I’ve been watching Housemate’s Homicide: Life on the Street DVD’s. It’s your typical police procedural drama, though with more of a continuing story arc than Law & Order.
I like cop shows. I think a lot of it is an attempt to convince myself that most cops are not horrible abusers like my father. Then again, I don’t trust real-life cops; I just wish that the cops we tried to get to investigate our case cared as much as the TV cops do.
My father abused me terribly, and he used his status as a cop to terrorize and intimidate me. He held a gun to my head or stuck it in my mouth more times than I can remember. He said if I tried to get away, he’d know how to find me. He told me that no one would ever believe me if I told them what he did–and he was right.
But my father could also be tender and kind. I remember him singing the “Caisson Song” to me at night (he was in the Army); I remember him hugging and kissing me; I remember him being kind when my mother went into a rage and screamed at me, threw things at me, hit me. I don’t know how to reconcile that version of him with the version that raped me for 16 years.
I was 8 when my parents divorced. He had retired from the police department, and when he moved from Alabama back to Iowa, he gave me his badge. At the time, when I had to be unaware of his abuse, I thought it was an incredibly kind gesture. I thought it meant he loved me most of all because I was his oldest daughter, and he always called me beautiful. The badge he gave me was his duty badge. When he retired, they gave him a new framed badge he could hang on the wall, but the one he gave me was the one he wore every day for 26 years. I remember the gold eagle on the top, wings outspread. I remember the enamel of the seal of the city of Columbia. I remember the nicks in the badge, the cracks in the enamel. I remember how he’d carved his last name (my last name) into the metal clip on the back. I remember the badge number: 146. I loved that badge. I thought it meant my daddy loved me.
This is making my physically sick just to write.
Once I grew up and started remembering the abuse, the badge meant something different: it was a threat that no one would believe me because he was a cop and I was just another troubled girl lying for attention. My mother pushed for an investigation when my sister disclosed the abuse. Each jurisdiction said it was someone else’s problem, since the abuse spanned Missouri, Alabama, and Iowa. Finally, the Iowa State Police “investigated.” They refused to talk to me because I was crazy and therefore unreliable. They questioned my sister until she threw up in a trash can, polygraphed my father, got an inconclusive result, and dropped the case. Not how it happens on Law & Order.
Now my sister claims the abuse never happened and is in the police academy. She’ll have a badge soon, too.
I don’t know why watching Homicide dredged all this up tonight. There was a scene in which one of the detectives unclips his badge from his belt, and suddenly I was back there in my mind, holding his badge in my hand. I gave the badge to my therapist in Alabama probably 4 or 5 years ago, and I’m thinking of writing her to see if she still has it and is willing to send it to me. I don’t know why I want it back. It makes me feel like I’m going to vomit just thinking about it, but I also feel a powerful need to have the badge. I don’t understand it.