Most sexual abuse victims develop a bond and loyalty to their abuser over a period of time. They become a part of the secret. The powerful film Just, Melvin touched on the silence, the denial, and the loyalty embedded in families of incest.
The documentary showcased the story of Melvin Just who sexually abused the filmmaker’s mother, the mother’s two sisters, and her four step-sisters. According to the documentary, the grandfather betrayed, tricked, and brutally raped the girls. By the time they were adults, some of the daughters and step daughters lived in cars or old tiny trailers. Many had attempted suicide more than once. Some were alcoholics, promiscuous or had been involved in prostitution.
As a child, one of the girls brought petroleum jelly and a dog toy that looked like a hot dog to the police. The objects had been used to molest the girls. When questioned by police, the other sisters remained silent. This shows the loyalty to an abuser. The girls would not even tell a helpful authority figure who could have freed them from their molester. It was not until thirty years later that they would all speak the truth. Melvin Just was charged with twelve counts of child molestation. He was found guilty and given thirteen years, only serving eight. His daughters still serve their prison sentences of pain to this day.
Just before the end of the documentary, the grandson filmed the women while visiting their father at his hospital bed where they hugged and kissed their childhood rapist. These women show how much strength the human soul has, but they also display the need for their father to love them.
All of this immediately put me in touch with feelings for my own father. I could see how much pain these women in this film were in and how much their father hurt them, but yet they still loved him. I could see, as I see in my own self, that it was the child in them who went to their father’s hospital room. It was the little girls they once were who hugged their rapist and told him they loved him.
One daughter did stay in the hospital corridor instead of visiting her father. She talked about the hell he put her through. She says she wants hurt herself because of the abuse. My guess is that if someone asked her if she loved him, she too would have said “yes.”
Melvin Just eventually died. Some of the daughters spoke about their father at the grave site. One woman talked freely about how terrible he was as a father, but in the same breath, she said, “But he was cool when he built beach buggies and let us have our fun.” She added, “But I never wanted to sit on his lap.”
Another daughter proclaimed that he was “an awesome man.” They even continued to speak of the molestation as they shoveled dirt on his grave, and just like a little girl, one daughter drew a purple heart on his gravestone, symbolically sealing the bond that abusers retain with their unhealed victims.
Just, Melvin: Just Evil HBO America Undercover Written, directed, and produced by James Ronald Whitney 2001