Time to Remember
Ok, there's just no good way to start this- so the best way is to rip off the bandaid and then circle back and go into the "why" I'm doing this now. I am a victim of sexual abuse and it still affects me to this day.
When I was in 4th grade, there was a teacher named Mr. Rogers. He taught 5th grade and was pals with my teacher, Mrs. Fowler. He would frequently visit her classroom and was also friends with my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Sheppard, who happened to live in the same apartment complex as my family. I don't exactly remember the exact details of how it happened, but he took a shine to me. He would invite me to his classroom which was not in the main building but was a trailer on the quad. I was a fairly lonely boy of 10- we had moved quite a bit in the past few years and it was my fourth school in 4 years- so it had been difficult for me to make friends.
I walked home from school so there was no actual timetable for me to get home. My Mother was a Nurse working until later in the evening,and my Father was frequently out of town on business until the weekend. It was a time in my life when I craved any attention from an adult- our upstairs neighbor Dyan (who is still in my life to this day) had to teach me about "personal Space" and "boundaries"- my favorite place to be would be on her lap or brushing her hair. Dyan had a way with children- a new mother herself with an adorable baby (a tiny preemie named Jennifer- My father was one of the first non-family to hold her when she got home from the hospital!) and she had a tendency to talk to children as if they were human beings.This was not something I was acquainted with. In my mind , the sun rose and set on Dyan.
When this teacher (who was not my teacher) named Mr. Rogers invited me to his classroom trailer after school, I am sure I thought that was pretty cool. Even then, I had a deep love of movies and he would talk to me about taking me to see them. I don't remember any of the details of those conversations or how long it was before he started asking me to sit in his lap, but I do remember clearly the first time he locked the door of the trailer and asked me if I wanted to "go fishing".
Today I can't even tell you how I felt - the mind plays tricks with memories. I know I thought it was weird that he wanted me to put my hand down his pants. I know I thought it certainly wasn't like any fishing I knew of. I think I was more focused on the implied promise that he would take me to see "Star Wars". Afterwards he told me it was "our secret" and he would ask my Mom if it was okay if he took me to see "Star Wars" that weekend. We'd make it into a sleepover- he would even let me stay up to watch Charlie's Angels.
Surprisingly, my mother agreed to let me go. Now, I am sure at this point she must have met Mr. Rogers- our neighbor the teacher did live in the same complex and they were friends as well. I just don't know any of those details.I don't know anything about my family's motivations at this time. I do know my father was an alcoholic and drank heavily on his weekends home. I do know that I didn't want him to come home back then. I know he was kind of scary.
At the time we lived in Greenville, South Carolina. He lived out in the country- on a farm in Traveler's Rest. It seemed like quite a trek out to his house and his nearest neighbor was acres away. It was pitch black dark when we arrived at the house, the only sound in the air the low hum of bugs. He told me to be quiet- his parents lived "next door" and sound carried in the country. He also insisted on carrying me into the house. I can't remember his reasoning beyond "it will be easier". I wasn't that big- at 10 I was still a skinny little thing. We entered through the kitchen and he didn't bother to turn on the light. He said we would just go straight to the bedroom- he had a television in there. I got ro watch The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.
And I learned there were other activities besides "going Fishing" that made me uncomfortable.
The next morning in the light of day I could see his house- he lived like a hoarder. You couldn't even get into the other rooms, junk and garbage were piled and strewn everywhere. When we left I got a good view of the kitchen. Dishes piled everywhere with solidified food, a pan of what I assumed to be brownies blackened and untouched, a jar of mayonnaise that had turned clear yellow- these things still stick out in my mind because it didn't change for three years. Same brownies, same mayo, with takeout bags strewn everywhere. Everything was so old it didn't even smell anymore.The only clear trail in the house was from the kitchen door to the hallway to the bedroom and the bathroom.
As I inferred- this went on for three years. Not all the time, but enough times to really fuck with my head. Sometimes he would take pictures. Sometimes there would be other little boys. Sometimes there would be pictures with other little boys.There were always promises of treats- movies, food, presents, whatever, but always the implication that no one could know, it was "our secret". I used to bleed from my anus and was convinced I must be having some boy form of menstruation, but it was just from being penetrated.During these years I plumped up into a chubby butterball of a kid. I was still pretty much ostracized at school. I acted out- kicking a substitute teacher. I failed the 5th grade. And I had my first suicide attempt at 13. My parents only found out about the second one (the same year) because in my scramble to get the razor blades out of the brown cardboard band I had cut my fingers and ran out in tears to tell my mother. I went to school that day like nothing had happened, but soon after I started to see a child therapist.The first time was an attempted overdose that just made me sick to my stomach. I never told anyone about that. I didn't tell anyone anything, for the most part. Secrets were an ingrained part of my upbringing.
By the time we moved away from Greenville, Charlie (that was Mr. Roger's first name) had become a trusted friend of the family. He had been fired from teaching under "mysterious circumstances"and was working at Wendys. Things were rocky at casa LaDow. My father just really didn't seem to like me. I was unhappy and lonely at school (again) , and Charlie would call me and pay attention to me.I was 13-14.That summer Mom got me a bus ticket so I could go visit him in SC.
I was to be there for 5 days. He picked me up and when we got to his house, the mayo and the brownies were gone, but there was more petrified food in it's place. He had to run an errand and left me alone in the house. Being a nosey 13 year old, I snooped. I went into the spare bedroom- which I had never seen before. There were piles and piles of magazines and slides and photo sheets. Of course, they were pornographic. As I picked through them, I realized they were all filled with naked boys. Alone, having sex with each other, boys with older men.When I say boys, I mean younger than me. Or at least around the same age as I had been when I met Charlie.I suddenly felt sick as realization hit me hard and memories flooded back. I looked around for a phone. I had to get out of there NOW. My mother had given me a phone list of some other friends to look up and connect with while I was there. Funnily enough, I called Mrs. Sheppard- my old teacher that was my neighbor and asked her if I could stay with her the remainder of my visit. Bless her for saying yes. I told Charlie when he came back that I was having an allergic reaction from a cat that he used to have and couldn't breathe. I stayed with the Sheppards and didn't talk to Charlie for a while.
But of course, he started calling me again. At this time, I was 16 and had pretty much realized I was gay. Junior high had been hell and it was my junior year. By now my Father really hated me and I floundered at school. Charlie was trying to get me to run away and stay with him. He would try to have phone sex with me, but it just made me uncomfortable. He would try to get me to use vegetables (a carrot) as a sex toy on myself and describe it to him. I think that was the first time I ever faked sex. Then he sent me a german porn magazine featuring 12 year olds.
A few weeks later I attempted to o.d .again. This time, I used allergy meds. About 20. And then went to school. The side effects just made me jittery and sick. I was sent to the nurses office and I confessed what I had done. Mom picked me up from school and took me to the hospital where I was committed for 28 days. I never told the Dr. anything about Charlie. During my stay, My Mother brought me a card Charlie had sent through her, It was a cute get well card...with descriptions on the inside of what he wanted to do with me. And guess who came to stay with us the day I got out of the hospital.
We had sex while he was there. For some reason, I thought I had no choice. It's what we do. I was so disgusted by him- I noticed the massive amounts of dandruff and greasy skin. And he smelled. But I thought I HAD to do it. One night we were out to dinner at Godfathers' Pizza and we saw one of my classmates there named Glen. Glen was a slight looking young man that had feathery bangs and a definite sense of style. Charlie pointed him out and said "Do you know him? You should get to know HIM" and suddenly the floodgates opened again and I knew he was a predator. He was a pedophile. I had been raped, molested, and conditioned to think this was normal.
He left the next day and I never talked to him again. I don't know if he saw it in my eyes, of possibly i pulled away from him, but I never got another call.
Several years later I finally came out to my parents and not long after told them about Charlie. Of course, they were horrified and furious. There were calls to action, to go "get him", but in the end, nothing was done. I felt so betrayed at that moment, so hurt, that they failed to protect me when I was a child, and they were still failing me. They left it up to me if I wanted to pursue any action. I wanted them to just DO IT. I was not emotionally equipped to handle it. I didn't love myself enough to do anything. Couldn't they SEE that? Didn't they KNOW that?
So , nothing was done.
Until my twenties-some dear friends had tracked him down- there were new cases against him. I was contacted by a prosecuting attorney to ask me to testify- the statute of limitations had expired but my testimony could help finally put him away. And I ...crumbled. I freaked. I regressed to a helpless child and emotionally imploded. I did nothing.
And I have regretted that ever since. I still deal with self hatred and shame-for what had happened, for not being strong enough, for not stopping him. I handle my depression much better these days, but this story is deeply embedded into the DNA of who I am. I had a friend who critiscized me for being a victim and to this day I still battle those demons and that feeling of being a victim. Because (as is typical) I blamed myself for everything that had happened. I must have wanted it. I must have caused it. I must have deserved it.
Now I know that is not true, but those remenants linger in my soul.
Which brings me to the WHY I am writing this. The #MeToo movement. I have heard a lot of shit about "It's kind of suspicious these ladies/gentlemen waited so long to say anything. Why? If it was me, I would" blah blah blah. Here's the thing. We all have our individual DNA- I don't understand why we try to compare our own experiences to others and pass some sort of JUDGEMENT if it doesn't fit your experience or worldview. You don't have to understand. It's not about you. It makes me so angry -this total lack of empathy because it's not what you would have done. YOU DON'T KNOW! And even if you do know, you STILL don't know how it affects ME! Or THEM. It is not for you to comprehend. You don't enter into the equation. Unless you are being supportive.
I've told family and certain friends in the past, but I've not gone public until now because - well frankly, I felt nobody really gave a damn. No one wants to hear about these things. They make us too uncomfortable. It's better to ignore it or disbelieve it or sweep it under the carpet. What does it really change,anyway?
I hope to find power in sharing my story and healing. I hope by sharing I might empower someone else to step forward. Or to know they are not alone.
Oprah made a powerful speech at the golden Globes that was sneered at for her seeming "complicitness" for being a friend of Harvey Weinstein. Sadly, I have a lot of views on being complicit.But did you listen to her words? A new day. Not yesterday. Not the day before. A rallying cry for the future when no one has to say #MeToo again.
We are still frightened by the truth. Made uncomfortable by it. But we MUST speak it. Especially if anything is going to change.
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