This month is one of happiness and yet so much pain and turmoil for me. It is happy because on March 12, 2010 the jury came back with the Not Guilty verdict in my murder trial. On the other hand, this month, my mom would have turned 75 if she hadn’t been killed in 2003. In an interesting bit of synchronicity, my family’s story will be told this month on television on March 3. Investigative Discovery will air a show called Catch My Killer.
The night of the not guilty verdict, and the subsequent days, were overwhelming and joyous. Shortly after that, I decided to enter therapy to begin to heal from my childhood. These last few years have had their ups and downs, and the therapy has been difficult most of the time but I am healing slowly.
The hardest memory of this month: My mom’s birthday, March 19, which she will never be able to celebrate with her family again because she was murdered in 2003 by my brother, who was severely damaged by the violent abuse that all of us experienced at the hands of our father. Even though we each hold Mom in our hearts differently, we all miss her very much.
The pain of the loss of her, for me, will never be dulled. She deserved to have had a better ending to her life. She deserved to be respected by her children for doing the best that she could during those years we all struggled with the abuse. You see, so many people say that you should leave your abuser, and even though I agree for the most part, having been in that cycle I now fully understand the fear and the chance of death by leaving. I firmly believe we all would have been murdered by my father had my mom tried to leave. I want everyone to realize that my mom did the best that she could and all three of her children survived to adulthood due to her efforts.
The March timing of the Investigative Discovery show, Catch My Killer is interesting to me. The episode entitled The Dearly Departed is about my family and our lives–and my parents’ murders. Many people were interviewed for this program and, even though I don’t know everyone involved, I can share my experience. For me it was the opportunity to share my story. As hard as it was to relive some of the abuse and my childhood, it was harder to learn that my sister fears that I will harm her. It is difficult being charged with murder, standing trial, being found innocent, and then learning that your surviving family still doesn’t trust you or want to see you.
I have no fear or discomfort about what is aired on this show. I lived the life, went on trial, and even testified in my own defense. I know the truth in my heart and as much as I want my family to be a part of my life, I will continue to process and release the pain from the fact that they are not. I hope that what everyone who watches takes away from this show is that no matter how normal someone’s life looks, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. My childhood was stolen by the abuse I endured from my father, but my life can move forward and in time I can find peace and happiness.
Between this show and my book with my co-author, Fear of Our Father, to be released in June this year, I hope to shed some light on life in an abusive home. I hope to give people the courage to stand up for what they feel is wrong or to help those in need. I hope for the country to find a way to end domestic violence and I will not stop until domestic violence ends in this country. I do this to honor those who have survived and for those who have lost their lives to domestic violence. Mom this is for you–I wish I could have saved you and made your life better.
Stacey M. Kananen
Advocate, Author, Abuse survivor
Co-founder of Spectrum of Light Transformation Center (formerly called Amnesty From Abuse)
Stacey Kananen’s father violently and sexually abused his entire family. He vanished in 1988 and 15 years later his wife went missing. Stacey’s brother had killed both parents. Stacey cooperated as a witness until he told police that she helped him with the crimes. She was arrested and her trial, which aired on CNN’s In Session, ended with a not guilty verdict after her attorney proved that she had been railroaded.
Now that her personal life is no longer private, Stacey is using her story to make waves. She and co-author Lisa Bonnice have written her life story, Fear of Our Father, to be published by Berkley Books. They created the Spectrum of Light Transformation Center program to address the dynamic that stops families from asking for help: fear, shame and hopelessness. She states, “Most people feel that abusers should be punished and I agree, if they are as abusive as my father was. However, some people don’t want to abuse others but that is all they know. For them to have a nonjudgmental opportunity to heal and change, I feel, is tantamount to ending the cycle of abuse.”
Fear of Our Father – Berkley Books, 2013
Emmy nominated BBC Documentary: America’s Child Death Shame
Investigation Discovery series Catch My Killer — episode title “The Dearly Departed”