When I returned to my hometown in 2009 I soon was forced to confront a haunted past I’d just as soon had remained unknown to others and all but forgotten by me. But that was not to be. Because of circumstances I could not control, I was forced again to face this past sexual abuse head-on. How I chose to address what I had experienced led to a series of unintended and unforeseen consequences for me; what followed and how people have treated me since then have been in some ways more devastating to me than the events that happened to me 44 years ago. The last few years have both liberated me and isolated me, and I am left dealing with new realities I had not -- nor could I have -- anticipated. Life has shown me that it’s me who must be empathetic and forgiving, and this story will make that painfully clear; I have to be, or else I cannot survive.
This is going to be a very long and very personal post, which I believe is relevant to the moment of now, so please forgive me in advance, and for any rambling as I tell this story. I ask in advance for your understanding and forgiveness. I have chosen to make this public now for a variety of reasons, and have chosen BHO as the venue to do so because I believe BHO will help shield me from internet trolls who enjoy piling on those who have already suffered. This story also involves some BHO personalities so is even more relevant.
This blog post covers three main things: what happened to me, the steps I have taken to seek resolution since returning to my hometown in 2009, and the fallout which has come from that. I’m sure my story is not unique, but it is my story to tell. If I didn’t feel that others could learn from this, which I sincerely believe, I would not be sharing this here and now, through this venue. I guess I’m saying, its time. Enough is enough.
Everything I am about to share with you in this blog is true. This happened to me. I was 13 years old in 1973 when I got a call from my violin teacher that the local community theater was producing the play Fiddler On The Roof and needed someone to play the fiddler. I was three years into my musical journey by then and my private teacher from Converse College recommended me for the part.
As it turns out, the Director/ Producer of the play, whom I shall not name as he is deceased (and for other reasons I will make clear later in this post) lived one block away from me on the same street where my family lived. Within a few weeks the arrangements were made, he would be my ride to and from rehearsals.
The very first night of rehearsal he picked me up with two other teenage boys in the car, who were 15 years old and also part of the production. Sometime near the end of the evening he took me aside and told me he had stashed bourbon and coke under a box outside near his car, and wanted me to go outside and make myself a drink. At that age in this town I was as green, gullible and naive as they come, so I did what he suggested. Before we drove home (only he and me, the other teens had another ride) he made himself a drink and had me make another for myself. Anyway, that first evening he just got me pretty drunk and dropped me off at my home a little late. My parents didn’t say a word. In hindsight I’m positive now he was testing the waters to see what kind of parental reactions he might get, setting up plausible deniability for himself should he be called out on that – which didn’t happen. On the home front, although I grew up in an upper-middle class home I’ll simply state here that I grew up in a dysfunctional family, although I wouldn’t realize that truth for many years to come (because I had no points of reference until I experienced life outside my family). For me at that time, life was as normal as I knew normal to be. But to this man-troll, I’m certain his test for lack of parental guidance or protection … passed. His other teenage friends to provide me with a false sense of normalcy … passed.
The second rehearsal went pretty much the same, except this time he was more insistent I drink and when everyone else was gone for the evening we sat outside in his car, where he basically groped me and had his way. For years to come I would deny myself that this happened, even though, I really knew this happened. I was pretty drunk. He dropped me off, as I recall, about two hours late, around midnight. On that night, my mom intercepted me in the hallway, noticed I was drunk and stumbling, and demanded to know if I was drunk, I don’t remember what I muttered in reply but went upstairs to my room and passed out. As far as parental protection, there wasn’t any. That was it. Being confronted by an angry mother. This incident, for my mom, was rich fodder for her for the next three decades to use to humiliate me at family gatherings, telling the story of how I can home stumbling drunk and how funny it was. That’s another story, for another day, however.
The day after that 2nd rehearsal I do remember I was still kind of drunk when I was in school, very confused, disoriented. There is no way I can put into words the emotions and thoughts that were unleashed. For one, it was a long time ago and I remember more I think as years go by, unraveling the feelings. But I’ll try. First, is shock. Its’ definitely a shock to the psyche. Humiliation. Fear. Denial, including self-denial. Anger. Mmmm … sweet anger. But through it all, what can I say? What can I do? What is there to be said? Or done? I was frozen. For me it wasn’t a matter of who I could talk to or tell about this (something you frequently hear from clueless folks later on – why didn’t you tell someone?); it’s a matter of I didn’t want anyone in the universe to know this -- ever. Deer in the headlights on a spiritual level, describes it in a nutshell. It sure felt like that. It was that.
Rehearsals went on like this. I was numb for the three weeks, two or three rehearsals per week, this might happen. Not every time, but enough to make a lasting impression (after 43 years now, ya think?). All told, this happened four or five times in the three or four weeks of rehearsals and performances. I see now the control and use of humiliation as a tool this guy used on me. For example, one time he told me I wasn’t needed at a scheduled rehearsal because none of my Fiddler parts were going to be covered. But then, at the next rehearsal, at one point when I was hanging out backstage, I hear him suddenly screaming and yelling my name demanding to know where the fiddler was. Apparently, they HAD rehearsed a part on my day off and I was not on my mark when I was supposed to be, so this man verbally berated me in front of the entire staff and crew. (This, after he had already diddled with me. Talk about control. Wow.) And not just a little. It was way over the top (at least it felt like that), for the infraction of not being on my mark for something I hadn’t rehearsed and didn’t even know about (I was never given a script). I felt the size of a pea and just wanted to crawl into a hole and for this whole experience to end. This kind of humiliation happened a few times, although this first time is what I remember most and kind of came to define the whole thing for me later on: humiliation. And anger over being humiliated.
So that was pretty much it. After the run of the play ended, he would call me on the phone (you know, land lines back then) from time to time and try to get me to agree to hang out with him, although it was always couched in some “official” reason over this or that. When I’d be outside mowing the lawn he would occasionally walk by with his wife in his arm, and give me a good glare. I just wanted this guy to go away and leave me alone. That ended after about a year and pretty much it was over. I didn’t hear from him anymore even though he lived a block away. I guess he moved on to other boys.
I moved away from Spartanburg in the early 1980s swept by life’s hurricane winds., eventually landing in east Tennessee where I planted shallow roots for the next 26 years. My teenage life in the years before I moved away were uneventful, in the context of a modestly dysfunctional family and added baggage I’d just as soon forget, you know, normal stuff. Flash forward about 26 years, to around 2008-09…
Returning to my Hometown: In My Face all over again with no escape…
In the years I lived in east Tennessee this childhood experience was not that difficult to push way to the back of my mind. There were no reminders for me; I lived a more or less normal life. Got swallowed up in a major life detour for about ten years (another story, for another day and another place) broke away from that, bought property, built a house, got married, got thrown under the bus by my wife, divorced her, started a business, closed a business, got physically and emotionally burned out, sold it all and moved back to my hometown to start over again and try to make sense of it all. You know, “normal” stuff. A story told millions of times by folks all over the world.
Literally, my first phone call on the day I returned to Spartanburg was to an old guitar-playing buddy from decades ago, and in short course we rekindled that friendship and I became a member of his acoustic band. We’d practice every week and gig here and there and it was good. Through him I made other musical connections, and around the same time I started attending a really cool jam session (among several) in nearby Greenville, SC at a now-defunct bar, which hosted a really great bluegrass session there every week. So, getting started again was taking on wonderful and meaningful dimensions for me and I was meeting some cool folks, and making some music along the way. This is what I had wanted, I had decided, apparently, unconsciously. This desire was within the core of my being.
Then it started. The name of the person who had diddled with me many decades ago started to be in my face in the newspaper, and his name was mentioned all the time on radio and television, because as it turns out, that person was original founder of the local community theater in the 1940s, which had since been relocated and merged with a much larger community cultural center and given a brand-spanking new theater. As an honor to that man, they named the theater after him. And, his name was on the building! In what to me was a perverse twist of fate, the theater was named the John Doe Playhouse (real name withheld).
So, being a thriving and busy theater used for plays, concerts and public events, his name was broadcast and in print over and over and over and over and over, all the time, in my awareness. Damn, I could not listen to the radio and not hear that name mentioned during promotions of community events, or read the local paper in print or online and there it was. Again. It is and remains a popular and busy theater to this day.
In hindsight, I think the initial emotion roiling up in me was anger. Every time the name manifest itself to me, I got angry, not so much at the man or what he had done, but by the fact he was being honored. They even had an annual award of excellence in the arts named for him. All that angered me, I admit, and that anger definitely grew in proportion to the onslaught that it felt like was coming at me. How dare they honor this asshole was becoming the core of my being, an unhealthy place to be. For pete’s sake, the guy was long dead. But if only they knew. But I had to keep this to myself, I still didn’t want to go there inside of myself. Not such a wise decision, given the anger that was beginning to boil.
So on the musical front, over the next year or two, 2010-2012 or so, through my guitar buddy I met and became friends with a truly wonderful female singer of some acclaim in this area, and became part of her bluegrass incarnation of her work, along with that guitar buddy who was a significant part of that band So now I was the banjo picker for two bands: my guitar buddy’s, and this female singer’s bands. I felt I could not be in a better place musically, and was enjoying this experience immensely. I really felt like I fit in and blended well. I know I did. I have recordings to prove it, some are posted on my BHO home page. Between the two bands we’d perform a few gigs a year publically and at a various private things and the experience was for me the highlight of the last ten years of my life. I was also beginning to dust off my harmony singing chops, which seemed to blend well and the music was top shelf on many levels, primarily, truly, on an emotional level, and I could see that was true for our audiences as well. But then, you know, I’m just a support musician. What had started with the onslaught I described spilled over into this area of my life in a very direct way over the next year or so…
Also during this time, I now see more clearly that my anger that had emerged began to spill out to friends and acquaintances in unpredictable ways, as I was attempting to cope with this baggage and keep it inside at the same time. I know during this time that I lashed out in anger at different people for this or that infraction, folks who most certainly did not deserve seeing the worst of me coming to the fore for no real apparent reason at times, certainly not with the intensity that was happening for me. I surprised myself sometimes. I was really reverting back to an angry puppy and it was not good and it wasn’t’ getting better. Damn, there’s that radio ad again…
I guess at some point I acknowledged to myself that I was being a jerk to some folks who deserved better from me, and I couldn’t keep this inside much longer, so I finally confided in a few folks, including some band mates – and some so-called friends on BHO -- what had happened to me, and kind of asked for understanding on why my behavior might be out of proportion at times … that I’m trying to work through it. Really, I felt I owed an explanation to express what I was going through in that very moment. And I guess at some selfish level, I was hoping for some understanding and empathy, you know, a shoulder to lean on, someone who could be okay with letting a few tears flow. Maybe a relief valve? It is a reverse logic or reasoning, but really, in hindsight that does seem a selfish intent of me in sharing that news with friends, friends I thought I had. I guess anger is a powerful emotion, and is like a strong wind that blows away more subtle human things like love, and empathy. It’s been my experience, anyway. Anger can and does overshadow a lot of stuff. And it’s easy for folks to see and remember that, for anger is always expressed in its own context. Folks would remember my anger, but they forgot my humanity.
What I thought had been a healed wound from the past turned out really only to be scabbed over. This tore at the scab. What happened next came hit me deeper and personally and tore the emotional and spiritual scab off completely and re-exposed this old wound. I’m sorry for this cheesy metaphor but it seems to work here.
What happened next is turned up the intensity for me. A production at the John Doe Playhouse was being planned which required musicians as part of the ensemble. So some of my musician friends, being among the Spartanburg music elite, were recruited for that production. No banjo was required for that play -- not that I would have done the gig. I had determined long ago that I would never ever step foot in the John Doe Playhouse, where the play and rehearsals were happening. And seeing my friends rehearse and perform as part of a community play was no exception, no matter how cool it was or would have been if could I have let all this go... Ya’ll have fun. Leave me out of it. I don’t need to explain why, do I? Then, of course, the radio, tv and print ads started, seeing my friends mentioned in this great production at the John Doe Playhouse. I mean, this got real personal, real fast. My friends’ names promoted along with the name of the man who molested me. This was getting to be too much to handle. Mix in some anger, lots of it, and stir repeatedly.
I think an event that happened next is what led to me finally snapping. Looking back now, I’m convinced of it. What happened during this time is, in one incantation of this acoustic band, we played a private gig at the bass player’s place of business. By then, I had shared with my experience with few band mates, including the guitarist, and the bassist. So at the private gig that evening, the guitar player comes up to me after our private performance, beer in one hand and whiskey in the other (no joke, for real) and starts drunkenly yammering on about the playhouse production and how I am welcome to come to the show he’d get me in for free no problem blah blah blah. As I recall I politely said no thanks, but he kept yammering on about no no no you’re welcome I’ll get you in the back door with a pass, blah blah blah. I kind of snapped a little. I recall telling him in a pretty angry tone that “there is no way in hell I’m going to step foot in any building with that asshole’s name on it!!”
I’m pretty sure that wobbled him a little bit. What he said next, kind of floored me. He said to me, with the eloquence of someone who is mildly drunk, oh, okay he has no problems with that “lifestyle choice” which was “okay” and blah blah blah diarrhea of the mouth. I was speechless. All I remember doing is glaring at him, never feeling more in my life than at that moment of wanting to kick someone’s teeth in. I guess my face must have said a lot. He wobbled again, turned, and walked off as quick as he could. Yeah, he knew he pissed me off. Open wound, add salt. Being sexually molested is a “lifestyle choice” ??? What a freaking moron. I still want to kick his teeth in, sort of. If anyone deserves it, he does. That also will become more clear for you, soon.
So to this recipe let’s just say, to the anger, add tears in direct proportion, in private, and alone. Mix well. Strain, and separate.
I’m pretty certain that was the catalyst for what I finally decided to do, to try to end this recurring anger/tears internal torment… which was now spilling over to and affecting almost everything good in my life. Not good. What the hell could I do?
My silent but pro-active crusade: seemed like a good idea at the time…
Soon after, I recall sitting at my desktop PC and reading the local news and there it was again. That name, again. Enough is enough! So then and there, July 28, 2013, I went to the website of the arts facility where that theater was housed, and emailed then about what had happened to me and asked them to remove that name from the buildings and stop using that name in its promotions. I told them in my email I would not relent and would seek legal recourse if they did not comply with this wish. I was just venting for sure, I was angry, I really didn’t know if I’d get a reply or if anything would happen at all. It did feel good to fire off that email, though.
I did get a reply the next day. And that began a dialogue over the next few weeks with that organization. They agreed that this was an important issue they took very seriously, and I made clear to them that I was seeking this name removed and scrubbed basically, that I wasn’t seeking financial retribution in any way, nor did I wish to disparage the dead (this individual had died years before, what’s the point?) nor did I wish in any way to harm the local arts organization or its reputation, for they had nothing to do with the events that transpired, and which we all agreed would benefit no one if this were made public, which I didn’t want for sure. Too damn personal and embarrassing, echoes of humiliation … I just wanted them to stop using this name. In my thinking at the time, not being reminded over and over again would be the cure. I didn’t know then how wrong that would turn out to be.
I did seek legal counseling before meeting them really just to try to gain a sense that I am going in the right direction, doing the right thing and also to convey to them how serious I was. The attorney spoke with me for free but because there is no actionable basis for him to work with (the attorney filter of events), he basically said he’d write a letter on my behalf for $1,500 or I could just tell them at the upcoming meeting if that I had spoken to an attorney. You know, to rattle their cage is the way I took it. I guess that would mean something to the attorney who represented the arts organization. I wasn’t’ really surprised that it’s all about money. You get as much legal representation as you’re willing to buy. I appreciated the advice anyway; it let off some pressure if nothing else. I got to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge me or be a fake friend. It was just his job.
After some back and forth emails and discussion, an in-person meeting was arranged at the arts organization’s legal counsel’s office in Spartanburg, and in early August 2013, the meeting took place. I was scheduled to meet with the organization’s Executive Director and their attorney, who also happened to serve on the organization’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors.
This reality caused a great deal of anxiety in me and I knew I was needing some serious counseling, this was really eating me up even before this added pressure of knowing I was about to re-tell this part of my life before two complete strangers. I was coming unglued at this point at an emotional level. I also did not wish to be alone in that meeting like this. So I didn’t know what else to do, so I reached out to the local Rape Crisis Center which was really one of the best things I could do for myself. I didn’t know, but immediately learned, that they offer free psychological counseling to folks like myself, which I signed up for. Subsequently, weekly counseling sessions took place over the next several months every Monday morning. But more importantly for me in that moment, they agreed to send a support person to that meeting which was appreciated more than they could ever know. I would not be alone at that meeting. I would have some emotional support. Immediately by that act, they let me know I was not alone, and in a very concrete and real way. It really sounds too simplistic, but it is what it is. I would encourage anyone who may be struggling like me with stuff like this, even for past trauma, to reach out to your local Rape Crisis Center if you have one in your community. I can personally attest to you, it helps. You aren’t alone. Really. There are no words I can put on what that meant to me, even to this day.
Had this molester still been living I would have insisted that he be present. Since he had passed away many years before, this upcoming meeting was, on many levels (and although I didn’t realize it at the time), to serve as a proxy for a face to face meeting with this man.
The big meeting: Opening the floodgates via proxy
Prior to moving back to Spartanburg in 2009-10 I had rarely thought about this past, because there was no need to, and so it had been pushed back to the darkest corners of my mind. When I did return and began having this name brought up over and over, it brought those memories to the fore, fed and energized them; and, as I began to be affected by those memories poisoning my life with glimmers of old anger and humiliation, in the moment of now, it was inevitable that I’d have to revisit this in detail, and talk about it at some point. Something I wanted to avoid and wished I could have. Even to this day, I did not want to visit this again. But here again, in this day, I find I really don’t have much choice, which will become more clear in a moment.
A I have already mentioned, I shared this experience directly with a few folks ( a few in person, a few by email, and a few of them are even BHO members and may see themselves through my words) as a way of explaining my behavior and emotional outbursts that seemed to be bubbling up and spilling over to other people from time to time. But that sharing was always and only a very brief mention, never any detail, one big long brush stoke can’t really paint much of a picture after all, and then move on. I did note that most folks seemed uncomfortable with this information. Well, pretty much everyone. I didn’t know I was planting the seeds for being shunned and ostracized, which is where this ultimately led.
Until I had contacted the Rape Crisis Center though, until then, I had never actually talked about the experience in great detail, with anyone before. So in the matter of just a few years since moving back here, this experience had gone from being all but forgotten (as much as is realistic), to moving to the front of my awareness due to circumstances I had no control over, to now, having to talk about it to complete strangers in order to be understood.
Let me tell you -- it’s one thing to think about something, but when you give words to thoughts, and you have a true empathetic listener, it’s pretty damn powerful and can be therapeutic. But when you have a moron listening, it can be devastating. In hindsight, some of the folks I shared this with over the last four years, I probably chose unwisely, and are total morons which they’ve proven to me through their acts. Let me tell you: if someone in confidence shares with you some moments of past emotional trauma like this, opening their heart, in whatever way they are able to (is there ever really an eloquent way to do this?), and you disbelieve them, or think they’re just “wanting attention” or “seeking sympathy” and worse, if you then shun that person, or even much worse, you then disparage that person behind their back (which I know some of these morons have done) … if you think and act like that, really? Seriously? If so, then take it from me — you’re a freaking moron. But that’s neither here nor there. But it’s something I’ve observed lately. It doesn’t mean I love you any less. And the weird thing is, I really don’t know for sure who you are, because you cut and ran from our friendship when things got tough. You know who you are, however. All I see shadows in your eyes, signs of where and how things used to be.
The big meeting occurred in early August 2013. Four of us: two folks representing this arts organization, myself, and a support person from the Rape Crisis Center. The meeting lasted more than an hour, I think. This was the first real time I had re-visited this past beyond thoughts and actually talked about it, in front of these three other folks, essentially strangers to me. I broke down emotionally quite a few times. I’m pretty sure anger was evident in my being. It was hard as hell to keep my composure. I also provided the names of the other two teenage boys who were part of that production to corroborate my story, as I had been told by this man years ago that he fooled around with them as well, although I never witnessed that myself. If they did, it must have been a mutual thing, unlike my experience.
My basic requests of this organization were: I wanted the name removed from the building(s) and to stop using this name altogether. In the lead-up to this meeting I had already made it clear that I was not in any way seeking financial restitution and I in no way wished to harm this organization, which had absolutely nothing to do with these events. I stated I was not going public with this nor did I wish to, but if my simple requests could not be honored, then I would continue to pursue this as I was pretty pissed off. I’m pretty sure this was conveyed clearly.
I also conveyed that I understood that this man had, in fact, done a lot of positive things for Spartanburg. This guy had moved from New York in the 1940s to Spartanburg and set up a community theater, bringing some culture and nuance to this redneck town (I grew up here, I’m eminently qualified to say that). So, my intent was not to disparage the dead. What’s the point in that? Give credit where credit is due, I’m not here to interfere with that. This guy is long gone and can’t defend himself against my coming forward. I don’t want anything from him. So, what’s the point in trashing this guy now, publically? I conveyed very clearly this was not my intent.
At this meeting, I was told that the building had been named after this man at the specific condition of a financial benefactor to this organization, and that removing the name might affect that financial bequeath (it’s not surprising, I guess, that it all boils down to money). So, they would have to run this by that benefactor (who was, apparently, still living and affiliated with this arts organization) as well as run it by their Executive Committee (rather than the full Board of Directors) before they could determine if my requests were feasible to enact. They did acknowledge that they felt my requests were reasonable, and I can only assume, that I seemed credible.
My final request was that they please keep me informed as to their decision, which they told me, they would.
And that was it.
The aftermath: unforeseen and unanticipated Collateral Damage
I heard nothing, not one peep, from that arts organization or their attorney. I can only assume they tested and explored the veracity of my personal story, which is doable even after all these years. Lots of people are still around who would remember me then as a kid in that play. Lots of folks who participated in that production are still here in town. Anyway, after waiting anxiously for three months, I finally wrote a letter (yes, an actual letter sent through the mail) dated November 9, 2013, reminding them of my understanding that they would keep me informed of their decisions, and asked for any updates as I had received none as promised. I received an email in reply a few days later, informing me they had agreed to my requests and the name would be removed and its use would be discontinued. It would take some time to propagate through their internal printed materials, but it was a done deal. The name would be removed from the building and any association with the theater, except through the telling of its history. There would not be, nor was there any reason to have any public announcements of or christening of the name change, it would just be done. For the general public, it would be an invisible but significant change.
For a brief time, I felt a weird mix of things. I felt I had “won” but I couldn’t really answer my own question of “won what, exactly?” I felt a perverse sense (yes, odd word choice) of getting even: this guy had taken something from me, I had taken something back from him, so there! But let me tell you, that is an unhealthy, unclean feeling. But the underpinning thought for me was, this is over now.
The free weekly counseling offered me by the Rape Crisis Center continued for a couple more months after that. I stopped going in late 2013 or early 2014. I am forever appreciative of their empathy and professionalism, and they kind of helped me see and clarify a few things for myself. Mainly, I could see that the initial events were not as traumatic to me as the humiliation and anger I felt which seemed to carry forward, fueled, I think, by the lack of parental protection and intervention in those moments when it could maybe have been intercepted. And by, of course, these in-my-face reminders that seemed to throw gas on that smoldering emotional ember. Hoo boy. Lots of tears, lots of reflection, interesting, but just as soon I’d forget about, again.
But after a few months, this weekly Monday-morning reminders of digging into past feelings, combined with a sense of I had gotten what I had set out to accomplish (or so I believed) kind of made each session something I kind of began to dread. As with my past coping, I just wanted this to go away, not think about it anymore. Why keep bringing it up now?
Over time I noticed that the local newspaper kept on using the old theater name. Over several months with every event they publicized, that name again, but only in the local paper. I noticed that radio and tv had seamlessly transitioned to the new name. Since I had previously met a few years prior and interacted with the acting editor of the local newspaper, after a few months of this I emailed him and described very briefly what had happened to me, how I had asked the arts center here to remove the name, I told him briefly we had met about it and that their Executive Committee had agree. So, could he and the local newspaper please stop using that name and instead start using the new theater name in all future press? He emailed back and from that point on, they used the new name when referring to events there. That name has not been in print or on the airwaves since then.
It’s been four years now since all that happened with my “crusade” and its aftermath. By now, this man’s name has been scrubbed and appears only, as far as I can tell, in descriptions of the history of how this theater came into being. Which is fine with me. I have no problems with that.
As far as my musical friendships I had made in real life since returning home … as all this was boiling over, I had shared this with some folks both in-person and by email. I have no doubt that anger spilled over into some of these emails. But to each of these folks I had shared what had happened and what I was going through, and had asked for, and hoped for, empathy and understanding. It was not to be. How selfish of me, after all. All of these friendships have been shattered. The guitar player, well, I sent a choice email to him nailing him to the wall for basically how I was being treated, and rather than open a dialogue, he slammed the door shut, and will not talk to me and I can only believe, disparages me with others. To this day, he has never apologized to me for insulting me, you know, that being molested is a lifestyle choice. But I have to chalk this up to drunks will say the most idiotic things.
A WORLD OF “WHAT-IF’S??”
( … or, “Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t”)
It’s really tough to second-guess oneself, but with deeply personal stuff which unintentionally affects others, it’s hard not to. Second-guessing not just past decisions, reactions, and actions, but future ones, as well…
What if I had been diddled with by a female instead some ugly old fat male troll?...
What if I had never returned to my hometown of Spartanburg? It seems to me that through all these years this had not been an in-my-face issue. Maybe I could have just kept this all in the distant past, where it belongs…
What if the man who messed with me, instead of being a somebody who did something good in the community and was honored for it, was instead an average Joe, an average nobody, who would just fade into history just like any other average Joe nobody? So even upon my return to Spartanburg, I would not have been inundated with so many triggers for these memories?...
What if, even after returning to Spartanburg, and being inundated as I have desecribed, I had just chosen to keep my big mouth shut? Even in the face of all these triggers? Even though I could not then, and still don’t, see a way through that maze, it’s still a valid question. Would my former friends still be my friends? Would I still be ostracized and shunned? I do not know, but I believe that it would have been less likely, as people do tend to like me as a person on after we meet (or interact online). What else can I go with?
What if, instead of anger being the predominate feeling that arises over this, there were some other way of coping and expressing? Such as, forgiveness? Even here, I am unsure what that feeling would be, except maybe, numbness? Self-denial? On this I have very little clarity.
What if at least one of the folks I confided in over the last four years had actually been able to provide a kind word, a shoulder to lean on, some empathy and understanding.
What if, for this very long and personal blog post, I don’t press the “post” button and make it public? What if, I do?
No matter what, my life will be different now. I can only assume, from my past and recent experience, that there will be unforeseen and unanticipated circumstanced. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be more positive, than negative, this time around. We’ll see, I suppose.
An Unseen World
I have learned a great deal through this experience over the last ten years or so. I have learned that there are different types and levels of empathy. For example, if you meet someone who has had their leg chopped off due to an accident, it’s very easy to empathize with that person, for the simple fact that you can see their past trauma right before your eyes, no words are necessary. It’s easy to imagine yourself in their position, what it would be life if you had lost a limb.
When it comes to emotional or spiritual trauma, invisible to the eye, there is a massive difference, and empathy becomes an elusive thing. As an unseen thing, it also becomes an unknowable thing unless you have had such an experience. For an understanding to exist that this has even happened the experience must be shared through words, which opens you up for all sorts of interpretations and judgements. It’s very easy for me to see and understand how the victim gets blamed for being victimized. And then to talk about it, you’re then just complaining. So it takes a very astute, caring, and loving individual to understand and provide empathy, that shoulder to cry on. As a victim of this type of abuse, I can tell you, that never happens. Folks simply don’t want to hear this stuff, then get uncomfortable that you shared it, then question whether you are being truthful at all. As I said before, if someone you know shares this type of deep past invisible trauma with you, and you disbelieve them, look at yourself in the mirror for you will find a moron looking back at you. I can’t be any kinder than that.
I have shared this experience with a half-dozen or more BHO members, some I know in real life too. I have also shared this with maybe another half-dozen folks in real life who are not associated with BHO. All of these folks were at one time or another, a friend, or so I believed. How they reacted has shown me otherwise. I have heard from several folks second and third hand information about how folks who I shared this with have trashed me in private for being emotionally and mentally unstable. The times this has come to my attention I have asked the person who shared with me this devastating news, did the person who trashed me also tell them about my molestation? The answer is always no, this is new news.
So can you imagine how devastating this is to me? To share past trauma and then have folks lie and spread falsehoods behind my back? Taking my information and disbelieving me,, then shunning me and trashing me at the same time? To those who have done this: shame on you. You know exactly who you are. You deserve nothing more than contempt, but I refuse to hold you in contempt. My challenge has become, and will remain, as I have come to learn, to attempt to forgive you for adding to my burden. For you are an indiot and don’t know any better.
Today, any contempt I hold for anyone through this sharing process is reserved for those folks who profess to me their Christian faith, then throw God and Jesus at me then run for the door, to shun me and hold me in contempt and tell others what a horrible person I am, This has happened to me, and this is real. It’s truly amazing how many hypocrites there are in the world, and when you open yourself up like I have, they seem to be everywhere. To test this all you need do is ask, “Is that what Jesus would do?” when it comes to how they have responded to my experience. It’s really a simple test. Most often the answer is, no not at all. So, I have also learned all about false images spread by the so-called faithful. Shame on you.
Lessons for Me
In looking back at all this and working throught these feelings with this essay, I have no choice but to realize that people’s reaction to me is almost singularly due to the anger spilling forth from me, even to this day. It's somthing I though was over, but isn't. I try the best I can to be not this. It is what it is. Trying to play both worlds as I have, telling some folks while trying to keep it secret at the same time has been a very poor choice for me which maybe this essay will rectify. I don't know, but I can hope. A recent thread on BHO about the Harvey Winestein revelations tapped into that anger, and the only way I could cope was to write this essay and to make this public. I've been working on this post for a few weeks, unsure whether to keep going or not. As I look at my actions, it seems I tried to have it both ways, to share this with only a few folks who I felt needed to know due to my behavior, and to keep it secret and buried at the same time. This approach does not work. It never can. I see that now. I see that it matters not whether I’m an emotional abuse survivor or the survivor of a disfiguring physical accident; folks react to anger the same no matter its core. So, it’s me who has change and adjust. It’s me who must shift from anger, to joy; it’s just that sometimes, the bridge between those extreme positions comes through other people. It’s hard to do it alone. And being an “abuse survivor” (God, I really dislike that term) makes it incumbent upon me to practice the very things I seek from others. It is I who must have greater empathy and understanding, or how else can I survive this world? It is I who must show compassion to morons and idiots who inflict harm through ignorance, attitudes and religion.
I’m always known, but have never been so tested, on my abilities and need to grant to others who I perceive shun me and buzz about me behind my back, and to myself, the same level of grace, forgiveness. I can no longer seek or hope to receive from others the very things I must demonstrate. These are my lessons, and I’m still learning.
So, I could go on and on, including a lengthy story about being pursued by an elderly BHO member via email, a female octogenarian who for several years relentlessly hit on me first in subtle ways, then in direct, sexual ways, to the point I had to cease all communications with this fractured soul. [EDIT: I have removed detailed references to this story so to save this person from unnecessary embarassment.] It hurts a little that this person was a friend, so I thought, and I even shared this history with her seeking empathy and understanding, only to be pursued even more vigorously. But whatever, I forgave this person a while ago, she’s just too much of a fractured spirit to understand that and would send me more “I love you” and “I worship the ground you walk on” emails. Enough is enough. I believe she understands that now.
Anyway, so there you go. This is my story, this is all true, and all the recent events described over the last ten years are backed up with emails, letters and voicemails that I have kept. If you don’t believe me, well, first, the hell with you, and second, come visit me at my home and I’ll show you my files.
So, I know in many ways I have chosen poorly – my friends, my actions on how to deal and cope with this recurring nightmare, and all I ask of you is, put yourself in my shoes, and then ask yourself, how would you have acted, and reacted, to this path I have walked? Whatever your answer is, I’m sure you would have done better than me. I'm positive of that.
Today I received some very kind and in-depth emails from folks I haven't heard from in a while. It has made me realize that I must make an important clarification to this blog.
To be honest, I simply do not remember who all I told this personal history too in real life or online. I recall several folks I mentioned this to and have completely forgotten other folks I mentioned this to, and these emails made that clear to me. When one is in an emotional fog, it's hard to remain clear on details when they're spur of the moment things. When I shared this information in confidence over the past few years, there was no plan, no rhyme or reason, I would just drop the information in an email to someone, or mention it in a phone call, or in person, and there really was no graceful way to lead up to such a revelation. I did so because I felt, in some form or fashion, that this person I'm communicating with needed to know this about me. Why, God only knows.
As such, and as I mentioned in my blog, folks really don't know how to deal with this, something so deep and personal, and overall, most folks just listened and absorbed and had no real way to respond. Most folks who I leaned on (maybe unfairly) in this way, are kind-hearted and sincere. I want to make that distinction absolutely clear. These folks did not shun me. Any exile I experienced was buttressed by self-exile, and I know this truth.
In my blog I did attempt to differentiate between folks who fit that description (kind, but shocked I suppose), and others who then took this information and weaponized it against me, shunning me in fact and in practice, discontinuing communications and telling others of my mental problems (this is several people lumped together in this last sentence). I know without doubt this has occurred, but mostly in real life. So when I refer to my "so-called BHO friends" that is in reality an unfair thing for me to say, and in no way do I wish to lump everyone into one basket.
One person in email today took exception to my aim at Christians in general and I also wish to address that. When someone offers me Fellowship in Christ, then I would hope that is what they truly mean. For the most part, I would politely decline or just listen. More than one person, on BHO and in real life, offered me such fellowship. On BHO, one person told me, his mouth to my ear (by phone), "I'll do anything I can to help you." Then, he proceeded to do the exact opposite, and soon stopped responding to my emails or phone calls, even though there was a mutual project of interest. So, my remarks are reserved only for two-faced and false-faced folks who did this. I don't know your heart because I haven't seen it. To you folks I say, if you really don't mean what you say, then say nothing at all. Being shunned like this really hurts and I am perplexed by it to this day. If I'm being obnoxious, or an ass, simply say so. I can adapt. What will it hurt you to speak truth and live that truth it beyond empty but flowery words. It means nothing.
I hope this clarification makes sense. I know there are plenty of good hearted, kind folks who I have simply freaked out, and that is on me. It's the ones who disbelieve me, trash me, and bear false witness -- especially in the name of Christ -- that kind of get my dander up a little. But as I stated in my blog, it is incumbent upon me to express the very things that I seek. While I have expressed my feelings on how this treatment hurts, it's now way past that, I cannot hold contempt even for these folks, for they simply know not what they do.
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