Monsters are real. I don’t mean this in some metaphoric sense. There is evil. It exists. I know because I learned recently in the media an alleged predator knowingly tracked down underage kids to have sex with them and was caught. If his lawyer is good, he’ll do a hair more than five years in prison for killing the future unscathed paths of 14 kids. Whatever paths awaited those kids before these crimes happened to them are forever gone. This monster put these children on new tracks that will forever change their lives, and no one will know what could have been. Every single one of those 14 children will carry with them emotional scars that will haunt them until the day they die.
I’m sure this monster will do jail time, though I highly doubt he will spend any time with the general population in prison. He might get solitary confinement, who knows? I assure you, whatever he experiences in prison will never amount to the horror, fear, confusion, and general agony he’s spread over 14 future lifetimes.
How was he able to do this? The exact same way a certain pudding-peddling sweater-wearing alleged creep kept his exploits secret for so long — silence and shame.
I won’t be silent any longer. Almost 30 years ago, I was molested. I was told that I wanted it to happen. I was told that I enjoyed it. I was told that if I said anything my mom would find out, and in that moment I began carrying a weight that almost killed me. I carried that weight alone. I suffered in silence as the rest of life happened around me. Everywhere I looked, I saw normal people living normal lives. In the mirror, I saw a creature who was beyond forgiveness, a thing that wasn’t worthy of love. I was defined by my shame.
In public, I wore a mask. I was a persona, a costume. I became the person I thought everyone would like to see or be around, and not the hideously broken and soiled thing I saw in the mirror. I mean, I must have liked it, right? I didn’t fight back. I just sat in horrified silence as I retreated into myself trying not to feel what was happening to me. My “inner-me” hoped beyond hope that once it was done that the nightmare would end. My “inner-me” was so wrong.
It didn’t end. For years, every time I closed my eyes, I went back to that night. Certain sights, sounds, scents would take me right back to that moment. There was no hiding from the near daily barrage of emotions I was feeling. Why didn’t I fight back? Why didn’t I scratch, claw, scream, run? I understand logically it is because I was scared. I was scared that I found myself in a position that I couldn’t get out of. I found myself in a spot where my parents couldn’t protect me. What if my parents found out? They would stop loving me. They would blame me for it. They would look at me in a different way.
I carried my shame and silence through the years, trying to get by the best I could. By the time I was 18, I already had one suicidal episode and dealt with years of sometimes crippling anxiety. My sexual identity was constantly in question. Living in Smalltown, America is no place to be if you aren’t sure whether or not you are gay. There was absolutely no one to talk to.
The first person I opened up to was my wife, who at the time was my fiancee. She had accepted my marriage proposal, but I felt that it was all a fraud until she knew the truth about my horrible past. So, we sat on the bed one night and I told her all about it. I was fully prepared for her to pack her things and leave. She didn’t. She just held me as we cried — and that moment was my first taste of freedom. My wife now knew, but that was it for a long time. It wasn’t until years later that I “opened the vault” and let a few other people in .
Each time I would speak this truth, it was liberating to be a little freer of the heavy load; yet still, the shame lingered.
Then one day while driving along, there was a woman on NPR talking about some of the coping mechanisms she went through after being molested as a young girl. They were exactly the same things I did! Every single one of them! I wasn’t some freakish monster. I was reacting in a completely normal way. The difference between this lady and myself, however, was that her family found out and was supportive, and got her into therapy where she could learn how to properly handle the emotional roller coaster she was on.
While I wasn’t afforded that luxury, it did help me to come to grips with some of that shame I carried with me. Since “the event,” I have struggled with anxiety, addictive traits, depression, etc. Would I have gone through all of these had I not been molested? Maybe. But, I’m sure the focus would have been something far easier to deal with than “being dirty.”
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was able to put away the anger violent rage I felt. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I was healed up enough to forgive the person who took my innocence and a large portion of my life. At that moment of forgiveness, I felt truly free.
But I was still silent. No more. If only I hadn’t been so silent all those years ago. If only this encourages someone to scream their truth!
If you have been molested, abused, raped, attacked, drugged or taken advantage of in any way, share your truth! Shout it from the rooftops ! Silence is where these monsters hide and thrive. We all need to talk. If you haven’t been sexually assaulted or abused, listen to those around you! The biggest fear is that even if you do talk, no one will listen to you. If you’ve been victimized, please hear these words: YOU HAVE NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF! I promise. It only took me 30 years to realize it.
See, this is what terrifies me as a father. I was so convinced that my parents would find me repulsive and somehow blame me for everything, that I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t open up to them. I still have not, actually. My mom went to her grave not knowing and my dad still has no clue. I can’t imagine my sons going through the same thing. I try to let them know that they can talk to me about anything, but how can I ever be sure that they will? I don’t know. I can only hope. I can only be vigilant in protecting them and assuring them they can tell me anything.
So, yeah, an alleged monster was caught, but not until he severely injured 14 kids. Don’t think for one second that he’s the only monster out there. Monsters are everywhere. If more victims talked, it could save the lives of countless more. If you have a voice, use it. If you have ears, lend them. That is how we beat the monsters of the world who prey upon children.
Originally appeared at The Good Men Project