Thirty-seven years ago, I began building walls around the memories of my child abuse to compartmentalize a traumatic and embarrassing time in my life. I was molested for seven long years, and I was ready to turn the page. My abuser saw the opportunity with me when my dad died. I was six years old at the time. That’s what pedophiles do. They identify vulnerability and seize opportunities.
As the years passed, the events that unfolded during my childhood years became more and more distant. I did my best to not think about them and for the most part, it worked. I was a reasonably normal teenager, but a battle was growing in my mind between my true self and the guy who crept in from time to time to remind me that I was a fucking loser and incredibly damaged goods.
One Bad Dream
Drugs and alcohol would help me through the pain of hating who I was. Again, the events of my past grew further and further away. So far away, that it almost seemed like one regretful thing that happened over a distant period in my life.
I guess that’s the defense mechanism doing what it is supposed to do to help you survive. It’s easier to remember it as one bad dream.
My functional existence came to a screeching halt after thirty years of fading memories when another six-year-old showed me the true beauty of innocence. My oldest child, a sweet little girl with a big heart and a strong affection for her father, launched the grenade. As I discovered her pure innocence, I realized the true crime that was committed against me all those years ago.
For thirty fucking years I did my best not to be a victim. Hell in many ways, I blamed myself. After all, I didn’t stop him. In the early months and years of my abuse, I looked forward to his visits.
FUCK, those memories hurt the most. Me, a little boy oblivious to what was being stolen from me, eager to play a pervert’s games. I was so mad at myself for falling for his bullshit that my monster received little blame in my mind.
So, there I was, a forty-two-year-old man with a wife and two young children finally needing to come to terms and accept that I was a victim of a heinous crime committed by a man I was raised to trust. I was desperate and in need of some compassion for the little boy in me that I grew to loathe.
My daughter and her three-year-old little brother were a constant reminder of my shattered innocence. How do you control your triggers when you yearn to spend time with them every day? What do you do when you love your triggers to the moon and back?
I’d look my kids in their eyes with their smiling faces. They were full of love and trust, and I’d reflect back to me as a little boy. I would feel his pain all over again. Only this time, I was a grown-ass adult with a brain that could process what unfolded years earlier.
I could see the failure of those in my life to protect me. I processed the abuse this time, not as a child, but as a parent myself. I wanted to yell and scream out to anyone who would listen…SOMEONE FUCKING HELP THE LITTLE BOY! I wanted to give him a hug and protect him. I cried more than I ever cried in my life.
I decided to start tearing down the walls I built around my molestation. I needed to process it all again to see what sense I could make of it. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I knew what I was doing up to this point wasn’t working.
I called a trauma therapist who specializes in working with adult survivors of childhood molestation. Maybe, with everything out on the table, I could put the jigsaw puzzle back together and find peace. It was a long shot, but I was out of options. Desperate men do desperate things.
So, I went to work with my small team. My wife who always has my back, my therapist, my journal, and my pastor. I wasn’t the most religious guy at the time, but I felt the need for forgiveness. Isn’t that some fucked up shit?! I felt the need for forgiveness! Let that sink in.
With my team by my side, I felt like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption chipping away at thick walls with a little rock hammer. But here I am eight years later, and walls are coming down.
I am becoming my authentic self. It certainly hasn’t been easy or quick work, but my struggle has made me stronger than ever.
It took seven years for me to make sense of it all and find the peace I was searching for. Ironically, it is roughly the same length of time as my physical abuse.
With each page of the daily calendar that I tore off over those seven years, with each milestone in the lives of my two children during that time, I reflected on what my life was like back then. I remembered what was going through my head and in my heart. I remember the confusion, the pain, and the fucking strong will I had to survive. In time, what I perceived as my glaring weakness became my unparalleled strength.
As I broke it down, I learned that my trauma was not one really bad thing that happened during a period in my life. No, it was a shit ton of events that I suppressed in pursuit of self-preservation. I had help along the way, but mostly it was me and my little worn out rock hammer chipping away.
It almost crushed me going through it again with my mature brain. But like Andy, I crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.
One Bad Dream – The Reality
Here is what I have learned about the molestation time in my life. I could go on about each stop in my journey and where my mind was at that time. There were certainly lessons and experiences worth sharing. But for now, I will provide a view from the Goodyear Blimp.
**I’m not unpacking this to traumatize you the reader. No, I’m unpacking it so you can understand my strength and will to survive. I’m unpacking it because it holds a big key to the peace that I have found all these years later.
If you are a victim of child abuse, I hope when you read it you might find some strength as you think of the periods in your journey. Our paths may differ, but I am betting there are similarities. You are one badass motherfucker to make it through to the other side.
If you are not a victim of child abuse, my hope is that this blimp view gives you a glimpse into the mental and physical trauma a victim of child molestation suffers.
When I first heard the phrase Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) used by my trauma trained therapist I almost fell out of my chair. I never thought of my experience in that manner. After I broke this down into these segments, I completely see the PTSD. I lived it.
My Special Friend
Every child yearns for a strong man in their life. I was no exception. My monster manipulated me like a world-class chess master. He was making moves and playing the game long before I knew what was at stake.
Setting The Stage For His Crime
It started with him building trust and comfort with my family. Then he carefully groomed me, became my special friend, and built a loving bond. He used my football cards, matchbox cars, and any games I liked to find common ground. He took his time to set the stage. I liked him and looked forward to his visits. He seemingly liked me too.
We became friends at a time when I really needed someone in my corner. He was different from other adults in my life. He took a genuine interest in the things I liked. He was calculated and methodical and I was only six years old. He was someone I was raised to respect. He was on the inside. There was no stranger danger.
When he stopped by and knocked on our door, I would get a smile from ear to ear. My friend was here. He called our friendship special, and we had an agreement. What happens in our special friendship stays between us.
This period went on for three to six months.
Once our friendship was established and my monster had developed a routine of innocent visits and forged trust, he kicked it up a notch. He started by hugging me. Each hug is a little longer and tighter than the one before. Once hugs were commonplace, he began gently rubbing and tickling my arms and my back.
At first, it was on top of my shirt. Then a couple of weeks later he rubbed under my shirt. Finally, after some time, he would have me take my shirt off for optimal coverage. All along I was being assured this was normal for special friends and I was being reminded that it was best that we keep our special friendship private.
He also began filling my head about the fragile mental state of my mother. Reminding me that she lost her husband, he told me I needed to be the man of the house and protect her. He wasn’t wrong. Mom was barely keeping it together. I could hear her sobbing in her room after she thought I was long asleep. I learned how to keep a secret and I agreed it was best for everyone.
Eventually, his hand went down my shorts and he gently touched my penis. It was awkward and I was surprised but it also felt kind of felt good. Not so long after that, he had me remove my pants. I still looked forward to his frequent visits. After all, the soft touch and stroking felt good. Plus, our friendship seemed special. I trusted him more than ever.
We were in this stage for three to six months as well.
This is the place to be if you are a pedophile. All the months and years of groundwork, planning, trust-building, manipulation, and exploration is well worth the long journey to get here. This is their utopia. This is also the place monsters yearn to return. It’s like a first drug high. All future highs pale in comparison. The monster’s playground has a shelf life. What comes later for the monster and their victim is much messier. For now, they enjoy the high.
He would arrive as usual for one of his frequent visits and I would follow his lead. I know this is an awful analogy, but as I reflect it was like we were dating. I know, the image is terrible but hang in there with me. We had an intimate connection, or so I thought. I trusted him. I thought he loved me. He was my compass, and I followed his lead.
This was the hardest part for me to reconcile later. I felt like I was a willing participant here. I eventually learn that a child cannot consent to sex. But back then, I thought it was consensual. Even typing these words today, sets off such raw emotion that I need to go out for a long walk and hit the rowing machine to clear my head. It’s fucked up that he was in my head that much.
He had his run of the place. We had our basement time, but he would also supplement with short meetings outside of my home so as not to garner suspicion. He picked me up as I walked home from school, and he would park on a remote street. The bench seating in his 1980s four-door sedan would serve him just fine in a pinch.
Occasionally he would bring me to his house when no one was home there. That’s where he felt most comfortable, but I was always on edge there. I didn’t want to get caught. I didn’t want others to know our secret.
I always hated when we were completely alone because that’s when he would get more aggressive. He really wanted to escalate, and I resisted at times. There were things I didn’t like because they didn’t feel good. I drew the line in the sand.
That is likely what ended the monster’s playground era. We got to a point when I started setting boundaries and it became obvious that he wasn’t going to respect them. Additionally, his appetite grew. He wanted to expand the menu and wanted more frequent interaction. It became a job for me.
I’d see him driving up and think to myself, not again! Our special friendship started to become an incredible burden. I started taking alternative routes home. I traveled down many alleyways. I needed a break. My body was his and I was starting to realize that. That’s when self-destruction starts to creep in.
The Monster’s Playground lasted about two years.
Where do you go when you are a nine-year-old boy, and you need to hit the pause button on your life? You get in your head with so many questions but who do you reach out to when you start to realize you are incredibly ashamed of what’s happened? What the fuck do you do?
That’s when the internal battle emerges. That’s the setting of the next three phases.
So Many Questions
I am nine years old, and I start to question everything in my life. I am still struggling with the loss of my dad, my hero, and I start to question the intentions and integrity of the special friend God sent me to help me through my struggles. Is he a good man like so many seem to believe? Does he care for me? What I know is that I’m exhausted and I’m starting to have doubts.
The thing with monsters is they don’t give up so easily. They are persistent. They want that utopia high again. They will say and do anything they need to do to get back to the Monster’s Playground. He pulls off the throttle and slows down a bit. He sincerely listens to my questions and concerns and has caring answers for everything. He tells me we can stop the physical stuff. That’s not important to him. He wants me to be okay. We agree to remain friends.
He does everything right for a little while. He stops by from time to time to check in on me and my grandmother. We talk and he wants to know how I’m doing. I tell him I’m doing better but I secretly still have my reservations about him. He continues his kind and caring ways. Eventually, he makes his move again. I’m not exactly sure why, but I let him. In my mind, I’m starting to know something is not right, but I do it anyway.
I guess deep down I wanted his special friendship to be true. Because the alternative hurts more. The thought that I might be a pawn in his deviant game was too much to handle at that moment. Even though we moved forward things weren’t the same. He never had his Monster’s Playground again, at least, not with me. That hurts to write too.
I start to realize that I’m attracted to girls. To help stimulate me in a way he can no longer do on his own, he introduces pornography to our relationship. That’s how he keeps me engaged for a while longer. He’s fighting for more time with me, and he sees me naturally pulling away. Anything for another day.
He is committed and will say anything for another day of my engagement. I start to morph into someone I begin to hate. The real damage is just beginning.
This period lasts for roughly a year.
I Fucking Hate You
I begin to look in the mirror and hate the boy looking back at me. I’ve rationalized this relationship in my mind but the evidence against my monster and his intentions with me is starting to mount. I can’t reconcile it anymore. I am ready to be done with him but at the same time, I don’t have a high opinion of myself. He knows I’m pulling away and he’s not done with me yet. He starts dialing up the pressure.
He knows I live in fear of being exposed and he uses that in his favor. He really starts to take the form of a monster in my mind here but really my biggest enemy is looking back at me in the mirror. He gets much more aggressive and starts taking what he wants. He is too strong and maybe I don’t care enough about myself to fight.
Worthless Piece Of Meat
My monster is fucking relentless. He knows his window of opportunity is closing, so he is going to get every drop while there is still time. He doesn’t care how he does it. He is sloppy and desperate, much different than the methodical man I once knew. By that time, he had open access to my body for so long and so frequently that he felt ownership and I didn’t value it at all. Take what you want you sick fuck, just leave me alone when you are done.
You can only rinse and repeat that cycle for so long before you convince yourself you are a worthless piece of meat. This was rock bottom for me, and you know what they say about rock bottom. It either extinguishes your flame or ignites your will to survive.
I was in fifth grade, and I was getting better at running and hiding. I minimized any patterns in my life. So, he was forced to escalate his bribes. Money, pornography, gifts, he used anything to get my attention. And because I held no value on what he was after, it wasn’t beneath me to give it up. Again, this was one of the more difficult pieces for me to unpack over the years. I really thought I was a monster myself because I gave him what he wanted in exchange for those material things.
Oddly enough, material things hold little value for me now. What inspires me far exceeds any material value. I have my monster to thank for that too.
The I fucking hate you and worthless piece of meat periods lasted a year or so.
Rise Out Of The Ashes
Run Like Hell
I want out for good, but I don’t know how. So, I ran. I ran like hell. If I was fortunate enough to avoid him on my way home from school, I would run in and get changed in a NASCAR pit stop frenzy. Quickly changed, I would run to the security of a friend’s house. As we would play out in front of my friend’s home, I would see my monster driving by, circling like a shark in occupied waters. He was waiting for his time to go in for the kill.
I hated him and wanted nothing to do with him. I was running scared trying to survive another day. When he would catch me at home or by myself on my way home, I would give him what he was after. It was easier. I didn’t value it at all anyway. It was a means to an end. Then he would go home and leave me alone until the next time.
We didn’t need to say anything to each other. There were no more pleasantries. We knew what this was. I still hated myself and I started to dream of a new beginning. I hated him with every fiber of my being.
Mostly, I feared getting exposed for the piece of shit I was and worried about the emotional resiliency of my mother. She was still barely holding it together and my duty to protect her was one I held in high regard. He knew all of this and used it to his advantage. I was still spiraling down, and he didn’t give a shit. He wanted what he wanted.
When he couldn’t bribe me anymore, he would force himself on me but that only lasted a little while this time around. It was a combination of me growing physically stronger and him becoming frailer with the passing days. But most of all, the biggest difference was my will to survive. That gave me a puncher’s chance.
At first, he would hold me down and was too strong for me to overpower. He would get a little of what he wanted but I got my shots in too. He knew I was getting stronger, and the power dynamic was shifting. One day, I must have hurt him enough that he didn’t take what he wanted against my will anymore. He was almost out of time.
He kept coming around begging but it didn’t work well for him. It’s not that I thought very highly of myself, and I surely didn’t value what he was after. But I must admit, I enjoyed the power shift. He was taking what he wanted for so long that I liked watching him grovel and beg. He became a caricature of scum and weakness. I was in charge, and I wasn’t running anymore.
In one final attempt, my monster tried to bring in another participant, a young woman. I’m not ready to write about this now. When I am, it will have its own special dedicated entry. What I will share is that she helped me face my monster in one final showdown. I might not have cared much about myself and my body at that time, but I did care for others. I’ve always been a protector. I’ve been protecting people for years.
My monster made a grave error. He put someone else in harm’s way and she needed my protection. Maybe, I needed her protection too. She helped remind me of who I am. She may have saved my life and for that, I will be eternally grateful.
These final three periods in the out of the ashes period spanned about two years.
Next Chapters: From Bad Dream to New Reality
I discovered much about myself as I revisited all these stages. My strength, my confusion, my fear, my hope, my protective nature, it was all on full display.
As I began to appreciate the challenge of my journey, I found myself respecting that little boy from many years earlier. It had been a long time since he was given any respect. For decades I was his worst critic. It was a real fucking breakthrough for me.
I was molested by a pedophile. He took much from me, but he could never extinguish my hope. He tried to crush me, but he failed. I’m still here and I’m living my best life.
My struggle gave me warrior strength. I would need every drop of that strength to win the mental battle that ensued long after my physical abuse ended. The mental struggle is an ongoing one, but one I’m getting after every day with conviction. I’m in a good place. I have peace and I have purpose.
And if you’re keeping score, that means I won.
I look forward to our collective sharing and growth together as thrivers!
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