I was very timid and shy as a child, with an overprotective, needy mother and a distant father who was slowly dying. This latter fact was of course kept from me.
I guess I was about 8 years old at the time. All I remember is being down by the river with the boy from next door who was in his mid teens when he told me to take down my pants. I said “No”, but somehow he threatened me into complying and engaging in a sexual act, although I had no concept or knowledge of sex at all. This single episode remained vividly etched in my mind. I have no knowledge of going to the river (we were not playmates), or returning home. But, I do remember that my mother was very annoyed with me for going off without telling her. I could not tell her what had happened because she would become even more angry with and ashamed of me. I also feared she would tell his mother. l felt so guilty as though somehow it was my fault.
My father died, and although we were not close (I hardly knew him), I felt so different from other kids. I simply could not acknowledge that I had no Dad. I was expected to be the man of the house at age 10! As I approached puberty I developed some behaviour problems and started to “act out”. I also experienced a couple of situations where adult males started acting inappropriately towards me and although I managed to avoid them I was very wary, frightened and confused.
Shortly after I started High School my Uncle told me that a friend of the family was to teach at my school, and that he was a very likeable fellow. I introduced myself and received a friendly response. He was so unlike the other teachers who were so strict and serious, as they were in the late 50’s. He started to take quite an interest in me and knowing that I had no father said he would help wherever he could. Naturally I was excited to have such a caring adult friend, no doubt a substitute for the father I so sorely missed and needed. I tolerated the odd hug from him. My family was not into showing much emotion, although at times his hugs were physically intense. He told me he was so fond of me he knew he shouldn’t be but could not help it. He seemed “normal”, athletic, a married man with two daughters – a regular nice guy. Myth would have it in the 60’s that “queers’, “homos” etc., “touched up” boys. So, although I had some fears I couldn’t believe he was the sort of person who would do anything to me, after all he was married and would be able to do the ‘real thing’ with his wife.
One day after a school sports event I helped take a blackboard back to his classroom. I felt a little anxious and was about to leave, but he asked me to stay as he shut the blinds in the room. I didn’t know how to get away, I might offend him, and he’d be angry towards me. I was such a “little people pleaser”. He backed me up against a partition with one arm around my waist and started to grope me. I was frozen to the spot, I could not move or speak! My trust was shattered – I could not believe he was doing this to me. Sure, kids play around with each other, kids stuff, but a grown man, an adult, a teacher!
It progressed from there, and as I write this I feel so sad for that once trusting, then confused and abused youngster – me! He showed me nude pictures of other boys he had had sex with, some I recognized as older students. He told me I was a “little Homo” but strangely enough he claimed he wasn’t homosexual, as he had no sexual interest in other men just boys. I now know he is an ephebophile, similar to a pedophile but with a sexual attraction and compulsion to abuse older, pubescent boys aged around 12 to 16.
So skilled was he in manipulating me, and others, that I imagine we all felt somehow responsible for what was happening, and that we would be in big trouble if anyone found out. We would not want other kids at school to know. In fact although several of us knew about each other it was embarrassing to talk about. So we either said nothing or made up some sort of joke about it. But, it wasn’t funny. I had started to have anxiety attacks during classes and would dissociate more frequently, something I often did while he was abusing me. I started to self-harm.
Fortunately, during my early teens I had taken up a minor sport and was very good at it, receiving lots of positive support and encouragement. The man who coached me, although a tough taskmaster took a positive interest in me, and although I was terrified of any friendly adult male, I was desperate to succeed. Once past 16 years of age my abuser started to lose interest in me, but tried to use me to entice younger boys. I knew what he was doing was wrong and I wouldn’t comply. However, I still feel guilty that I didn’t warn them about him.
Throughout my early adult life I experienced more panic attacks and had a deep-seated hatred of any authority figures, was hyper-vigilant around older men, and had a high startle response. Things improved somewhat once I got married and moved away. However, the authority thing continued and I experienced alarming intrusive thoughts of a violent or sexual nature, this was most distressing.
Some 40 years later I became really concerned that one day I may act out one of these intrusive thoughts and the past reached out to haunt and torment me. By chance the title of a book at the library took my attention, “Wounded Boys: Heroic Men”, by Dan Sonkin, it was all about the sexual abuse of males. The penny dropped like a ton weight! Other men lived with the same hidden fears, low self esteem, depression, emptiness and loneliness that I knew so well. Dan urged his readers to seek professional help and so I did.
I write this now with over 4 years therapy behind me. Revisiting the past was painful, frightening and rewarding. My therapist is a wonderful person, as I write about her it brings tears to my eyes. She just simply understands and I have learnt so much. My family and friends have been so supportive. I’m one of the lucky ones. Thousands of men have been sexually abused when they were children but only a few disclose the abuse and perhaps even fewer find the courage to seek help. Often. like me, many years after the abuse finished. However, for many life becomes chaotic and unbearable, yet they have no idea how the past has affected them.
My abuser? Well, he is now behind bars. He faced charges covering some 50 years of abusing boys. The past suddenly caught up with him, just shortly after I found the courage to talk to the Police. All involved were understanding and supportive. I remain grateful to those other men who were also his victims who came forward to stand by me during the criminal proceedings. After all these years we no longer carry the guilt for him. We have put it back where it always belonged.