I was introduced to my abuser by a boyhood friend at a church pot luck dinner in 1980. I was 10 and in 4th grade. He was a visiting minister who had recently moved to the area, but was already becoming involved with the local Boy Scouts, as a little league umpire, and as a part-time ambulance driver for our town. He’s been described as a kind of a “Mr. Rodgers” type: soft-spoken, balding, with an easy smile and a hint of playfulness that kids were attracted to. He was in his mid-forties and very congenial, the kind of guy people felt comfortable asking to take care of their homes while they were away on vacation.
My friend and I liked the attention he gave us. It seemed like all the other adults were boring or ignored us. We would constantly pester our parents about when we might see him again because he made things fun.
I can’t remember the specifics of our earliest times together. I know he took me with some other boys to a hockey game. I remember being in his car. I remember being in the ambulance. I remember being in his apartment. I remember him talking to my friend and I about joining the Boy Scouts now that we were almost done with being Cub Scouts and Webelos. My friend joined his troop, I joined another local troop.
By 5th grade, he had become a big part of my life as a substitute father figure (my own father was frequently away on trips) and an approved baby sitter that my mother felt comfortable leaving me alone with. Our activities included Scouting, visiting the local YMCA. My mother keeps detailed social calendars, so I have specific dates I know I was with him.
His method of seduction was exposing me to pornographic magazines. His collection of porn was enormous and consisted of boxes upon boxes of Playboys, Penthouse, Hustler, Qui, et cetera. He would leave a few magazines on his couch or in his car and wait to see if a boy was interested or became aroused. He groomed his victims by letting us take magazines home. I knew many friends who had his magazines and I always had a few in my own bedroom.
Sitting in his living room looking at porn became a normal activity. When he saw I was aroused, he would start tracing his fingers along my arms or legs, until finally touching my crotch. He liked to fondle me while I looked at magazines on his couch. That then progressed to his giving me oral sex. I can’t remember the first time he abused me, but I do know I could not yet ejaculate (he said that would change with time). I have a memory of him describing that this was how people learn about sex and how men practice before meeting a woman. I remember his descriptions of other, older boys he knew and had been with. It seemed to me at the time that this was just what people did. It felt good and I liked the attention. I became hooked.
By the Fall of 1982, my abuser moved from his apartment into my parent’s rental property next door to our house. I remember convincing my parents to take him on as a tenant. I remember feeling very lucky that I - out of all my friends - was the one who got to have him as a neighbor.
The abuse became a regular occurrence, as now all I had to do was run next door when I was bored. We would talk about Scouting, or play with his police scanner, or play a game of Uno until he finally got me to his couch. This happened countless times over the next few years. On at least one occasion, my mother let me sleep over. At night we could watch Super-8 pornos on a screen he set up at the foot of his two twin beds. Most of the films were straight sex, but I remember at least once he showed a gay film.
By 1983, I had begun to do very poorly in school and things were not good with my parents. I began to realize that what was happening was not normal. Perhaps I figured this out earlier, but a schism was beginning to form in my head. I wanted the rush that sex gave me but realized getting it from a (now creepy) old man was wrong. I wanted it and I didn’t want it, and that confusion began to torment me. It wasn’t until I turned 13, then 14, that the prospect of finding a girl who was willing to do the things my abuser did to me became a possibility.
Sometime around late 1984 or early 1985 I stopped going next door to my abuser’s house. I still noticed other, younger boys sometimes being there. But I stayed away. I was very depressed at this time and my family and school life was rapidly getting worse. Although I had previously been identified as “a gifted” student and was enrolled in honor’s classes, I was now struggling to even complete the most basic of assignments.
In April of 1985, my abuser was arrested for the distribution of pornography to a minor and fondling of several other boys in his Scout troop. I was terrified I would be found out and ostracized by my peers, so I did my best to hide my involvement. My mother and I were called down to the police station to answer questions for the investigation. I said I knew my abuser had pornographic magazines, but said nothing else about my abuse. My parents did not push the issue.
From then on, things got worse in my family. I dropped out of my normal high school to go hide in a vocational school several towns away, where nobody would know me. I began what was to be a long run of promiscuity, hoping that if I could just have sex with as many women as possible, it would somehow erase my experiences with this one man. But my sexuality was also confused - was it possible I was gay? Bi? Later in life I tried some experimentation with men, but that only confused me further and never seemed right. I began to drink heavily and use drugs.
I became involved with theatre (high school, community, then college) as a way to hide and as a way of expressing the emotions of rage and frustration. There is no question that theatre saved my life - or at least got me though my teens and twenties. I wrote and performed an autobiographical solo show about my abuse and my (non-existent) relationship with my father for my senior year of college. It was graphically explicit and I invited my parents to come see it. They had very little reaction.
I suppose the majority of my pain comes from the lack of empathy my parents have had throughout my life. I have so much anger. It has ruined jobs, relationships, marriages (one so far), and affects my ability to parent my son. For many years I fooled myself into thinking that somehow I had put all of this behind me by being so open about it. But I was self-medicating with alcohol and overspending. I was in and out of therapy. I always thought that my abuser going to jail for his abuse of other boys was good enough, but it was not until the last couple years that I suddenly (finally) realized how much I was short changing myself by not having him answer for my own abuse.
I am entering a new phase in my healing, one where I really want to get to a better place in my recovery and stand up for myself. I need to clear the air with my parents while they are still alive (a scary proposition). Why did they not protect me? How did they not know? How could they not see the signs before, during, or after? Why did they still say nothing even after I told my story in the most public of ways? How could they watch me struggle my entire life with failure after failure and not realize their own responsibility or at least understand that I needed help?
And perhaps I will gain the strength I need to confront my abuser while he is still alive.