I think it’s time I posted my story.
The history is pretty intense so watch out for triggers and such.
My home town paper interviewed me when I expressed the wish to reach out to others that were possibly abused by the same person and they did a better job of relating the tale than I ever could so I have posted it below.
Many of you from the posts and the chat room know me as Roland. I was nervous when I first came here and was afraid to use my real name in any way, so I adopted the name of my favorite fictional character, Roland Deschain of Gilead from Stephen King’s Gunslinger series. Roland is kind and gentle but doesn’t take crap from anyone, he always knows what to do, and he can adapt to any situation.
Anyone here should feel free to use my real name or continue to use Roland, whichever you are more comfortable with.
Lastly, I’m not posting this in order to get a bunch of ata-boys, or to boast about how well I’m doing these days, I just want people who are still in the thick of recovery or just beginning, to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just a really long tunnel.
From The Poughkeepsie Journal November 25, 2003
Sex abuse victim speaks up
Man to share painful secret
By Larry Fisher-Hertz
By all outward appearances, Curtis St. John had a good childhood and adolescence.
Raised by a loving family on the south side of Poughkeepsie, he graduated from Poughkeepsie High School in 1986. By his own account, he didn’t excel in school. But he didn’t have any trouble passing his courses either.
What St. John remembers most about growing up was a void, a gnawing lack of self-confidence that lurked just below the surface of his emotions.
“I wasn’t one of the most popular kids; I wasn’t an achiever,” St. John said. “My grades were average- I stayed afloat, nothing more than that. And I had binge drinking problems, during college (at the State University of New York at Purchase) and after I dropped out.”
It wasn’t until years later that St. John realized his ability to cope and achieve had been scarred by a secret he had been harboring since he was 10 years old: He had been sexually abused by a trusted friend of the family, a Poughkeepsie school teacher named Albert Fentress.
Just weeks after he molested St. John, Fentress killed and cannibalized a town of Poughkeepsie teenager, Paul Masters, in Fentress’ home – less than two blocks down Grand Avenue from the St. John residence.
St. John said he decided to speak publicly about his abuse in hopes of helping others who may be wrestling with similar secrets.
“Those who can speak should speak for those who cannot,” he said. “I want to help other men who have been abused to make the connections in their lives I was not able to make for so long.”
St. John, who now lives in Westchester County with his wife and her two children, said he wanted to provide that help in his hometown. So he has arranged to attend a forum for male victims of sexual abuse Dec. 8 at the Poughkeepsie Family Partnership, hosted by Family Services.
Whitney Bonura, director of the agency’s Sexual Trauma Crisis and Recovery Services unit, said she was grateful to St. John for having the courage to talk about what happened to him and offer his insights to other victims of sexual abuse.
Bonura said studies have shown that fewer than 10 percent of all victims of such abuse ever reveal their secret to anyone – and the percentage of male victims who seek help is even lower.
“Curtis is the type of individual who can be of tremendous assistance to us,” Bounra said. “He is a very brave person, and someone who can be a catalyst for change, someone whose own story may convince other men to come forward and begin the process of healing.”
That process took a long time for St. John. For 13 years, he told no one about the sexual encounters Fentress had forced him to have in the spring and summer of 1979 when his family believed Fentress was tutoring him in math
Then in 1992, St. John read a news item about Fentress, who had been confined to a mental institution since he was judged legally insane at the time he killed and cannibalized Masters. The story said Fentress was seeking temporary furloughs from Kings Park Psychiatric Center in Suffolk County.
St. John said reading that news account prompted him to call his sister in Texas – and reveal for the first time what Fentress had done to him. He said his sister convinced him to tell Dutchess County authorities his story. He said he spoke to an investigator at the district attorney’s office – and was relieved when he learned he would not have to testify in any court proceedings.
TAKES THE STAND
Nine years later, however, when Fentress petitioned the court for release from the psychiatric center, St. John called Dutchess County authorities again – and this time, they told him, he would probably have to take the witness stand.
Confronted in 2001 with the news about St. John’s impending testimony, Fentress withdrew his request for release from Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, also in Suffolk County. But a year later, his attorneys renewed that request, and this time, St. John was called upon to testify at the Suffolk County courthouse.
St. John’s testimony helped convince state Supreme Court Justice James Catterson that Fentress belonged in a more secure mental hospital. Prosecutors argued that since Fentress had never told his therapists about what he had done to St. John, he was not being completely truthful with them and could not be deemed cured or no longer potentially dangerous.
Catterson ruled Fentress should be moved from the non-secure Pilgrim Psychiatric Center following the court proceeding last September. Fentress is now confined at the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center in Orange County.
The ordeal of having to testify in court turned out to be a blessing, St. John said, because it forced him to deal honestly with the effects of the abuse. At the time of his testimony, he had shared his story with other close relatives besides his sister, including his first wife and his current wife, Ilene. But he said he has learned since that simply telling others about the abuse was not the same thing as figuring out how to cope with it.
“I always told myself ‘Yes, this happened, but I’m fine,’” he said.
Ilene St. John said she realized early in their marriage that her husband was still not dealing with the impact of the abuse even though he had told her about it.
“His attitude was, ‘Yes, this guy molested me and then he killed and cannibalized somebody else, and sure, I’m fine with that,’” she said.
Now that he has decided to talk more openly about his abuse, she said, St. John’s healing has finally begun.
“It’s been like night and day,” she said. “He’s finally, truly happy.”
St. John, who is employed as Director of Operations for the Music Conservatory at SUNY Purchase, said lifting the burden of his secret has enabled him to enjoy his life for the first time.
“My job requires lots of meeting and greeting, a lot of energy, and I enjoy getting up and going to work every day,” he said. “I’ve lost 20 pounds, I eat right, I take vitamins. I take care of myself because I finally feel I’m worthy of being taken care of.”
St. John said he has returned to college, taking courses at SUNY Purchase in hopes of becoming a counselor or social worker someday.
In the meantime, he hopes that by telling his own story and attending the forum next month in Poughkeepsie, he can help some men who haven’t sought any help before. He said he wears a silver bracelet with the in>