actually said I'm scared. You know what? Could I ever do this… be like my dad? And he was told No, Just because you're worried about it means that it'll never happen and you'll be OK. And so he kind of let you know, we kind of let the matter drop at that point and just he never really dealt with it. I knew going into our marriage that this had happened because he shared with me that his family was just very messed up. I mean, he was physically, emotionally, sexually abused. His dad had a live-in mistress, And, uh so he was living with his mom, a live in mistress, all of the combined children thereof. And many. We don't know if all of the children were sexually abused because not all have disclosed, but we know that many of them were, um and he watched his mom and his, uh I guess for all intents and purposes, a step mom being, you know, physically abused. So he had a rough childhood, and he never got help to process. That and I do feel like if he had had the attention. Now that I see is being given, for example, to my own children by the CAC, I don't think that this would have happened or even if he had started on a downward spiral after his layoff, um, he would have been better equipped to know how to get help rather than believing that it doesn't do any good to reach out for help.
[00:10:05] Jason: And so how many years ago are we talking about?
[00:10:09] Kristen: So he went into the service in the early eighties, so it's been a while
[00:10:13] Jason: and earlier. I can't remember if I just asked you about what actually happened or if you want to share that. If you don't, that's fine.
[00:10:20] Kristen: Yes, so I well, I mean, I walked in. I was I was working part time at that point, um, with a job that had late night hours, and I got home unexpectedly early and walked in to find him and our eldest child in our bedroom. Um and ah, and I am Ah, she ran out of the room and I immediately began physically attacking my husband because, you know, that was just my first response and to make a long story short. Like I said, it was the middle of the night. At the time, one of our children was still a baby. Um, but I kicked him out of the house that night. I don't know where he went. I think he just sat in the van, but I locked the doors, wouldn't let him in. I took the house keys from him, and he just he just went. He did say a few things, Um, that now, like when both of us look back or, you know, he says that he had been lying to himself for a long time about what he was doing and kind of justifying. And so I made some of those comments, but he never blamed her. Um, and I think he didn't perceive that he was hurting her. So when I say that he had things that were thinking errors, so to speak, you know, he was kind of justifying it wasn't hurting her. Um, and so anyways, I kicked him out. And then early in the early hours of the morning because, like I said, it was the middle of the night when all this went down. Um, I loaded all the kids up and Ah, and just drove away. I contacted a friend and she said that I could go to her church. I did allow him. He asked before we left, if he could say something to our daughter and he told me what he wanted to say. And I did allow him to say that while I was in the driver's seat. She was in the passenger seat, and so he said it across the driver's seat standing by my window, and he told her nothing that has happened is your fault. And nothing that will happen is your fault. Um, and a lot of people told us he would change for that as we got into legal processes. But he never did. And he never has. So again, I drove to this church and was basically told you. No, you got to call 911. I was still shell shocked. You know, my entire life, it's literally the worst day of my life. I can't imagine anything ever being Yeah, so I mean, even if I were to lose one of my daughters and I can't imagine that being worse than that day. So anyways, I called 911 and I mean, in many ways, that day is a blur. But in many ways, that still crystal clear. And I just, you know, I had had the chance to confront my husband a little bit, so I already knew what he said. He disclosed immediately that had been going on for almost two years. Um, starting when I had I gone out of town because my mom had a stroke and I was gone for a couple weeks while she was in the I C U, which brings whole new levels of like trauma to me to imagine that. But I think, as my attorney later said, it was like a perfect storm of trauma and tragedy that basically happened. And I think that's what it was. But, you know, I just kind of complied with, uh with answering all of the sheriff's deputies questions. They came. They arrested him later that day.
[00:13:23] Jason: and we talked about this is this is a couple years ago,
[00:13:26] Kristen: Yeah, they raided the house, which was another. I mean the violations just continually stacked up.
[00:13:36] Jason: What was the point of raiding the house?
[00:13:38] Kristen: They wanted all the computers. OK, so we're kind of a geeky family. So just that year four older kids, we home school and we had gotten tablets for them to be able to use for some of their school work, and I mean, they took everything. They took every computer. Like I said, we ran a family business, a website. They took everything, including the server for the business, which the sheriff's department then destroyed and cost me $100 to rebuild. I got no help for any of the property that they destroyed, which was a significant amount. In fact, was so significant that when I I did, ah, cost sheet to kind of tally how much this is all cost our family and to project how much it will. Because then we can talk about this later to my daughter, and I got the chance to speak with our lieutenant governor about our experience. But I tally this up and one of my sons said, Mom, make sure that you know how much it cost you to replace the computer equipment that the Sheriff's Department destroyed. And to me, you know that my that my teenage son, you know, years on into this remembers how devastating that was. Says something, you know. And so and he was They were here, right in the house. I and my daughter were being grilled. I mean, I feel like they kind of tried to do it compassionately, but, you know, you're still being grilled. You just don't know anything, even for victims. Anything you say can and will be used against you. And I say that and people just brush it off. But the reality is they used our own words to deny us what we asked for healing later and that, you know, that really hurts.
[00:15:06] Jason:So you go from this day of complete shock where you're running away from the situation, right? Because you've got to get out of there. You must have had some really negative, horrible thoughts against your husband. And so you're at that point, you're probably shaking and in shock. And then you go to today where you're testifying and there's some journey that happens. You've got changes in the way you think about your husband you've got changes in the way you think about what's going on in what you call the criminal legal system, and you're a very outspoken advocate. Something has happened in that journey. So let's talk a little about your mind.
[00:15:49] Kristen: Yeah, and I think, I mean, I think it's an important discussion. So I could say that early on there were two points. Probably that were kind of maybe watershed moments for me. One was sitting at the Children's Advocacy Center across the table from the CPS person who has ended up becoming not my least favorite person on the planet, cause that would be a prosecutor but one of my least favorite people. Because she just you know, she didn't listen. But, you know, I was . this was early on. It must have been only a week or two after it happened, though I don't remember exactly. And I was still shell shocked like completely shell shocked because that one of the keys to understand is my husband, was a good dad, and that sounds, I guess, really contradictory when you think about you know he was abusing our daughter. But it's true. I mean he was an excellent father. And so I'm like, you know, there's all this conflicting stuff and he was my best friend, too. So you know, this person that I loved and adored and was a great dad, he you know, we worked on our business together, and I think I feel like in hindsight, that's one of the mistakes. I wish that we had had him look for another job after he was laid off when his company was purchased and then he was laid off. It's redundant. So I wish we'd had him look for another job rather than trying to boost the business, which was really my website kind of my baby, so to speak. I think having him help on it was fine, but it wasn't enough for him. I didn't understand how dramatically men are impacted by careers and career changes in loss of job and had been with the bank for 23 years, so that's pretty profound.
[00:17:28] Jason: I mean it is it is something. That’s his identity, you know, and I'm not here to talk about my story, but losing a job certainly played into my mental state when I went off the rails. So again, is it work? And mental health?
[00:17:45] Kristen: Yeah. Yeah, when I think about it, I guess I think, well, how would it impact me if somebody took my kids for me? Because my identity is really mother. And I know that probably the way that I feel the most hurt by all of our proceedings was when I, as a mother, was deemed irrelevant to the court system. That hurts. And so I think about, you know, I know for men work. This is an identity like that. So, again, I, uh I didn't understand a lot, but
[00:18:11] Jason: I mean again, I don't wanna, um I want you to come back to telling that, but I just want to make the point that right now, where we're seeing record unemployment in the last how many years, it's just hard to imagine what might be going on right now in homes. And so you may be hearing your story and checking in It's thousands might be something that's pretty, uh, important, right?
[00:18:33] Kristen: Yeah, and I really, I do. I mean, and that touches on primary prevention, which is I think we should be in every community talking to every man. I think there should be billboards in every community for organizations like One In Six Dot Org's, which is an organization that helps male survivors of sexual abuse first. Stop It Now and there should be a billboard saying, you know, if you're stressed, if you're hurting, you know you can get help. And in some ways, I feel like they should start those P. S. A.s should target men in particular because women are more likely to reach out for help. And I feel like in many ways, and it's a good thing women have much more support. But I think the more direct with men and find messaging that helps them know that you know there’s strength in reaching out for help, and that they can find they’re worthy of healing. And I feel like all of that focus is on primary prevention. And that's my goal so this not happening in other families.
[00:19:22] Jason: Absolutely. Yes. So you were talking about how you got from a to b.
[00:19:25] Kristen: Yeah. So what I was saying is I was you know, I was still so overwhelmed that I can remember sitting across from the CPS agent and I asked her will the kids be able to visit him and, you know, again, this was when I was just still in a real fog and so I don't know that there was any like there wasn't any really logical. I'm a very like logical reasoning type person. But in that statement, there just wasn't. It was just He's a good dad. Oh, my gosh, they're not going to see their dad. He's not going to see them. And she was like, she attacked me. I actually found out that later on she went behind my back and talk to the psychologist at the C. A. C. to make sure you know that I was OK, which really, that kind of hurts. But I'm grateful that I had strong allies because the psychologist was like this mom is just totally okay. But anyways, but she said to me, right then, you know he's a monster, and that kind of, you know, that was like but he's not a monster, you know, he's not some. What he did was monstrous, but he's not much so there was like that cognitive dissonance, I guess. And that, like I said, that was only a couple of weeks into things. But then I know that this next thing happened six weeks in because I can remember telling the psychologist I haven't spoken to my husband six weeks because another thing that they did was they wouldn't let he and I talk. Well, I’m and at first, like in the first few days, first couple weeks, I didn't want to talk to him. I was terrified of him because you know who is this person? But, you know, as the weeks went on, a kind of I wanted to talk, you know, we had unfinished business, if nothing more. But they wouldn't let us speak. So I knew that he had been sexually abused. And so the question that kept coming up in my mind was, how could he have done this to our teenager if he knew how bad it had hurt him? So that question just kept coming up again and again and again. And when you're in a trauma situation like nothing's normal, I couldn't sleep, and so I would spend time just, you know, online Googling trying to figure out what happened in my family. Had this happened, why did this happen? Which I still don't have a good answer to that. You know, you can logically kind of understand the factors that went in. But nothing will ever be a satisfying why? So I was searching and I came across Safer Society Press, which publishes pretty wonderful resource, is for mostly for psychologists who are working with people who have harmed sexually and also some for, like, partners and that kind thing. But they had a listing on their website of psychologists to work with men who have harmed sexually and lo and behold, there was one in my city. When I went to Michigan, I found one in my city, and I called his office the next morning. And because, you know, I was hearing like I was hearing the CPS worker. He's, you know, your husband is a monster and the prosecutor, your husband is a monster and that just it didn't add up, But I still didn't understand. Like I knew he didn't do this because he was a monster. But I didn't understand why he did it, so I called and I always say at this point, it's a God thing. Um, because I got this. I got the psychologist secretary and she told me I will take a message of having call you back. We had a cancellation the next hour and he called me back, so he had a cancellation the hour before his lunch. And so we ended up talking for almost two hours, like across that cancellation and across this lunch hour. And he just brought a very different perspective of why a man may sexually harm. And that kind of started me thinking. And I already like I already knew that I didn't believe that he was a monster. And like I said, this was, this is my best friend and I knew that he had been harmed and a child.
[00:22:59] Jason: And now, now, coming into this before you met that man, you live in a societ, you live in a world where we've been told that once somebody does something, they're going to do it again and again and again, and that there's just something that there's the other right, that there's a certain type of person that does this sort of thing And then there's everybody else. And we need to separate those people as monsters. Like the prosecutor who told you that he's a monster, right? And so there's the monster and he's over there. And then there's everybody else is good and good and you're good until you're found doing something. And then you're a monster. So you had that in your in your mindset going into this right? But it didn't fit. Sounds like it didn't fit when thinking about your husband and your loved one. He didn't fit the mold.
[00:23:44] Kristen: Yeah, because I knew that he wasn't a monster. You know, I knew. One thing that's interesting to me is like I mentioned. I'm also the daughter of a survivor. My mom is a survivor of intra familial sexual abuse. Um, even when she was much younger than my daughter, and also my husband's abuse was when was starting from when he was a young child into his teenage years and then my mom's father actually ended up dying in a car accident- that I never met him. He died when she was a teenager and, you know, I knew that my mom hated what he had done. But one of the things that, like cognitively, I never understood which she would also talk fondly about him and mentioned how she loved him or how she had happy memories of him. And I never really understood that because, you know, of course, he was a horrible monster. Um, but then when this happened in my family and when I got a little ways away from it, it was like a light bulb went on, because the reality is is that he was a hurting man who abused her. But he wasn't. He wasn't a monster. He wasn't like all monster that, like you said, the notion that our society has that there's us, you are, you know, fundamentally pretty good people who we make some mistakes, but they're you know, they're not that bad. And then there's these other people who are just monsters. You know, we hold to that, but the truth is, is it's not true, and I don't think anybody wants. And I think this is one of the reasons why sexual abuse is under reported and we don't focus on primary prevention is because nobody wants to believe that the person that they love is that quote unquote monster. And so we really need to just change the dialogue in so many ways.
[00:25:19] Jason: Absolutely. So then you met with them. You started talking with him again, right?
[00:25:26] Kristen: When you say talking, talking with my husband or with the
[00:25:30] Jason: you're talking with your husband at that point, right?
[00:25:32] Kristen: OK, so actually, no. So I talked with the psychologist six weeks into all of this. I retained an attorney right away, just in case they try to come after me because I literally had no idea what was happening. And it took me a few attorneys to find a good one. But I found one who I ended up becoming very grateful for. But my attorney arranged for us to have a meeting at the jail with his attorney. And after I talked to the psychologist, I decided to retain an attorney for him. He had a public defender before then. And another thing. I guess there's so many little details on a story. But another thing that struck me is my husband worked for a business for 23 years, yet relatively significant retirement assets. And ah, and so initially was denied a public defender, and I didn't see that. That was at his arraignment, which I didn't go to. But I went to every other hearing after that on and at the first hearing that I went to, which was before a magistrate. He got up there unrepresented and the magistrate asked him, why he didn't have counsel. And he said, I'm not going to spend my wife and my children's money on council defending me. And he actually tried to plead guilty right there. And the magistrate was like, no, we can't do this. I'm gonna contact the public defender for you. So you know, that said something to me right there. And the funny thing is, just like he didn't even realize I was I was in the courtroom for a while, cause I looked pretty rough. I lhad just had a baby. At that point, I hadn't lost a lot of the baby weigh. I probably lost 60 pounds over the course of like, eight weeks just because of the trauma, you know? But so I was, you know, and I was just I'm sure that I looked exhausted because I wasn't sleeping, so it was like it was after he had already gotten up and talking that he was kind of starting to look around the courtroom, which was a smaller courtroom. And I, like, saw him recognize me. I don't think he was putting on a show or anything, but we haven't spoken about that, you know, that happened and all that impacted me. So my attorney set up for us, and this was this is probably eight weeks in that she set up just for us to kind of, like, try and tie up some loose ends. I guess I really don't even remember what all we talked about, but I had decided to retain an attorney for him at that point. So his attorney was there. My attorney was there. It was a very begrudging meeting in the jail. The jail did not want to let us have it, But, you know, I just kind of asked them about some logistical things. I probably have the list somewhere still, but I don't remember, But that meeting was very stilted, very structured, like we weren't really able to process anything. And of course, his attorney had told him, you know, don't you know? Don't say anything, cause even though in theory wasn't supposed to be recorded, he's like they could be recording this meeting. So after that, which that happened, I guess at the end of the May in that year, I didn't actually speak to him until after he entered his plea, which was in July. So I really hadn't spoken to him. He started sending his mother letters and she shared those with me, and I conveyed some information through those letters that she would send back to him. But we didn't have any direct communication. But like I said, we have the support of the C. A. C. psychologist at the C A. C began to signal to me basically that another. Another thing that I hate about this system is I felt scared to talk to my own daughter, which I resent, you know, those in in a way, I lost years because while my husband was abusing her, you know, there was a barrier in our relationship that we didn't even realize was there. And then I like that barrier got even wider because, especially as my feelings started to change. I didn't want them to go and say, oh, you're negatively influencing your daughter or, you know you're manipulating her. So I was almost scared to talk to her. And, um, we were working with the C A C and psychologist that the C A C was kind of signaling to me that she feels like you do, you know, because again, he was a good dad and we were a close knit family.
[00:29:26] Jason: I just want to clarify. So what you're saying is in your mind he went from this. I can't make sense of him being a monster, but I got to get away to now. This is the man that I love, and I gotta figure out what's going on.
Kristen: Yeah, but I still care about him.
Jason: And your daughter was having feelings like something wrong happened here, but I don't want to throw him out into the trash either.
Jason: but you were afraid to have that conversation with her because there were so many other parties involved. And you thought that you just don't have the freedom to actually talk with your own daughter?
[00:30:00] Kristen: Yeah. I mean, I was terrified that if I tried to talk with her, that especially CPS and the prosecutor, that at that point I didn't realize, like quite how antagonistic the prosecutor would become towards us. But, you know, I certainly was worried about CPS saying, you know, and then trying to take all my kids for me because you know, what could have been. The only thing that probably could have made that situation even worse was if they had tried to do that. I got a lot bolder, but at that point I was still, you know, really, I was scared. So I kind of hard communication about this, like hats, you know, cause we're still day to day living together and talking about things. But our communication about this topic had to be kind of through another party, which became the Children's Advocacy Center.
[00:30:48] Jason: Now what's the relationship between you and that daughter and you and your other children today?
[00:30:54] Kristen: Yeah, I would say we have a good relationship. You know, there's definitely been some rocky moments, some of which are related to what happened. Some of which are just cause she's a teenager about to launch. She's hoping to go to college in the fall, we’re praying that, you know things, are stable enough for her to go to college. But I would definitely say that I feel like most of the tension today is just normal. Like you're my first child leaving the house. Yeah, I'm kind of scared, like I want her to stay close and she's not so sure. So I feel like she's nailed down her college selection and they’re three hours away. But there's still, you know, they're still close enough. But I would say there are challenges that directly stem from everything. And I know that for her, like she's not really dating or anything right now. And I know that there are gonna be challenges that come for her. But I know that, you know, right now I feel like we have a good relationship and we've really fought through everything and again, at this point we are able to talk much more directly, and I feel like one of the things she's grateful for, she didn't want to be involved in any of the legal stuff, but she wanted her voice heard. And so I really went to bat, you know, on her behalf. And we were also grateful that her lawyer guardian ad light him did the same. But, you know, so I think she really you know, she admires that I stood up and took all of that. And she feels like I, you know, I listened to her and represented her, whereas many of the other players didn't. And I think that that's helped. So, you know, I wouldn't I wouldn't say that any relationship with a teenager is ever perfect. Especially not a teenager was like at the space. It's like between teen and adult, and I do have worries and concerns that I probably wouldn't have had if this hadn't happened to her. Like I feel protective of her on a level I'm and I'm grateful that we still have the C A C involved because they don't know what I would do without them. They really are there kind of helping us through all of this on assuring me that you know, my instincts are good and it's totally normal and also helping me find that balance and helping her find that balance. If you know, your mom has a lot of wisdom and yes, you need to work on your independence. So I'm grateful for that. And I think I think we would be doing a lot worse if we didn't have the help. So I'm really grateful for it.
[00:33:05] Jason: And where are you with your relationship with your husband?
[00:33:08] Kristen: So once he saw her start, our prosecutor denied him a plea bargain even after I went to her at the C A. C’ s urging, which was to advocate yourself even though we went and asked for a plea bargain that would allow for healing, which they could again, like a set him analytical. So I actually I had a conversation on the phone with the prosecutor at one point, not the prosecutor who took our case. She was vacationing in Spain. So this was another prosecutor that I spoke to, and he said something along lines this we can't do something different for your husband, and that made me or for your husband that made me ask the question. What do you usually do? So I went back and analyzed 20 years of court records for my husband's charges. And I know without a shadow of a doubt that for 20 years prior and in the two years since, my husband is the only person with those charges in our county that was not offered a plea bargain. And I really feel like especially now looking back on it, I think it was to persecute us for asking for healing. So he put in that guilty plea guilty as charged to you know, three counts of the highest offense you can get in our state. And then we started talking after that. And like I said, he consistently was willing to accept all blame for his behavior and especially, is something that a lot of people don't think about or consider is that he abused our child. But he was also unfaithful to me. Um, so you know, for me, I'm dealing with the fact that he hurt my child and infidelity in my marriage, which, you know, was a marriage that I was dedicated to. And so that hurts. So there were so many levels of processing for me to do, and he was willing for thousands and thousands of angry letters. Like I said, he had some cognitive stuff like he just wasn't thinking correctly and like he would say, you know, I fooled myself into believing that what I was doing wasn't hurting her. And one of the things I said to him was, but you knew you were cheating on me, you know? So there's this, you know, there's this whole levels that was like, you know, you knew what you did is wrong. Even if you were trying to justify which is what we all do when we do wrong, which is another you know, that's a human thing. It's like just because his wrong was particularly heinous. I mean, you know that when you do something wrong from little kids on up, we kind of try and hide it or justify it, and it's the same someone who is the fact that he was willing. So even on the phone, and especially via letter, we really didn't start having consistent phone calls until he got to prison and then several months in when it takes time for visitation applications to get accepted, and he had to be moved to like his quote unquote home prison from their processing facility and everything but even those initial visits. So those initial letters and then phone calls and then visits. I'm grateful he got moved to a small prison initially because he's at a huge prison now. And I can't imagine having the conversations that we had in this huge, crowded visiting room that we did in that little visiting room where there was, like, really nobody else visiting. Because we just had tough conversations. And I think that him being willing to let me unleash all of my rage and anger and disgust and revulsion all of that and just sit. I mean, there was occasionally times when he pushed back, but I would say for the most part, he just accepted it. Another thing that he did was any time he wrote, you know, I asked him hard questions, questions that like, you know, when you think about them, they're like, why would you want to know that? But, you know, like details about what he did and everything. He answered them, and he also said, I'm OK with sharing these with you. You know what the psychologist that we were working with, I’ll say with Doctor A. You know, I'm OK with you sharing these with her. So she read a lot of our letters back and forth. So I guess, you know, really, again there's this huge. It's just hard to understand this change.
[00:36:54] Jason: How do you see that your relationship was actually coming on the other side -Would you even describe as maybe it’s better. More open or not really?
[00:37:05] Kristen: No. I feel like it is better. I mean, I think that one of the things we realized this, that he was really struggling and I knew on a level that he was struggling. But I didn't know as badly as he was And, you know, especially when temptations started about how am I gonna tell my wife that because she'll leave me and then, obviously you know. But we learned that you know, we can't keep secrets. And no matter how bad it seems, we've got to be honest and say it even if that means writing. So we learned that, you know, being able to ride it out can be helpful. And so early on we kind of made a commitment that, you know, even after if he's, you know, he's got a long prison sentence. So maybe we'll continue writing to each other. But I feel like we've you know, we've learned to communicate better and learned to to say I'm sorry learned that we can't keep you can't keep secrets I'm in a Facebook group for families with inmates and Michigan loved ones in the prison system in Michigan, and the women will be talking about eell, you know, I just don't tell him that, or he just doesn't tell me what goes on because he doesn't want me to know when…I'm like, you know, he tells me all the all the details of, you know, basically what is hell on earth in the prison. And I tell him about the bad stuff because it's like, you know, when you've been through inidelity, you just can't keep secrets anymore, right?
[00:38:19] Jason: And a lot of a lot of reformers will try to take subsets of problems. Where I'm going with this is they might say well, uh, the way we handle people who have committed sex offenses is okay overall, but not okay for children or it's not OK if somebody was 18 years old and they were with somebody who was 14 right? So there's all these different things, no matter what, they're still going to be saying that this particular type of crime is pretty horrific, right? And I think you and I would both agree with that, that it is horrific. But it doesn't mean that the person's life is over, right, So that when we talk about reform, it should be all inclusive.
[00:39:01] Kristen: Yeah, I feel like carve-outs are a bad idea. I mean, first of all, when you look at the data, the data and research doesn't support it. We know that people who you know who perpetuate sexual harm are some of the least likely to re-=offend. Ah, and there's really no argument that can be made against that because, you know, a lot of people will say its just cause they don't get caught. But the reality is, is these are some of the most monitored people on the planet. And so, you know, you do have a subset who may re offend, and there are many variables that go into that. But the fact is, is, it's not the typical belief, which is that Oh, these people are pedophile or they're just a monster or whatever and they're just gonna keep like they have some compulsion that drives them to do that. The truth is, is there's trauma and mental illness, and that sort of thing the same as it is with many other offenses. So, you know, for me again, like you said, what happened in our family, I mean, from a statutory perspective, we got the worst of the worst. And the reality is that, you know, it kind of fits the situation. Um, you know, what he did was horrible, heinous, horrific. It's just repulsive to me still to think. I mean, I still have moments of most days were like, it'll just hit me that, you know, I guess it's a trauma trigger, and I hope that eventually that might fade somewhat. But in a way, it's a reminder every day just how much pain this has caused. I'm in a reminder of them the collateral damage that I don't think was necessary from the system But the reality is, you know, research shows a lot of research shows that these men and a few women who sexually offend can go on to have healthy lives and research about families shows that families that want to work through this even if they never look quote unquote, you know exactly like they did before. But families can find some level of healing. Joan Tobacco Nick I'm not sure if I'm pronouncing her last name exactly, right, So forgive me. But she wrote a book for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center that has a long title. But it's something like exploring re connection and reunification and families with interfamilia sexual abuse, something along that line, about the re connection and reunification. I like that because it's not necessarily reunification, but there can be a level of re connection should the family want that which may then become reunification or may not. But I think that that's important as like, human connections are also important to keeping or to helping people be successful and build successful lives. So I feel like when we throw people away, or when we assume that they're gonna do this again, we never do what it takes to help them be successful again for families like mine. We cut off healing that our family asked for. And really And truly, you could say that in order for my daughter to heal, she needs to be allowed to explore on some level, even if professionally facilitated with her dad, what happened? And so do I.
[00:41:51] Jason: So if you could rewrite from the moment you discovered the issue right to today, if you could rewrite with a different script, what would that look like in a perfect world for you?
[00:42:04] Kristen: Um, I think there's so many ways a perfect world could go. I mean, ideally, the prosecutor and the judge is involved in our cases because we're in two courts. It wants criminal and family court would be willing and open a guardian ad litem who was teachable, so to speak. That would be the absolute perfect. But I think given the situation that we have, one of the things that I would like would be for them to have realized. This is a case of great magnitude, and it is outside of our, you know, out of our level of experience. But we have colleagues across the state who understand what this family is going for because I know in in another county at least one other county in a psychologists told me, the down state much more overall. And also I've spoken with Professor Sankaran at the University of Michigan Child Advocacy Law Clinic, and he's told me that things, especially the family court, would have been handled differently down state like they forbid me from speaking about my children in the courtroom, which is why I said, that's that's probably what, like, ultimately in the entire system, even though I feel like we were harmed in many ways being told that you're an fit mother, we're gonna keep your kids with you. But you're not allowed to talk or share anything about your kids, and we're just gonna brush you off in favor of these people who haven't even talked to your kids for an hour. Like the CPS worker never spoke to my daughter. Never so and then she took out of context what one of my older sons said he was talking about what the house looked like after the Sheriff Scott here, and then she took that out of context and told the judge that that's what he felt like. Our house was like that day, which was, you know, eight months later and so you know, they just twisting. So But I guess in an ideal world, they would have reached out to, you know, to these peers and colleagues across the state and said, look, we have a family that wants something different. They have the support of their lawyer, a guardian ad litem, whose job is to look out for the children and assess for them. They have the support of the C A C psychologist and the psychologist that I spoke to went on to do an evaluation on him. And, you know, we're talking about professional talking about psychologist with 30 years in this field, you know, these are not spring chickens who are both saying this family is a good candidate for something different. And so, ideally, they would you know, the prosecutor would have offered a plea bargain if she had offered a plea bargain down to what I witnessed, then we probably would have looked at a jail term and then him moving in with his mom.
[00:44:23] Jason: Do you think accountability needs to include jail?
[00:44:27] Kristen: I don't think it needs to. I think that, Yeah, I don't think it needs to. One of the things that I've done in researching is there's a book that again has a really long title, but it's about the cottage program, and I can send you the title later on if you want to be able to reference that in the podcast notes. But it's about a program that was in Australia and it was nicknamed the Cottage Program cause that's the building that it happened at was the cottage for years, and in that was situations just like ours. In fact, they're an average situation. That duration was even longer than ours, which was three years, and the intensity was exactly the same. So three years of abuse like full penetration to put indelicately that kind of thing. But the families that participated in that it was a diversion program. It was a post conviction pre incarceration diversion program, so the man never went to prison. He was never incarcerated after maybe like the initial arrest leading, you know, while he was waiting for the court proceedings, but he wasn't sentenced to jail or prison time, and as long as the men completed the program, they were never incarcerated. Now, just under 1/4 of those families chose to explore reunification so the majority didn't. But almost 1/4 is still a significant minority, and those families that did desire to reunify did it while they were in the program, and the average duration for a family in the program was about two years. So that program did not involve incarceration. And so I don't necessarily believe I do. I will say that I think the time that my husband spent in the jail cell in those first couple weeks was probably good for him because it helped him like it was a shock to a system, and it helped him realize, Whoa, you know, I've been lying to myself. They put him on suicide watch, which I really think is probably human rights violation right there. It's like torture by, you know, world standards. What they do to guys on suicide watch in county jails, but so I wouldn't wish that experience on him. But I do think that having to be in the jail cell and meet his maker, so to speak for a few days was probably good for him. But then, you know, they set his bail at this ridiculous amount. There was no way he could make bail. But I think you know that if he had been able to make bail after a few days, that would have been way more reasonable and probably better for all of us, because he would have been able to really speak with an attorney, which he wasn't able to do.
[00:46:50] Jason: So as it is, he's scheduled to be released in a decade.
[00:46:55] Kristen: Yes, he's got just under a decade left till his minimum. And Michigan doesn't have any ways for guys to earn time off their sentences, at least right now. That something we’re working on changing. So, yeah, we're gonna basically arrested healing for a decade
[00:47:09] Jason: and then you see him coming home,
[00:47:11] Kristen: Um, I will still have minor children at that point, so I don't necessarily think that he'll come home right away. I think that he'll go to his mom's because, God willing, she'll still be alive and kicking at that point or, you know, with another arrangement. But I feel like he's probably not gonna be able to come home immediately because you're
[00:47:31] Jason: working toward it?
[00:47:32] Kristen: Yeah, I mean, I would say that's working toward us, that he would go somewhere else and we would be able to do, you know, therapy together, him and I marital therapy, him therapy for being in prison, plus everything else. Because prison is an incredibly traumatizing experience. And then, you know, for the kids and I to be able to work out everything and then to work, I mean, cause we've never said we don't want supervision. It's not like we want to just head for the hills and pretend like this didn't happen because it did, you know? So I feel like, you know, we need the help of professionals who are willing to help in those professionals are in our area and said Will help on. And then that was denied. But I do think you know that that's something that will need.
[00:48:12] Jason: And now you’re raising kids on your own. Yep. You’ve got your hands full. You've got a number of various ages.
[00:48:19] Kristen: A bunch, a bunch.
[00:48:21] Jason:. We covered a lot of ground. Thank you so much. I know it's not easy to talk about these topics. What are some things that you've got that are good? In other words, like How are you enjoying your time? And what are some of the things that he enjoys? A family?
[00:48:39] Kristen: One of the things I feel like is I mean, we've been really blessed for all this. I've got some rejection, You know, my husband's some of my husband's family members, not his mother, thankfully, but some of my husband's family members have chosen to turn their back on us. I think again these are family members that had disclosed the abuse that they suffered, and I think that they can't get past the fact that he went on to abuse. So we've lost some. But for the most part I feel like I've been really blessed to see an incredible amount of support, and I have one of the reasons I think I can be really outspoken emboldens because I have an incredible support system up here. There's a jail advocacy group up here that has really gone above and beyond for my family we saw of the C A. C. I have family and friends. We have a church family that's there for us, which we started going to the church like a couple weeks after my husband's arrest and they've just been wonderful. So I really feel like seeing this, the court system and how people can kind of rise above and how many people can be open. And not everybody can be open to hearing our story, but many people can and then, you know, just being able to enjoy life with my kids, being able to be with them, to teach them. I I feel lucky in some ways because my husband did have a lot of retirement assets and so that's what I'm living on right now. I would eventually like to get my website towards making money again, but it's really not right now because I just haven't been able to look at it. So that has given me the freedom to be able to be home with my kids and I don't really enjoy teaching my kids. I was helping. We're finished with their home school year, but we're doing summer stuff and my five year old. You know things are so busy during the school year with so many older siblings that, you know it's like this summer. I get to give her a little bit of extra attention. So we were out there working on counting and skip counting. And that's really one of my joys is to be able to be with them and to just mother them on another. Joy for me is being able to help them stay connected to Daddy, even though he's far away. And one of the fun things has been like he got moved to Michigan's Upper Peninsula is where he's at right now. And so kind of exploring what is going on in the upper peninsula, like the iron ore mines and the light houses and the waterfalls. Just watching the Mackinaw Bridge, just watching videos with them and, like, kind of seeing their pride and knowing. Oh, you know, that's where Daddy lives and there's all these cool things and it's just a way to help them be connected. And that's one of the things that means a lot to me because, you know, my attorney told me that the kids can't visit him because of what the courts did. But they can't stop contact because I'm still their mother. And I still get to make some of those decisions. So, you know, being able to facilitate that and help them find some level of healing is really helpful for me. Um, and for them, And then we're looking forward to some things, like being able to go to the lake and that kind of thing. They got the prison and jail advocacy group up here, helped get new bikes for all of them. Not new bikes, but new to them bikes. And so there have been doing a lot of bike riding. And so that's just fun. Like being able to have some of those. They're always bittersweet having those joys. But being able to still have those this is good,
[00:51:48] Jason: Good. Well, it sounds like a wonderful family. Is there anything else that you'd want to cover that we didn't for? You want to say or share,
[00:51:56] Kristen: but I feel like probably the biggest thing, and we did touch on this some for me is what I feel most passionate about is talking about primary prevention and that we can't. We can't reach a place where we pivot to talking about primary prevention. If we're still focused on perpetual punishment or believing that people are monsters and you know, I want healing for my family, I want a second chance for my family, so to speak. But I really want to help this not happen in any other family. And one of the things I feel like would be really powerful. If my husband it was able to be out right now, even if he was living with his mom was he and I could speak together across the state or even across the nation about our experience and what happened and helping other families understand. You know, that this could happen to any family, Really. I mean, there were a lot of mitigating circumstances, and I think you'll find in families where that happens that it you know, there are a lot of certain or not mitigating circumstances but extenuating circumstances. You know, there were other things lead into it. But those happened in every family. Not everybody, thank God, has been sexually abused. But job losses and stressors like you mentioned the pandemic. I mean, all of that's happening is so this messaging has to be out there. So I think that's what I would say is my family wants healing. Not every family wants healing, and I'm okay with that. Some people don't, though. I think vicarious restorative justice is something that many could explore, even if they don't want to explore restorative justice. But I think that understanding the primary prevention is important and that what our system does is not actually bringing healing to survivors. Michigan survivors were surveyed and 84% said they want something different. You know they want shorter sentences, more accountability, more restorative justice. That's a big number. That's a big number. And so I think if people just open their minds to realize that we need to pivot this discussion to a what really heals and be what really stops child sexual abuse and sexual violence from happening in the first place is the most important.
[00:53:50] Jason: Thank you so much. Kristen. It was nice talking to you. Thanks for the taking us through your painful history and how you became a tremendous advocate. And I wish you and your family future health and success
[00:54:06] Kristen: Thanks, Jason. It's been good to talk. It's healing for me. So I appreciate the chance to share
Exit: You've been listening to. Amplified Voice is a podcast lifting the experiences of people and families impacted by the criminal legal system. For more information, episodes and podcast notes, visit amplified voices dot show.