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.
My ex-boyfriend, the one who took it upon himself to disclose my abuse to my parents, brought my story to light in 2007. That was 13 years ago. Many people have known about my abuse since that time. It was always the elephant in the room. It was the unspoken truth of my past that lingered for over a decade.
I truly don't blame anyone for my abuse. I was groomed, abused, and dedicated to keeping the secret. It was too painful to talk about, and the two people I disclosed to in my early twenties weaponized it against me, which just made me bury the secret deeper. That is part of almost every survivor's story, trying to forge ahead with the truth of our past always lingering.
I have had to make peace with 2007 onward. I have written about how stigma keeps survivors from disclosing. Stigma also keeps people from supporting survivors once they know the truth. Of course it is a gritty and uncomfortable topic that is extremely hard to discuss. However, survivors need the most support once it is out in the open.
We have lived years feeling alone and invisible. We have been blaming ourselves internally for years as well. When the truth comes out and people still don't feel comfortable supporting us, it validates the stigma, shame, and pain that caused us to keep it secret for so long. As the truth of my abuse stayed quiet, I had validating thoughts of "See there is something wrong with me" or the more prevalent thought of "See, it wasn't that big a deal because no know wants to talk with you about it". What's unsaid causes more stigma.
I know many avoided the topic for years thinking they were protecting me. I know they thought they would cause me more pain if they brought up my abuse. They were waiting for me to feel comfortable and ready to start the conversation. The onus was on me, the survivor, to start the conversation.
People in my life knew since 2007. I know they spoke to each other about their shock and anger, but no one talked to me. No one sat me down, looked me in the eye, and said "You are a sexual abuse survivor. You need to get some help. You deserve to be happy. It wasn't your fault. It doesn't have to be a secret anymore." Survivors might resist. We might say we just want to move on and live life, but just know deep down we are looking for people to look us in the eye and tell us that we need help and that they are there to support us every step of the way.
There were other people I wish I would have heard from once they knew. After they found out about my abuse, my parents went back to talk with the head football coach. They told other coaches and mentors from my adolescence about my abuse. They were shocked and dismayed, much like my parents, but they never reached out. I was one of the young men they mentored for years, but when I needed to hear from them most I didn't.
I also have trouble reconciling that people, like my former coaches, knew but never alerted the school districts where my abuser worked. He was still in the same state. He was athletic director of a team in the same classification as the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs played their football team in the playoffs multiple times. Did their paths not cross?
Until I reported him this year, my abuser was able to advance his career all the way to assistant superintendent of his district. My mom did her best tracking his career. When she would hear through the grapevine he was going for a new job, she would write a letter to the leaders of that district. She tried her best, but others who knew, and had more influence, did not. That has been hard to reconcile, but I am working on it.
I am not writing this blog to blame anyone. There is only one person to blame in my story. I am writing to heal and educate.
Society has made it extremely difficult to talk about male sexual abuse. There truly isn't a space for it and this has to change. It starts with the thousands of people reading this blog. You can help be the change. If you know a survivor, be the person who breaks down the barriers created by societal stigmas and start a conversation. You might have to be uncomfortable. You might have to be persistent, but just know you are making a difference in that survivor's life.
What's unsaid causes more stigma. Let's change this. There are now thousands of people taking the time to read this blog. That is thousands of conversations that can be started with abuse survivors.
That really was a nice try. You snuck through the surge of new friends request I am getting from familiar people from my hometown. But you made some mistakes. You shouldn't of listed your college as the same one both you and your wife attended for your Mater's Degrees. Remember, I knew you then. You also shouldn't of tried to message me with your vague attempts at conversation. You see, the people who have been writing me messages of support have actually taken some time in writing them. Their goal is not engagement. Their goal is support. You were clearly trying to bait me into a conversation. Like I said, nice try.
It doesn't surprise me that you would take the time to create a fake profile. Secrecy is your best friend, an art you have perfected over the years. I am also not surprised you are keeping an eye on my blog. I knew it would make it to you. That was one of the goals sir. Just so you know, over 10,000 people read my blog yesterday. Your time in the shadows is up. And also know, I am not done yet.
I gave you an hour or so to access my profile. I wanted you to see that I overcame you. I have taken every opportunity and adventure put in my path and made the most of them. You couldn't put out the light inside me. You couldn't stop me from seeing the world. You couldn't stop me from starting a family. You might have gotten what you wanted when I was a teen, but you won't take anything from me now. You see, this blog you are reading that someone put in your path is an important and necessary step to stop both you and predators like you.
So nice try. Enjoy your reading. I hope the light I am shining on you is making you very uncomfortable.
Just about 15 years later, I was checking out of Safeway in Honolulu, where I had been living for about 3 years with my husband, when I saw a handsome man wearing a shirt for the Hawaii Gay Flag Football League. For the first time in 15 years, playing football crossed my mind. It would be a great place to meet new people and get some exercise.
Wearing the #15, my number from high school, I got to walk across the stage and hold a National Championship Trophy, playing along side some amazing people who are now lifelong friends. We became a family that weekend in Denver and created a memory none of us will ever forget.
In football you are always looking for a turnover, a fumble or interception, to give your team back possession of the ball. This was the story of how, after 15 years, I gained possession of the game that defined my childhood and brought me hours upon hours of joy as a kid.
Football is mine again and nobody will take that away from me ever again.
Being in Lane 8 meant I could see none of the runners behind me. The fastest qualifying runners would be in lanes 2, 3, and 4 and all of those runners were from 5A metropolitan school in the Albuquerque area. I figured I wouldn't see any of them till about the 2nd turn as they passed me headed toward the final stretch. Lane 8 truly is a killer. You truly are flying blind out there.
My brother was able to leave his football practice early. Since his college team's practice field was right next to the track, he was able to run over after practice to watch. I saw him hanging over a railing down by the finish line. If anything, I would get to see him for a little bit after the race before I headed back to Artesia.
I got in my blocks, the gun went off, and I truly ran for my life. What happened next would be one of the only memories I would allow myself to have in the years after high school. As I predicted, I didn't see another runner the entire race, but not because they passed me. No one passed me because the skinny kid with braces from Artesia in Lane 8 ran the third fastest time in the state, ever, and won the event. I remember rounding the final turn wondering where the hell the other runners were at until I saw Kirk. Yes Kirk. The brother whose shadow I never thought I would escape was jumping up and down like a maniac at the rail by the finish line. That's when I knew I was winning the race. I crossed the finish line, celebrated with my brother, and enjoyed one of the best Springs of my life. That race broke a school record for the 400 meter dash. A record that still stands to this day. I went undefeated in the 400 meter dash that Spring and ended up winning an individual state championship in the 400 meter dash. I went into that summer on cloud 9. I was slated to start on the high school football team that Fall. I was a state champion. I was living every Artesia kid's dream.
But that summer was stolen by my abuser. He used my success to solidify himself as my biggest cheerleader and fan. He used that support to make our "connection" and "relationship" stronger. He was my position coach in football the next year. He was a pole vault coach on the track team the following two years. He was at every football game. He was at every meet. When other kids were sitting in the back of the bus having every right of passage you can imagine, I was sharing a seat with him. The next year at the same meet that made me a temporary star, he made sure to chaperone the trip. I didn't win anything and he was there to "comfort" me in the back of the van as we headed back to Artesia while everyone else had drifted off the sleep for the long ride home. I never won another state championship. I came in 5th the next year and 7th the year after that. I never came within a second of the times I ran that spring. The weight of the "secret" made sure of that.
The haze and fog of my high school years rolled in that summer and never lifted. I withered away for my remaining years. I got very good at playing the role of high school student, and I still have trouble remembering many details of my junior and senior years. I have blocked them out for years and it still shocks me in therapy that I won't allow myself to access that time in my life. I know that is part of trauma recovery and each week we chip away at it, but I know it will be awhile before I come to peace with those years.
In my parent's old boxes, I recently found a trophy I hadn't seen in 20 years. It was the trophy awarded to the Track Athlete of the Year given out by my high school. My trophy says "Track Athlete of the Year, 1999, Jake Robbins". I also found the picture of myself receiving that award. All the track coaches were lined up to shake hands with the award winners. In the picture, I am at the end of the line holding my trophy and the hand I was shaking was his.
Abuse can happen anywhere. Abuse can happen to anyone. The people in my hometown would have never believed what was happening to me. There just wasn't space in our town for this realization. Towns like to stick to narratives they create and Artesia didn't have space to spot the signs of sexual abuse, especially from a high school coach and teacher. That is not blame. It is truth. I don't blame Artesia. I blame my abuser. My hope is that by writing and sharing my story, I can break down stigmas and help create more awareness and safety for possible victims of childhood sexual abuse. Especially in hometowns like mine.
I woke up exhausted today. This past week was a very long one. On top of putting a lot of effort into this project, I also teach 2nd grade in the time of a Corona. Distance Learning is surprisingly exhausting. It is hard to explain to people who are not teachers, but this necessary educational model takes a lot out of teachers. Report cards were due Thursday and parent conferences are this Monday and Tuesday. Needless to say I was pretty much immobile last night and woke up exhausted today.
This project is necessary. I am gaining confidence and clarity as I write and share each post, but it is taking a lot out of me. Truth truly is a scalpel that opens up old wounds so they can heal. I can feel that. It isn't an exciting thing opening up decades old wounds. Some might wonder if it is truly worth it. To me, it is. It did take courage for me to start this journey. I had to trust that I could handle opening up old wounds. But I am happy that I did.
Today wasn't the greatest day. I woke up tired as did the boys. We did a long hike up to a beautiful lake on Mt. Hood and no one, except Derrick, were at their best. But Oregon always has a way of showing up for me. When we rounded the bend in the trail and saw the frozen lake with a snow capped mountain backdrop, I felt the happiness I had been searching for all morning long.
There will be good days. There will be bad days. The important thing is to learn and grow as the days pass by.
The point is visibility. The point is making a mark in the social media landscape that will hopefully be seen by the right person at the right time. I am writing this in a way that will help a survivor who might stumble across it one day. I realize that the impact of my blog might take months or even years. I am completely o.k with this.
I haven't really been tracking any movement on social media. I watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix twice, so I don't have social media apps on my phone. When I do get a break from online teaching, I usually check my blog traffic. That is what I want to know. Who is actually clicking the link to the blog and taking the time to read it. Likes on Facebook and Instagram are awesome and appreciated, but actually reading my blog is the intended outcome.
The first few days, the traffic was exactly what I expected. It was very low. I really was fine with the numbers. It was almost a relief. Vulnerability is powerful but exhausting so having a smaller audience almost took some pressure off. Maybe it would be best if I finished out the project and the blog took off later? I still feel that way. I have over 20 days left on this journey and most nights and early mornings I am not sure what to write about anyway.
To my surprise, the traffic spiked significantly the past two days. I am not talking about thousands of visits, but it was a significant enough spike that I took notice. Was it a Facebook share? Was it a retweet? I checked my social media platforms and saw that neither of those things had happened. But over a two day span, I had received some pretty heartfelt messages from people from my high school and hometown. I had an uptick in friend request from Artesia natives. That is when I realized, my blog was being shared by people in my hometown.
This didn't need to happen publicly on Facebook, but it did need to happen. I am still healing and I have complicated feelings about the town where I was born and raised. Like I have written, there is a hazy fog over my years there, especially my teenage ones so hearing from Artesians has been surprisingly healing. It feels like another step in reclaiming my hometown. After all those years of feeling like no one really cared about me, it has meant a lot to know people who I grew up with are reading this and do care. Abuse happens everywhere, even in small towns focused on creating an idealistic upbringing for children.
I also wonder how long it will be before he sees this. I wonder how long it will be before someone unknowingly starts a path for him to read these very words. I hope he does someday. I already took his job. I already did my part to not allow him to have direct contact with children and teens, but I hope he does read about his impact on me. I hope he reads how I overcame his abuse and now have the strength to write about it. I am not done sharing. I am not done telling my story. I am not done shining light on my abuser and predators like him who need to be pulled from the shadows.
So I conclude by writing directly to my fellow Bulldogs. I want you to keep sharing. I know this story may shock many of you and that many of you will feel the desire to send it to another classmate of ours with a message of "did you see this". Do it! If I want this story to grow anywhere, it should start where it all began. I might of fell short under the bright lights of Bulldog Bowl, but I am hoping to rise up under the bright lights of the love and support of fellow Artesians.
It is fitting that I am writing this on a Friday. This is the day our town would turn orange and black, almost every single resident dawning clothes supporting our local teams. The heart of our town bleeds orange and black and today I feel the support from thousands of miles away. It is great to be a Bulldog!
My abuse continued through my first year of college. Yes, I was over 18 at that point. I was an adult in the eyes of many, but I was still clutched by the emotional connection that my abuser cultivated. I don't remember much of my freshman year at the University of New Mexico. The memories are encased in the same fog as my high school years. I didn't have many friends and I don't have any memories of classic college freshman shenanigans. I just floated through the year playing the role of new college student who finally left his small hometown. I was a little lost. I thought maybe I could major in psychology or something. That sounded like a cool thing to say.
That all changed my sophomore year, when I took a work study job at the University's child care center for staff and students. That is where I found my love of teaching. My true memories of college began on the Children's Campus and not the campus of my college. I worked with all ages over the years but landed in the before and after school program for school-aged kids. Not long after, I enrolled in the School of Education and completed my degree in Elementary Education. I severed ties with my abuser in my first fews months of working at the center. I came out as a gay man not long after and finally started down the path of living my own life.
I love children's books. I have grown my collection over the years. My happy place in Portland is Powell's Books. Their children's section is huge and I can spend hours in there looking for the next great book to share with my students. In a book hunt a year or so ago, I found a book that I connected with on so many levels.
So as a teacher, I will tell you the story now and the connection I made with the story because good readers build comprehension by making connections to the books they ready (said in my teacher voice).
Norman was a perfectly normal kid, until one day he grew beautiful, colorful wings. His first flight was amazing. It was unlike anything he ever experienced, but then self-doubt and shame crept in as he landed back on solid ground. He worried that everyone would see him as different or weird. So as he went home, he found his large winter coat and covered his wings. For months, he wouldn't take the coat off. He missed out on so many experiences. He couldn't swim with his friends or play without getting too hot, but his shame kept the coat on him day after day. One day he let himself remember his first flight after he grew wings. He remembered the feeling of joy as he flew through the air. It was then that he realized it was the coat that was making him miserable and not his wings. The coat was suffocating him. So, he finally took it off and let himself fly. He was back up in the air feeling happy and free. And then the most amazing thing happened as he looked down at the ground. He saw other kids taking off their heavy coats and letting their wings out. Before he knew it he was flying side by side with other kids with bright colored wings. He wasn't normal at all and that was perfectly ok. He was perfectly Norman. That was all the mattered.
I brought that book down from the shelf yesterday and read it because that is what I am trying to do here, on my blog, with sharing my story. All these years, it wasn't the abuse that was weighing me down. I survived my abuse. I created a beautiful life for myself. It was the secrecy, shame, and guilt that kept me from letting my wings out. It was the belief that the abuse was my fault that kept me from flying. The secrecy of what happened was suffocating.
But just like Norman, I finally had this realization that taking off this coat would finally let me fly. So I started a blog and decided to share my story for 30 days leading up to my 38th birthday. I started this personal project to round out a year where I finally accepted myself as a sexual abuse survivor.
As I tear off my coat and take flight, I hope to have the same impact as Norman. I hope I can help other survivors tear off their coats and take flight.
This is why I am here. This is why I am writing. I am perfectly Jake. And that is perfectly o.k
Thanks for reading. But the book Perfectly Norman here https://www.powells.com/book/perfectly-norman-9781681197852
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner explains the six stages that can lead up to sexual molestation.The grooming sex offender works to separate the victim from peers, typically by instilling in the child a sense that they are special to the child and giving a kind of love to the child that the child needs. He describes 6 stages of the grooming process in an article for Oprah (Source).
1. Targeting the victim
This process with my abuser began for me in 6th grade, the same age my son is now. I am from a small town where constant parental oversight wasn't necessary. Artesia prided itself around it's dedication to children. While my abuse didn't start in 6th grade, the grooming did. My parents recently moved in with my family and brought with them a few boxes of old photos and items from my childhood. I found my 6th grade yearbook and found my abusers name signed in the book. That signature brought back the memories of the inappropriate conversations he would have with me. Conversations about his physical relationship with his wife or the strip clubs he visited in Vegas that year. The kid in that yearbook. The kid who labeled himself "cool" had been targeted and didn't even know it yet.
Stage 2: Gaining the victim's trust
The sex offender gains trust by watching and gathering information about the child, getting to know his needs and how to fill them. In this regard, sex offenders mix effortlessly with responsible caretakers because they generate warm and calibrated attention. My abuser was a teacher and a coach. My grooming was able to take place over years as I matured and moved toward high school. I know now that he didn't act sooner because he was abusing someone older than me. It was like he was creating a line up of victims to account for kids growing up and leaving town.
Stage 3: Filling a need
Once the sex offender begins to fill the child's needs, that adult may assume noticeably more importance in the child's life and may become idealized. In the time my grooming intensified, I was in the shadow of my brother. My brother was a huge star in our town. He was one of the best wide receivers the town had seen at that point. He was on his way to a Division 1 full ride scholarship at the state college and was a really big deal. While I was successfully working myself through the junior high and junior varsity football programs, everyone, including myself, wondered if I would ever live up to the expectations having a star athlete brother brings. I know it sounds so silly and very much an adolescent right of passage to feel this insecure as an early adolescent. The only difference for me is that I had been targeted. My abuser seized this insecurity and used it to deepen the "relationship" and "connection" we had. He was going to be my position coach after all. He could guide me to meet these expectations.
Stage 4: Isolating the child
The grooming sex offender uses the developing special relationship with the child to create situations in which they are alone together. I still remember all these moments. His car pulling into our driveway when my parents were away or occupied, just stopping by to chat or play video games. He would take me on long drives in country roads. He would bring me little gifts from his trips with his wife. He cultivated a special relationship creating a sense in me that he loved and appreciated me in a way that others, not even my parents, provided. Looking back it all makes sense to me. He was using these tactics to lay a foundation of trust to isolate me from others.
Stage 5: Sexualizing the relationship
At a stage of sufficient emotional dependence and trust, the offender progressively sexualizes the relationship.At that point, the adult exploits a child's natural curiosity, using feelings of stimulation to advance the sexuality of the relationship. He escalated his talk of his sexual history. At that point, I had never had any sexual encounters at all in my life. Then it was another visit to play another round of video games. It was a bet that the loser would give the loser a hand job. He lost of course. It just escalated after that. I still remember how he approached intercourse. Telling me he had read in a book at a bookstore that there was no danger in two men having sex. I was 14 at this point. Of course I went along with this. The emotional connection was locked down and he led me right where he wanted me.
Stage 6: Maintaining control
Once the sex abuse is occurring, offenders commonly use secrecy and blame to maintain the child's continued participation and silence. In a fiercely conservative and religious town, secrecy was completely necessary. He assured me secrecy made our "relationship" even more special. So as my high school years went on so did the country drives, visits to his classroom on weekend afternoons when he was planning, and night time visits to the garage behind his home. The longer it went on, the deeper the "connection" grew as did the need for secrecy. If people saw us getting closer and closer, then they might suspect something. Every time a community member, friend, or family member would comment on how close we were or raised questions about the time we spent together, the deeper the need for secrecy grew as did the need to turn to my abuser to help me keep the secret. It was a sad and vicious cycle.
This was not an easy post to write, but it is a necessary one. I am writing it to answer the questions people might have about "how does this happen" and/or "how are abusers able to coax children into abusive situations". Abusers have a plan. They fine tune it through the years as the leave more and more victims in their wake. If you have your own kids or children in your life you love and adore, keep an eye out for adults who exhibit these behaviors. It just takes one person to break through and stop it. Abusers are skilled, very skilled. But it takes just one vigilant person in a child's life that tears down the wall of the emotional manipulation and stops the abuse.
Thank you for reading. I pulled a lot of information from the following article.
Meditating is hard. No one tells you that. You can't just light a few candles. put on some Enya, and go right into enlightenment. The human mind is intense and always racing, especially mine. So trying to sit still in one place for even 10 minutes was something I had to convince myself I could even do. I use to hate slowing down. The feeling of inadequacy, shame, and anxiety would be so overwhelming that I needed to just keep moving opting for mindless activities that I felt would drown out my ever racing mind. Just keep moving...
But as time has gone on, I am improving. My therapist always reminds me that is is a practice, which means you have to practice. So here I am each morning clearing my mind and checking in with myself. It's been such a huge part of healing journey which is what I share it with you now.
I have a little ritual. I love to sage. I really do. To me, it really feels like it clears out the negative energy around the house. If you would have told me a year ago that I would be a guy walking around his house each day with a sage stick I most likely would have laughed in your face. But nonetheless, I sage each day.
I even have a crystal I use during meditation. Yes, a crystal! I hold and use an amethyst that is aimed at rebalancing, protection, and alleviating anxiety, fatigue and stress. I have learned that the use of talismans and amulets dates back to the beginnings of humankind, so I can't write off the use of crystals some hippy dippy practice. Egyptians and Greeks believed in the power of crystals. Chinese culture highly values jade as does the Maoris of New Zealand who are known to wear jade amulets representing the ancestor spirits, which were passed down many generations through the male line. Use of crystals for healing are referenced in the Bible, Koran, and Buddhist teachings. So while I felt silly at first incorporating healing crystals into my life, I now know the use of them are an ancient practice that I should not roll my eyes at or mock.
I have learned that it is important to find things, practices, and time to ground me each day in walking down my healing path. Its not about worrying what anyone else would think about these practices or items, its about how they make me feel and how they help me. It is teaching me to pause throughout the day, breathe, and realize that I am doing my best. Healing and healing practices take time. Breaking decades long patterns of thought is not an easy task. But I am still here each morning dedicating myself to starting each day with a positive mindset and hopeful feelings about the day ahead.
I found interesting data on the website https://www.mhanational.org/ that helped me validate that these stigmas do exist in our society. According to this organization, the male population of the United State is somewhere around 152,000,000. And of those of 152,000,000, 6 million suffer from depression or some other former of mental anguish and of course much of male depression goes undiagnosed. 19.1 million people are diagnosed with anxiety disorder and of those 3 million men have panic attacks, agoraphobia, and other phobias. But according to this organization, men are far more likely to report fatigue, irritability, and loss of interest in work and other hobbies before they will ever report feelings of sadness and worthlessness. And this is pretty scary because it leads to a large proportion of men committing suicide. Men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women. In 2010, a total of 38, 364 people committed suicide and 3 quarters of those were men. The stigma men face in terms on mental health have serious consequences leading to millions of men falling victim to substance abuse and alcohol dependence. As a gay man, it saddens me to see that gay men are most at risk for the serious consequences of unsupported mental crises.
I have lived in that stigma. My mom was a social worker and my dad a minister. They supported people for years with deep life traumas, but social stigmas are so rooted in this country's perceived masculinity complex, that even I didn't recognize my strong need for mental health treatment and therapy.
I am one of the lucky ones, because last fall I just couldn't take hating myself anymore. I hated that I could never full be present in any beautiful life moment. The pain and self-doubt from the trauma of my sexual abuse was always there reminding me that I was unworthy of continued happiness. Then I finally sought help and began therapy. It wasn't easy at first. It took time to truly give myself over to the process, but I will be forever grateful that I did. I found the right therapist at the right time, and the process has taken me far down my healing path the past year. I was able to finally accept my abuse and then go through the agonizing process of reporting my abuser.
I engaged in EMDR, which is "a phased, focused approach to treating traumatic and other symptoms by reconnecting in a safe and measured way to the images, self-thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with the trauma, and allowing the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution." This therapy is what helped me trace a line from every feeling of self doubt and self hate back to the trauma stemming from my abuse. It was eye opening and so important to my healing.
The social stigmas of this society's perception of what it means to be masculine need to be erased. There has to be space to let men be vulnerable because in my mind, vulnerability is the bravest, strongest, and most masculine thing ever. It takes more grit and toughness to accept mental anguish and model how to grow from it.
It took me years to get here, but I am so grateful I have. I am Jake. I am a sexual abuse survivor and thriver.
A used information from the following website in this post.
Day 2 of my 30 day visibility project....Thank you for joining me on this journey!
30 days, 30 posts, 30 day of putting myself out here to try to make change.
I am 30 days away from turning 38. While 38 truly feels like a random birthday, it means a lot of me. Just over a year ago I started my journey of healing. I now know that healing is a life long journey but it took me nearly 24 years to step foot on this path. 24 years since I was that 14 year old kid who was sexually abused by someone I trusted. Someone who was suppose to help guide me through the formative years of my life. Someone who was my teacher and coach.
So why am I doing this personal project of visibility on my social media platforms? Because we can make these platform what we want. They are ours, and I want mine, for the next 30 days, to be about bringing light to one story of abuse in hopes of making space for other survivors while also educating the people in my life about the path survivors take in a quest of healing.
Invisibility is one of the main obstacles. Processing through the invisibility of being abused to the invisibility of the pain that I have been living with for decades that no one could see. It created a complex of no one truly caring or the thoughts that what happened was not “a big deal”. These are not truths I want to carry anymore.
So I will put myself out here and make this visible for myself. This is an important step for me. Writing these thoughts each day and sharing them in vulnerable way will break me out of this trace of invisibility. I also hope it is my attempt to remove the stigma of male sexual abuse so more space can be created for survivors like myself. This will be uncomfortable for me as I share my story and write “male sexual abuse survivor” each day. It will uncomfortable for you as well, as the stigma that comes with this subject is hard for people to hear. You might think it is over sharing or an attention grab. It will be uncomfortable, but I am hoping that I, and those who join or follow my journey, will grow in that discomfort. Otherwise, just keep scrolling.
I AM a male sexual abuse survivor.
I know you are still sitting there in that locker, after your first game as starting wide receiver under the bright lights of Bulldog Bowl. You dropped two passes while others rose to the occasion and introduced themselves as the stars of the new season. I still picture you sitting in the locker, falling apart, feeling invisible. You are beating yourself up because now everyone knows you never deserved to be there in the first place. He put you there, that was the only reason. He was your position coach and just months early he made his play and began the abuse, right under the noses of those cheering fans who create the wave of orange in the stands every Friday night.
I know this is the first of many moments where you begin to feel the crack inside of you. This is one of the many moments where you begin to feel invisible. I want you to know that it is not for fault. You are just a kid. He knows this. He sees your vulnerability and he is preying upon you. He has his own sickness inside him that he cannot control, and you are the latest victim. Yes, there are others. There are kids who have walked the same halls as you that have felt the same isolation and invisibility that you do right now. It will be many years before you know this, but there are others.
This is not your fault Jake. You have been manipulated. There is nothing wrong with you. You deserved your place on that field. You worked so hard for it. You love football, and you always will, but your struggles have nothing to do with your ability. He is taking this moment from you. He will be the first person to assure you and comfort you as you continue to fall short of expectations. It is not your fault Jake. He planted the seed of self-doubt and then nurtured it as they grew into a dependence on him to find comfort while he got what he always wanted. So he could have sex with you young boy.
You have a light inside you Jake. Your smile lights up a room. You are intelligent and people like you. You care about people and you have the same insecurities as every other kid in your school. However, they are lucky enough to not have someone seize those insecurities to abuse them. Yes Jake, you are being abused. What is happening to you is not normal and it is also not your fault. I am so sorry that you will have to finish your high school years, the years that should some of the best of your life, withering away while sinking deeper into self-doubt. It's not your fault Jake.
You will leave that town. You will get away. You will continue to feel lost until a work study job just two years after your escape will lead you to the campus childcare center. You will find your love of children and education. You will let education take you across the country which will open your eyes to a world so far from that tiny town in the dusty Southeast corner of your home state.
You will still have endure some relationships that will also prey on the self-doubt he planted inside of you. There will be rough times from the next half decade, but just know you will persist. You will persevere because you will remain hopeful and optimistic despite everything you will have endured.
But you will meet a man who truly loves you. Who sees right through fog of despair and pain, right to the man behind all the insecurity and doubt. You both will decide that you want to start a family and will decide to help the most vulnerable kids. Kids in foster care.
On your 29th birthday, you will hear about a sibling group that needs a home. Your will meet your eventual sons, who will steal your heart and push you to be a better man every day for the next decade.
You see Jake, you will never give up. The pain and invisibility you feel right now as you sit in that locker will stay with you for 20 years. It will keep you floating above yourself, keeping you from truly living in the present moment. You see Jake, you will grow and change but you still be me, almost 38 years old, stuck in that locker and stuck in that town. I will still be you so hurt and unsure, wanting so badly to truly heal.
It is not your fault Jake. It was never my fault. I am writing this letter to you because I need to finally let you go. You will always be a part of me. You will never truly leave. But I need to live in my now. I need to live in the present moments I have worked so hard to create for us.
But in order to do that, I just needed to let you know that what is happening to you now and the pain you feel now is not your fault. I needed to let you know that it will all be ok. That light inside you will never truly dim. You are so much stronger than you know young man. You will be ok. I promise. Now I must go.
With so much love,