Hi guys - I'm the dirty little hero

C. E.

Staff member

SPECIAL NOTE: I recently re-read this intro after some posts kicked it back to the top of the forum stack. I wrote it over three and a half years ago, and so much has changed that I felt it was important to reflect that here. I have grown quite a bit, and my perspectives have evolved as well - but I admit I never realized how much until I read what my three-and-a-half year younger self had to say. So I went through this carefully and added a bit more while trying my best to preserve that earlier voice. I think in so doing, these words may prove more useful to others with similar experiences. Interestingly, the view count on this post topped 10,000 while I was reworking this. That is humbling, but I also know that this is not just my story - it is the story of many here, some who have let me know how much this resonates with their own experience. The greatest honor is to be woven tightly into the fabric of shared experience here. I've stood alone with this for far too long. If my words have connected with one survivor, or one person who has a survivor in their life, or most especially given pause to one abuser - hence sparing a child from having to live out his own journey of healing - then that helps kill any second thoughts I may have for sharing at this level.

September 2015

Hi - I suppose it's about time I did an intro - this pretty much sums up my story here in the forum.

I have a tough time understanding the line between posting in the Introductions forum versus the Stories forums. A casual introduction explains little, yet a full story seems overkill. Since I often find myself repeating the essentials of myself to others, I might as well use the opportunity to post this as a reference. When you get to the end of this intro, I think you'll know pretty much who I am and why I am here.

As a preamble, please keep in mind that I am spilling something out here that once occupied all my energy to conceal. So while I know this is a public share, it remains to me a sacred one. This breaking of silence and secrets is a strange and uncomfortable intimacy. But breaking secrets is precisely what has compelled me to put this out here. Consider for a moment if, while any of us were being abused, we ran across someone else our age going through the same thing. Imagine if we could sit together under a shady willow tree alone and just talk about it - really talk like we couldn't do with anyone else. It would kill the notion we were alone, help us find an entirely different context in the utter confusion of what we were going through, give us the support we were aching for, and perhaps embolden us to speak out and stop it. And so I write.

There is, of course, another side to sharing so publicly. I hope the eyes that move past this point do so for good reasons and in the proper spirit. Perhaps like most here, you are a survivor. There is nothing more powerful than suddenly realizing you are not alone with this. And to you, I want to share at a level deep enough to remove all doubt (albeit at the risk of triggers). Perhaps you have never experienced child sexual abuse (CSA) but would like to understand it. In that case, maybe by sharing my experience, it will define the problem deeper than the more sensational and superficial slant you might otherwise get from news media. And while you may have never have experienced CSA, someday you may see something, suspect something, or have to reconcile something that just seems wrong. I don't advocate hysteria, but if my story encourages you to take that second glance, that deeper look, then these words have some value to you as well. Maybe you are the parent of a child who was a victim, or the partner of a survivor. My hope is that this will give some insight from another survivor's perspective in understanding even a little piece of what they are going through. As a supporter, you don't need to supply the answers, only an ear to listen, and perhaps a hug to show that you are listening. And finally, maybe you are an abuser - or have struggled with such thoughts. If so, I do not judge you, but challenge you. I do not presume to know that hell, but I saw my own abuser deal with his - and when those who could have helped him failed, I paid the price. So perhaps this survivor's perspective lends some credibility to my words: Dare to extract the deeper message being expressed here. Dare to open your eyes and see the incredible life damage such actions can do to a victim. Dare to seek the help my abuser never got but should have. Challenge yourself to understand that you can be the biggest hero in a child's life - simply by being the best person you can be in your life. I believe history shows us that great men are often not without great flaws - but those who are stronger than their flaws are great men.

My journey has convinced me that every survivor's experience is a fingerprint, a result of an almost infinite combination of variables that define what, when, where, how and why it happened, the ages of victim and abuser, the number of victims and abusers, who they were to each other before the abuse, how it affected them, the frequency and duration of the abuse, the physicality and physiology of it, where it fell on the spectrum from gentle grooming to violence - and the infinite shades of character that define who the victim was when it started and who they had to become to survive it. This is my fingerprint. I am not a therapist or educated in any form of counselling. I cannot tell you what works and what doesn't, and I will not try. All I can do is share my story. But if some of the ridges of my fingerprint line up with yours, such resonance can be a powerfully healing thing.

...........HIDDEN CIRCUS
I was the victim of a long-term serial abuse case that my therapist characterized as "particularly severe." It was at the hands of a next-door neighborhood kid. He was three years older than I was. I was his little "side kick" and looked up to him like my big brother since I only had sisters at home. We were best buddies despite our age and physical differences. When he got older he started molesting several of the 7-8 year old girls in our neighborhood, and I was one of the only boys (I was 12 when he started on me). Despite his ubiquitous interest in the little girls, his molestations of me were far more frequent. Since, as boys, we often slept together in sleeping bags in the basement or in a tent pitched in our wooded back yard, his access to me allowed much longer and more intense "sessions" with less threat of interruption. I remember a few times accommodating fully his desires two or three times over the course of a single overnight. As I write this, I remember one morning in particular. I walked back to the house from the tent and my eyes were so puffy from lack of sleep I barely recognized the boy looking back at me in the powder room mirror. My mom laughed and said that it looked like I was awake all night. She had no idea. That was just one night in a pattern of repeated sexual episodes that became my "normal" and continued through my teens until I finally "ran away" to California (from New York state) in a focused effort to distance myself from him and ultimately from myself.

Among those who were caught in his web was my little sister. The dynamics of that went deep. I was the protector not only of her but of all the girls of whom I was aware - and there were a few. I did so by "taking the bullet," knowing he couldn't shoot them if his gun was empty. Certainly better me than my sister - I was already tarnished, so if I was in for a penny, I might as well be in for the whole pound. I can neither explain nor hope to understand all the psychological repercussions that caused me, but I have learned over the years that the effects were quite significant. One of the results is that I still have a very tough time getting in touch with my anger. Seeing him molest the girls was deeply disturbing for me, but breaking up his sessions with them was a whispered effort. I felt like a master of ceremonies at a macabre circus - trying to keep the tiger at bay and everyone safe. Secrecy took priority over everything - and the irony was that while I was very cool and manipulative with him, I was the greater victim of his manipulations. I was smarter than he was, but he was older and stronger. He had a tremendous urge and a relentless whining insistence that - despite my efforts to counter - won for him my capitulation. Ironically, I found my power by embracing my submission to him. If I acquiesced, my sister and her friends wouldn't have to. At least, that is, until the next day. And the next. And the next. My perspectives were those of a child and rather myopic.

Anger? It never seemed appropriate. Disappointment might be a better word. I didn't understand what sex was when this started - although I knew instinctively that because it was a secret, something was wrong about it - and I was too busy keeping a level head to spare my sister. I couldn't afford to indulge in the indignation the parents in the neighborhood showed once they found out. The glimpses of anger they showed frightened me much more than anything my abuser was doing to me, and many of us victims stayed hidden as the drama played out over our heads. Had the adults been as calculating as I was, then I suspect this guy would have been TREATED AND MANAGED instead of threatened with punishment (as if that would resolve the issue). To this day, I rarely get angry about anything and tend to be very even-tempered. Frustrated? Yes. Anger, however, has almost always proven itself to me as a useless emotion. How Spockian. I still shrink from angry people, tending not to trust them or their judgement.

...........THE WOODSHED
Our abuser was caught when I was thirteen. One of the girls awoke with nightmares and told her mother. The mother's husband was out of town on a business conference, so she approached my father, who was a medical doctor and respected as something of a community leader. My dad in turn assembled a "committee" of two other fathers to determine the course of action. In a single closed door session in our house, my dad met with our abuser. I was not a party to that discussion, but was keenly aware of it. And so began the woodshed moment for my abuser - a moment where he was caught and where I should have been saved. But instead it paradoxically sent me tumbling far deeper into my abuser's dark world.

While my father was helping to decide the fate of the abuser, my mother sat me down for a talk. I remember every thread of detail of that conversation. It was in our finished basement. I sat on a bar stool and my mom sat across from me in a small armchair. Beneath us was the hideous orange and yellow shag carpet upon which was staged so much of the abuse, the furniture around us silent witnesses to our secrets.

She paused to gather herself, then carefully asked a question that would yield an answer she was not prepared to hear. She told me in a very measured pace that my friend did something that was very wrong and that he was in a lot of trouble. She proceeded to tell me what it was, and then asked Do you know what that means? I cast my eyes downward and muttered yes, afraid to look at her, choosing instead to fixate upon my penny loafers that couldn't reach the floor, my feet swinging at the air and wanting to take off and run to any place else but where they were. And then she asked the dreaded question I knew was coming. Did you do anything with him? It was a question that would haunt me for years - both in its ambiguity and in how it was the only question anyone ever asked me with regard to the situation.

I was a trapped animal. There was nowhere to go. My words started spilling out before I could even think of what to say. I spoke to the rug. Well....maybe just once or twice... just to see why he was doing it. I clearly remember my answer and how stupid the words sounded as they left my lips. How could I say something so daft and obvious? I had no excuse, and the answer I gave was nothing but an excuse. I looked up at my mom and immediately started to cry. I just broke down and pleaded. Please don't tell dad! My secret was out of the bag. My mom knew it now, and suddenly all of my efforts were redirected in a desperate bid to have her hold my secret from my dad and keep my humiliation contained.

My words had an unexpected calming effect on my mom. Suddenly she seemed relaxed, and her response was pretty much I'll have to think about it. I can't promise. We'll see. We'll see... She responded quietly and blandly - and I felt a shift in her countenance I did not understand. She then told me that everything was going to be okay in a way that made me doubt it would be. And that was that. It was never again brought up. We never talked about it after that. Nobody did. Ever.

My life was suddenly and painfully contorted around questions. Did she tell dad? Why wasn't she pursuing more questions? Was it really going to be okay? Was it as simple as having that little talk - and that was it? Perhaps I wished so hard for all this to go away that it actually did go away. Maybe I had magical powers that way. What happened in the aftermath of my abuser's woodshed moment was a complete mystery to me and would remain so for thirty years.

If my dad knew, he certainly was playing that hand close to the vest. But he was like that. So I figured he had to know. Between talking with my abuser and talking with my mom, I figured that there was no way he didn't know. My mom wouldn't keep such a secret from him. They were a team. But if he knew, why wasn't he angry? Was he trying to spare my feelings? Did he think the whole thing so disgusting he wouldn't even think about it, much less talk about it? Was I his most despicable, regrettable creation? One thing about my dad was that when he got angry, he rarely blew his cool. He just got quiet. I learned to fear those moments went he "went into his inner basement." Generally when I did something wrong, he would have a chat with me later about how I disappointed him. Those discussions would cut right to my soul. But they would only happen when he was good and ready. My dad played a mean poker hand with his feelings, and part of this nonchalance with me felt like a big bluff. I was waiting for that chat. I was dreading it.

It was during that week, shortly after the talk I had with my mom, that he and I were alone in the car together. I carefully formulated a question in a calculated attempt to draw the discussion and force his hand on what he knew and where I stood with him. I asked him simply ... Dad? Why did he do it?

My father's simple reply left me perplexed. Because he wasn't getting enough love at home. That was his answer? To a barely pubescent boy, it was nonsensical. Love? It was an adult's answer that to me at the time was far too abstract to make any sense. It didn't speak to its essence of my experience. My truths were in the physicalities. And with that non-answer, his bluff remained intact. His poker-face countenance remained unchanged. His response left me without any clue about whether he knew of my involvement or not. That was my shot - but it was his, too. I wasn't about to bring it up again. It was my decision that our conversation about the matter closed right then and there - on that car ride. And apparently he decided the same thing. Neither of us ever spoke of it again.

And so I defaulted - perhaps as any child would - to my worst fears. I figured that my dad had to know I was touched. He had to know I didn't stop it and that I didn't say no loud enough and that I let it happen again and again. Perhaps my abuser even shared with my dad how I seemed to like it and teased him - and maybe they both agreed I was to blame for not saying no. Maybe they both laughed about it as my abuser spilled to my father all of my dirty secrets. And so maybe it was a small gift that my dad wasn't ready to talk about it with me. Why would I ever want to open that box? I was all too happy to oblige his silence on the topic. Perhaps - like my wish that my mom would forget what I admitted to her in the basement - this, too, would simply vanish due to my magical powers of wishing it would. And if I wished hard enough, maybe he would completely forget. Maybe with time we would once again enjoy the healthy father-and-son relationship we both wanted but suddenly seemed so far away. I was too toxic for that to happen anytime soon.

The closed meeting of the parents came close an agreement to hand our abuser over to the police. But their final decision was to keep it quiet and avoid what would have likely been a difficult trial for everyone - including me. The solution to the problem was to throw me back into the lion's den to save the girls. I was perplexed about why my own father insisted that I help my friend through this rough patch and keep him from the girls (as I was literally asked to do), because I was almost certain he was aware of how mixed up in it I was as well. I felt hopeless, thrown away.

But like a good soldier, I took it on. I had real hopes that my molester - who was once like my big brother - would be "normal" again. I thought we could forget the nasty stuff we did and just get back to being as we once were. Maybe I thought that by saving him, I could save myself - and resurrect my integrity. And for a while, it seemed truly possible. He seemed humbled, contrite. He shared with me what my father said to him, and assured me that he did not reveal what had transpired between us. He seemed bowed to the weight of the moment. Deeply reflective and repentant. Ready to be a better person. I was intoxicated with the belief that I could not only do the job I was tasked with, but recreate him, rebuild him into something better. I was thirteen and possessed all the magic and optimism of my age. He seemed so deeply saddened in those days immediately after he was caught, and I committed myself to raising his spirits. I pushed bike rides, swimming, one-on-one hoops. I was in charge, meeting my responsibilities. Fulfilling a promise to my dad and a commitment to my friend. Feeling an empowerment the situation fed. For one glorious week. Until his demons crept back. His contrition did not last long.

...........LOSING TRUST
My molester knew that I was tasked by my father to help him stay away from the girls he was caught molesting. It took only a few days of abstinence from his crimes to fuel an even more ferocious urgency as he started in again with me. He told me that he wanted to do it again with the girls but didn't know how to stop himself. He begged for me to submit to him. He whined for it. I tried to reason him out of his desperation, but nothing I said seemed to work. The biking wasn't enough. Neither was the basketball. I not only wanted to help him, but I promised I would. And he reminded me of that responsibility with an ultimatum of conscience: if I did not submit, he would have to violate his promise to my father and touch the girls again - and that would be on me. You don't want that, do you? The memory of that supplicating slide back down into his darkness has never left me - how the magic of better possibilities evaporated. It felt as if the whole neighborhood was in collusion with perpetuating the mess I was in. I had reason to fear that my father knew what we were hiding as well as others - that they were all keeping my dirty secret, that everyone - my molester, the girls, the adults - would all be fine if I would just shut up and submit. Maybe that was the plan after all. My dreams fed that delusion. I remember vividly a recurring nightmare in which my parents - and other adults - were standing behind my molester, waiting their turn with me. Of course I never experienced incest or even the hint of that. But my shame was scorching. I would wake up and avoid my parents and siblings. I began losing trust especially with my more pubescent friends, convinced that they would do the same with me given half the chance. I wrote about this in a particularly frank and triggering poem called Zombies - where the friends I trusted, needed and relied upon could disappear in a moment, replaced by monsters. I don't know if I put the blame on myself, but I certainly held myself responsible for fixing it. I started wearing baggy clothes before baggy was in style just to hide the curves of my body, terrified anything approaching a hint of seduction would imperil me. I hid my eyes behind sheepdog bangs of long hair - an attempt to hide in my own skin. Any perceived vulnerability put me in immediate danger of crippling humiliation. I had no concept of healthy boundaries - they were meaningless. Anyone who got too close to me was a suspect. Even simple smiles had ulterior motives, and as I got older, anyone who found me attractive was by definition sick and dirty.

Many speak of child sexual abuse and the loss of trust. Of course my "big brother" friend certainly lost my trust. But then I started not trusting friends, even family. My dubiety grew like a cancer - extending to relatives, teachers, authority figures, robbing me of the healthier relationships I should have been building. Every smile had a price, every touch had a malignant intent. My trust in simple, innocent graces was gone. But the biggest loss of trust was with myself. The embarrassment (is there a better word for it?) of my body's response to the abuse was something I neither wanted nor understood, but it happened despite mustering every ounce of my will. It vexed my conscience, impugned my nascent integrity, and I judged myself harshly. My abuser just couldn't help himself. He was an out-of-control freight train with no brakes - absolutely insatiable. But even though I knew he was the more guilty party, I expected far more from myself. He was simply defective. But what was my excuse? Eventually I just ran away from it all with all the naivety of believing I could. I found I could run to the other end of the continent, run away from home, and yet I failed to run from myself.

I certainly tried. In California, three thousand miles from home, I attempted to reboot my life and bury the boy I was. I went there to forget who I was. I dyed my hair and changed my name. I gave myself a ticket to be whoever I wanted to explore being - as long as it wasn't the boy I was - the boy I left back home. I thought I might be gay but wasn't sure. I was dating girls and guys both. I will spare the detail here, but I still managed to put myself into abusive situations. You would think that one who was abused would have learned to avoid anything approaching re-victimization. But I have since come to understand that bad circumstances can become like comfortable old shoes. They are frayed, the shoelaces are broken and have holes in the soles so your socks get wet. But they have molded to your feet. They become a known fit. There is a comfort in known discomforts. We put these old shoes back on perhaps because we feel we deserve nothing better. Or maybe we've so thoroughly rehearsed the script that playing into these known roles is nothing - until we discover that we have stepped into a situation we did not anticipate. So that happened to me in California. As I did when I was a kid, I just didn't look back at it. And my talent at not looking back was certainly well-practiced by then.

It took a long time for me to see the truth of what happened to me as a child. I knew who the "bad guy" was. But so what? The point was moot - it was beyond my power to make him "good." But I sure as hell expected more of ME. I judged myself as if I could have salvaged my integrity, my honor. And the same-sex taboo condemned me before I could even launch out of the starting blocks. There was no finish-line of justice or help to run towards even if I tried. Societal hang ups are powerful silencers. I saw what happened to me as a gay issue when in fact it was a boundary issue. Those episodes became my secrets, pieces of unsettled memories I packed away and tried to forget. It took me years to see through the lies I told myself and to understand how the deep grooves of my past patterned the years of dysfunction that followed. It was a single defining event in my adult life - the death of my father - that finally opened my eyes. And it was a good therapist named Marc who taught me how to take those first steps on the path of a better journey. If you are reading this, Marc - perhaps you will recognize me from these words. I've come far, thanks in large part to you. You taught me how to walk back to me.

...........OPENING MY EYES
When I went through therapy ten years ago, I was so full of self-deluding constructs that I simply couldn't see that what happened to me as a child was molestation. My past was deeply entrenched in the lies I told myself. It was supposed to be "grief therapy." I was inconsolable for months after the sudden death of my father, and it soon became clear that my grief was not abating. A friend gave me a card with a number, and I made the appointment. When the therapist took me for a walk down the dirty trail into my past, I figured - okay, if this is the stupid game I have to play - then fine. I'll talk about what he wants and then we can finally discuss what I was really there for. But those sessions opened my eyes to everything I had closed them to. Marc was brilliant - letting me do all the talking, but his questions were smartly-planted guideposts, marking the trail he knew I needed to walk. His talent - I believe - was that he had an uncanny sense about precisely where I did not want to go - and a sense of where he knew I needed to go - and he didn't let me get away with skirting around those places. He never judged. He never summarized. He simply let me hear myself. And I discovered that the truths I had created just did not stand up to the truths my ears heard spilling from my lips. I was a small prepubescent boy submitting to fully consummated anal intercourse - countless times - with a bigger, fully pubescent male 3 years older than me all under the threat that he'd molest my sister if I said no! And when I said yes, he'd molest her anyways. But - hey - that was MY fault, right? It's amazing how much I managed to kid myself for so long. Unlearning those lies I told myself was an adventure into my soul that was as dark as it was fascinating. It wasn't an easy journey, and I was a skeptical and reluctant patient. It was like slogging through a muddy swamp in heavy boots - embarrassing, awful stuff to dredge myself through - in large part because I owned every sin. It was a trail of tears, a hard look in the mirror for the first time in my life. And at the end of that path was waiting a kid I dismissed and packed away with all the other memories. A kid I wouldn't look at, and nobody else really did either. A kid who was abused by his molester but who never stopped believing in the love of that relationship, only to then be blamed and neglected by me. In so doing, I amputated myself from my childhood. I built my adult life on a broken foundation, and wondered why everything crumbled - school, relationships, work.

If I could sum up in a simple three-word sentence the biggest lesson those therapy sessions taught me it is this: Look at it. It sounds simple, but my whole life was about not looking at it, about keeping secrets and redefining truths. I stopped looking at it when it started. The adults stopped looking at it, too. Nobody was looking at any of this. Therapy revealed some hard truths. I wasn't going anywhere in my life because I had no idea where I was coming from - or even who I was. Just looking at it was all I needed to do - but that was a major effort and I could not have done it alone. I just needed to open my eyes - and amazingly, once I did, everything in my life started re-aligning itself. And while my life remains far from perfect (if there is ever such a thing) - it is certainly far from the imperfect that it was. It helps me to understand that - for me at least - there is no endpoint, no gleaming moment called "recovery" where I stand on a mountain peak in the sun, triumphant. In fact, I am not sure there is such a thing as "recovery." There was nothing to fix - only to see. There was only the journey of opening my eyes with an honesty that stopped when I was twelve. In the end, I finally own myself. Damages and all. And I have discovered that it is enough in this life just to do that.

...........WHO I AM TODAY
So who am I today? I am an educated professional enjoying a stable and healthy relationship of several years, and am generally happy. I am also wounded. I remain dysfunctional in many areas and am still putting the pieces together. A lot was stolen from me. I'll never know the man I might have been had my abuse not occurred - but I suspect my life would have been quite different. I am still learning to rebuild myself, but my daily truth is that I can usually say that I am a better man today than I was yesterday. Not always - but usually. And that little boy I neglected? He's the best part of me. He is my core. He's the light that shines out of me, reflected in the smiles of everyone around me who matters. You'll see him here now and then - occasionally in my avatar or my signature - smiling despite what was happening. He had an amazing resilience and an effervescent spirit. His dad called him a super ball - the harder he hit, the higher he'd bounce. And maybe that dad could have been proud of him had he known what that kid was trying to do. It took me years to finally understand that the boy I was did the best he could, holding everyone's secrets, trying his hardest to spare others from falling prey to the darkness he knew, navigating X-rated problems that confounded even the adults - problems he didn't understand and for which he felt there was nowhere to turn for help. And he dealt with all of that carrying nothing more than the tools of a child - the perspectives of a 70 pound kid standing in untied Keds who only wanted to ride his bike, swim, play pickup basketball and sandlot baseball until the sun was too low to see the ball. He simply wanted to make his parents proud. He believed in magical things. He returned every smile and was an easy mark for bullies. He was a powerhouse in a skinny little package. And he was the strongest man I ever was.

...........THE COST
The price I paid? Here's just one. My dad told me when I was still a young teenager that despite getting on my tail about being irresponsible and immature, "You're a real good boy and I'm awfully proud of you." A real good boy? Proud? He obviously had no idea how nasty and dirty I was. He - like all the adults in our neighborhood - had not a clue of the subterranean filth flowing at his feet. And I certainly wasn't about to disabuse him of his flawed notions. I took that compliment like a hungry dog snatching a forbidden pork chop from the dinner table - and hid forever. He gave me a compliment, yet I felt I stole it, greedily stashing it away until that day when I would be pure enough to earn it - that day I could step proudly into his regard. But that day never came. I kept him at arm's length to preserve his delusions, and I never let him truly see me. And then I suddenly lost him forever. As they wheeled him to a risky surgery, he said these words to me (and yes - I remember them precisely): I never knew you like I wanted to - you are such a private person. But I know you love me. I choked out that I loved him - but despite myself wanting to be positive for him, I was not strong enough to keep my tears from welling up. And those were that last words he ever spoke to me. He died on the operating table.

That's what was stolen from me. I think about that when the news media focuses on the sex of child sexual abuse rather than the deeper human loss it creates. And I think about that when I hear the louder voices drown out the quieter victims as had happened on the steps of the court house in Happy Valley when Jerry Sandusky was convicted - the voices defining the crime within the narrow self-serving perspectives of their own moral indignation. Because as loud as they are, they don't own it. We as victims do. And when those voices quiet down and the monster is locked up forever, the victim is left alone with quiet shame and shattered secrets. As those other voices go back to their less sullied lives, the abused are left holding what they cannot walk away from, and start the lifelong process of trying to live with it, trying to survive it. While non-consensual sex is a theft of the body, it eventually stops. But the secrets and shame it plants stay hidden under the skin of every survivor, and gradually eat holes through the soul.

My father died not knowing me. My shame became a wall - and while we both looked through the cracks and dreamt of climbing it and coming back to each other, the fact was neither of us could scale it. The shame was that big. It was a wall I built. A wall I owned. Protecting that wall became more important than anything else - until my father died. And only then did I realize that I had traded all the good memories we could have built together for that barrier of shame. He was gone, and I was left with that awful, dark wall.

When my father died, it became increasingly clear that I needed to approach my mother. I needed to ask her how she could know and not help me. I needed to ask if she ever told my father. After years of denial, I was left with nothing but questions and regrets - and a wall that did nothing for me. While my mom was still vital and healthy, I was going to get answers, because that was the only path away from regrets.

The day finally arrived. Going in, I knew two things for certain. I loved my mother. And I could not possibly imagine any defense for her inaction. I was about to put her on the spot and hated myself for it. And yet running through the litany of her possible responses, I could not think of one that offered to her salvation. The only thing of which I felt certain was that her answer would be honest. Despite this mystery, I knew the strength of her convictions to the truth of a matter. And so we would both have a challenge - she would need to find the strength to confess her truth - whatever it was - and I would need to find the strength to forgive. I drove up for a visit and sat across the kitchen table from her. I told her I had to talk to her about something. She was attentive. I asked if she remembered the boy next door - and the trouble he got in. She did. Then by way of segue, I asked if she remembered that I admitted to her I was also a victim.

She looked at me and I looked back. She seemed to age visibly as she listened to me - the lines on her face seemed to etch deeper in that moment. Her eyes glazed over - perhaps with tears? - and I could almost sense her heart breaking. And then the stunned reply...

"No. I don't remember." Silence. Her eyes looked unflinchingly into my own, her expression a devastating mix of concern and stunned sadness. "I don't remember that."

Truths sometimes visit us in such simple packages. We can spend a lifetime churning everything we don't know around in our heads with bits and pieces of memories we do know - and we call that complicated, tangled mess truth, even though it may be little more than a remanufactured memory of the deeper truth we do not see. Sometimes those tangled memories in our heads block us from seeing the simpler things. I sat at that table with so many scenarios of possible truths. And yet the moment stunned me with how simple it was. Three simple words. I don't remember. I was focused on every possible answer but the one I never allowed myself to see. She didn't remember. Of course there was always the possibility that she could be lying - that she did remember but could not muster the courage she normally possessed for difficult truths. I registered with myself that possibility, and pondered for a moment the possibility that she might be less than truthful. But everything I knew of her defined that as a statistical improbability. Any remaining doubt was easily overcome with a leap of faith. I built a bridge back to her - a simple commitment to a decision to believe what I knew was almost certainly true. We clasped hands - but from my heart jumped a little boy who ran over to her, embraced her and wouldn't let go. On this journey of healing, it was my faith in love - even more than my faith in God - that remains the biggest gift I have given to myself and to the others around me.

My mom heard her little boy admit to her years ago that he was being molested. And she simply could not process it. So she blocked it from her conscious memory. My admission when she pressed me simply never happened. It ceased. It was unbearable for her to look at. At least that is the way I understand it - perhaps the way I chose to understand it. In the context of everything else, it was the most plausible explanation. After all, my little sister could not remember entire episodes - and had no recollection of me jumping in to get him off her. Much later, I would discover that I had blocked out things as well - even though the truth I held on to was that I remembered everything. My mom was supposed to be my protector. But in the end, she was just another victim.

The bridge I built to my mother stands as a testament to the power of this journey. I did not indulge in hatred. Or anger. Or bitterness. I simply gave myself to unconditional trust and love - to the very thing that was stolen from me so many years ago. I lost my father. And perhaps my childhood. But I found my mother and took her back. I consider that to be the greatest victory over my abuse - that I did not let the secrets and the shame he foisted upon me steal my relationship with my mother as they had with my father. And when she slid down into the depths of Alzheimer's, I was there for her. Fully. She forgot a lot. She even confused my siblings at times. But she always remembered me. Even spoke my name out loud as she slept and dreamed in her gentle, dying days. She never forgot who I was. Never. Right to the end.

One of the events that brought me here to MaleSurvivor was a recent email from a girl I knew from childhood - an email that came completely out of the blue. She thanked me for being her "hero" all those years ago. I had walked in on her and my perp, and told her to get out just as he was starting to undress her. The funny thing is that I barely remembered that episode. There were so many. I'm pretty sure that I took the bullet. She was spared. And now she has a beautiful family. She told me that if I didn't step in to rescue her, that family may have never existed.

I don't have a family. But I'm the dirty little hero.


Aww, Eric the Brave, (my new viking name for you!)

You are NOT dirty. What you did saved many people from the molester, if only for that day. You were used by him & the neighborhood parents. You did nothing wrong, my friend. I am honored to know you.

Think of our idea of soldier heros. They may be used by their country's leaders to go & fight in senseless wars & have to do things there that they are not proud of. But that doesn't detract from them individually as heros. You are the same in my eyes.

C E - I consider you not only "not dirty" and a "hero" - but a BIG man, at that. You did the only thing you knew to do at the time, and you are doing what you need to do now. My hat's off to you and I salute you for your courage and honesty. (I also identify with your instinct toward truthfulness. My user name is descriptive in both literal and figurative ways, but I sign my posts with one of my actual names.)

Thanks for sharing more of your self with us.


HI Chase Eric

Thanks for having the courage to share your story with us. It is something we can all identify with, the threats the secrecy, the violence and the confusion.
I see that you have been on MS for a while now, and I am glad that we are seeing more posts from you, this is a good sign and shows that you are beginning to heal.
I trust that you will post your full life story for us sometime soon. Writing mine, although through the healing process more has come out, Was an incredibly liberating experience for me, and really changed the way that I related to me.
I hope that writing yours will do the same for you.
I look forward to reading more of your posts and your insightful replies to others question.
As a wise man on this site said, "the more I talk about this the easier it gets"

It works If you work it, so work it your worth it.

Heal well


OMG Eric...O.M.G!

I'm not one to sprinkle sunshine and glitter all around anyone here. Sorry if disturbing stuff bothers me dude...but your self-proclamation as the "Dirty Hero" is WAY wrong, and it hurts to see you do that to yourself.

I consider it an honor to know you here. You are a clear thinker and the most talented word-smith I know. U'm always anxious (in a good way) to read your take on things here.



I don't normally post on Intros. But this one I needed to post.

Everyone does what they feel they must. Some go above and beyond what they are required to do, by whatever code of ethics and morals they might possess. Others still go far beyond even that level.

I don't know if it will mean much, but the acts you think of yourself as dirty for, are in a much more vivid manner than any Hollywood "hero" - truthfully selfless. They show your true heart, bro, and your strength. It takes a hell of a person to knowingly put himself in line for something like this to protect others.

I at least do not see you as "dirty" - I see you as a selfless, strong, and loving individual with a passion for goodness. Nothing less could have allowed you to do what you did, nothing less could have allowed you to survive. And "taking the bullet" as you say, probably saved a LOT of children from suffering from the same heartache you so obviously carry.

If I could, I would have tried to protect the "hero" myself. I wasn't there, I couldn't do it, but I understand somewhat the taking of a bullet.. regardless of what form that bullet is in.

Don't discredit yourself, don't degrade yourself in that manner. Heal, recover, one foot in front of the other, and maybe someday, I hope you can look in a mirror and be proud of the fact that you, in "taking the bullet", prevented OTHERS from taking the same bullet.

This is a long post from me, on a subject that on one hand I can identify with, and on the other hand I probably have no right to speak on, but I had to speak up on this one.

I don't see you as dirty. I see you as bleeding... wounded. All true heroes ARE wounded, if only because in order to be a "hero" they have to care so deeply. But there's a lot of folks around here ready and waiting with the bandages to stop the bleeding, and I think if you keep at it, you might find you carry a lot of those bandages yourself.

This is a long enough post, and I've probably made a fool of myself in it, so I'll end it here. But one day I hope you can look at yourself and see what everyone here sees.

Courage, strength, and caring, bro. You have all of them.
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Mountainous Buck


U r neither dirty nor little.

But u r a hero.
Eric.... I can't begin to tell you how honoured I am to have had the opportunity to get to know you my friend. Your courage, your insight, your understanding, your compassion and your strength are all so special to me. To me mate there is nothing dirty about you, although you are a true hero....

I am so glad that you have taken this step and shared some of your pain with us for in the sharing begins the healing. I love you as a brother and will be here for you any time you need me....

Stay strong....


Chase Eric,

You're a good man. You were a good, generous boy. Thank you.

I wish you the recovery you deserve so richly,


New Registrant
Chase Eric,

All of the complimentary things that could be said about your character were addressed in the previous posts.

What you wrote is devastatingly tragic but in a strange way hopeful. Reading through some of these stories can char humanity: to know that there are people content to inflict such depravity on others is haunting but you are so decent and good.

Dont view yourself in such a diminutive way, your selflessness is awe-inspiring.




What a remarkable story and I am very impressed that you have managed to move beyond this in so many areas of your life and career. I admire you.

In your response to my intro. you said you had not experienced the extent of abuse that I did. I disagree. Yours sounded just as bad as mine, but you have overcome in ways I haven't yet. As for ever having a career or decent job, it's too late for me, but hopefully I can become a little bit functional. You've done a remarkable job in that area.

Thanks for sharing your story. I know it's not easy to put this stuff out for everyone to see, but by doing so you are helping others. I respect and admire you for that.

C. E.

Staff member
[size:20pt]E[/size]ach of you - Ozzie (Ian), Buck (Jaimie), Lee, Chet, Martin, Robbie, Matthew, American Girl, Disappointed, Undefeated, R - your support is so very much appreciated.

[size:20pt]I[/size]'m still a bit shy about fully sharing - I do it in bits and pieces and am working on trusting here at MS - but I am learning quickly who my friends are and that support structure is so vitally important to me.

[size:20pt]I[/size] just wanted to say thanks from the bottom of my heart.

[size:20pt]I[/size] recently told a friend that I didn't really think myself a "hero" and although I appreciate you saying that (it makes me smile :) ), the fact is - and I know this - you would have done the same if it was YOUR situation. And you know it. And I do. But thank you just the same.

[size:20pt]I[/size] did, however, state the truth with my adjectives. I was rather "little" - not the smallest but not quite as big as my school mates. And the "dirty" was just how I felt. But I was also an avid boy scout (no CSA issues there for me) - I actually read the entire scout manual, and remember clearly it talking about dirt - that were were two kinds. One was the dirt of the mind - not so good - bad thoughts, perversions, criminal intents, the whole nine yards. The good dirt you could always tell - it came off in the shower. I had plenty of the latter - and suspected much more of the former. Boy was I in the wrong organization...

[size:20pt]B[/size]eing here makes me reconsider that. Maybe I should have stuck around for Eagle after all...



I incorporate by reference all the supportive comments of the others, above. And remember Shawn Hornbeck? He was the boy in Missouri who was kidnaped in 2002 by a molester and held as a sex slave until he was rescued by police 4 years later, not long after the perv kidnaped another younger boy. I recall hearing at the time that Shawn "enticed" the perv away from the younger boy, rather than allowing the perv to molest him. Does that sound shameful or dirty? Not!

I just got here. Don't know if I have ever posted, but have been a member for a little while.

Dude, I cannot describe to you how awesome I think you are. You are not dirty, but you are an amazing hero.

C. E.

Staff member
[size:20pt]I[/size] thought I would update quickly - although this probably will deserve another post - that I brought in the new year deep in conversation with a co-survivor, finally discussing the secrets we haven't shared for so many years. We started talking about 10 minutes before the actual new year began, sitting in the living room with the TV blaring revelry and celebration in the other room. Our conversation closed out 2011 and lasted through the first two hours of the new year.

[size:20pt]W[/size]e were both sexually violated at the hands of the same next door neighbor, and we both grew up alone - each within ourselves and our shame. The sharing has been enormously cathartic for both of us. And while I have MS and my good friends here, I don't think she has such a support structure. So the ability to share has been particularly helpful to her.

[size:20pt]T[/size]o all my friends here, I offer my deepest thanks and best wishes. I don't know if I would have been able to have the conversation I did with without everyone here at MS. Everyone. If you are reading this now, that means YOU.
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Mountainous Buck


Thanks for the update!


Thanks for the update. And hang onto each other. You both could very well prove to be a support system for each other.

Glad you were able to talk. And glad she was receptive to the conversation as well. You did good, Eric.


great job Eric.