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