Nick's Survivor Story (**TRIGGERS** after intro, long)

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By way of introduction:

I wrote this within a couple days of joining this group, in a period of personal crisis right after a bunch of previously disjointed memories had well and truly freaked me out by organizing themselves into a coherent sequence of events. Once that happened, a swarm of additional details came scuttling in to fill the cracks between the memories I’d had before. This was not a comfortable experience. My goal in writing was to get the memories out of my body and onto the page. This means that I’ve explicitly described what was done to me, what I did, and, as precisely as I can, how it made me feel. There’s a fairly general description of abuse in paragraphs 1 and 2 of the story. It’s then trigger-free up to paragraph 12, after which things get very raw.

Physically for me the act of writing seems to have worked. I am no longer overcome by waves of nausea, my heart-rate is back to normal, and I’m not feeling startled every time the AC kicks on. I can safely let my mind wander without worrying that it will fall into an abyss of Revisiting The Awful.

Though I wrote this with the idea of posting it, the actual decision to post has been tough. Should I really put this out there, with all this detail? I’ve decided to go ahead because I want to get across the specific, fiendish nature of the pain my CSA has caused me. That pain is mostly about ambivalence – that is, feeling multiple extremely intense contradictory things at once. It has had hugely destructive consequences for my sexuality, self-esteem, and general sense of comfort in my own skin. On the basis of what I’ve read in the forum so far, the consequences of exposure to what you might call “high-voltage ambivalence” seem to be something many of us male survivors struggle with. Knowing that is so reassuring! It’s what’s giving me the confidence to spill my guts here. Maybe others will recognize themselves in me and know they are not alone. Maybe partners or family members will read this (though I’m afraid it may be very hard to read) and get a clearer sense of the nature of the pain their survivor loved ones have experienced and the scars it leaves behind.

Anyway, my post in "introductions" and contributions in the forum deal with my experiences more generally, so if you want to get to know me but also want to avoid triggers, please feel free to read those instead. Alternatively, if you are OK dipping a toe in, you could stop reading at the spot marked TRIGGERS AHEAD.

On to the story:

I’m going to focus here on the abuse that I feel needs to get out the most, not the abuse that came first. One of these days, what came first might get more attention in a second installment. To make full sense of the main thing, though, I do need to say a little about the earlier stuff as background: from the ages of eight to ten, I was abused by a boy who was a year older who lived down the street from me. He manipulated me and a girl my age into doing a bunch of sexual things that generally involved me and the girl following his instructions while he watched. Once it was fully escalated, she was always naked, I was sometimes naked, sometimes just naked from the waist down, and he was always fully dressed. That seems to have been a big thing that got him off.

The justification he gave for this bizarre set up at the time, when he gave any justification at all beyond “c’mon,” was that it was because I had tendencies to be “a fag,” and he wanted to create situations in which my “faggy” nature was tested, and either verified or disproved, with the idea that if it were verified, for instance by my getting hard at the wrong time or failing to get hard at the right one too many times, he would reject me as a friend. (Spoiler alert: he rejected me maybe five months after the events I describe here, and turned our whole group of friends against me for good measure.)

Being a “fag” (I know it’s a slur, but it was the word that was used, and the one I internalized at that point in my life, though no longer) was something that constantly worried me. I wasn’t a very boyish boy. I was not only bad at team sports, I found them tedious and hated watching them. I loved visual art, old things of all kinds, and wearing fancy costumes. I talked way too much and way too elaborately, in a warbling soprano that I still have trouble hearing in old family videos, pouring out effete paragraphs with big words, careful enunciation, and elaborate grammar. I’d lived my whole life in the USA, but often people back then told me my accent sounded “British,” I think mostly because of the formality of my diction and the words I picked, rather than how I pronounced them. When I was at a friend’s birthday party, I’d gravitate to the moms’ table and want to hear what they had to say about various fashion designers and museum exhibitions. Judging by the looks on people’s faces, or at least how I remember them at this point in my life, this could often be excruciating for both the moms and the dads. Do his parents realize how queer this kid is? Should we step in and do something about it, “for his own good”? How do his parents manage the shame of having a son like this?

That’s probably projection to some considerable degree. But I did get a strong sense from my parents that they were working extra hard to avoid actually revealing how terrified they were that I might turn out to be gay. This was the era of “Free to be You and Me,” which we had in fact sung along to regularly in my preschool, but my sense was that my parents were at heart too culturally conservative to match that talk with their emotional walk. Intellectually, they knew it shouldn’t matter what my sexual preference or gender identity was. Viscerally, well, it was a different story, and for me as a kid the unspoken came through loud and clear. That was, at least, the feeling I got at the time.

At the same time, though, I definitely felt cis. I was a boy, just one who happened to dread the prospect of spending his entire life obliged to express himself exclusively through grunts, rustles of the newspaper, discussions of baseball stats, tabulation of account balances, and engine repair. At the end of the day I even turned out to be mostly straight, despite my talkativeness, aesthetic preferences, and continuing lack of interest in all spectator sports except ballet. Go figure.

So I was ten. It was either late summer or early fall, therefore the start of fifth grade, weather still mild. Every week, I took an after-school drawing class at a local community center. I was maybe slightly better than average, but I was desperate to be great, or rather, to be perceived as great. The abuse that I’d been enmeshed in for almost two years already, which I didn’t really think of as abuse at that point, made me desperate for validation, acclaim, admiration, anything from somebody else to help counteract the very intense feelings of shame and inadequacy that I was already struggling to handle.

Now I see that this was why I worked so hard in school, pleasing all my teachers to a fault. They had to turf me out of the library for recess. I never, absolutely never, let myself get less than the top grade. Teachers would come up with extra-challenging special assignments for me, just to see what would happen if they did. I always came through with flying colors, partly by working hard and partly by internalizing a sense of exactly what any given teacher wanted and totally abandoning myself to the project of giving it to them. In the story I’m about to tell, I now realize, it was no different.

One day, when a very friendly and, to me at any rate, distinguished looking man approached me after art class gushing about how wonderful he thought my drawings were, I was swept away. He said he had a small greeting card company that used children’s art, and he thought mine would be perfect. He praised its mixture of humor and sharp observation, said he was certain that I’d be going places. Though I can still hear his voice, I can’t yet manage to remember either his entire face or his name. I can picture the turn of his mouth at a few points. But did he wear glasses? No idea. Nose? Eye color? Total blank. To my ten-year-old self I do know that he seemed respectable. I remember gray, or maybe salt-and-pepper hair, Izod shirt, a trim body, an executive type who could have passed for a regular at the tennis club my family belonged to, tall. Though of course at that point, since I was something like four foot nine myself, pretty much anything counted as tall. I remember being disappointed when somebody who worked at the community center swooped in and shooed him away, doubtless easily reading what I was still too naïve to notice, maybe even on the lookout for him, since in retrospect this was by no means his first rodeo.

While for years I thought this was an isolated encounter, recently I’ve realized that no, in fact, I must have given him my phone number before he disappeared.

Several days later, I’m not sure how long, I got a phone call. It was a weekday afternoon, probably around 3:30, after school was over and I was home but my parents weren’t yet back from work. They both worked, good upper-middle-class professional jobs. We had a live-in nanny/housecleaner, but this was the era of free-range parenting, so she didn’t keep particularly close tabs and wasn’t expected to. The man on the other end of the line asked if my mother was home, and I said no. He then started asking me questions. Lots of them, primarily about my penis, what I did with it, what I’d heard that other people did with theirs. He then told me what he did with his, what he knew that other people did with theirs, and so on. I’m approximate here because I don’t really remember the substance of the conversation, just the fact that it happened and that it went on for a very long time, making me feel extremely uncomfortable but also for some reason unable to hang up and end it. I do remember eventually saying “I don’t think you actually want to talk to my mom” and hanging up the phone.

For years, I’ve remembered this and, once again, brushed it off as an isolated incident. Just a pervy guy dialing random numbers in the phone book, taking advantage of a lucky hit. No different, really, from the flasher who hung out in the bushes behind my daycare center playground when I was in second grade. One of those comparatively innocuous bits of human nastiness that all kids have to contend with to some degree because, let’s face it, people can be selfish bastards, or at the very least, can act selfishly as they struggle through their own dark battles.


But the thing is, there was another memory, a clear image of the inside of a stall in the very basic, kind of smelly, dank, concrete-floored men’s room in the little cinderblock community building at my neighborhood park. The viewpoint in the memory-image was low down, looking up toward the clerestory windows at the top of the gloss-white painted walls. They were the only light source, so while it was enough to see, it was dim, like deep shade in a forest.

Before a few weeks ago, I hadn’t really known what to do with this memory. I knew it was from some point in my childhood, but I couldn’t remember when. It didn’t strike me as particularly significant.

But then, as I’m lying on my back one night trying to get to sleep, holy crap. For some reason just out of nowhere I remembered that the phone call in fact came from the guy who’d buttonholed me at the art class. Then all of a sudden that stall memory started seeping in. At first I had no idea why. Then there were a few more images, out of order, in a slow trickle. I didn’t want to believe they were real, but there they were. In that week’s session with my T, the torrent broke through.

I’m not sure if at some point in the phone call I’d mentioned my neighborhood park, or if the man already knew about it. Either way, he’d said something in the call about wanting to meet me and that he’d be at the park around that same time, 3:30 or 4:00. It might have been the next day, might have been in a week. That I can’t remember.

I went to the park to meet him. I hadn’t allowed myself to remember it before, but that’s what I did. The call had made me uncomfortable. But I knew he wanted me to show up there so badly, and he seemed so enthusiastic and admiring. When I got to the park I recognized the guy from the community center art class. He was excited to see me, really exuberant; if I saw him that way now I suppose I’d say childlike, though of course that’s not how I saw it then. We talked, I can’t remember about what or how long. My guess is that I must have asked him more about his “company,” probably got more praise, maybe told him who my favorite artists were and why, whatever. Even after having had that creepy phone conversation. Tough to get more love-hungry than that, but there you are.

I am working very hard right now on forgiving myself for being ten. I was ten. And not just ten, but so thirsty for affection and validation. So transparently, obviously and desperately needy. The kind of kid a good person supports and a bad person exploits.

At some point he said he had something special to show me, but that it was secret and so we had to go into the bathroom for him to show it. I was excited. I agreed eagerly, followed him in. He closed the main door. Pushed one of those tall metal trash-cans against the door, because that would make it extra secure. It astounds me that I didn’t see that as a danger sign. Then he went in to a stall and asked me to go in with him. I did that too. He shut the door and latched it.

He sat crosslegged on the floor in front of the toilet and told me to stand facing him in the opening his legs made. I don’t remember if he undid my fly and pulled down my pants and underwear or if I did after he told me to. I just remember them being all the way at my ankles. Then he put his hands on my butt and pushed me toward his mouth. It wasn’t hard then but it got hard when he started sucking on it. He was squeezing my butt and sucking. I had no idea what to do. I remember a distinctive kind of queasiness, familiar from my previous abuse, but this time much more intense. I had a special nonsense name for it, “navohosel.” No idea why. That’s just what it was called in my head. Basically it was sexual excitement plus anxiety.

After a little while he stopped and asked if I wanted to feel something extra special that he didn’t do for people very often. I didn’t say anything but I nodded. He took his hands off my butt and put an index finger in his mouth for a bit. It seemed weird to me that he was doing that. Then he started sucking me again, wrapped his hand around, and pushed his finger into me, up to the first joint. When it went in I made a high gasp. I couldn’t help it. Like a girl, I thought. Like a fag. My whole body went stiff at first, then relaxed into it like an animal going limp in a trap. Submitting like that excited me. Submitting like that made me feel disgusted with myself. He just sucked harder and pushed in more, hooked around. It felt great. It felt horrible. I didn’t want it to stop ever. I wanted it to stop right away. I couldn’t say anything. It was like I was caught in some kind of sticky net between his mouth and his finger. It felt impossible for me to get out and that was hugely terrifying. It felt impossible to get out and it also felt amazing in a way that made me not want to ever get out. He’d told me it was super special so to prove I was worthy I tried to act some version of what ten-year-old me imagined as “sexy” for him. Who knows what that would have looked like. This last part is another thing I’m working on forgiving myself for. I have to keep reminding myself: I wasn’t the man I am now, or even the doofus I was when I was twenty, I was TEN, and expertly manipulated on top of that.

After a while he stopped again. I moved to pull up my pants and he said no, leave them down. So I did. He stood up and said OK now you do me. Then he undid his belt and fly, pulled down his pants partway and sat on the toilet. He wasn’t wearing any underwear. His dick was coming up out of a bunch of hair. He wrapped one hand around the base of it and was holding it pointing up. It was like there was a knob on the end of it. The hair was mostly black even though his head-hair was grey. I got on my knees and scooched in between his legs, which he’d spread wide. I bent over him. He said that since his was big and my mouth was small I should just put the knob in and lick under the pee hole with the tip of my tongue, kind of stroking over and over, until he said to stop. I did it. I tried to stop a few times but he said no keep going, so I did. My tongue hurt. My bare knees on the concrete floor hurt. I was having trouble swallowing because of his boner in there and saliva was kind of building up under my tongue. He asked me to look up at him every so often, which was hard to do while still doing the tongue thing. I had to roll my eyes way up and couldn’t hold it for long. When I did I saw him smiling with his lips closed. Now I’d call it a smirk. It was weird to have my pants down still. I felt more naked than naked even though my shirt was still on. He said it was OK for me to rub mine, so I did. It wasn’t a request for me to do it or an order, just kind of a suggestion, but one that I didn’t think I could refuse, like when the host offers you seconds on cake at a party, and you know it would disappoint him if you turned it down, even though it’s just crappy bland supermarket white cake, so you pretend to be excited, and end up eating it.

It seemed like forever and it was so uncomfortable. But I felt like I couldn’t stop until he let me stop even though I was the one who was doing it. Like it was some super-advanced assignment I’d started and had to finish because I started it. I didn’t get why he wasn’t letting me stop. I’d been doing him for way longer than he did me. Then he put his hand on the back of my head and held it while he squirted into my mouth. I wasn’t expecting it. It filled my mouth. I remember bitter, gross like snot, warm. I swallowed it because I couldn’t think of where to spit it out. Not on him. Not on the floor, because it would make the floor dirty (bizarre, that one). Not on myself because then it would be on my clothes. Not in my hand because I really didn’t want to touch it.

He ripped off a wad of toilet paper and wiped my mouth. He said I did great, his best one ever. Can you believe I actually felt proud when he said that? I definitely did. I was also horrified that I felt proud and horrified that I might be good at it. He said he could tell I loved it and was a “natural” because I’d swallowed and I’d been hard the whole time. He could see that because my pants were down. I realized he was right. I was hard then, had been the whole time, and it was right out there for him to see. Not surprising, really, since I’d left my pants down because he asked me to and played with it because he made the suggestion. I recognize the gaslighting clearly now, but didn’t then. Then it seemed like it was all on me.

He seemed really happy about the swallowing and my boner so I felt proud of them, like they showed I was a child prodigy in his eyes, and I loved it when people thought I was a child prodigy. At the same time, and with equal strength, I also I hated myself for swallowing and staying hard while I was doing him, especially since deep down I knew that both were things that hadn’t been on purpose. Still, as I saw it any doubt about my “faggy-ness” was settled then and there. Obviously I was a “fag.” I was a “natural” at this. Born to do it, like a fish to water. God, how terrible that thought was. I was sure my parents would stop loving me forever. Could this near stranger possibly be a substitute if they did? I mean he said I was the best ever at giving him what he wanted, so maybe? I weighed that. I was so convinced my family and everyone else I knew would throw me out like garbage that for a little while there I was ready to just up and hand myself over to him. That hurts to admit. Another thing I’m working on forgiving myself for.

I remember standing up, pulling up my pants. He was smiling. I’m pretty sure I was blushing crimson, but not sure what my facial expression was. I don’t know what had risen to the surface at that point. My fear? My disgust? My bone-deep shame? My weird hope that he’d love me more than anyone else, and therefore save me from the imagined consequences of the exact awful thing he’d manipulated me into doing? Or would it still have been my pride at showing once again, under circumstances more daunting than any I’d faced before, that I was indeed a top student? Whatever it was, would this guy have even been able to read it? To do what he was almost certainly doing on a regular basis, a person’s got to have a pretty strong reality distortion field.

I remember very clearly what he said next. We’d left the stall and were standing in front of the sinks. He looked at me and in that same childlike enthusiastic tone he’d used at my art class, on the phone and in the park, said: “if we keep on practicing, you’ll get to be the world’s best little cocksucker.”

When I heard that it was as if the spell broke. Here there was no ambivalence. I’m guessing he was trying to play on my all too obvious desire to be the star pupil, as a way to get hooks into me for as long as I was still appealing to him. His choice of words, though, was poor. Hearing them, I (for once) felt no impulse to “apply myself,” just pure horror at the thought of having to keep doing what we’d just done, over and over and over again, until “practice” had turned me into nothing but his “best little cocksucker.” He’d given too much of the game away. It was as if the mask came off and I could see the slimy monster with his soul-sucking tentacle.

I turned, kicked aside the trash can, and was out the door, running. I couldn’t hear if he said anything as I left. At that point the memory goes dark. I have no idea what happened after I got home, or in the next days or weeks. I do remember being nervous about going to the park alone after that, at least until high school, at which point this was all fully buried. He never called again. I never saw him again. (Looking back on this now, I feel so much relief that this guy wasn’t in some kind of ongoing relationship with me, like a teacher, coach, clergyman, or – worst of all – relative. I feel so much sorrow for fellow survivors who were trapped in circumstances like that.)

My guess is that I never saw him again because, given the way I’d made a break for it, he was probably terrified I’d tell my parents and decided to lay low. Of course in the end, sadly, he had nothing to worry about on that score, and doubtless (this makes me sick to think about) went on to exploit other boys. Not telling and therefore allowing him to get away with it is another one of those things I’m working on forgiving ten-year-old me for. I know that at ten I felt like I just couldn’t tell, like to tell would just have revealed that it was all my fault, that I actually wanted this kind of thing to happen to me, that all my parents’ fears about my sissy nature were justified, that I had enjoyed, even really enjoyed, parts of it that only a “fag” would enjoy. What if he told the police, or worse, my parents, about the noise I’d made when he put his finger in and how I’d acted after that? About how obvious it was that I was proud of having done a good job on him? (Those last worries make no sense whatsoever seen from where I stand now, but I recognize that for ten-year-old me they felt like a huge issue.)

To cope I basically blocked the whole thing out. Though I have no memories of what happened once I got back to my house, I can imagine it easily enough. There would have been an hour or two of downtime. The nanny would have been there. And then my parents would have come home for dinner. I could have holed up in my room immediately after getting back from the park, but once it was dinner time I’d have needed to seem 100% fine. If they’d suspected even a little bit, asked even one question that indicated they saw something “off,” I probably would have cracked like an egg. As it was I must have played the part perfectly, or rather: well enough to convince my parents. I kept playing it thereafter.

Having this come back has been so painful. Now that I fully remember, it’s obvious why I’ve had the problems I’ve had: compulsive sexual acting out, confusion about my sexuality, difficulties with maintaining attunement and intimacy in either friendships or romantic relationships. Also, for what it’s worth, a tendency to go numb when I’m receiving oral sex. This one guy’s selfish pursuit of gratification -- for what, maybe half an hour 38 years ago? -- has cost me so much. So much, my T would want me to add, through no fault of my own. Now I’m able to grieve properly, anyway, and that counts for more than I expected. I also recognize that for me, at least, acknowledging these memories is crucial to my recovery. It’s a step I need to take in order to finally become the man I want to be.
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