August 22, 2019
In 1970, a predator working at my high school sensed a vulnerability in me and began “grooming” me. He showed me more attention than I was used to, which made me feel special. When he first touched me inappropriately, I froze. He said I let him do it and used the fear and shame I felt to silence me and escalated the abuse throughout my senior year. My graduation ended the ordeal, and I vowed to myself I would carry my secret with me to the grave.
I moved on, or so I thought. But the shame that was used to shut me up didn’t disappear. I pushed it out of my mind, but it ate away at me from the inside like rust corroding an iron structure in a place no one can see. Over the next twenty years, that structure slowly corroded until I crashed and burned. It took forty-five years before I found the inner strength to report the abuse to my former school. Today, I am grateful for years of therapy and 12 Step recovery and count myself among the lucky survivors who can tell their story.
Valentine’s Day, 2019, marked the signing of the Child Victims Act and the culmination of a 15-year David vs. Goliath battle to change New York State’s archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations law for child sexual abuse. With his signature, the Governor gave survivors an opportunity to right a terrible wrong done to them as children.
Before the Child Victims Act, sexual abuse survivors had to seek justice by their 23rd birthday. Otherwise, their abuser was free to abuse still more children with impunity. The average age for an adult to disclose being sexually abused as a child is fifty-two, thirty years too late. Predators and their enablers had only to run out the clock, which they did over and over again.
Today survivors can choose to file a lawsuit or not, but those twenty-three or over on the day the bill was signed, February 14th, must do so before August 14th, 2020. It is a very personal decision, which only the survivor can make. I am a survivor, and here is how I made my decision.
I decided to bring legal action against my high school because my school’s administration did not protect me. They allowed a seasoned sexual predator unfettered access to vulnerable children, including me, and gave him free rein to operate as he wished. As a result, my high school experience did more to cripple me than prepare me to make my mark on the world.
What Will I Gain by Suing my School?
First, I am looking for answers that there is no other way to obtain but in court. Why was he able to do this to me; who else may have suffered the same fate? Second, I believe that telling my story under oath allows me to be seen, heard, and believed by a jury of my peers. Lastly, an outcome in my favor could provide some security in my senior years. My healing has required spending a large amount of money on therapy over the years, and I’m glad I did. It would be nice to get repaid for it and for what I went through for all of those years.
Suing abusers and those who shielded them is not everyone’s cup of tea. No one should feel compelled to file a lawsuit because some window will open and close. But everyone deserves to be heard and believed. If you were sexually abused as a child and have never told anyone, please find someone to confide in. Find help at one of the many caring organizations (www.SafeHorizon.org or www.SNAPnetwork.org) that offer support to survivors of sexual violence. They can help.
The scars of childhood sexual abuse never wholly disappear, as if the damage never happened. Sexual violence stole our childhoods from us. But as adults, we can learn we are survivors despite what we were forced to endure as children. If you are a survivor yourself, you are not alone. If you know a survivor, let them know they are not alone. Everyone deserves to heal.More...
In the early spring of 2016, I found myself both capable of and willing to write a letter to the school where I was abused, finally reporting what had happened to me throughout my senior year there. I started by making a bullet point list based on the guidelines I had been given years earlier by an attorney who was speaking with me pro-bono. I shared the initial list with my therapist and group, which was a very intimate and supportive experience. From that point, it took on a life of its own and became a draft letter and then a finished letter, ready to send in little more than a week. I ran it by the attorney, who helped me tweak it and suggested who I should send it to and to whom I should send a copy. At the time I had no idea what a trans-formative experience it would, and where it would lead me.
While working on this website, almost two years after sending the original letter, I wasMore...
January 28th, 2019 - what a day we had in Albany today! Even going through the Capital Security screening felt different. After all these years the Child Victims Act passed in both legislative chambers by margins that put the lie to the Republican obstruction of the last decade plus! There will be a lot to do again, once the governor signs it into law, but right at this moment, I'm feeling a little at a loss for what to do next.
Although I didn't write this song for this occasion, it was completed two days before the CVA got passed and it shares many of the feelings I've had while working for its passage. So I thought it might be appropriate to share it here.
A part of my story I have not yet told, and which you may be about to read, was much harder to write about than what I have always considered to be the “real” sexual abuse chapter of my life. This was only a single encounter, and I remember very, very little of the details. Although I can reconstruct the events that led up to it, the few memories and vague impressions that remain can only help me surmise what happened. However, knowing what I now know about predators, I have a pretty good idea.
Please allow me to fill in the background first?More...
Recovering from the effects of child sexual abuse takes a lifetime. There is no being cured of it. But, thankfully, life does regain the sweetness and lightness that was lost when, over time, you learn to stop blaming yourself for what happened.
I was able to bury the abuse for 20 years before I began to recall it. Then, after seeing there might be a connection between the wreckage of my life and events that derailed me in high school, I began learning how to show up for life, on life's terms. After only 25 more years I was ready to give the shame back to its rightful owners. I sent a letter to my school, detailing as best I could, everything that happened to me that year. The world got much lighter after that.More...
After a number of years with the same therapist in individual and group work, she suggested EMDR. As I look back on this work, I can see that every one of what I now think of as breakthroughs in my abuse recovery has followed a period of doing EMDR work. I can't even tell you what it was about the work that brought the change. But it was definitely a catalyst. At first, I was convinced I was doing it wrong so how could it possibly help. I usually couldn't visualize what my therapist was asking me to, and I certainly didn't trust what my mind came up with when I did. It definitely started as an exercise in "acting as if". But I trusted in the process because I trusted my therapist and that seems like all that was needed.More...