"In light of the fact...NMPED did not receive a request for a hearing... the NMPED processed and entered a Decision and Order permanently revoking Mr. Wright's educator licensure, effective May 11, 2021"
When I disclosed my abuse last year, I had a very clear goal. My abuser shouldn’t be able to teach or educate children. He shouldn’t be able to advance his career, win awards, and be seen as an upstanding educator when in reality he is a pedophile.
This year has been a journey with my disclosure, blog, and openness about my abuse taking my healing and story to some unexpected places. However, I always kept my main focus which was to pressure the PED to revoke my abuser’s teaching license. While I learned a lot about statute of limitations and other avenues of justice for survivors, I knew the most tangible outcome, one that I have felt as a moral and ethical responsibility, was to ensure he could no longer be an educator. Education is the core of who I am as a person. It grounds me and brings me joy and confidence. Once I accepted my abuse, I knew I could not let a sick person like him taint the profession I care for so deeply.
Last week, I finally met my goal. I followed through. I didn’t give up. I was patient when I needed to be. I put pressure when it was necessary. I did everything in my power to meet my goal.
In December I challenged myself to write this blog and it set so many things in motion.
I worked with law enforcement to see if there was any way to press charges. I have no control on the outcome of that investigation, but I did my part.
I found a reporter who was willing to tell my story and investigate the failing of an educational system that lets predators bounce from district to district with very few consequences. Have you seen the piece yet? There were so many failing. Artesia letting him resign and didn't fire him. The PED cutting a deal with him to complete 5 counseling sessions. Yes, you read that right! He only had to go to five sessions. He essentially left the teaching profession for a few months after having highly inappropriate and sexually explicit conversations with a student both in person and online. It was very frustrating to watch, but I still did my part. He can’t escape that story. It now lives on the Internet and can be shared with any future schools that hope to employ him.
If he tries to work again, he gets to check the box that asks “has your teaching license ever been revoked. If yes, explain why”. I did that. I am the force that gets to move that pen across the checkbox.
I did my part. Honestly, I don’t know the deal he made with PED. I don’t know or trust that they didn’t just let him retire with his 401K in hand. I have absolutely no control over that outcome. It would be truly disappointing, but that is not my responsibility. Like I wrote, I did my part.
My healing journey has led me so many directions but it finally circled back to my original goal. As always, I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I am headed in the right direction. As the 1 year anniversary of my disclosure approaches, I think I am going to pause and let myself feel proud of the strength I am building and the things I have accomplished.
Thank you for reading.
This is the fourth installment of a six-week National Child Abuse Prevention Month (#NCAPM) blog series about child abuse and how we are working to prevent it. Jake Lee is a child abuse survivor as well as a facilitator for Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® training program, which is offered for free through Children’s Center.
Guest post by: Jake Lee, Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® workshop facilitator
Artesia is a small town in the Southeastern corner of New Mexico with a population of just around 11,000 people. Artesia prides itself on having the best schools, safest streets, and most competitive football team of any small town in the area. The community is guided by its strong moral compass that is often steered by the conservative Christian values that keep the city heading in a direction that makes its residents feel grounded and safe.
I grew up on a quiet street in the rectory of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where my father served as the parish priest for over 30 years. My mother was a social worker who managed services in the surrounding counties for decades. My parents worked hard, provided, and trusted that their community would help keep their three sons safe and protected.
Sexual abuse didn’t exist in the city limits at least in the minds of Artesia’s residents. It couldn’t possibly. Children attended youth groups, church camps, and Bible studies. In its collective mind, the town was doing everything right to protect its children and youth, while in reality, sexual predators exist everywhere.
I was groomed by my abuser from 6th grade onward during my time in Artesia. He was one of my teachers in both middle school and junior high and also my high school football coach. Grooming is a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child and the adults around a child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with her/him.
My abuser would stop by my house for long chats with me or my parents and often gave me encouragement and praise for my successes in both the classroom and on the football field. I was regularly invited over for dinners with his family and enjoyed long drives on the many country roads that surrounded our town. He spent years building the trust that he would eventually use to abuse me. His role as a teacher and coach on the prestigious football team kept eyebrows from being raised. After all, he was just a coach mentoring another budding football star.
My sexual abuse began sometime between 9th and 10th grade. He escalated his grooming behavior until he was ready to take our “special” relationship to the next level. Once that threshold was crossed, my high school years became grounded in secrecy and shame rather than the rights of passage my peers were experiencing. My abuse continued through my first year of college where I finally found my strength to move on.
Abuse victims each have their own unique, personal, and challenging roads to recovery. My abuse affected me by instilling deep insecurities, shame, and anger. Though I have accomplished a lot in my life – I’ve been an elementary school teacher for 15 years, married an amazing partner, and together we’ve adopted two beautiful boys from the foster care system – looking back I realize that my abuse made me feel invisible, so I did everything in my power to help children feel seen and loved.
In fact, I now see that my path to healing was filled with a relentless need to educate and advocate for children. Unfortunately, that often came at a cost to my own self-care and recovery. The desire to be seen was so strong that I pushed myself to constantly “do more” in hopes of finally feeling “enough”.
My family became aware of my abuse about six years after it ended, however, it wasn’t something we talked about. It was too painful a subject to broach in a meaningful way even for a minister, social worker, and educator. We all brought our own pain and shame to the table, which made healing conversations difficult. Life just kept moving on with my attempts to forget my abuse becoming as common as the freshly sharpened pencils and new notebooks that marked the beginning of a new school year.
My moment of clarity came in late 2019. The through-line of all my emotional anguish traced right back to my abuse. It took me nearly 20 years, but I finally sought help and with the support of my therapist, I’ve accepted myself as a child sexual abuse survivor. I am still in treatment today. Healing from sexual abuse is not a linear journey, so I anticipate many ups and downs ahead.
At the end of 2020 after a year of healing, I challenged myself to write a blog about my abuse for 30 straight days leading up to my 38th birthday in hopes of bringing awareness to the fact that boys are also victims of child sexual abuse. It has been read by over 50,000 people and shared hundreds of times, surprisingly, by many people from my hometown. They all expressed their shock, anger, and disappointment of not seeing the signs during the years of my abuse.
As you read at the beginning of my story, I am from a community that didn’t think that abuse could happen in their town. Many of my blog readers thanked me for sharing my experience, as it helped educate them about the possible signs of child sexual abuse in their own families and communities. Education is key in ridding the world of sexual abuse. Though it might be uncomfortable, society must learn to sit with the discomfort of talking about child sexual abuse. We need to understand this issue so we can protect the children in our communities.
The Children’s Center’s focus on supporting victims of sexual abuse, while also educating the wider community is a powerful mission. I truly believe that if prevention workshops like Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® offered through Children’s Center had been available in my town, my abuse may have been prevented. Instead, as an adult who could be doing so many other things, I am in the process of disclosing my abuse to authorities in New Mexico in hopes of shining light on the actions of my abuser who is still, unfortunately, an educator.
I am proud to say that recently I’ve become a facilitator with Children’s Center for the Stewards of Children® training offered to adults in our community. I am excited to bring my experience and passion to helping others understand the power they have to protect children from sexual abuse. I challenge anyone who is reading this to consider taking an upcoming Stewards of Children® training. It could be your first step in becoming an advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse and protecting kids, like me, from the horrendous experience of being abused.
Here is the link to the original post on The Children's Center Blog
Back in December I had the chance to be part of Thomas Edward's podcast "Safe Place for Men" which highlights the stories of sexual abuse survivors. Thomas is a survivor with a powerful story who coaches and helps survivors process their stories and heal. I was honored to be part of his podcast. You can here my episodes below.
Podcast Part 1
Podcast Part 2
Podcast Part 3
I won't give up and I will keep telling my story for as long as it takes.
Fear, shame, and silence only provide a shield to my abuser. I have found the strength to tell my story in hopes of changing the culture, stigmas, and systems that protect sexual abusers. The healing path of a sexual abuse victim is riddled with opportunities to turn around and head back. As the path veers uphill upon rocky terrain, it would be quite easy to turn back in the name of safety. That hesitation is valid. This path isn't for everyone and takes vast amounts of boldness and determination to keep moving forward. And I keep moving forward.
All I seek is accountability. My path might not end with justice, but I will continue to tell my story in hopes of holding people accountable. While this is a deeply personal journey, it isn't just about me anymore. It is about every child and adolescent who had their innocence and childhoods taken from them. It's about modeling how digging deep to find one's voice and courage can truly help to make change. It's about showing how raw vulnerability can break the shields created by fear and shame where abusers are able to hide and thrive. I know there are more tough times ahead.
Times of retaliation where I will need to be even stronger while being grounded in the truth of my story. It's also about realizing that my story is no longer unique. It is all too common. So I find my strength in the thousands of stories like mine. I know I am doing my part to change this sad narrative.
I keep fighting. I keep telling my story. When I almost broke, I spent the hours in therapy healing and finding strength. When no one wanted to help me tell my story, I started my blog and wrote the story myself. When the PED drug their feet, I kept calling. They might hate me now, but all I am asking is for them to do their job. When I hear my abuser is calling me insane and crazy, I just keep pushing because the only crazy thing in this story is imagining living in a world where the Rodney Wrights of the world can advance their educational careers on the backs of the kids they abused. If the people in his life don't like this story, take a look at the person who created it. I would have NO story to tell if he hadn't spent his time selecting, grooming, and abusing me and his other victims. The only person to blame is him.
I finally found someone to help tell my story. I was able to send the right email at the right time. I have no idea where this will lead, but I am happy to turn a spotlight on an abuser and the systems that protected him.
You can see her extended interview about my story below as well.
Click on the link below to read about Gary Gregor, a convicted child rapist who was able to bounce across multiple New Mexico school districts despite multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.
Edmundo Carrillo of the Albuquerque Journal wrote: "An investigative series by the Journal found that education authorities repeatedly failed to act against Gregor – or report him to police – despite repeated accusations of sexual misconduct over the years. He has been cited in national news media as an example of “passing the trash,” when teachers move among school districts despite histories of allegations of molestation".
This monster was able to bounce from district to district without repercussions because he was let go quietly while school districts only focused on possible legal consequences. Meanwhile, children get sexually manipulated, abused, and in Gregor's case raped while school districts only protect themselves. Read the article at the link above. It is truly awful.
I have seen all of this in action as I disclosed my own abuse. Let's highlight what I have seen below:
1. Rodney Wright was able to secure another teaching position mere months after being reported for sexual misconduct to Artesia Public Schools. I have spoken to this victim so I know the report happened. I was still in contact with Mr. Wright at the time, so I know he was teaching on the Mescalero Apache Reservation soon after being asked to leave the Artesia Public Schools. How could this be possible? I know Reservations have their own rules and regulations but did no one notify them? Did they call for references? Did people in Artesia give him references after knowing of his sexual misconduct?
I also don't know if Artesia Public Schools reported Rodney Wright to the police, which is required in reported cases of sexual misconduct. I sure hope they did because that would be an extremely disappointing non-action by a district claiming to be one of the best in state. Like I said, I am unsure if they did and I am only suggesting that it might be looked into by interested parties.
Why do I question this? Because I have yet to hear from anyone in Artesia Public Schools. Their school administration includes several of my former coaches and mentors that were central figures in my Artesia life. Why haven't I heard for them? I am pretty convinced they are protecting their school district over pledging support to a former student who was sexually abused by one of their own. I sure hope I am wrong as these are my opinions based off what I know and feel.
Artesia Public Schools let Mr. Wright leave very quietly, basically overnight, and with no one knowing why. Some of them have known about my abuse for over a decade. Yet, I haven't heard from anyone, not even once.
2. More recently, Mr. Wright was let go from the Belen School District. It was soon after my report to the New Mexico Public Education Department, so one might assume my disclosure was the reason he was let go from his position. But no one truly knows because yet again it was done very quietly. I have spoken to multiple people from Belen, all of which commented how he was there one day and gone the next. Sound familiar?
The administration of Belen Consolidated Schools is aware of my blog. I have heard from the superintendent, but in a very professional manner. He asked a specific question that was clearly aimed at protecting his school district legally. It was under the guise of "we are deeply concerned about what we read", but it came down to him looking out for the school district and not its children. How do I know this? Because he went out of his way to search and contact me through my work email because "the school district's lawyers wanted our communication to remain professional". Then I got it. It wasn't about pledging support. It was fishing for what I know and have. They are worried about this getting out and/or they are worried about new victims coming forward. Bottom line, they don't want to get sued.
It all comes down lawyers, litigation, and money. This "pass the trash" culture is not about protecting victims at all.
3. The New Mexico PED moves ridiculously slow. I made my disclosure to the PED on July 7th, 2020 and was assigned a case number. It was immediately assigned a 2 year statute of limitations, meaning they have 2 years to complete my case. That was depressing as 2 years seemed like a very long time. So I reached out again and asked why my case was assigned a 2 year statute. I was told "we only assign 60 days when the alleged is fired or resigns once the allegations are brought forward". I was given the impression for months that Mr. Wright was placed on administrative leave. I then find out he was let go or asked to resign quite early in the process. Yet, my case remained a 2 year statute. The investigation was completed by September, with 3 victims disclosing, but there has been absolutely no movement. I only hear from the PED when I contact them. I call every month, sometimes twice a month. I get the same answers every time. It has been 233 days since I made my disclosure. Rodney Wright still has his teaching license.
Now that I have read about Gary Gregor, I am not the least bit surprised.
So what steps can be taken in the right direction? I recently watched a report on House Bill 128 that is working its way through the New Mexico Legislature. House Bill 128, which at this point has bipartisan support, "would make it so if someone does get fired for inappropriate behavior, it is not kept secret. School districts will be allowed to publicly disclose the reasons. In addition, even before they get the job, the hiring process will involve looking into past misconduct allegations instead of just an FBI background check, which may only reveal criminal convictions" as reported by Lysée Mitri of KRQE News. See her report at the link below.
House Bill 128 is completely necessary and hopefully will be adopted by more States. But aren't we all a little shocked it doesn't already exist? The current system is set up to protect the accused and the districts they leave. It doesn't protect victims at all.
You what the funny thing is? As they read my story, these districts are all rushing to protect themselves, but taking legal action never crossed my mind when I started this blog. With my knowledge of statutes of limitation in sexual abuse cases, I sought only to tell my story and make sure Rodney Wright could no longer teach and/or have access to children and students. I really thought the school districts involved would hear my story and share ways they are making change. Maybe we could even work together? But I guess legalities and possible litigation outweighed compassion, empathy, and support.
This post, and my survivor story, show the uphill battle sexual abuse victims have once they disclose their abuse. It is not a downhill journey when the bravery to come forward is finally found. It is an uphill battle filled with stigmas, roadblocks, bureaucratic red tape, and anxiety filled nights of wondering if you did the right thing coming forward.
This system, like so many others, is completely broken. I hope to see House Bill 128 pass in New Mexico and I hope to see more bills like it get proposed around the country.
Don't the monsters creep away into the shadows. Let survivors grab the spotlight and shine it right on them.
As I share my story and continue to heal, it is interesting to see what emotions arise as more chapters unfold.
When my phone pinged and pinged with messages revealing shocking allegations against the other male victim of my abuser, I read with such disappointment as more disturbing details emerged of the alleged abuse these children endured at the hands of this man. This man who apparently lived a story so similar to mine as a teen has allegedly become a monster himself. I know that everyone should be afforded the right to be innocent until proven guilty, but the presence of Homeland Security and the F.B.I makes it really hard to believe there isn’t ample evidence of this man’s abuse of his alleged victims. The whole story and the reality that comes with it is depressingly sad. My monster helped create another monster in this man.
Anger is what came forward for me. I was angry on so many levels. The first was that this man became another statistic feeding the perceived cycle of abuse. For survivors like me, who are not abusers or pedophiles, we are already battling horrendous stereotypes that we are destined to be abusers ourselves. I know many who read my blog, many with conservative beliefs, equate my homosexuality with the abuse I endured. I know in my soul this is categorically untrue, but many who still need to justify my “lifestyle choice” might believe this to be true. So when I saw the pictures of this man being arrested and read the allegations against him, my feeling were so complicated. I searched hard for empathy. I tried so hard to be understanding, but I just remained angry. He abused children. He perpetuated the cycle. Here is what I found on my trusted source 1in6.org:
Most people who abuse others were abused as children, but the reverse is not true: Most people abused as children DO NOT go on to abuse others. The best available research suggests that 75% or more of those who commit acts of sexual or physical abuse against others were themselves abused as children. However, the research also indicates that the vast majority of children who are sexually abused do not go on to abuse others.
This man and I share an abuser, but we will no longer share a survival story. When he reached out this summer after his PED statement, he pledged support and wanted to work together to bring light to our abuse. According to the allegations against him, this summer he was also pressuring young boys into unwanted sexual interactions. Throughout the fall when he sporadically sent messages like “any word on our pedophile” or “any updates on our abuser”, he was allegedly manipulating boys in the same way we were both manipulated. When I began to write my blog, he wrote an encouraging message in late November. Meanwhile a family was living their own horrific reality and apparently starting the process of bringing light to this man’s abuse of their young sons. It's tragic and infuriating. My monster helped create another monster. His abuse continues to lay wreckage in the lives of his victims, and now this man has his own trail of wreckage he helped create.
I also felt extreme anger when I saw the picture of this man in handcuffs. I wasn’t angry for him. I was angry for me. I will most likely never see my abuser taken away in handcuffs. That is not a moment I am destined to witness. That is the cold-hearted reality of coming to terms with my abuse 15 years too late for the legal system. Yes, I am in the process of hoping to revoke his teaching license, but that is just one license in one state. Yes I have been told they have “flagged” his license but this is also within conversations were they talk of how “overloaded” their system is and how they have “staffing issues” leaving them with just one department prosecutor. I know he is working. If not in a public school district, than a private one. Someone who learned to silently slink away from job to job isn’t going to just stop and admit defeat. And with no newspapers willing to share my story or school districts willing to come forward with allegations there is really no space for any possible victims to come forward at this point. This might just be that reality I will have to live with, so what am I going to do with this anger.
I will keep moving forward and I will be patient. I have had to constantly question how I will continue to move forward, and I am starting to accept that I can’t solely be focused on justice. I have to be guided by more than that because I have to accept that in my case justice may never come. So I have to guide my path towards making a difference. Instead of solely focusing on justice (that I still pray will come), I will focus on prevention and helping male survivors heal. I plan to spend 2021 researching how I can start a non-profit aimed at supporting male victims. I want create the type of organization that I searched so hard to find during my recovery. I also want to spend 2021 connecting with other male survivors. I want to learn and heal with others who share a similar story. I have big goals and big things ahead.
My monster helped create another monster. But make no mistake the other victim in my story is now an alleged pedophile who also bears a huge amount of responsibility for his actions. He will now have to live with the repercussions of these accusations and deal with the absolutely necessary consequences that could be coming his way.
But I won’t focus on him or feel sorry for him. I will put all my positive energy into his victims. I will also spend my time connecting with the majority of other male victims who did not become monsters themselves.
Original blog post about "The Other Man" referenced in this post.
As the sun rose on 2021, I was pondering where to go from here on my storytelling journey. I continued to ask myself “what are my goals as I continue”. When I finished my 30 days, I was emotionally exhausted. It truly took a lot out of me. Between the blog, teaching, and parenting, I limped into the holidays and Winter Break. With all the anticipation and possibility that comes with a new year, I am ready to continue my journey because there are still so many chapters of this story to tell.
I wondered what format I wanted to use going forward. Should I start a podcast? Should I have a robust social media presence? Should I have a YouTube channel? Then I realized that this blog has been my scared space to tell my story. Why change it? This is where the story should continue.
This blog has already enriched my life and pushed my story forward. Laying out my hopes, questions, and vulnerability on these pages has given my a confidence I haven’t felt in my life. This blog has also been productive in bringing to light male sexual abuse and the many players in my own abuse story. It is creating an accountability factor that many thought they would never see.
My blog has been passed to a law enforcement agency (details withheld of where, what, and why) but I was finally able to tell my story in an official interview that might actually hold my abuser accountable.
My blog has been passed to journalists who have their eye on the developments so when the time is right, and there is action from certain agencies, my story can be told so any other victims can come forward to tell their stories.
My blog will be used to put pressure on the New Mexico Department of Education, who are dragging their feet in revoking my abuser’s teaching license.
My blog has reconnected me to so many. I have kept every message that people took time to write and revisit them as my resolve waivers.
My blog has set me on a new path of recovery as it helped me accept my abuse while also finally opening my mind to seeing myself a survivor. I have still have so far to go; I regressed a bit after the 30 day project, but I know that recovery isn’t a process that happens over night. There will be many ups and downs. But I still want to be here, writing and sharing.
This process is about growth. I want this journey to make me a better husband, father, son, and brother. I want to be present in the moments created by my beautiful family. I want to continue to laugh with them as we fail, twice, to make homemade gingerbread homes. I want to learn how to make the perfect pot of homemade pasta and bake the perfect cupcake with them. I want to shed the baggage and weight I feel each day so I can explore life. There is still so much of this world to learn from and explore.
My journey continues as a new year and chapter begins. To every reader and friend who reads this, thank you so much for making this blog a place to share. I needed this space and I will always appreciate the people who helped me create it.
Happy 2021. May we all heal and learn to see each other again through lenses of compassion, understanding, and empathy. There is such beauty in humanity and I hope that we can take all the lessons from 2020 to make our world kind again.
This blog isn't over. It is a beginning and not an end. There is still many chapters of this story to write. This was just the prequel, the lead up, to truly living my life as a survivor. When I hit submit on this post it will be as though I am stepping into the next chapter. The chapter where I am present in each beautiful moment of my life. There will also be the chapter of seeking justice while helping to make change for survivors like me. With that in mind, I will ask for your help.
I will always remember the amount of support I received. It has been the most beautiful unintended consequence of this whole journey. I asked in an earlier post if people could let me, and other abuse survivors, know that we are seen. The video below highlights their responses.
I have started to write this letter many times the past year, but I could never finish it. You instilled such a wall of secrecy in me that it took nearly 20 years to break through. You used my kind heart and compassion against me.
I would start to write and think: "What am I doing? This will ruin his life". I would start again and think: "What about his wife?" I would start again and think: "What will this do to his kids?" I finally realized these questions were never my responsibility. Your family is your responsibility and any pain that comes from my disclosure sits squarely on your shoulders. You did this to your family. I did not. I am just telling a story rooted in the absolute truth that you are sexual predator who targeted me when I was just a child.
Do you even know the wreckage you have caused in the lives of your victims? Yes, you read that correct. I said victims. I have spoken with others. You don't even know the butterfly effect you have had on their lives. You simply move on to a new town, a new district, and a new school. You leave all the consequences behind you burdening the kids whose innocence you stole with the insecurity, pain, and shame you used to meet your needs and keep your secrets.
So many people want me to curse your name and have you "rot in hell", but I am not going there. Your abuse weighed me down from years with all the negative thoughts and emotions you caused coursing through my veins. Hate is just another way to control me and you no longer have that power over me.
You disgust me. My life is centered in education and it is horrifying that you used our sacred profession to identify, groom, and abuse your victims. You used the respect that every educator deserves to draw kids into the sickness you have inside you. You don't deserve the title of educator and I hope my story strips you of any pride you feel about your career. You didn't have a career. You had years climbing the administrative ladder on the backs of the children you abused. That is the sickening reality for both you and the districts that promoted you. The signs have always been there and many chose to ignore them. My story will ensure that no one ignores the signs again. Your time in education is up. The profession, and the children it cherishes, are done with you. I will make sure of that.
You stole so many moments from me. You stole my adolescence. You clouded what should have been an amazing time in my life. You warped my self-worth. You made me keep your secrets which caused a complex of invisibility that lasted for near two decades. You made me feel like the only role I could play in any intimate relationship was to be unwanted, replaceable, and worthless. I have lived years thinking I had no character and that my core was rotten. Do you even realize the wreckage you caused as you satisfied your sick desires?
I am owning my story now. By shining light on you and the abuse you caused, I am finally standing strong in the light I have always sought. You won't take another day from me. You won't taint another memory and you will no longer make me feel worthless. You might have clouded my past, but my future is bright. I am healing and feeling stronger than ever.
I am writing the truth. I am opening up space for your other victims to live in their truth. I am forming an army of support behind me who supports me in telling my story to stop predators like you. You know there is no denying this story. There are too many of us with too many stories. The space I am creating will be filled with others. I hope that makes you nervous.
Any repercussions you feel as I tell my story are your fault and not mine. You did this. You brought this pain into your family's life. All I am doing is telling my story and my story is rooted in the truth. Your time to be held accountable is here. You need to answer for the pain you have caused me and your other victims. There will be no more secrets and no more shame. They only monster left in this story is you.
I wasn't sure I would write this letter. I talked myself out of it so many times, but this was a final step in my healing. Many might say I need to forgive you to heal and move on. I will not forgive you. I will forget you. I will forget the pain you caused and choose to live in the light of the amazing life I have created for myself.
I am not tracking you down. I am not addressing an envelope with your name and address. This is my story. This is my space. And I have no doubt this letter will reach you soon enough.
So Rodney Wright, do you feel your heart beating in your chest? Do you feel your breath catching? Do you feel the fear rising as you read my letter and story? Hows does it feel to have a little taste of what your victims have lived with for years?
I have no pleasant platitudes for you and no well wishes. This letter was for me and not you. There is no good way to end this letter because you deserve no grace.
This is a video for my brothers in survival. We are worthy. We are loved. It wasn't our fault. We deserve to be happy!
Listen to Survivor's Stories
We need to know you are there for us. One of the hardest things I have ever done is excepting myself as a sexual abuse survivor. Once I excepted my abuse, disclosed, and started to heal, I was ready to tell my story and embrace the support of people in my life. Other than my immediate family, I was met with silence. It took so much, and so long, for me to come to this point, but it was such a taboo topic that there was no space to share my story. I had to create the space. It wasn't there and I truly believe the onus should not be on the survivor to create this space. We need people to look us in the eye and say the following:
“Thank you for sharing.”
“You are not to blame for what happened to you.”
“You didn’t deserve what happened to you.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you.”
“You are not what was done to you.”
“That was abuse, not healthy sexuality.”
“I support you in your healing process.”
“I respect you for addressing this.”
“I love you.”
I was lucky to have family that would listen to me when I really needed to share. Many survivors don't have that support. It just takes one brave friend to create a safe and nurturing place for survivors to share.
This is a sensitive topic where conversations won't come naturally for most people. If you have a survivor in your life, educate yourself. There are many great books. There are great stories to read on website such as 1in6.org. Click on the Bristlecone Project Tab and read the story of some beautiful survivors. You have Google at your disposal, search for information so you can help guide your loved one through their healing and recovery.
Be an ongoing source of support
I can tell you that healing is an up and down journey. Breakthroughs feel great and promote optimism. Triggers can lead to pretty bleak and dark places. Don't give up on us. I have been blessed with people in my life that are so patient with me as I recover.
Practice not giving advice or trying to "fix" the problem. We just need you to listen. Let us express ourselves and don't get exasperated. We are feeling so many emotions, and shame will just cause us to freeze up and stop sharing. It is very hard to hear our stories. They are tragic and don't make for easy listening, but the more we tell our stories the more we heal. We need a constant, positive presence in our healing journey.
I have one last important blog to write and share. It's purpose is necessary to solidify the impact of this project, but it hasn't been an easy one to write. Once shared, I know I will need the type of support I have written about here to move past the emotions the post will bring up in me.
Thank you for reading and thank you for the future support you will provide a survivor in your life.
I found this poem I wrote in either 4th or 5th grade as I was thinking of what happens as I hit submit on the final post of this blogging project. What was I truly seeking when I began this journey nearly a month ago? It has certainly morphed and changed. There have been unforeseen empowering moments where I can truly see myself making a difference. There have been emotional moments when I reread some of my posts and revisited the feelings weaved within them. There have been exhausting moments where I didn't think I had a single other thing to write or say. I know this blog is a beginning and not an end. But a beginning to what?
The goal was to create an artifact that might be seen by the right person at the right time. Maybe a survivor would stumble upon it as they grappled with coming to terms with their abuse histories. Maybe someone would send it to a journalist someday so I could shine light on my abuser in a way he couldn't escape. Maybe it would just be a release for me. Maybe I needed to share in order to make peace and move on. I truly don't know what the future holds for this story and I certainly didn't when I began to share it here.
Last night was another sleepless night. When the house goes quiet and I am the only one awake, I let down my guard and let the feelings from the day really come forward. This way I won't affect the people in my life. Last night, my mind was racing while trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. I have a big post coming up and it has been a source of extreme anxiety. When I feel anxiety rising up like a wall blocking my path, I have learned to push through. The anxiety is protecting something that needs to be said and shared. It won't be easy. This blog hasn't been easy, but I have to end these 30 days in a way that sets me free.
When I finally drifted off to sleep it was the thoughts of freedom, peace, and pride that calmed me. It was the realization of the purpose I have missed as I post each day. This blog has been about making space for other survivors. It has been about starting a conversation around male sexual abuse. It has been about education and advocacy.
But it has also been about release and finding peace. It truly has been about opening up an old wound so it can finally heal properly. This blog has been about me and for me. It has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
So maybe the main goal all along was finding the space my 4th grade self pictured. Maybe it was about walking through a forest and finding a clearing. Maybe in that clearing there are two large trees with high grass between them. And maybe, just maybe, I can finally lay in that space and finally feel free.
5 more posts friends.
My girl Brene Brown wrote "Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It's tough to do that when we are terrified about what people might see or think" Showing up in this space of vulnerability is terrifying but exhilarating. It is tearing away the mask of what I "should" be while replacing it with who I truly am, scars and all.
This blogging project is rooted in many things that I have written about so far, but a main focus is bringing visibility to male victims of childhood sexual abuse. With this in mind, as I head down the home stretch of this blogging project, I want to ask you a favor.
It has taken me nearly 20 years to share my story and be seen. Now that I have, I want to create an artifact that might encourage other victims to share their stories. The artifact will be a video highlighting people who have supported me in this sharing journey. I want victims to know that in their lives there will be people who will step up and support them, even unexpected ones.
So I want to make a video. I love to make videos. I make many for work so it has turned into a therapeutic hobby. So here is what I need from you.
I WANT YOU TO GRAB A POST-IT, NOTECARD, PIECE OF PAPER, OR ANYTHING YOU CAN WRITE ON NEARBY. WRITE THE WORDS "I SEE YOU". AND SNAP A PICTURE/SELFIE OF YOU HOLDING IT UP FOR ME. Put those pictures in the comments of my Facebook post or send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to see the faces of the people who have supported and seen me through this journey. I want the victims who might stumble across this blog to see what could possibly happen if they take this step to stand in their truth as survivors.
It will just take 2-3 minutes to make this happen. My goal is 100 PICTURES. If you have taken the time to read my story, please take a little time to help me with this video project.
I hope to post the video on Day 29 or 30. :)
I have heard from so many people. The messages come daily. Stories of support and regret for not knowing or reading the signs. Stories of abuse or the abuse of loved ones. It is shocking to me how abuse is a shared experience of so many men and women. I appreciate the stories as they connect to mine. I like the space my little blog is creating for others.
But I still wonder about the ones I haven't heard from, the mentors that have heard and are still hesitant to call. Is it shame? Is it doubt? Is it protection for the town and school they love wholeheartedly.
The onus should not lie with me to start a conversation of healing and understanding. The respect instilled all those years ago still exists but dissipates as the years and now days roll by. What is stopping them? Worry? Pride? Stigma? Discomfort?
30 days will end soon and this opening created by my vulnerability will close as I find new ways of advocating for survivors. As the opening closes so will my respect for so many of those mentors who hesitated to call. As they saying goes, their silence speaks volumes.
Reframing is a technique used by counselors to shift a client's view of a particular problem, event, or person. Reframing helps create a different way of looking at a situation, person, or relationship by changing it's meaning. I have written about my experience with EMDR therapy and how it has played a huge roll in my recovery. I am learning to look back at the past 20 years while reframing the beliefs that were embedded in me as a teen.
I was abused, but I broke away. I was in an abusive relationship, but I found the strength to leave. My twenties were a butterfly crack started at age 14 that could have spanned decades eventually causing me to shatter, but I persisted and turned those cracks into roads that lead me into many beautiful experiences. I dreamed of a family, and I created one. My abuse almost broke me, but I finally planted my feet and started to stand tall. There were so many dark paths I could have taken, but my strength lead me here.
What I had seen as weakness is really vulnerability. Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is one of the most powerful emotions I have ever felt. No weight I have lifted, mile I have ran, mountain I have climbed, or lake I have paddled has made me feel as strong as I have when I let myself feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is a universally felt emotion that, when shared, brings people closer together through honesty and truth. Let's just stop pretending and let's grow together.
What I had seen as insecurity and invisibility can be reframed into determination and dedication. In a quest to seek validation and connection, I have pushed myself to become a better teacher, husband, father, and friend. I have nearly two decades of successes and meaningful connections that only I couldn't see or accept. At every school I have been lucky enough to join, I have made a positive difference and promoted innovation and change. While my insecurity and intense desire to be seen drove me to work harder and harder, it also helped me exceed every expectation I ever laid down for myself.
I can see now that my husband is proud of me and sees me as an equal. I have learned that I bring so much to our marriage and family. I have learned I am no longer that wounded twenty year old he met, broken, all those years ago. My boys love me unconditionally. I see it when I look into their eyes. They were put on this Earth to be my sons. Their pain found mine and we have healed together.
I have spent years running from my past, laying a path I believed to be grounded in weakness, insecurity, invisibility, and unworthiness. I see now that it was truly rooted in determination, strength, passion, and a desire to leave a meaningful mark on this world.
Reframing has been a powerful practice for me. It has helped clear the fog of self-doubt so I can finally see myself clearly.
These are my thoughts as I watch the fire crackle in our living room illuminated with the twinkle lights of our family Christmas tree. Derrick is whistling as he enjoys the home cooking of his aunt. I hear the yells of laughter as my boys play video games with their 80 year old grandfather. I smile as I answer another text from my mom as she shows her gifting expertise for the upcoming holiday.
It has taken me years but I am starting to see myself as a butterfly while also realizing the painful, yet beautiful, changes I have made to reach this point should be seen as the winds that help me take flight and not the fog that keeps me from seeing my journey ahead.
Y'all, I am tired. This week was complete junk with the Murphy's Law of possibilities bringing my digital classroom to a halt. Every moment and every online meeting was so stressful! I am like a vegetable tonight! I found a terrible show on Netflix (via MTV) called "Are you the one?" and I am escaping to Hawaii on the wings of these ridiculous twenty year olds finding "love".
The past few posts have also taken a lot out of me. I am honest when I say I never thought I would have an actual audience and I really doubted I would make the entire 30 days. But here we are at Day 21. I know I am going to finish now, so I am going to rest up tonight and finish this project strong. With the weekend ahead, I am thinking of what I want to write and share, and I want to share happiness and joy. This means crazy times with my crazy boys. I am finally going to apply to Nailed It! I am going to judge a cooking competition between Dillon and Jerry for Sunday Dinner, and we are going to do some fun projects for the holidays.
This realization came when I went digging through old videos and found these gems. These boys have been connected and dancing together since they were toddlers. It has been Derrick and I's honor to reunite and raise Dillon and Jerry together.
I was also found these amazing photos of both boys seeing the ocean for the first time. We brought both boys home to Hawaii and seeing them witness the magic of the ocean for the first time was pretty special.
I am tired and I am a little drained, but I still have some important posts to create and write. I am going to use this weekend, as I round the corner of this project, to recharge and celebrate with my family.
As many of you have read, I gritted, grew, and kept pushing forward in my life. Looking back, I wonder if I was just running. Hometowns are forever imprinted in the lives of the children who were raised there. Artesia has been embedded in my life in such unforeseen ways. I still yearn for small town living. My family is the center of my world. I still love the game of football and still carved out a pretty traditional life (married, two kids, nice house, safe neighborhood) that would be deemed a success in Artesia if I didn't happen to be gay. Artesia will always be a part of me, so I know that running isn't necessary anymore.
There has been a fog covering my time In Artesia that comes with the trauma I endured. But as the fog is lifting, I am beginning to cherish the memories that are taking shape in my path to recovery.
Exploring St. Pauls as if it were Disneyland, even crawling through the underground air-ducts seeking creepy corners and scary creatures. Remembering when we left the ducts open by accident and my cat Garth had his own exploration one Sunday morning. I can still hear his loud meows as my Dad attempted his sermon.
We rode our bikes for hours, covering what felt like miles and miles of territory only to find out later in life it was only about half a mile. We had provisions though. Our backpacks were filled with bologna sandwiches and Tang.
I remember touch football in the church yard.
I remember being able to walk to both elementary and middle school.
I remember weekend meals at La Fonda and burritos from Allsups.
I remember Friday nights with the town painted orange and black.
I remember cruising main street in my long bed Dodge Dakota.
I remember Sonic and cherry vanilla Dr. Peppers.
I remember our open campus and still wondering how we got to restaurants, ate, and got back to school in the 30-40 minutes we had for lunch.
So many memories with my friends are flooding back to me as I hear from them and feel their support through this blog.
I never realized how much I needed to reclaim your town in order to heal. My abuser took so much from me, but I don't want him to take my memories or my hometown.
In March of 2020 (before the Covid Pandemic shut our country down), my family and I flew to New Mexico and drove the three and a half hours from Albuquerque to Artesia, a drive I made 100 times throughout my youth. Through therapy, I realized I needed to make this drive, with my family, to make peace with town I had resented for years. I needed to stand tall as a survivor, father, and husband inside the city limits of Artesia.
We stayed just one night and one day in your town. We ate at La Fonda and my boys tried an Allsups burrito. I showed them Hermosa, Zia, and Park. I took a picture with my family right outside the portable classroom at Park that was the location of so many interactions with my abuser. I reclaimed that spot. I stood tall with my family.
I went to my childhood home, also one of the locations of my abuse, and I stood tall with my family. We recreated the old family photos that were taken year after year on its porch. My abuser doesn't get to own the memories of my home anymore.
On our way out of town, we decided to swing by Bulldog Bowl so my boys could see where I spent most of adolescence. They were in awe of your stadium. We were peeking through the fence when we noticed the gate behind the field house was open. I told my boys that we would head back there but prepared them to be kicked out.
Artesia, Bulldog Bowl is still such a beautiful sight and seeing it through the eyes of my kids was so meaningful. They were in the awe of your prized stadium. As we were looking, the caretaker came out of the field house. He went to school with my brother and recognized my last name. He offered to give us a tour of the updated field house. We walked by the record board seeing my name still posted for the best race I had ever ran. We walked past my locker and my boys wrestled on the big orange mat in the weight room.
I played football with my boys for an hour that day. They tackled each other on the giant 50 yard line bulldog. They scored touchdowns and celebrated with the imaginary fans that filled the stands. It was at that moment I felt I was reclaiming my hometown. The field was no longer a large shadow cast by my brother. It didn't represent the paranoia, shame, and pain my abuser caused during my years on that field.
I was just a dad throwing the football with my boys as my husband watched.
Artesia, my writing has shown that there needs to be a shift in the culture of your town. Uncomfortable and tough talks need to happen to truly protect the children in your town. The reputation of your schools and town needs to be put aside when moments arise where kids need the most support. Your image shouldn't be wrapped up in being perfect from the outside looking in. The children that walk your streets and school hallways will eventually leave your town and enter a great big world. They need to be prepared for what awaits them. They need to look back and feel supported by your town in every way possible, even in the ways that might make your town look bad.
I was raised within your city limits. I rode my bike down your streets. I ran through your banners and I walked your school hallways. I was also groomed in your town. I was abused in your town, and I was forced to drive away being hesitant to ever look back.
I know change can happen. The support from many Artesians has completely overwhelmed me. I never imagined this support to be an outcome from writing this blog. It has been the first time I have truly felt seen by my hometown and it was an important step in reclaiming the town my abuser stole from me.
When people ask me now, I will say I am from Artesia, New Mexico.
Jake (Robbins) Lee
This entry was a mess. Wireless was a freaking disaster today, which is a big deal when you are teaching from home. Thought this would be the easy route, but computer kept crashing, my boys interrupted twice, and then I ended up recording vertically!!! But I got Day 19 done LOL
Watch the video to see why December 2nd is a kick ass day. It was a day that a young gay man from Artesia would have never imagined. It's a fun and important story.
It was a shared experience of intense challenges, uncertainty and pain. We let politics, media, and the social media silos tear us apart. I am not perfect. I have fallen victim to the same reactions towards people who believe differently than I do. I have hit the unfriend button. I have name called. I have judged. I have written people off.
What this blog has taught me is that humanity still exists. There is still hope that we can return to a place of civil discourse, love thy neighbor, and love over hate. Maybe the bridge back to each other is in helping those who need us most. Maybe we can make our common ground supporting children. In so many ways, we are failing them.
Children are always watching. They are listening. They are watching this country become so divided. They are seeing us set the tone for the years they have ahead of them. Right now, most of use are modeling "what not to do". They deserve better.
Child hunger in our country is astounding. 1 in 6 kids live in food-insecure homes. That is 12.5 MILLION children, not knowing when and where they will get their next meal. Quite often they must go for cheap and discount found options which leads to alarmingly high rate of child obesity. Nearly half of food stamps are rewarded to children. Yet society shames their families. I am not writing this for political debate. You can look at the stats and research. I'll attach a report to this post.
In 2018, nearly half a million (463 million) children entered foster care, a number that is trending up by 1-2% each year. This is a societal break down on so many levels. Those numbers are tied to abuse, neglect, and poverty. The median age of children entering foster care is just 6 years old. My Dillon entered at age 2. My Jerry entered 15 months.
Research shows that every 9 minutes child protective services substantiates, or finds evidence for, a claim of childhood sexual abuse. In 2016 alone, nearly 54,000 children were victims of sexual abuse. Of all those victims, 2 out 3 were between the ages of 12-17. My abuse started at age 13. I know what they are experiencing and we know those numbers from 2016 are continuing to rise.
The most encouraging part of this blog thus far is the conversations it had started in many families. I have appreciated every message where people share how they have sat down their pre-teens and teens and had a conversation about what to look for in their interactions with adults in their lives. The shock of what happened to me, in my perceived safe hometown, has lead to many meaningful conversations. This amazing realization helps push me forward.
So many children face astounding obstacles in their young lives. Caring for our children should not be a political issue. It should be the foundation of our society. The seeds of our democracy, moral compasses, and future development is planted in our children. We have to do better. We have to put aside our differences and refocus on what matters. Yes, it starts with our own children, but let's find ways to help children in need. Spend some time looking up child welfare organizations in your towns and see how you can help. Are there any organizations in your town that support victims of sexual abuse? The holidays times where many families are in the most need of support. What is being done locally to support them?
The poet Rumi wrote “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
Let my story and the story of so many other children and teens drive you to meet me in that field. We can find common ground in helping the lives that need us most.
Link to site used for this post
State of Children in US Report
Foster Care Report
Just a bit of a pause to reflect on the past 17 days and how I strive to live whole-heartedly. I continue to be humbled by the amazing support I am receiving. Thank you to all who are still on this journey with me each day.
When my grooming began and the abuse started, my family's existence revolved around my super star athlete brother who had accomplished so much in his 18 years in Artesia. It has been so easy over the years to blame his stardom and my parents support of his athletic journey on my feelings of invisibility. I lived years with the belief that no one knew what was going on with me because they were so focused on my brother. Of course they didn't notice my abuse. They were at all my brother's games and events. When they went to Albuquerque to watch his games, my abuser used their absence to build a deeper bond and continued to abuse me. At the time, it was very easy to blame my family because I wasn't in a place of blaming my abuser for planting all those ideas to further build our "bond" and "connection". We were never close and as the years went on post high school we drifted further apart.
In my eyes, he was a brother who went on to be a Division 1 athlete. He was a strong Christian who shared the deep religious beliefs of my parents. He married a beautiful girl from our hometown. They stayed grounded in their faith as the built a family of 4 kids. As he always had, my brother worked hard and became very successful in his industry. Mirroring the feelings of that 14 year old kid, I always felt I could never possibly compete with him.
In contrast, I came out at 19, and while my parents couldn't have been more supportive I always felt they favored Kirk because he could give them the traditional family most parents envisioned for their children. I had a string of terrible relationships in my twenties that were embarrassingly bad. I kept falling on my face over and over again while my brother kept excelling in life. I kept running from my past moving from city to city. My final relationship before my husband Derrick was awful. He was abusive in every way, especially financially where he used my young credit to open credit cards and refinance his house. To finally cut the ties with that man, I had to file for bankruptcy at the age of 26. Emotionally and personally, my life till my late twenties was a complete dumpster fire compared to my brothers.
Kirk has always been supportive, even with my sexuality. He is a deep believer in his Christian faith, but he always accepted me. It was very easy to lump Kirk in with the Christian Right who was fighting so hard to stop Gay Rights, but he truly wasn't. He has always accepted me.
You have read how I met Derrick and got my life together. You have read how I became a father and how I have become a successful educator, However, my inferiority complex towards my brother never truly faded.
It is funny how life reconnects people in the exact right time. In the past 2 years, he has endured his own personal struggles that tested him in so many ways. He needed the support of our family during his difficult times. He just needed our family to look past the drama to support and love him.
I was finally dealing with my abuse and the impact it had on my life for the past two decades. I needed my family to look past all the stigmas, guilt, and pain to support and love me.
After years of not truly being close, our lives have finally intersected in such a beautiful way this year. I needed my big brother this year. He has been my biggest supporter and advocate. He is still friends with so many people from our hometown on social media. He was the first to share this blog on social media which has lead to thousands of people, many from my hometown, reading and sharing my story. Kirk did that. He has fielded phone calls from shocked people and he has even persistently continued to send my blog to every reporter and media person he knew in New Mexico.
In my eyes, he is the big brother, who ducked out of football practice, who is jumping up and down like a maniac as I won my first big race. I still have a long ways to go on my healing journey but I know he will be there, jumping up and down like a maniac, when I cross the finish line someday.
I still remember the moment in therapy when I realized my abuse and trauma had put up so many barriers in my relationship with Kirk. I had a moment of clarity where I actually envisioned a close relationship with the brother I had resented for years. Healing tore down those barriers so we could finally show up for each other when we needed support the most.
This weekend, he remarried a beautiful woman in Arkansas. He has healed from his hurt and has found a woman who loves him full-heartedly. So when he told us they were to have a very small wedding ceremony at their home in Arkansas, I didn't hesitate to book a flight. Yes, Covid made the trip unique and challenging. I mean who wants to fly a total of 5 hours with a N95 mask and a face shield, but it has been so worth it. Covid has also allowed us to slow down and just relax together as it removed all the pressure to run around town doing local activities. I have been able to just sit back and reconnect with my brother and his beautiful new wife and children.
Life brings has a way of bringing people back into our lives at just the right moment. Recovery provided an opportunity to see who will truly show up for me when I need them the most. I am beyond grateful that my recovery and healing has brought me closer to my brother Kirk. It is great to have my big brother by my side as I walk this healing path.
Reading through comments on my blog and in threads where my posts are being shared, there are many who want me to publicly name my abuser. I just wanted to share why I am not and what I am waiting for at this time.
I had a very hard time reporting my abuser. I have learned this is normal. It took almost 6 months to get the strength to write the disclosure letter you will find on this blog. There are so many reasons why this is true.
1. It makes everything real. It is usually the first time survivors tell their story to someone outside their support circle and/or therapist. These are gritty and vulnerable stories to tell. While many might think you can go 0 to 60 from keeping your abuse as a private struggle to reporting and seeking justice, it is not that easy or simple. Writing my disclosure letter was one of the most vulnerable things I have every had to do. My story, the one that took me over 20 years to accept, would be read by outsiders and part of an investigation. I was swamped with feelings of "what if they don't believe me", "what if I am called a liar", and "what if I went through all this pain and nothing happens".
2. Years of emotional manipulation don't just drift away. Predators, through grooming, manipulate victims into thinking they are in a "special relationship". They convince victims that they wanted it too and that no one will ever understand their "connection". This is quite often how victims live for years. They convince themselves they were in a relationship and then they spend years protecting both themselves and their abuser from the repercussions of being caught. Grooming and the subsequent sexual abuse is not just about the short term goal of sexualizing the relationship. Grooming and manipulation are about the long game as well. They are used to assure the secret is kept. Yes, it was hard to disclose because I was protecting my abuser. I was plagued with thoughts of "I will ruin his life", "I will ruin his family's life", or "I will ruin his children's life".
That is the plight of the abused. We carry those burdens and for many it takes years to have the powerful realization that is isn't our fault. The blame of any ruined lives lies solely with the abuser. From the outside, that seems like an easy step to take. I can assure you it is not.
3. When I disclosed, I never imagined I would have the strength to write about my abuse so openly. I never thought I could share such personal details in an effort to try to make change. I started by coming to terms with the moral, ethnical, and deeply personal responsibility to report my abuser once I realized he was still in education. I needed to go after his teaching license. I needed to make sure I did everything I could take away his easy access to children and teens. That is why I disclosed to the Public Education Department. At this point, that remains my focus. I am waiting to hear from the New Mexico PED about the action they will take on his license. I don't want to do anything to screw that up. I don't want to give my abuser any opening to use slanderous accusations to protect himself and make a case for his innocence. He should not be able to teach ever again.
My frustration currently lies with the PED. What the hell is taking so long? Information I got just a few weeks ago made my frustrations grow. After my disclosure, the PED told me that they would start an investigation and assign either a 60 day (for more serious allegations) or 2 year statute of limitations to complete my case. When I found out early on that my case was assigned a 2 year statute of limitations, I was initially devastated. I felt that assignment meant my story was seen as low priority and most likely not true.
When I emailed these concerns to the PED, they immediately got back to me and let me know this was not the case. They let me know that 60 day statutes are only assigned to cases where the accused were fired or quit before the investigation started. At that point, it sounded as though my abuser would be put on administrative leave until the investigation completed. While that was angering, I accepted it and decided to let the process play itself out.
As the months have dragged on, I have grown more anxious. I followed up with the investigator who assured me his was investigating. Once he told me he had filed his findings, I followed up with the supervisor of that division. In one of these recent updates, the supervisor slipped in a comment about how my abuser was let go from his job early on in the investigation. She couldn't give me much information, I understand this completely, but I was immediately pissed that my case wasn't switched to a 60 day statute once they were informed his was let go. This was very frustrating, but not surprising in the least. I had witnessed these delays and the ridiculously slow government agency "wheels of justice" in our adoption journeys.
So, no I have not named my abuser in this blog. At this point, he has been named to the people who matter and who can take action against his license. His day will come and each one of you who are reading this blog are helping.
I never predicted that this blog would get much, if any, traffic. My goal was to create an artifact that I could send to newspapers and news outlets once the investigation was complete. I was hoping a journalist might read my blog and take a chance writing my story. I was, and am, still hoping a possible future story will make space for more victims to come forward. I was very unsure this would happen but I took the leap anyway, and every single person who has read this blog has helped. Now the case to write and publish a public story that my abuser can't run from has a better chance since all of you have taken time to read my blog and support me.
I am writing this blog to educate and make space to talk about male sexual abuse, but I am also writing to hold people responsible. I am writing to hold the PED accountable. I am also holding media outlets accountable. If they can't write my story, one filled with so many important lessons, then shame on them.
So like me, just be patient. This is a process and I am doing everything in my power to speed it up. You can help by continuing to read and share. It will help me in the long run.
The lack of support for male survivors is shocking. There is research and many articles outlining how common child sexual abuse is in men. There are lots of statistics and societal calls to create for space for men. However, it is extremely hard to find. There are a few national organizations dedicated to changing this reality, such as 1in6.org, but when male survivors search locally there are very few, if any, options for support.
Individual therapy is the absolute best place to start your healing journey. I know seeking therapy is a huge step for most men, and I encourage any readers who are male survivors and want to heal to find a therapist. I promise you won't regret it.
As you have read, it took me years and years to seek help, and I am the son of a social worker and minister. My parents were rooted in helping others, but it still took me years to seek the support I needed. I know male survivors will meet many obstacles as they start their healing journey.
They will certainly have to face the social stigmas of masculinity and male vulnerability. They might also have to face families with uneducated, and maybe harmful, beliefs about sexual abuse (and almost certainly male sexual abuse). They might live in towns and communities with no space for conversations about sexual abuse. You have seen the stats. You have read about the stigmas. Healing is a tough and gritty journey for male survivors.
What was most shocking was the lack of support for survivors even when they have come forward and sought treatment. About 6 months into my therapeutic journey, I was longing for a group therapy setting to compliment my individual therapy. I wanted to feel supported. I wanted to be supported and emotionally embraced by a community of men who had the same experience as me. I live in Portland, a liberal mecca, but there was nothing locally. My therapist searched and searched. She reached out to her local therapeutic community and contacts, but she found nothing. I kept searching and found nothing. I even joined a male focused therapy group, but it turned out to be focused on marriage and relationship issues. There was not a single survivor in the group.
This is a problem. How can we break down stigmas and start an open conversation about male sexual abuse when we can't even support survivors? How can we create more space for male survivors? These were the same boys who rode bikes through your neighborhoods. These were the same boys and young men on your sports teams. These were the same kids who walked the same hallways as you. These are still the men who support and build your communities. They are helping raise your kids. They are the men you know and love. We must work together to make space for them. They deserve it. The deserve to heal and finally live their truth. They deserve to finally be fully present in the amazing lives they created for themselves.
I am writing this blog to make change. Every day I grow stronger and more focused. It has created a mission inside me through the support of the people reading this blog and those sending messages of gratitude and support. I want to be part of the conversation on male sexual abuse. I want to help support others. I want the impact of this blog to live long past the 30 day project I started just 14 days ago.
So today I take the first tiny step. I want to create space for the male survivors reading my post. I have started a super confidential online group aimed at creating a small space for men to support each other. It will be heavily vetted and only for male survivors. It might only begin as a few, maybe none at all. But I just want the male survivors reading this blog to know it is there if and when you need it. Maybe this is your first step down your own healing path?
If you are interested please send me a DM on socials or click the contact tab on this blog. We can start a private and confidential conversation and see if you would like to join the group. Let's create space together. Let's support each other. Let's help each other heal. If you are a male survivor or know a male survivor, please reach out.
Mom & Dad
My parents moved in with us in May of 2018. It was a big move for them. My mom had lived in New Mexico for most of her life, minus the few years she lived in Spain as a youth. My dad had lived in New Mexico for 40 years or so. Packing up a lifetime of boxes and moving to the cloudy, and at times dreary, pacific northwest was a huge leap of faith for them. We had the necessary adjustment period and had our growing pains, but we have found our groove while creating the multi-generational home centered around our boys that we had all envisioned.
That being said, it wasn't always easy to have them so close as I was healing. In order to heal, I had to open up old wounds and reframe so many feelings and experiences. I had to work through so many natural emotions stemming from my abuse. I still harbored hurt and resentment. While I have truly never blamed anyone for my abuse, I still had to process the feeling of invisibility and low self-worth that stemmed from my time in Artesia. Why didn't they stop this? Did I not matter enough? Did anyone really care about me? I felt as though I didn't matter enough for anyone to see what was going on. While I have written how my parents did share their concerns with coaches and mentors in my life, why were they so quick to let go of these suspicions? As I worked through these negative self beliefs in therapy, it was hard to leave an intense session and come right home to the people that were the focus of this reprocessing.
We have come so far. We have had huge fights and deep discussions, but as my journey continued this year their support and love has helped me reframe all the negative beliefs that developed during my years in Artesia. This journey has been difficult, but also amazing in the space it has created for people to show up for me in ways I never felt I deserved. As I continue down this path, I became grateful for their presence in our home and life. The unexpected consequence of their relocation to our home was the space it created to have us look into each other's eyes and heal together. I am truly blessed and happy to have them with me on my healing journey as well as Derrick and I's parenting journey.
Derrick and I almost didn't make it. I asked for a divorce last summer and we made it all the way through mediation and were just about to file and finalize the end to our marriage when I stopped the process to seek help and support. While our marriage had it's struggles leading up to our separation, I knew in my heart that there was something bigger at play. I knew I needed to seek help before breaking up our family. The separation and the realization and clarity that I needed help is what lead me to therapy. And through therapy I learned about the fight, flight, and freeze reactions to trauma. In a year where my negative self-beliefs and self-hatred started to bubble over, I wanted to run away and try to start over. I quickly realized that running wouldn't solve anything. I had to finally pause and see what was causing the desire to flee. We all know now my abuse and years of hurt and pain were the cause of this reaction.
Derrick is the most amazing man. He is giving, caring, steady, patient, and brimming with kindness. He has done nothing but support me in life. After years of tumultuous relationships in my early and mid-twenties, he showed me what true partnership looks and feels like. If not for him, I could have easily let my trauma lead me down darker roads. Derrick immigrated to the United States from the Philippines to practice medicine. He had an internship in New Jersey, and as part of his visa he had to practice in an underserved area for 3 years before he could apply for citizenship. That is what landed him in Ruidoso, NM working with my uncle. We had only met once when both of us were navigating our own tumultuous relationships. But when we were both single, my uncle (prompted by my mom), gave me his number. The rest is history.
Since we reunited last Fall, he has been an amazing husband. He has been on my healing journey the entire time. He has supported me in every way. When I navigated my distrust of anyone's love and intimacy, he was there. When I processed my feelings of not deserving anyone's support, he remained steadfast. When I processed my feelings of inferiority, he was there to assure me that we were equal partners. Derrick has always been there standing beside me and at times holding me up. Our marriage was worth fighting for and I am so grateful we did because this journey has brought us closer than every before.
Dillon and Jerry
These boys are my life and have my whole heart. Derrick and I decided to become foster parents in November of 2011 and within 1 month we welcomed a sibling group of 3 into our home. I had met Dillon's older brother and sister when I was teaching kindergarten at a school in Albuquerque. When they were being displaced from their current foster home, the school approached Derrick and I about providing them a home. The process moved extremely quickly and before we new it we were navigating the life of foster parents.
I still remember when we met Dillon. He was 2. We went to visit him and his siblings before the big transition, Dillon hid behind a kitchen island and peaked out at us numerous times. Then all at once, he dashed out from behind the island and gave Derrick and I this biggest hug, stealing our hearts forever in that moment. Dillon never gave up on us. When we thought we said goodbye forever just a year and a half after meeting him, he never let go of us. As he continued to navigate the system after a failed adoption attempt by a well meaning family, he let everyone know where he should go. He let them know he belonged with his dads, Jake and Derrick (or as he called me...Jakey). At 4 years old, he really didn't give his social workers any choice about his final placement. He was coming home to us whether anyone liked it or not.
We met Jerry 10 months after meeting his siblings. He was born the month after Dillon and his siblings came into foster care. New Mexico doesn't consider having children in foster care a valid enough reason to take babies into custody at birth, so we had to watch Jerry grow up during weekly visitations during that first year. Then on a Fall afternoon, after 11 referrals, Jerry showed up at our house, filthy, drinking kool-aid out of his baby bottle. I had taken that year off, so I became the stay-at-home dad to a 15 month old. He was traumatized so I spent the first month with him strapped to my chest or right by my side. I fell asleep most nights on the floor next to his crib until he would finally drift off to sleep. He hated being alone. In those moments, we formed a bond that wouldn't break. We never knew if Jerry would come home to us. He was on his own journey through foster care and his biological parents had tried harder with him than they had with his siblings. There were times when we thought he might be returned to his biological family. But just as quickly as he showed up in our home at 15 months, he was on a plane with me coming back to our family by the age of 4.
We lived a lifetime in that year and a half as foster parents. There were so many highs and many lows as we witnessed the effects of neglect and trauma on children as well as the failings of a system that is damaging to both foster kids and parents. That is a story for another time. We had to say goodbye to our foster children, but Dillon and Jerry both found their way back to us, at different times, and our family was finally complete.
Witnessing their strength and resilience changed my life. They do and will have many challenges in their lives, but Derrick and I both know their strength will carry them through. They have made Derrick and I better men and while everyone will say that we were a blessing and gift to them, the truth is completely the opposite. They are blessing to us in every way possible.
Being an adoptive parent you live in the world between nature and nurture, always wondering what comes from their innate beings and personalities that they were born with and what they take in from the world we create around them. There are these beautiful moments when I see us in our boys, where I am completely assured that even though they weren’t born ours, that they are going to be our amazing mark on this world. And they will carry on the good (and at times bad 😉) parts of us as they grow up.
When I broke away from my abuser, came out as a gay man, and eventually met Derrick, I never imagined that I would be able to become a dad. I never imagined that I would be able to legally wed Derrick on a beach in Honolulu with my dad and mom as officiants. So today as I write this post, I am filled with gratitude. And this gratitude finally includes the healing that stems from my journey the past year and how I can finally be present in the amazing life I have created for myself.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone. Thanks for reading and for you continued support of the project, this blog, and for me.