It has literary taken me years to write this. It eventually started in my native language to have things off my chest when I couldn't say them out loud, but eventually this journalling-thing evolved from being a factual recital of historical events of abuse to become something similar to a biographical short story with the therapeutic ulterior motive to help me phrase my questions. I hope doing this will make me come closer to understand what went on and move a little further on my healing journey. Maybe it will help someone else understand parts of themselves as well? Well, you never know. This story is probably way too long for you to finish it, for that I'm truly sorry but I thank you for whatever time and effort you are giving me. And as a final note; you now know I'm not native in English so please ignore any occurring bad grammar and weird sentencing.
I have tried my very best not to be too graphic, still I feel the need to include some content important for the complete picture and to make my way of acting at least somewhat understandable. Therefore: there are substance below that might be upsetting so here's the *trigger warning*. Please don't proceed if you're in a vulnerable place.
(tl;dr: I was sexually abused between the ages 7(approx) and 15 by a number of persons on several unrelated occasions. But were these instances really unrelated, isn't I the common denominator, maybe there was something I did to make it all happen? And does that make it my fault? There has been many tough questions raised over the years, nowadays I'm trying to deal with my memories seek my answers and somehow also live a reasonable life as husband and dad.)
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THERE PROBABLY ARE NO reasons why you should read this.
Let me explain it like this; I'm no celebrity, I have no exciting adventures to share nor have I witnessed some horrible catastrophe I'm about to tell you about. I'm just a regular boring family man living in a nation up north, I have responsibilities, I pay my bills and I go to work. I suppose to an outsider it may appear I'm no one, that I'm just anyone living a reasonably structured and successful life. And maybe I am. At times I might even be happy, I might feel content with where I am today... but then I'm also good in hiding. By time I have grown into an expert. When there are stuff in your luggage you don't want people to find out about hiding is a skill you need to master.
You might say this story is about everyday life, it's about how cruel and shifting it can be. Or maybe it's really about how little we know about the people we have around us.
This story is about me, it's about what it's like to be victim of a crime but still many years later carry feelings of guilt and shame for what happened.
MY EARLY CHILDHOOD isn't really much to speak about. I was just one of countless other boys living in an affluent and leafy suburb with a silly sounding name close the end of the metro line with caring and loving parents. I recall a carefree childhood with plenty of freedom so in that sense you might call me lucky, maybe even privileged. Being the creative type of child instead of the sporty I never really had that much friends, when all the kids in the neighbourhood went out to play football/soccer in the fields or land hockey (which is like ice hockey, minus the ice and it's played with a tennis ball) in the streets between our houses I rarely felt like joining them, instead I often stayed home or went biking on my own exploring the neighbourhood. Oh biking, I liked that a lot, I basically had my bikes worn out rather than outgrown. Still somehow I don't consider my youngest years as lonely, at least not to the extent it turned into an issue and had people worried anyway. For me most of times my interest in music and never ending imagination was company enough.
OF COURSE I had a few friends, one of them was this next door kid. Let's call him Patrick. I believe we initially met when I started school and we soon came to spend a lot of time together biking or playing in the woods behind our houses. Patrick was a year or two older than me, in school he was placed in the special needs class because of his wild and disruptive behaviour and at home his mean alcoholic dad regularly had him spanked and sometimes even beat up with a belt. Looking back I realize Patrick's issues most likely was the result of some condition, possibly ADHD or something similar, but back then people obviously didn't know much about such things. Patrick was just considered wild and hopeless, he didn't receive any help or medication, school wasn't going great and the one thing he was really good at was ending up in all sorts of troubles. When we are playing in Patrick's room it's important to keep the noise down otherwise his dad will come running and yell at us, I still remember that. His dad has a big red nose a blushing face and pretty much always an alcohol-stinking breath, I never liked him and did my best to keep my distance. When the yelling stopped and the slam shut door has us alone once more Patrick makes faces after his dad and he whispers all sorts of bad words. To me it's obvious that Patrick is also afraid of his dad just like I am even though he does his best to hide his fear and display a tough attitude.
I DON'T REMEMBER the exact occasion but somehow I end up sitting in his dad's lap. Knowing how I felt about him I strongly doubt doing so is my own choice, I suspect I'm simply grabbed and placed there. I don't know where Patrick's at, he's not there; maybe sent to his room and told to stay, maybe I picked the wrong day and came when my friend is out running an errant and I'm told to come in and wait. I don't know. Patrick isn't there anyway. I am. And his dad is. My age? I don't know but if I had to guess... I'm 7. Maybe 8. The image I have is quick, it's almost like a flash, like a short film. I'm sitting in his lap. I honestly can't see it's Patrick's dad but there is something about the environment that makes the location perfectly clear to me. And it's the chair we're sitting in. The chair is red. I recognize it, it's his. It's definitely the living room chair where he used to sit and drink and smoke and watch TV. I have seen him sit in it while me and Patrick run passed to his upstairs room so many times. I'm sitting in his lap in that chair and I look down and I see my own legs. They look so skinny and my feet are so tiny, sitting like this they don't even touch the floor. Then I notice. I have no trousers or underwear and the hand I realize belongs to him is fondling my privates. I can see the hand doing this but I'm not scared. I'm just confused and I don't understand.
That's it, end of clip. Whoever wrote that script should be fired because there's no conclusion or logic at all.
HONESTLY, THIS COULD have been something out of my imagination or some sick game my mind is playing on me. I have no concrete proof backing this up and I probably wouldn't believe it myself if it wasn't for this other memory I have. We are outdoors playing and for some reason I'm trying to tell Patrick what his dad did to me. It all stops, whatever we're doing instantly freezes, I vividly remember that. Patrick completely freaks out, which was actually the only time he really lashed out on me, I'm thrown to the ground and he loses it. He's screaming at me not to talk like that, never to tell anyone - if I do he'll kill me! Of course I'm scared. I take this seriously and from that on our friendship continues without me ever trying to mention anything of this again. Until adult years this event stayed my secret.
BACK THEN NOTHING of this made any sense to me. It was a weird thing happening and I lacked the knowledge to understand. Heck, I was just a kid, at that age I didn't have any ideas of sexuality, let alone abusive situations. It never even crossed my mind my friend maybe knew all too well what sitting in his dad's lap really meant, maybe he had to endure this special kind of attention from his dad almost every day. When I look back I nowadays suspect my friend's dad was a pervert and Patrick probably not only a victim of physical abuse but also sexual. A lot later my parents unexpectedly run into Patrick. It was completely random and in a totally different town, by then both of us had grown into adults and lost track of each other long ago. Patrick told my folks his dad had recently passed on and for the first time in his life he felt free from him. Both Patrick and his mother had after the funeral changed their family names and moved out of town just to cut free and start over. He didn't explain why they felt the need to do so but I have my idea; The more I think of it the more convinced I get that Patrick was sexually abused by his dad even though he never said anything about it. But why should he? That's stuff you tend to keep secret out of shame and humiliation.
Despite everything - despite probably knowing better - for years I was drawn to Patrick's thrilling company and all his crazy ill-considered adventures my own safe and dull suburb life otherwise never would have contained.
WE NICK CIGARETTES from Patrick's dad that we smoke in secret in the woods, and when he talks me into try take some from my dad of course I'm caught and end up grounded. Patrick shows me how to shoplift and I'm stupid enough to believe him when he says this is something all brave kids do. For the first and only time in my life I shoplift too, I steal some completely pointless item from the local book store just to prove I'm also brave, an act that leaves me with nightmares and bad conscience for weeks. Patrick knows how to open the fire stairs at his dad's work and up on the roof we make ourselves a hideout in the crawlspace. We're the ones in secret taking the metro all the way to the city on our own where we walk into some gang of teens and end up mugged. I have a fist swung in my face when I hesitate and doesn't hand over the little coins I had fast enough. The staff in a store are nice to us and they help clean the blood from my nose. Patrick has his shirt off and with a weird pride he shows me horrible bruisers from his dad's belt on his back and I'm allowed to carefully feel them over. We build ourselves a flame thrower and only a miracle prevents his dad's house to end up in flames when we test it the first time in the basement and it works way better than expected. And it's Patrick that on a pile of old mattresses in that very same basement teaches me how to masturbate. One day when we are fixing with our bikes I'm unexpectedly asked if I want to be shown something cool. I probably should have known better but somehow I'm stupid enough to say yes. Patrick instructs me to lie down and when I unsuspectingly do he pull my pants and masturbates me to my first orgasm ever, then he has his own pants down and I'm shown how to do him. He's so much bigger than me, he even has some hair and he soon erupts like a volcano all over his shirt. I remember I'm amazed by that. I'm about ten years old and I consider this to be my initiation to the mysteries of sexuality. For quite some time to follow I play along in Patrick's masturbation game. We do it in his dads basement or as quite as possible in our rooms behind closed doors with our parents still at home (that was scary and I really didn't want to), or we do it in the woods behind our houses. I don't know how much time passes but eventually I'm not comfortable in these games any more. I recall how Patrick almost is disappointed when I start to go shy and tell him I don't want to any longer. I suppose what he did could be seen as some kind of abuse but somehow I never have, maybe I should but for some reason I just can't.
MY PARENTS NEVER expresses any concerns over me spending time with Patrick and I gave them never any reason to do so either; What we really were up to was kept secret from them. Our door is always open for Patrick and sometimes during the weekends he goes with us to our summer house. Maybe this is exactly what he needs, I suspect my mother knows that; Patrick is in need of calmness and structure to function. And I think it worked well, I have no memories of him going berserk while being with us. Instead we're going fishing, we build tree houses and read comics lying on the grass in the sun eating my mum's home made cookies and drinking lemonade. We do nothing but kid's stuff and nothing is set ablaze smashed or smoked. Away from his normal environment he's like a completely different person.
AT AROUND THE 11 or 12-mark, very much thanks to Patrick's lack of normal barriers and fearless way of approaching people, we got involved with a bunch of older teens and tweens. Cars, that was their interest. Tuning them at day, racing in the streets of the suburb at night. I was scared at first but I soon got drawn to the excitement, I admit that. I guess we became something of clubhouse pets to many them, fetching tools and undoing screws and bolts only small hands and skinny arms could reach and sometimes we're even allowed to take a seat in the back of a car for some test ride. We laugh out loud when we are thrown around like gloves in all sharp turns and hard breaks. Of course I never dared tell my parents about anything of this, as usually I came up with some stories to keep them from knowing. By then I had grown into an expert in lying. Without even a blink from my eyes I could tell anyone anything at any time.
AFTER SOME TIME we learned a party was to be held. Patrick really wanted to go, I was hesitant but after I had him promise we'd stick together I eventually gave in for his persuasive never-ending nagging. That became my first ever taste of an unsupervised youth party. Insanely loud music, thick cigarette smoke, the sound of glass breaking, people screaming at each other across the noise and couples making out in public. It was so far away from anything I up till that day had experienced. We cruised around, checked things out and after awhile it almost felt like we belonged. Eventually in all that commotion me and Patrick somehow got separated despite our promises to stay together. I remember I'm in a sofa waiting for him to show up but when he never does I start feel uneasy about the situation and want to leave. But I never got that far. Before I had the chance strong arms suddenly grabbed me and I'm dragged into another room, it could be downstairs in the basement but I'm not sure. It's a storage of some kind I think. The door is shut behind us. It's two of them. They're older than me, much older, and they're yelling. I don't get it. Why are they screaming, what have I done?? Hands on my shoulders has me down on my knees. Pants are unzipped in front of me and the biggest penis I've ever seen pushes itself into my mouth demanding the oral sex at that age I knew absolutely nothing about. My mouth is stuffed and I gag. Hands tugged into my hair hurts so bad and I'm afraid big chunks will come loose and I'm soon convinced they're about to smash my face in and kill me. The muffled noise from the party coming through that closed door drowns everything else. It happens so quick still it feels like in slow motion, in my mind there is nothing but chaos and panic. I think I start to cry. That intense sense of fear and pain has stayed with me, but beyond that - there is nothing. All memories seem to stop. Time stops. Everything does.
Maybe that's a good thing.
I DON'T KNOW how far this went. Maybe it soon stopped, maybe it continued. The next thing I know I'm on my bike heading for the woods behind my house and I'm soon sitting under the trees, crying. I don't know how much time passes but when the initial shock eventually settled I knew I had to do something, had to figure this out. Shouldn't have been there, if I had asked for my parents for permission to go they would never have given it, listening to Patrick and sneaking out to that party was the stupidest thing I had ever done in my life. I blamed myself for everything that happened and somehow assumed a single word from my mouth would throw me into the deepest of troubles. I imagined my parents would freak out if they learned the truth about all lies I had been telling them for so long. My dad would explode and yell at me so much, my mum would hate me and have me grounded indefinitely so I decided to solve this dilemma the only way I could think of, the only way I knew I was really good at; Don't say a word to anyone. Act like nothing.
Surprisingly that solution worked far better than expected. All my lies passed unchallenged. No one seemed to notice anything at all, nothing happened.
EVEN THOUGH I did my best to block everything out, did my best to convince myself that party never happened and I was never there and consequentially didn't mean anything, in retrospect I realize that incident traumatized me. I turned cautious in my relations, me and Patrick slipped apart and he didn't seem to care or miss me much, I soon learned he had associated himself with some other people and started to do burglaries and steal cars, I stayed home as much as I could, the piano and guitar grew even more important in my life and in music I found an identity and an outlet for emotions impossible to phrase out load and share with anyone else. Of course the few friends I had soon faded away. What else to expect? I don't blame them for this, I guess that was inevitable. Nevertheless it had me, the quiet and lonely kid, to go even more alone.
It wasn't until way into adult years I finally had words to describe this event and could understand what it truly meant; I had been raped.
A FEW YEARS later it's 1979. Punk legend Sid Vicious dies from a heroin overdose. Iran turns into an Islamic republic. Margaret Thatcher is elected prime minister in Britain and McDonald's introduces the Happy Meal. The space station Skylab crashes in western Australia and NASA is fined A$400 for littering, a fine which remained unpaid for 30 years. It's also the year when I turned 13. Like everyone else at that age I had to change school when the summer break ended. I recall my new school as enormous and frightening, a huge multicoloured concrete building basically holding all teenagers from my part of the suburb. Life quickly got tougher. You need to make yourself heard and claim your space to exist but I never did. I never could. Maybe that's why the bullying started, maybe it was something else. Maybe it was nothing at all. I don't know.
IT DOESN'T TAKE long for the ranking order to be set. Some kids are regarded cool and untouchable, most just are. I'm not stupid, I soon realize where I belong. At best my presence is accepted or barely noticed but most of the times things goes worse; My bag taken and searched by bigger boys and whatever I had got thrown up into the trees if not taken. Snow stuffed inside my shirt. At breaks I find myself surrounded, pushed around until I'm on the ground, in the school yard I once fell down some stairs and I hit my head in a railing and had to see the nurse to be stitched up. I lied and protected them, said it was all an accident and my own fault; still the following day when I arrive wrapped in bandage I'm even more laughed at. I'm called names, sometimes straight in my face or I find them written on my bench when I'm back after break. And when school's finished I have to walk my bike home because the valves are gone. It's not all at once but not many days passes before there's something, enough to make me keep my head down. My creativeness meant nothing to them, not even when I strengthened myself and played my guitar in front of everyone in the auditorium and thought I had a chance to change things they cared; no one gave a shit. Instead the kid playing drums completely out of beat in a band sounding horrible became the new school hero, that took me down so much, still today I can feel the deep disappointment and how the bottomless injustice in life hurts, it is something that really has sunk deep into my heart. Not even for a second did anyone seem to consider what it makes to your sense of worth when you are no one, when you are invisible, when you are shit. Pressing me down, making me stay down; To them it's not more than a game of fun. So I'm stuck regarded a punching bag free to insult or head slap without the slightest risk of getting caught and the adults did little to intervene. Maybe my teachers didn't see or realize, maybe they decided not to because that's probably the easiest thing to do. But I tried not to care because I knew freaking out wouldn't help, I was in no position to jump on a bully, wasn't friends with any of the cool kids so I knew no one would take my side if I did. Starting a fight would only make everything so much worse so I did what so many tormented kids before me had done; I kept my mouth shut at home and came up with stories meant to explain dirty clothes and missing stuff, kept a low profile at school, hid if I could, hoped it all somehow would pass and improve, hoped they would grow tired in me and target someone else.
MY NEW SCHOOL offered a lot of after-school activities and I signed up for the photography class, the teacher turned out to be the school's youth group leader, a beefy guy with a massive beard, I guess in his late 30's or early 40's. Let's call him Barry. Picture yourself an outlaw biker, there you pretty much have his appearance. I still clearly remember the first day of class. The darkroom is located in the basement under the school administration, the smell of chemicals really hits my nose for the first few minutes until I'm starting to get used to it. Barry carefully takes everyone's hand including mine and introduces himself. His hand seems gigantic, the grip is firm and he's looking straight into my eyes. Welcome, I'm Barry. I'm not prepared, don't know what to say so I just say something stupid and random he laughs at. But it's a good laugh. It's warm and friendly and I can't detect anything sarcastic or disgracing in it, it's so far from the wolfs' laughs when they hunt me down in the school yard. According to the rumour circulating Barry has a military background and I guess anyone hearing his sharp voice echoing in the school corridors had no troubles believing that. He was simply one of those persons with unquestionable authority that could stop a fight just by standing there staring with his arms crossed and grunt a little. It didn't take long till I saw him as great, as the best! I simply loved how he could be uncompromisingly decisive yet gentle and kind, I loved how I was acknowledged in the darkroom, how he leaned over and touched my shoulder with his hand, kept it there and took himself time to explain and show what to do. While waiting for our images to dry I loved listen to his stories, anecdotes from his childhood, gossip about teachers or just weird random hilarious stuff. I soon suspected a lot of it wasn't true but as Barry was a good story teller that didn't matter much.
THE PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS soon became my source of inspiration and boost of energy. It also spread to the youth centre, whenever I went there Barry treated me with respect and even called me by my name and he made me feel protected. It didn't take long till I considered the youth group leader to be the only one in school really understanding me, maybe the only one in my life.
SOMETIME LATER I found out he was a keen sailor, then we truly had a lot of common ground and I liked him even more. My family were also boaters but unfortunately because of my dad's work, beside a few summer weekends there never seemed to be enough time to use our motorboat. Every year we spent several weekends preparing the stupid boat but then it was mostly sitting deserted in the marina. Of course I told him that, happy to finally have someone listening I told him pretty much everything about myself. Then one evening after the photo class had finished and everyone were leaving I was asked to stay behind, and when we finally were alone Barry asked if I wanted to go sailing with him that upcoming weekend. What?? That was completely unexpected! If I wanted to?? Of course!! I was delighted to say the least! Back home I talked my parents into allowing me to go, I don't think I gave them that much chance to say no, and honestly I suspect they probably were happy to finally see me excited over something anyway.
WE MET EARLY in the morning at the marina. His yacht turned out to be even bigger and more exclusive than expected, I could hardly believe my eyes and I felt proud to be a part of all this, almost hoped someone from school would see us and go jealous. Then we waved goodbye to my parents and set sail. Barry was amazing and showed me all the basics in sailing and for some time I was even allowed to steer the yacht almost by myself, his big hand on mine helps me adjust the rudder. It all felt unbelievably great. Nothing beside fantastic sailing happened and I loved it right away, I showed up back home with a new tan and a happier than ever look on my face. From that on we went sailing basically every Saturday or Sunday.
AS WE CAME to know each other better and I started to pick up things each time we sailed a bit longer, and when we had extended our sailing to span the entire day Barry suggested we should go even further and do overnight trips. That sounded like a brilliant idea, my parents agreed and off we went. It was then everything changed. My first experience of the other side of him was a complete surprise and a massive shock. I had been absolutely clueless. Didn't see it coming at all.
AFTER SAILING THE entire day I soon feel asleep, happy and exhausted. It was all dark when I woke up by things just feeling weird, it took a second or two before I could grasp the situation. Barry is sitting in my bed... my underwear has been lowered... and he's got his hand there. The shock when I had it all together and realized. He's masturbating me! I could have kicked him hard or yelled at him to stay the hell away from me, I could have done so much, I could have done anything. But I did nothing. In fear and confusion my stupid body just froze and the only thing I could think of was to pretend to be still asleep, which of course he knew I wasn't. I just kept my eyes closed and braced myself for what I knew would come. That was it. When he was done he had my underwear up and put the cover back on before going to bed beside me. I could soon hear his snoring. Neither one of us ever said a word. There was no resistance struggles or screams, I didn't even "wake up".
THE FOLLOWING DAY everything felt awkward. I wanted to say to him I didn't like it, I wanted to tell him never to touch me like that but I just couldn't phrase a single word. We both pretended like nothing had ever happened, kept on sailing without talking about it. Back home I didn't mention anything either, I was ashamed, confused, didn't know what to say, carefully balanced my words, only said what I believed my parents wanted to hear, what I wanted to be the truth but inside my mind was going in circles. Was there something I did to make it happen. Barry's my friend, I got aroused and it felt good, maybe I liked it, maybe it's supposed to be like this? I didn't tell him to stop, I didn't fight back so this can't be so bad. Right? Maybe that makes it my fault? My head full of thoughts impossible to comprehend and process, and a couple of days later when I'm approached in school and invited to go sailing with him again I foolishly accepted hoping it all had been nothing but a huge mistake, hoping we'd do nothing but the sailing I so much loved. I told myself Barry probably soon would sincerely apologize and try make it all right. But I was also scared my parents would ask me why if I didn't want to go, maybe start ask questions I didn't know how to answer, questions I was too ashamed to try answer. So I went back, worried and nervous but did my best to put those feelings aside not to ruin anything.
LIKE LAST TIME at first everything is absolutely fine. After a full day of fun sailing we eventually anchor for the night in some bay, the darkness is closing in and it's time to enter the cabin and shut the door behind us. It's when he start have his clothes off in front of me it gets to me what is about to happen. I realize I'm alone with him, no one will come crashing in through the skylight to intervene and miraculously save me like in some film, I'm a long way from home and just as he's my ticket to come he's also my ticket out of here, the paralyzing fear preventing me to put up a fight is clawing me down once more. I undress too, reluctantly and hesitantly, but I do it myself. It’s not because I want to but because I don't know how not to. His hand on my shoulder escorts me to bed and I find myself touched all over before he performs oral sex on me, then he says we need to switch places and it's my time to make him feel good. And I do.
From there the abuse took off and for more than a year this became something of a daily habit.
HE'S ALWAYS SMILING and laughing, always in a cheerful mood. I'm never hit, never viciously attacked, never threatened, never drugged or given alcohol. He doesn't have to, I always comply and do everything he ask for because he's my friend, because he's an adult and I'm just a stupid lonely kid. I do it to have it over with, to get away, not to make things even worse. Because I feel insufficient to tell him to stop. I want to let my parents know the truth so bad but I just can't, the shame and the unspeakable embarrassment makes it impossible. I feel so dirty and I'm afraid to be yelled at, afraid no one will believe me or understand, afraid everyone will hate me, afraid to be blamed, afraid the word will spread at school making the bullying even worse, afraid everything will turn even uglier if I tell him to stop. All lies I told everyone to protect myself has gone over my head and now it feels like it's impossible to take them back. But I admit I'm torn. I honestly see Barry as two persons. At school he's fun and whenever around I feel protected from all jerks, and when sailing we always have a great time, he isn't only a brilliant sailor teaching me the basics in sailing but he's also an good friend. He laughs at my jokes, he says the right stuff and he always has an ear for me, when I play my guitar for him he always says I do a great job even though I sometimes pick the wrong chords and it sounds like crap in my ears. That part, that undivided attention, having him all for myself, I love it. Suddenly I, the invisible, the quiet one, suddenly I'm someone. Suddenly I have someone who cares of me, it feels like I finally mean something to someone. No matter how I try I can't see any way out.
The only thing I knew was that as long I didn't tell anyone my shameful secret was safe. As long I keep returning I'm safe from anyone finding out.
To the rest of the world I put up a brave face and I do my best to act like there is absolutely nothing wrong with our friendship.
I LEARNED NOT to care, I learned not to feel anything at all but I also learned to hate myself, learned to hate my body that made it look like I was enjoying it, I learned to ignore when he took out his camera and started taking pictures I didn't want anyone to see. Worse of all was when I couldn't stop myself from sensing a pleasure from stuff he did that felt good, that really sickened me, especially when I saw him noticing it, when I saw him smiling at me. I didn't want it to be good! I knew if I only shut down for awhile the other guy, my friend, the person I loved spending time with would return. So I did it. I gave him what he wanted; I had Barry do whatever he felt like without ever protesting. That makes me feel so complicit, that makes me feel so at blame, so horrible. So ashamed.
IT WASN'T ONLY on-board his yacht I became his good boy. It was once at home in my own room, once at school, once in a museum restroom, at hotels when we went on various road trips, but most of it happened in his car when he offered me a ride home after school or after the photo class had finished for the night. Whenever I could I came up with half-lame excuses to get away but often I found no way out and entered his car knowing where that trip ultimately would take me. He'd laugh and play music so loud you'd think the car speakers should crack and happily make detours to let other joining kids off first, but when we finally were alone it never took much time for it to start. A hand on my thigh. I hear him say how much he likes me, how I'm the only one that can make him feel that good. I'm told how special I am. My ride home pauses at a secluded place and his hand works itself down my underwear before I perform the oral sex I knew from the beginning I would never escape. Him gently caressing my hair as I lean over, him holding me down, that sickening memory still makes the ordinary task of getting a haircut a really triggering and awful experience to me.
EVENTUALLY THAT GIRLS voice people on the phone used to mistake for my sister broke and got darker, it started to grow hair in places there had been no hair before and I got taller and stronger, probably strong enough to fight him off but I never did. However things changed, all fun and appropriate stuff we did together by time started to feel distant and his touching hands felt more and more revolting. I started to be sickened by just having him close and soon the sailing I used to love didn't mean anything any longer, all left was the shameful secret making me feel so alone and so dirty. It all came to a point where I knew I had to do something if I wanted to carry on living, I simply couldn't take it any longer.
One day I was dropped off back home after yet another weekend trip with the yacht, stood there outside his car with my bag and guitar. A deep breath, I force myself to look him in his eyes. "This was the last time. I don't want to go with you anymore" He instantly knew exactly what that meant, he snapped, started yelling. Every kind word, every soft touch was taken back. And yes, maybe I was a worthless piece of shit and an ungrateful bastard, maybe I deserved having all those words thrown at me. Back then his sudden and never before shown anger scared me, nowadays I only see my strength finally being able to say no.
I MAY HAVE broken free from him but I never managed to escape myself. Left realizing I had been completely fooled for so long I felt hurt and humiliated. Report him, that is something I immediately knew I couldn't do. Just the sheer thought of it made me almost panic and my stomach started to ache. Reporting him would make everything go public, everyone would find out what he had done with me... what I had done with him... it would ruin what little remains of my life. I wanted to tell my parents the truth but I just couldn't, the unspeakable shame and immense self-assumed feelings of blame made it impossible. Instead I came up with new lies and got stuck in confusion anger and self-destructiveness, soon also alcohol and some drugs. Started to question my sexual preference which of course the bullies picked up and gave me a tough time for, got involved with people not good for me, basically did anything to destroy myself and make me feel even more sickened about the situation I was stuck in. In some strange way I managed to convince myself it all was my abusers fault, it almost made it feel like I had reclaimed control of myself.
OF COURSE MY behaviour changed and it was noted both at home and in school. I got sent to the school counsellor but refused to cooperate. Insisted everything was okay and came up with new lies meant to explain. Maybe I was believed. Maybe not. Or maybe believe in my denials and lies was the easiest thing to do. Either way, nothing changed.
NO ONE EVER confronted me, no one ever had me up against the wall to ask me those probing questions needed to have me cornered enough to have it all out.
This is the part I find hard to understand. Why didn't anyone see anything strange or suspicious with an adult man befriending a schoolboy, wasn't just that an obvious reason to investigate a little further?
NOT EVEN MY parents apparently saw anything strange in me joining him on car rides or various unaccompanied overnight outings. They obviously unreserved trusted him, or maybe they trusted my judgement and wanted to give me my freedom. Maybe they expected me to tell them something if there was something wrong with our friendship. But what if they wanted to ask but didn't know how, maybe they had their doubts but didn't deem what possibly could have happened that serious? Or maybe the general awareness of these issues and their life-long implications simply were less before? I seriously don't know what to think.
FOR SOME TIME our paths kept on crossing at school but we avoided looking at each other. I immediately went from being someone to become no one, something more invisible than thin air. Barry completely ignored my presence and I didn't dare look directly at him, scared something would happen, unsure what to really do, but every time I saw him it felt like I had been kicked in my stomach. Sometime later he transferred away from school and left. Maybe Barry was scared I would tell if he stayed, maybe it was something else that made him leave, I never found out. At the time I didn't know of course but that was the last I ever saw of him; when we all gathered in the auditorium and the headmaster praised Barry for his contributions to our school and everyone applauded. There were a lot of sad faces and tons of good-bye hugs that day. But not from me, to me they talked about someone some else, someone I didn't know. All I wanted was to get up on my chair and scream in front of everyone and expose him as the monster he was, but of course I didn't. I just kept my distance, hid and tried to sink through the floor. Eventually I guess I simply gave up. It took a few years but slowly the anger and recklessness eased off and got replaced by... life basically. The earth kept on spinning. Despite feeling different from everyone else and feeling like I didn't belong I put up a fake smile and went along with the ride. Life went on. I guess it's supposed to do that.
It has to.
IT'S BEEN GOOD days. It's been bad days. Good periods, bad periods. Flashbacks and nightmares have tried to tell me their story but I never went there. Never talked about it, did my best not to think about it at all, never dealt with it, repressed all feelings related to this and buried everything deep inside... away from myself I guess. Until some 25 years later when the news of Barry's passing reached me. In 2009 I suddenly had his obituary in front of me. Oh boy, I wasn't prepared at all!
MAYBE THOSE NEWS should have given me peace of mind or possibly some twisted feelings of revenge but it never did, instead it felt like Barry had escaped all responsibilities towards me so cheap and easily. I never had him confronted with all my questions, I wanted to ask him why. Was it something I did or was he simply a master of manipulation capable in saying what I wanted to hear so he could have his ways with me? Where did all pictures go? I wanted to hear him say he never showed them to anyone and they'd now been destroyed and I wanted to be able to believe him. Was he a serial paedophile, did he leave a life-long trail of ruined lives after himself wherever he went? Maybe he soon forgot my name when new naive kids got lured down into his yacht? That idea left me feeling even more horrible and ashamed of myself; I had the power to stop him from hurting anyone else... but I kept quiet. And why did he pick me, what did I do? I never had him told about all the nightmares he left me with, he never heard how awful and ruined he made me feel and he never learned about all the pointless self-destructiveness I ended up subjecting myself to. I never had him apologize for everything he did, I never had any answers. Barry just... took off and it literary felt like he had gotten away with it all.
SO MUCH I hated about myself came back to life, so many nightmares and so many horrifying memories put aside for so long returned and things in my life started to go downhill. I could see how my family life suffered just as the situation at work. Everything gradually turned unbearable and I felt I was taken to the verge of implosion. Then, after a massive flashback I finally broke 25 years of silence and disclosed my story to a trusted friend, I just had to. It was either that or something much worse. My friend got upset and angry and asked me if I wanted to press charges, I could only say it was too late.
After realizing the depth of what I had told him, my friend convinced me to seek professional help which I eventually strengthened myself to do. For the first time ever I came to confront my trust issues and social anxieties, my dislike of physical contacts and roller coaster-mood. It wasn't fun but it felt good to understand the origins of all issues and have a validation to all sickening feelings. Therapy is neither fun nor easy but it has helped me ask myself the right and important questions, it has changed my perspectives on what happened, it has made me see what I have and what is worth fighting for. Also communities like Pandy's and resources on the Internet has been important and has taken away the feelings of loneliness and has helped me find answers to profound questions.
EVENTUALLY WHEN I had managed to gather enough strength I finally told my wife the truth about my past. She was heartbroken but to my immense surprise, after the initial shock had gone, she said pretty much the same thing as my friend had done a few years earlier; My story was despite its awfulness logical and seen in this new light much of my behaviour suddenly made a lot of sense.
NOWADAYS I LIVE a private and fairly quiet but normal life, whatever that is. Despite everything I have managed to meet the warmest and loveliest person on earth and I'm a father of two. My family is important to me, they're all I got, they're all I am. Knowing my children are safe and being able to see them grow up makes me feel proud, it makes me feel like I have accomplished something important. Like my life finally has a purpose. Growing up wasn't a very good experience but it has made me to person I am today. For better and for worse. I have made some bad decisions along the way, I have done things I can't undo and I have seen things I can't un-see, but realizing I'm still here and actually living a reasonably good life must mean something; Maybe not all my decisions and actions has been completely off. Somewhere along the line I must have made a couple of good ones, too.
That positive vibe, that's the one I try focus on, that's the one I hang on to when memories from my past are trying to push through.
I congratulate if you made it down this far. Thank you for reading.
(All names are fictional however the story and the actual persons involved are not. I wish it all was)
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Here are a few related posts I find important, in no particular order:
The grooming process in sexual assault
Does the abuse of trust hurt more than the abuse of body?
Fight, Freeze, or Flight
Why you didn't tell?
Stuff I'd like to tell my parents
I was a rentboy
Was the awareness less before?
It took me 20+ years, I finally told my wife the truth
Having a small (real life) social network makes me feel alone
Visiting his grave