When sexual abuse is frequently in the news, I unfortunately get to relive my own. I relive it, but I relive the whole story of my life, not just the abuse. It is a trick I have figured out for dealing with the difficult memories. I can relive the abuse and the years of hating myself and wanting to die, but I also make myself relive the part where I begin to figure it out and I start to like myself. There is no avoiding being reminded of the abuse, but I chose to remind myself of how far I’ve come from there.
I wrote the below piece a while ago and have edited it bit by bit over time. It all still matches what I believe and I still sometimes have to go against my first reaction and behave in the way the person I want to be would behave. I still sometimes “fake it.” Those situations are seldom, but I still occasionally find myself thinking “the old Scott would do this or that” and then choosing to do the opposite.
The P.S.A. on SPA
The first 25 years of my life, I had a different name, actually 25 years and 28 days. On the 17th of February 1995, Scott Parker-Anderson was born. My original name has been lost to history. I took “Parker” from my maternal grandfather’s last name and “Anderson” from my maternal grandmother‘s maiden name. I also dropped my first name completely. The act of a name change is mostly ceremonial, a marker of change, nothing happens inside of you when you do it. It is usually an outward feature of something that has or is in the process of happening internally.
I was sexually abused by my grandfather, my father’s father, when I was quite young, five years and younger. It is a bit confusing, that term: ”sexually abused,” I was raped. That explains it. My thoughts and feelings on a man who when entrusted with the safety and well-being of a child, his first and grandson, chooses to absolutely destroy that child are obvious. He was a predator and a monster, and I feel sorry for whatever happened to him that caused him to lose his perspective of right and wrong. None of that changes anything, what happened, happened, and I saw no need in keeping his last name.
Looking back, I was your standard-issue “abused boy.” I wet the bed, I was a bad student, I was angry and depressed, scared, everything It is easy to look back and see everything so clearly, so obvious, so black and white. While you are in it and while it is happening, it is not so obvious to you or people around you. It takes a while for a kid to understand what happened, to put it into perspective, and be able to express it in words, and to not feel like it was his fault or he deserved it. Until that time, the anger and depression tell the story. It is interesting how life and circumstances and events all can snowball into creating a “you” that is so far from the real “you.” The abuse manifests itself as depression and self hate, which results in bad grades, which causes the understandable conclusion of parents and teachers to think you aren’t very smart. You are put on weekly interim grade reports by school counselors and was told by your father that your mother and sister got the brains in the family. You start to believe it and see no reason in trying to prove anyone wrong.
Flash ahead to the 21st of May 1994. My cousin Erik committed suicide The first thing I thought and possibly said when my mother told me was “he really did it.” I had thought and daydreamed about doing it for years. I mean, why not? I was stupid and worthless and ugly, I was never going to amount to anything, so why bother keeping on with it? Right about a month before, Kurt Cobain had done the same thing, which in Seattle was the equivalent to losing a brother. Something changed inside me on that day. I had spent several summers with Erik and had been more than once compared to him in various ways, including as the family’s “Black Sheep” by relatives that had no way of knowing the whole story.
I guess the seeds of change had been planted before that day, I was reading books and trying to create more peace inside and around me, but that day, it was presented to me as a yes or no choice. ”Are you going this way or are you going that way?” Make up your mind.
I went to the lake house and lived there alone all summer. I read and wrote and walked in the woods. I would walk way up into the woods at night, away from all the electric lights, lay on my back, and stare at the stars. I would try to memorize their order and pattern. I would think about how many there were and how small I was and how small my problems were. I made promises to myself, to be everything I wanted to be, to not need anyone, and to behave in a manner that made me proud of who I am. I thought that as long as I could look up and see the stars no matter where I was, I would be familiar.
The thing about sexual abuse is that it happens to you for a specific amount of time and then the abuse stops. But the thought patterns and self-destructive behavior that it creates continue the abuse for years and years, until you stop it. He may have raped me when I was five years old, but I continued to tell myself how worthless and stupid and ugly I was for the next twenty.
The results of all this introspective work in the beginning makes everything seem and feel much worse. Like stirring up the silt on the bottom of the lake, the water looks clear and clean until all that has settled to the bottom gets mixed up back to the surface. Things often get worse before they get better, I think that is why so few people make the changes without a rather extreme catalyst.
The fall of 1994, I went to work in Seattle and in time, moved back to the city. I continued reading and sticking to the promises I had made. I became a huge believer in “Fake it ‘Till You Make it” as far as how I was treating others and myself. Over time, gradually, I began to have a rough outline of who I wanted to be. I had the framework of SPA. Then, on my lunch break on the 17th of February 1995, I swore in front of a judge that I was not running from anything and she read to herself my explanation, asked me if everything I had written was true and correct, and granted me my new name. I took those papers and walked to the DMV and got a new drivers license and went back to work a different person.
In no way, shape, or form was the process of transformation complete then any more than I think it is now. I have created a habit and belief in me that frequent and regular, if not constant, evaluation of my decisions, thought patterns, and reasonings is required for me to continue my path to who I want to be. I think that part of who I want to be is someone who is evaluating himself, and not just sitting back, creating outdated ways of operating, getting stuck in ruts that do not support who I want to become.
Fourteen years later, I went back to the place I last saw Erik, the place where he took his life. In more ways than I think I had every really realized, I owe him my life. I was part of the results of his decision to kill himself, and while I hated myself, I didn’t hate everyone around me. I couldn’t do that to them. There were other casualties from my decision. After telling my father, he vanished from my and my sister’s lives. We haven’t seen or heard from him or anyone from that side of the family since. That grandfather died at some point, I got the news from my mother whose coworker had read the obituary in the newspaper. One last casualty was my sister’s name, she changed it away from the name she grew up with to honor our maternal grandparents.
We are all born and raised differently, with circumstances, some better than others. If I could travel through time back to when I was that young boy and protect him, would I? I probably would. But who would I be today? We are all products of our life experience and how we decide to interpret it, are we not? I am happy with the SPA of today and wonder if without being confronted with the decision of living or dying, without being pushed to that point, would I have created the changes needed to be the same today? I don’t know.
What is the point of telling people all this? Originally, a lot of the power that abuse has is because it is kept a secret, that the kids feel that it is their fault or feel guilty or embarrassed. None of those things are real. I did nothing, I was a kid, an innocent. Keeping the secret only protects the abuser. Telling it removes the power, telling it kills the secret.
- Early Sexual Abuse Increases Heart Risks (nlm.nih.gov)
- Childhood Abuse May Increase Risk For Heart Attack, Stroke (huffingtonpost.com)
- Why Boys Do Not Tell About Sexual Abuse (psychologytoday.com)
- What is Sexual Abuse (abuseinsports.wordpress.com)
- Seattle Archdiocese accused of not stopping abuse (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The Aftermath of Childhood Sexual Abuse (everydayhealth.com)
- 7 accuse Archdiocese of not halting abuse (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Seattle Archdiocese accused of not stopping abuse (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Sex abuse pamphlets issued for victims and accused or convicted abusers (cbc.ca)
- Dad denies daughter’s Prairie Bible Institute sex assault accusations (calgaryherald.com)
- Pam Reeves: Reporting of sexual abuse required by state law (knoxnews.com)
- Mark Trahant Examines Catholic Church’s Abuse of Alaska Natives in FRONTLINE’s ‘The Silence’ (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- ‘Tens of thousands’ of children victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of paedophile priests in the Netherlands since 1945 (alisonsgypt.wordpress.com)
- ‘Tens of thousands’ of children victims of child sexual abuse at the hands of paedophile priests in the Netherlands since 1945 (dailymail.co.uk)
- Dutch apologise for abuse (smh.com.au)
- BBC News – Institutional Dutch Catholic abuse ‘affected thousands’ (2012indyinfo.com)
- Sexual Abuse: New Statistics, New Hope (psychologytoday.com)
- How to decrease the risk of child sexual abuse (rakhealthmatters.wordpress.com)
- Thousands abused by Dutch priests, says report (vancouversun.com)
- Thousands abused by Dutch priests, says report (windsorstar.com)
- Judge dismisses military sexual abuse suit (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Thousands of children abused in Dutch churches over 65 years, inquiry says (cnn.com)
- Get the Facts on Sexual Abuse (lifestrategiesforwomen.wordpress.com)
- Sex Offenders v. Sex Abusers: Is there a difference? (wisecounsel.wordpress.com)