Malignant Memories

Still, without all the Marvella support and understanding, Vivian doubts she would have had the courage to face her father.

"They gave me my voice," she said.

Vivian, who says her abuse began around age 6 and ended at 11, confronted her father mostly out of her growing fear that he was preying on other children. Among others, she was concerned about the daughter of a vendor her father had met at the Tanana State Fair, followed to the Palmer State Fair and later visited in California.

Vivian talked to Anchorage police Detective Anne Newell, who opened an investigation a little over a year ago. The girl was interviewed and made no allegations against Vivian's father.

Last fall, Vivian asked him to come to Alaska to talk about her own abuse.

She was surprised he agreed to come. But he did in November, saying he was doing it to help her.

By then, Vivian was certain there were other victims in the family. Her concerns were convincing enough that a judge issued a warrant allowing her to be wired during the confrontation. She and her father talked for 2 1|2 hours while Newell, hiding in the next room, listened in and recorded every word.

"It was the weirdest conversation I've ever had," Vivian said. "To have a conversation with your parent saying, 'Gee, Dad, I remember your penis . . .' "

At the end, Vivian persuaded him to go to the police station to be interviewed by Newell.

It's all on videotape now, how unhappy he was with his marriage and how he used Vivian as "a crutch." How he'd walk in on her in the bathroom. How he'd visit her in her bed.

Vivian wasn't there during that interview, but Newell gave her a copy of the tape. Hearing him go on and on made her realize how much she'd managed to repress. She doesn't remember him coming into the bathroom. All she remembers is refusing to use the bathroom when her father was home. Being so constipated as a child, her mother had to take her to the doctor. She remembers hating her room, her bed, her life.

That tape also confirmed Vivian's worst fear. Her father talked freely of abusing another child — Vivian's step-niece.

Vivian wanted Ezzie and Margie to watch the videotape with her. So they did in true Marvella fashion. They'd already planned a weekend getaway at the Regal Alaskan, booking a room on the second floor so Margie didn't have to deal with an elevator. That night, they huddled together on the bed to watch the tape, calling room service at one point for hot fudge sundaes, and sending the bellhop back for extra fudge.

Halfway through the two-hour tape, Margie's cheeks turned bright red.

"I went and looked in the mirror, and I had like whisker burns," she said, remembering how scratchy Uncle George's face was late at night. "I had to put a cold cloth on them.

"What my therapist says is, the body always remembers. The mind can play tricks and make you think this and that and the other thing, but the memories the body has are real. The body can't lie."

Like the time Margie jumped out of a sound sleep at 2:45 in the morning, trying to flick the hay out of her nightgown. And the way Ezzie's wrists used to ache at night, until she remembered her father holding them tight over her head.