Being that afraid at that young of an age (The Beginning of Fear – Oct. 9, 2012) set me up for the next traumatic incident in my life. It happened when I was age twelve, at least that is the age that has stuck in my mind. I don’t have a specific event tied to that age—it just is.
I was an altar boy and attending a parochial school. Somehow I became the altar boy for a priest who was the chaplain at our only hospital for the Sisters of Mercy. I only have one memory, for which I am very grateful, that has leaked through into my consciousness. I remember being in bed with this priest. I have no memory of how I was persuaded or forced to be there. I usually felt guilty when the thought surfaced, as if I wanted to be there. When I was fifty-six years old and in a conversation with a psychiatrist about this memory, he said, “You are a survivor. You were a victim, but now you are a survivor. I can’t say that your coping methods are text-book, but they have worked for you without drugs. You do have a chronic low-grade depression.” I replied, “No one ever told me I was a victim.” He said, “Any time a twelve-year-old is involved in a sexual relationship with a fifty year old man, it isn’t the twelve-year old’s idea.” This resonated with me and gave me some kind of peace.
I say I only have one memory—this is true of any sexual encounter, but I do remember exactly what he looked like, smelled like, what cigarettes he smoked, what beer he drank, what car he drove, what house he lived in and a fair memory of what the inside of the house looked like. I also have a vague awareness that there was another altar boy present in the bedroom during the incident. This has always been a mystery to me.
I have learned there are two types of sexual abuse victims—those who remember every detail and suppress the emotions and those who don’t remember, but experience the emotions. I am the latter.
I remember I stole a gold wristwatch from him. He confronted me about it and when I lied to him, he put me in his car, drove me to the police station and told me to give it back to him or he would take me inside and have me arrested. I was intimidated enough that I gave it to him. I often wonder why I didn’t threaten to expose him. Probably because I was taught that, the priest was God’s representative on earth. I did wonder how he could forgive the nuns sins when he was doing bad things to me. I became a liar and a thief after that. Authority meant nothing to me regardless of the source. Later, in counseling with a psychiatrist, I was told I probably stole things from people who hurt me. As an altar boy, I stole money from the offerings at every mass. I drank the wine that was left in the cruets—as I type this, there is the hint of a memory that I drank wine before, possibly at the priest’s house.
Whenever I served as his altar boy, we would have breakfast served by a nun in a private room. I suppose this was some kind of a reward to make me feel special. I don’t know if it worked or not. Maybe my remembering it indicates it did.
You may be wondering why I didn’t tell my parents about the molestation. I can’t answer this question other than I don’t believe my dad was emotionally available, he was an alcoholic, and my relationship with my mother was not strong. I confronted my mother when I was in my forties. She said she had no idea, but she did say they found out about the priest and “got rid of him.” I suppose that meant they shipped him off to another parish to do it to some other kids. I asked her how she could not be suspicious when I stayed at his house the nights before I was his altar boy at the early mass. I don’t think she answered me.
I became very promiscuous because I was afraid I was a homosexual and I spent several years trying to prove to myself that I wasn’t. I later understood he was a pedophile and that I was normal—at least in that respect. He robbed me of my innocence, trust, self-esteem, self-worth and the ability to have healthy relationships with girls or boys.
Change something today to make your tomorrow better.