My name is Rob, and I am a male survivor of abuse. I am abundantly clear about that, and yet am often not heard. Today I choose to believe you have chosen to take this walk with me. Together we will walk this road, with you it is short; for me it seems is eternal. Come walk with me.
Social workers, teachers, prosecutors are all people to whom I bared my soul attempting to heal from my abusers baring my body and so much worse. When you are a male survivor with a disability, you don’t get heard. The important people want to hear about women and women’s issues. Their pain, not mine. My story is not unique but it is ignored.
I’ve tried to tell. Before now; before I tried to commit suicide when younger, before I gave up talking and had to find new dreams to replace the ones stolen from me by a family who hurt me and then the Mormon cults who only some want to believe exist. I do not want to be invalidated once again! Now I’m scared. I hope and pray you’ll care, and says this story matters to you. Even if you have listened you did not give up like so many others. After awhile you just give up; I should know I have.
When I talk to other survivors, it seems there is a competition over who had it worse, or we upset each other and have to be careful, so even there it’s difficult. I find power struggles, difficulty with boundaries and tons of navigation. There is no navigation page. Honest speak can be such a difficult, painful and heartfelt scarcity. It is hard to find a friend in the mire of pain.
Here I am trying again, risking it all. My friend a fellow survivor and advocate, maybe that’s different. Maybe that is why we get along, but the word still upsets me. Can I risk it? Do I let my past get in the way of trusting her? “If she or you want to know my story; come find it buried inside the gates of my kingdom, just ask the right question(s).” You may feel this way too. It hurts; everyday. Still, it matters, through this I care, and I am going to try.
It must be worth it! On some level you do care, after all you’re reading this.
My friend cares, though there are days I am not entirely sure. I know she is afraid of things I do not fully understand, and it confuses me. Though, I do my best to understand. She wants better for me, and I’ve heard that many times before. It’s hard to trust so I trust her with my story and hope it does don’t interfere with our friendship. In this process I am learning even to trust you. If you don’t want to know, you can leave, but they say the truth will set you free.
I believe this because I am a survivor, and because I am more than that. I am a human being first.
How does a person become an abuse survivor? There are many ways, numerous layers, a lot of work to keep on going, but I will talk about that later. Hopefully you’re still here. The story I know best is the one that happened to me, and so I’ll start there.
I was young when it began, so small that some people may not believe my thoughts are as clear as I remember. I remember being in an apartment, being accused of stepping on our pet bird when I did not. I was severely beaten for it. These words can’t tell you what the lashes felt like, what they feel like when I remember them. How they, along with everything else, have shaped my experience, self esteem, experience of my body. How my body remembers.
The story of becoming a survivor is one of the bodies way of remembering what you can and cannot. Over and over again; often called ‘somatic memory’. Like me some survivors find themselves with digestive problems, chronic pain, and sexual symptoms. Most if not all these are related to trauma and abuse that were hurt. Hence the memory stays within that part or place of the body. This is a story of thinking, “Stay with me, even as I push you, test you, teach you, and fear you won’t leave. Please respect me. Because I don’t have to tell you; I don’t have to trust you. I don’t have to do anything anymore.”
It is difficult to stand alone and face the truth, and do so publicly. I have been standing alone with my story for years. Today, you are with me as I am remembering; some. But I always remember; always. It is not necessarily primary, but I do.
I remember staying in a motel, being neglected. My parents’ were looking for a house. I broke a window in a dump truck there and started it. I was just three. I was beaten twice for my parents’ neglect, once by the manager and then by my mother. Left alone. My sister and I were frequently left alone. She was my best friend and she was being hurt too.
The day my father took me to a bar without my mother knowing, he left me alone. The waitress gave me soda and all I had to eat was two sticks of Wrigley’s gum.
My father was drunk when we left the bar and we went off the road and I slept in the car because the tire blew out. It was cold. I had no blankets. I was three.
The police followed us all the way home, they weren’t there the day before. They were never there.
And I was three when the sexual abuse began. I grew up thinking this was normal, and that I deserved it. They would have sex parties, during which I was tied to the bed while couples they had matched up had sex in our house. In many ways, I feel like I’ve never been untied. When the memories are strong, I often remember the bed and feel the pain of being there. My body doesn’t forget. So many people believe that the body’s memory is a myth, but all they need to do is listen, hear and feel and they would know the truth. The body is the deepest place for memory. And mine hurts, in ways and places I am only now touching.
They beat my head against the wall. My cries were ignored, or punished.
I learned to hold them inside, to smile and act happy. To do everything perfectly in an effort to survive.
When I was four and my sister seven, my parents sent us to stay with friends of family while they looked for work. Although my mother maintains that it was only for nine days, this is not true. It was three months of abuse in which these “friends” sexually abused us and kept me in both an outside dog pen and in the dog house with the dog. I spent the nights in the closet.
When I was five, my father abused me in the bathroom shortly after we moved again.
I had received some bathtub toys from my Great Grandmother and wanted to play with them. Now they were his sick toys. When you are sexually hurt, you focus on whatever you can to get through it. The color of tile. The texture of ceilings. The folds in curtains. Life becomes encapsulated in small details, and I remember details another person may not. It is called survival.
After awhile, you stop feeling real, so when I was eight and my mother said I could not wear overalls anymore because I wasn’t a “real boy,” it was typical of abuses to come that tore at my self esteem around being male.
In my family, much was made of being the perfect soldier. The perfect man. My mother had a picture titled “What a boy should be,” and she would become enraged if it was not on my wall as a constant reminder of her visions of manhood. She wanted strength. Stoicism. Obedience. I was always obedient, always good, always pretending. Always trying. I had to be perfect, or I was hurt. So if I am blunt now. I have that freedom. You may not agree, but I am not going to pretend anymore. My body carries everything. It cannot pretend.
That was then, and this is now.
When I was about ten, two Mormons missionaries came to our door. Shortly after we became converts to Mormonism. I tried to be a good Mormon. My last calling I was in the Stake Mission Presidency. In lay terms: I was a good boy.
At ten he hurt me and no one cared. It began shortly after we joined, ripping into every cell of my body and further teaching me that my body and heart were not important, respected or heard.
People who have not experienced rape have no idea of the pain, the grief, the violation, the frozen terror, the shame, or self-blame. They have no understanding of how much energy becomes locked inside behind a door for which it seems there is no key. They cannot know how unfair it is that finding the key becomes the responsibility of survivors. They hear, but they do not understand. They do not remember how it feels to have a coat hanger used against you, tearing your skin, entering you until the internal screaming is deafening and your body is as mangled as your spirit.
But I do. I always do.
The surgery I had to repair the damage could not erase the memory. Could not erase the lies he told me about needing a hotel for the night because he did not want to return to Seattle, and how he was going to take me to a movie but left his wallet at the hotel. It could not remove the fact that I was horrified when my body became aroused and later blacked out from pain.
My mother found my bloodstained pants and did not bother asking what happened to me. Articles about my story say that she asked and cared, but the reality is far different. At the time, she weighed six hundred and twenty-five pounds and I was the sole caretaker of my brothers. My father was in jail for repeated drinking and contempt of court. I was the man of the house and my pain, as usual, was pushed aside.
The man who raped was a Church member, and Boy Scout Master for the church, which means I was silenced.
Like many others before and after me. The church protects their own. When they found out about this, they berated me until I stopped speaking. My sister had recently been murdered by Gary Leon Ridgway, the Green River Killer. My beautiful sister and confidant, my sanity in a crazy house, was taken from me. They knew this, and yet they cared only about silencing a child.
I love my sister always. She gave me strength. I miss her so much still, but then the wounds were fresher and the grief immeasurable. I was so young, aching for the only home I had ever known, our home in each other, and I was quietly drowning in pain.
They gave no thought to my fear, confusion, and grief. It was as if I simply did not exist. They placed me in aversion therapy, where the message was that sex is awful and I was shameful. To say it added to my pain is not enough, never enough. It was brutal, terrible, blaming, and a blatant attempt to deny and label me. I live every day with the effects of this “solution.”
In 2003, the Bishop called me with a request that tore my heart in half and screamed pain into every place inside me. He said that my perpetrator was requesting to become a member of the church and that they wanted to know my feelings and concerns. Why? I still wonder why. Except that I am used to his rights being treated as more important than my own. Used to the crazy world that makes me have to justify that what happened was wrong.
The Bishop said he was not trying to punish me or the 10+ other boys he abused. If the church truly cared, the phone call that opened all my wounds would never have occurred. The church has proven they will always do what they want regardless of what victims say, and yet this was not a punishment? I was not his only victim. He admitted what the Bishop referred to as “certain transgressions” with me and the church still requested more detail, saying that his “full repentance requires his full disclosure.” As if that were my responsibility rather than his.
Still, I told the Bishop as much as I could of what he did, that he used his position in the church’s Boy Scout troop as an excuse to hurt me. I believe in honesty, even when it is difficult. And I honor my story, despite being dismissed and ignored for so long.
After the Bishop contacted me, I battled the church to resume paying for my therapy. Per their promise to do so. “As long as necessary.” They had been paying sporadically before, always with the poorly veiled expectation that its duration be conveniently short.
Trying to help, my therapist contacted a fellow mediator. The church stated that they would mediate, but sent people from a large law firm to represent them, and someone from Utah as well as they believed I was going to sue them. In response, I hired a lawyer. He advised me not to speak and the mediation was treated as a trial with cross examination of both me and my therapist. No one was allowed in with me while they tore me up, and I became confused and dissociative. The mediator did not intervene to stop this. As a result, I was suicidal and hospitalized. It had taken two months to get them to “mediate” and then this. I was not even planning to sue them, but after that, it naturally evolved.
It took two years for the lawyer to file. Two years of telephone calls, cancelled depositions, and excuses. Each time someone called, each time they cancelled, it crushed me inside. I could not eat, sleep. Each kept appointment, they wanted the same information. I repeated, and repeated, and repeated my pain. Then I returned home and faced the aftermath.
Because my therapist was a friend of the lawyer and not very reliable, I did not receive the support I needed. I am not sure how I survived.
The lawyer then called me and said he was dropping the case because they had paperwork from a church therapist or someone saying that I had seen them during 1995 and confided that I was going to sue the church at that time. This never occurred, and my ex-wife agreed. When we asked for proof, they sent a letter with the current date on it, and the lawyer said they had to change the date. But as this is way word processing programs worked in the 1990’s, the truth is the letter stopped the proceedings. As I said, the church protects their own.
Since then, I have talked to other lawyers. Nothing has happened yet. But I am tenacious.
I live with the effects of the abuse every day of my life. The pain, fear, anxiety and more. I have panic attacks and thus cannot work right now, though in the past I have and I love working. It is beyond unfair that I was silenced as a child and then again as an adult. I do not trust easily. I crave intimacy but struggle with relationships. I take medications for physical pain related to abuse. I take medicine for anxiety. I am often tired and struggle with depression. It is beyond unfair, and it often seems nobody really cares. Who can understand? Many survivors are only interested in their own stories, and so sharing with fellow survivors is often complex and disappointing.
My name is Robert Paul Rinde. I was born Robert Larry Leroy Pitsor JR.
Through this mess I was not allowed to keep my own name. Nor was my sister, brothers or mother. My sister is even buried under a completely different name to avoid the media.
I am tired of hiding, avoiding and running. I deserve better.
I have contacted the church, police, JAG, Congressmen and lawyers. I have received promises from four of the five I have mentioned and have yet to receive a kept promise. When you run out of people to contact, what next?
I want them to honor their promises. I want the felonies to stop.
I want to feel better. I want to be fully heard; experience has told me I have not. But I am more than willing to be surprised.
“I’m alive. You’re alive. Want to play?”
-Judah Rosner My Story