July 27, 2012, was just another normal day in Mooresville, Indiana. As the mundane rise of mercury would only move from a warm, dry and 73- degree, to a warm, dry and 86-degree summer day.
Breanna Spaulding, 17, was at her friend’s house. While watching the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics, Breanna confessed.
“I have been molested by my father’s best friend,” she said.
The sounds of the ceremony faded away, Breanna recalled the words echoing in her head, engulfing her until numbness, and then silence.
After 11 years, the words were out, and she could not take them back. Flustered, but encouraged by her friends, Breanna confronted her parents with the scars of her abuse.
“It took all the courage I could gather,” she said. “I was afraid. I was crying. I didn’t know if they would believe me.”
Six years since Breanna came out about her abuse, sexual violence unequivocally remains the topic of the hour. From sexist prom dress code in Jacksonville, Florida, to Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback, Jameis Winston expressing to elementary school girls that they’re “supposed to be silent”; from the President of The United States being accused of sexually assaulting more than 15 women, to the millions who partook in the #MeToo social media campaign.
These and many other examples point to the fact that though 2017 was able to shed serious light on the issues of sexual violence, misconduct, and assault, the problems are nowhere near extinct.
Nearly 100 powerful people were accused of sexual misconduct since Oct. 15, 2017, when Alyssa Milano put #MeToo on the map, according to a recent project by Los Angeles Times.
“Twitter confirmed that over 1.7 million tweets included the hashtag “#MeToo,” with 85 countries that had at least 1,000 #MeToo tweets,” was stated in an article published on CBS News website, two weeks after the hashtag went viral.
With growing attention of the movement towards a safer community, Brandon [Breanna before transition] Spaulding shares his voice as a survivor.
Brandon’s abuse began when he was 6-years-old. Joe, his father’s best friend was constantly at their house. “He would go to the gas station, get everybody fountain drinks and come to the house; whether my father was there or not,” he said.
Joe was always there. He was a family man, a father of two young girls and on weekends he would take care of Brandon’s handicapped uncle. Everyone in the neighborhood of small-town Mooresville knew him, Brandon said.
The abuse began with a touch. And steadily over the course of time, he became more abrasive.
“The smell is what I remember most. He had the smell of a freshly smoked cigarette on his breath and on his hands,” Brandon said. “To this day the smell freaks me out.”
For the six years of his abuse, Brandon suffered it silently and then endured another five years before he told anyone. He said it petrified him to come out to his parents because he did not know how they would react.
According to Brandon’s account of the situation, the abuses often happened with his parents around. “I would constantly hope that one day my parents would see and stop it, but it never happened,” he said.
Multiple attempts have been made to reach out to Brandon’s parents. They declined to provide any comment on the matter.
The July evening when Brandon’s father, Robert Spaulding, found out about the abuse, he was furious. Brandon said that his father, “fueled by anger,” loaded the shotgun and strode to the front door to make Joe, apologize for the pain caused.
While Brandon’s mother, Angela Spaulding, tried to maintain her composure and hold her husband back from doing anything irrational. She got on the phone with Morgan County Sheriff’s office, Brandon said, to discuss the statutory limitations for felony sex crimes.
Indiana is one of the 43 states in America which has statutes of limitations for felony sex crimes. According to the RAINN database, the state of Indiana provides a victim of child molestation and incest till their 31st birthday to report the crime.
It was because of the time frame on the statutes of limitation that Brandon was able to come out 11 years after the crime and have his case accepted.
“I had to sit with a child advocate and a detective for three hours and explain to them in graphic details everything that happened to me, every single day and every single night,” Brandon said.
The following day after speaking to the child advocate and detective, Brandon had to make Joe confess for the detective to issue an arrest warrant.
August 1, 2012, the climate had drastically changed. From a warm and dry July to a grey and cloudy end of summer. The detective agreed to take Brandon’s case.
For the first time in years of his abuse, he said he felt happy because somebody was going to help him. When the authorities showed up that evening to escort Joe to the police station for questioning, he shot himself.
The news shocked Brandon. He blamed himself for the loss of Joe’s life. “I thought if I kept quiet he wouldn’t have killed himself,” he said. But he also knew that not telling could put other neighborhood children in harm's way.
January 2013, Brandon turned a new leaf. He went through counseling and after mentored a group of six young girls of ages 12-14. He helped them understand that “the abuse may never completely go away, but it gets better,” Brandon said.
Consecutively he moved out of his parent's house by August 2013 and drove to Murfreesboro, Tennessee for school. Living in a college town, he said, gave him the opportunity to understand his sexuality and leave behind the baggage of his past.
Three years later, 2016, he met his now wife, Deanna Spaulding. Four months of dating turned into a marriage on February 10, 2017.
“I can not imagine my life without Brandon,” Deanna said. “He is not only a father to my children and a husband to me, but he is my best friend and I am his.”
Brandon and Deanna now live in an apartment in Bowling Green, Kentucky with their daughters Brianna, 16, and Autumn, 12, three dogs and two cats.
Today, both Brandon and Deanna, are in the process of earning their Commercial Driver’s License to truck together around the U.S. As a family they have decided to move to Glasgow, Kentucky, where Brianna and Autumn’s maternal grandmother will care for them while their parents are away.
The couple’s long and short-term goals include making money for a new house, college for their children, a new baby and Brandon’s gender reassignment surgery.
“People don’t come back from the dark place,” Brandon said. “They usually take the easy way out [suicide]. I overcame. I grew. I blossomed. I was an ugly caterpillar and I grew into a beautiful butterfly and flew away.”