Cycle of Shame

Name:

From ages 6-17, I was a Ward of the State, living in foster homes, shelters and children's homes. During ages 6-9 I was the victim of serial rape, both anal and oral. Unlike many I grew up with, I survived and with intensive psychotherapy recovered from my abuse. I later became an activist on child abuse and neglect issues, speaking publicly of my experiences to scores of groups. I lived an honorable life until age 46, when I completed the Cycle of Shame by sexually abusing my nine year old stepdaughter by touching her pubic mound for about five seconds and touching the breasts and pubic mound of an 11 year old family friend for about 15 seconds. I plead guilty to two counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree and was sentenced to five years in prison. I received five years probation and am nearing the end of my first year in Sex Offender Group Treatment. The consequences I have suffered have at times been nearly unbearable... and are completely deserved. To simply never offend again is not enough. My soul demands I atone.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

My Cycle of Shame

Those not in my situation may wonder what therapy for sexual offenders might be like. Below is a self-examination I recently completed as part of the sexual offenders group treatment program I am required to attend weekly for two years. It was this work that brought the Cycle of Shame into focus for me. Although I try very hard in the work to make this point clear, I will emphasize it here: Nothing that happened to me in ANY way excuses my actions. Abuse leads to abuse, but Abuse does not excuse abuse.

I. Circumstances/situation/history which may have directly or indirectly lead to the abuse/offense.

It is doubtful the potential for child molestation is hereditary. It follows therefore, most influences toward such acts are likely related to the environment surrounding the eventual molester as a child. An examination of the environment and influences experienced by the molester as a child can, most of all, provide understanding and possible answers to the question, “How could I sexually molest two girls I loved?”

A search for understanding is not a search for justification, minimization, mitigation, forgiveness or mercy. Insight and empathy are the only goals.

Two distinct periods in my childhood defined my sexuality; ages six to nine and ten and up.

Shortly before my sixth birthday, my alcoholic mother arranged to have the state assume permanent custody of me, making me a ward of the Juvenile Court and subject to the whims and dictates of the Child Welfare Agency as I awaited the dreamed-of adoption.

Over the next eleven years I bounced in and out of foster homes, relatives’ homes, children’s homes, shelters and the street. Well-intentioned but clueless social workers were insistent my mother take responsibility for me, even though the state had accepted the parental responsibility. The scenario became tedious. Counselors would convince Mother to straighten up, help her secure an apartment, assist in finding a job and drop me on her doorstep with my brown paper suitcase.

To give her credit, Mother tried. Over and over again she tried, but she knew she was not a competent parent. She tried, but always failed. This started a roller-coaster ride of my being abandoned with friends, neighbors and babysitters for weeks at a time - until finally tracked down by Child Welfare and dragged to yet another foster home.

One of the first 'kid dumps' was a couple we will call B and L. I loved these people. I wanted them to adopt me. L was a wonderful lady and very loving and, well, B was like having a DAD! He took me fishing and hiking called me “his little shadow“. I adored and idolized him. When I was with B and L, I was in Heaven! I could, for a few days or weeks at a time, pretend I had a normal life and a normal family.

B was either retired or disabled military… in any event, he did not have a ‘regular’ job. He and I were alone most of every day. Their home was built on a hillside and had an under-house garage with a huge sliding door and dirt floor. Each afternoon B would take my hand and we would go into the garage and close the door. My idol would remove my clothes and rape me, both orally and anally, or subject me to whippings, bondage and assorted forms of sexual torture as ‘punishment‘ for real or imagined offenses. The pretended normalcy aboveground was so wonderful, I saw the basement as the price to be paid. This did not matter, because B loved me!

This abuse continued at various times over the next three years or so, whenever I was dropped at B and L’s house. They were always my first choice when Mother was looking for a kid dump. Toward the end, B started bringing other men to the basement. This is probably why I finally said something… B loved me, but those guys didn’t!

Sometime in my ninth year, on yet another journey to yet another foster home, I said something that caused the social worker to question me closely. As I gave details, she pulled off the road to take notes. When we finished, she read over her notes, shook her head and turned the car around back toward a clinic. The doctor examined me and said there was evidence of significant old anal trauma, but none recent, and no physical scars from the ‘whipping and torture’ I described.

I continued to the new foster home and several weeks later the social worker came by. She concluded I had been sexually abused, but that my whole story could not be believed. She said that no child could go through that kind of treatment without severe mental disability and I showed no evidence of that, so it would be treated as fantasy created in an overactive imagination. Then she got really wound up about telling stories that could hurt people and said that no man could do to a child what I said B had done to me. If all that really happened, she exclaimed, he would most certainly be in jail and probably be electrocuted.

During the six to nine year old period there were a number of other incidents of sexual abuse, but since they were not painful or traumatic I dismissed them as unimportant and unworthy of attention.

For a number of reasons I began psychotherapy at age 10. One of the first lessons learned was there are many things that happen that can greatly affect your life and health. There are only three choices in regard to these; work through them in therapy, choose not to deal with them now or pretend they never happened. I still loved B so I couldn’t talk about them in therapy due to his risk. Pretending was very unhealthy and could lead to major problems, so the solution was to just set them aside and deal with them as I was ready.

As I entered my tenth year in yet another new foster home, I was one seriously troubled kid. When my regular psychotherapy started, I hid and lied about the sexual abuse but dove in and worked hard on dealing with repeated rejection and the physical, emotional and mental abuse I suffered. (Yes, B had physically abused me but he LOVED ME and we were talking about the ELECTRIC CHAIR after all.)

To this point other than the abuse and a few ‘playing doctor’ games, I had no sexual experience. I did not think of the abuse as sexual at that point. I knew sex involved a male and female and it just did not register that sex could mean male-male.

My introduction to real sexual pleasures came halfway through my tenth year. I became close with a foster sister two years older than I. We talked about our backgrounds and experiences and she became the second to learn of the demons in B’s basement. She told of being groomed and seduced from an early age by relatives and foster family members. We became intimate and she taught me all she knew. Thereafter I was sexually active with various girls in various placements. My best recollection is my sexual playmates were within two years of my age, plus or minus, and always consensual.

Psychologists now want to wrap sexual activity by children who have been sexually abused in a lot of psychobabble and buzzwords, but for me it was something that was exciting, fun, felt good and made me feel good about myself. Whether this sexual play was healthy or harmful is debatable, but many errors in thinking involved in my sexual offenses came directly from this period and will be dealt with later in this and other assignments.

Entering my teens, I knew I could not succeed unless I had some stability in my life. By age 13, I had attended 20 different schools and been placed in over 30 foster care homes. By accident, I discovered the denomination of the church I attended operated a children’s home for long term care. Soon I was spending the next three and a half years with 150 other kids in similar circumstances. While far from perfect, the home was the best of all placements.

Until I molested the two little girls, my two worst decisions in life had been that I dropped out of high school before my senior year and joined the army at age 17. I soon learned the error of my ways, got my GED, then my high school diploma and when discharged had almost two years of college credit. I later completed my BS degree at the University of XXXXXXXXXXX. Over the next two decades I excelled in business and achieved high honor and reputation.

After leaving the children’s home at age 16, I had no inappropriate contact with underage children or any inclination toward such until I committed the crimes for which I now suffer the consequences

I was faithfully married for 23 years and had two sons. We lost our 17 year old son to accident or suicide in 1999 and divorced in 2000. My second wife, the mother of my first victim, and I married in 2001. I committed my crimes in the spring of 2002.

II. Cognitive and Behavioral Patterns

If someone had gazed into a crystal ball and told me that someday I would molest children, I would have simply laughed - for it was not, in my mind, within the realm of possibility.

It did not occur to me that I could be ever become a molester, and yet, sex with young girls crossed my mind from time to time… in the form of memories. The sex play experiences of my youth with girls aged 9 to 17 were precious to me. The sweet and tender joys we shared made lighter the burdens we carried and brought brilliant rays of sunshine into the stormy lives we led. These were the only good parts of my childhood I had to remember and because my introduction to things sexual had been so horrible, I believe these experiences were therapeutic to my having a healthy heterosexuality.

After joining the Army at 17, all my sexual experiences were with adult women. As an adult I was not fond of children in general, finding them vexatious and annoying. Other than my sons and their friends I had little contact with children. I did not look at children around me as sexual beings or sex objects. I never selected particular children for sexual fantasy.

Since I was enjoying fantasies based on memories and all participants were kids I had known, my thinking was there was nothing wrong or dangerous about it. These were not sexual fantasies about ’real’ children and I did not look at ‘real’ kids in any sexual way whatsoever, so what harm could there be? In hindsight the monstrous error in thinking is obvious… building fantasies around and romanticizing the girls in my memories had the same effect as selecting actual children of today to fantasize about… opening the mind to the possibility of it actually happening.

On a sunny day in late February of 2002 I was reading at home when my nine year old stepdaughter appeared at the back door. Her mother was grocery shopping at the time and the girl had been playing outside. When I looked up I saw she was soaked with water and shivering… the victim of water balloons.

She was very chilled to the bone so I ran her into the bathroom, jerked her top off, wrapped her in a towel, then pulled her pants and underwear down. She stepped out of them and as my head came back up, her pubic mound was maybe six inches from my eyes.

Time seemed to stop. I heard a roaring in my ears and my vision tunneled. I was seeing an image I had only seen in my head for 30 years - a naked young girl. I was seemingly transported back in time to when a similar young lady showed herself to me under almost exactly the same circumstances (me sitting on the side of a bathtub as she allowed me to remove her pants). The years seemed to fall away and for that brief moment I was again a ten year old boy exploring with a friend. I committed my first sexual offense by reaching out and stroking her mound with the edge of my finger three times slowly.

As quickly as the years had gone, they returned. Realizing what I had done, I was horrified and ashamed. How could I have sexually molested her? She seemed confused by my reaction as I apologized and begged her forgiveness. I told her what I had done was a terrible impulse and horribly wrong and should never have happened. I promised it would never happen again. I did not ask for secrecy or make any promises or threats or offer any inducements by reward, although I hoped she would not tell.

Several weeks later she told me she had told my wife what had happened and her mom had said that since I reacted the way I did, she would let it drop. She told her if anything else happened or if it even seemed like anything else might happen she was to tell an adult. My wife never confronted me about the incident and I never again touched my stepdaughter below a shoulder hug and a kiss on top of the head.

It was obvious I needed help. Success in dealing with abuse trauma in my childhood had taught me the value of psychotherapy in dealing with unwanted behaviors caused by past experiences. This behavior was against everything I believed and I desperately wanted help.

Calling from a pay phone and not identifying myself, I told a DHR investigator the circumstances and asked for the name of a qualified therapist. The investigator’s indignant response was that if I had touched a child under twelve and she found out who I was, I was going to spend ten years in prison. Her attitude floored me, as I knew that when we were working on the issue of sexual abuse in several organizations, it was accepted that if therapy was started at the beginning of an offense cycle, the cycle could be broken. Faced with the CPS investigator‘s attitude, I decided to just gird my loins, be aware of my problem and avoid that behavior like the plague.

Since I had become an adult, my stepdaughter was the first young girl I had come into close contact with. I would probably have been a molester no matter when the first young girl came along or who she was. Close proximity to nudity or intimacy with a young girl was the trigger to offend. In the absence of therapy, I would just stay alert, keep my eyes open and not offend again. If I could stay out of situations so similar to the experiences of my youth, I would be safe and so would the children. I had been harmless for 30 years and would again be harmless.

Contact with another young girl was increasing during this period. A family friend with an 11 year old daughter began visiting often. This girl and my stepdaughter became very close and I allowed myself to become close as well. The girl had never had a male influence and over time I became a father figure and mentor. Aware of my problem, I avoided being alone with her (or any other child) while still giving her the affection and attention she craved.

My defenses were strong and I had not had any sexual thoughts about my second victim, even though she was very affectionate, wanting to sit in my lap and cuddle watching TV and such. There was no special effort needed to keep my hands to myself because the opposite did not come to mind. Since she could squirm around on my lap as young girls do without my becoming aroused, it was not an issue.

My second victim’s mother had met a guy and wanted to have time with him, so from time to time the girl would spend the night with my wife and I, usually on weekends when my stepdaughter was also there.

On a Friday evening in early April of 2002, I arrived from work to find the 11 year old was a houseguest. Last minute concert tickets for her mom and mom’s fella lead to my wife’s offer to help the romance along by inviting the girl for the night.

That night we watched TV and my wife went to bed as a teen vampire type movie started. The girl wanted to see it but not alone, so I agreed to stay up with her. I was not interested in the film, so I dozed off and on and at some point the scary scenes drove her to my lap. We snuggled and cuddled as the movie ended, then groggily headed for bed.

She was wearing a long t-shirt and underwear and as I put her to bed the shirt had ridden up, exposing her underwear. I gave her a hug and kissed her goodnight on the forehead, then turned to leave. She grabbed my hand and drew me down, wanting me to sit on the bed beside her. She started talking about the scary vampire as I looked down at her. When she pulled me down to sit, her hand holding mine was on her stomach. To my horror I again heard the roaring in my ears and my vision tunneled.

When in a foster home at age 12, an 11 year old foster sister had called me to her room as I was passing one night. I sat on the side of the bed and she pulled the covers back to show me her underwear. The image before me was almost identical… young girl in bed, underwear exposed, smiling up at me… Now as my vision tunneled I was again that young boy and my hand moved up from her stomach, across her breasts and down into her underwear - in exactly the same movements and for the same amount of time as back then… perhaps 15 seconds of touching without penetration.

I was emotionally devastated the next day. As before, I got her alone and apologized for touching her. I told her it was my fault and it was wrong and I would never touch her again. Then I told her she could not sit in my lap anymore and cuddle. In my emotional state I was pushing her away and became a bit harsh with her when she objected to no more cuddling, more upset by that than my abuse, which she shrugged off. I did not ask for secrecy or make any promises or threats or offer any inducements by reward, although again I hoped for her not to tell.

III. Incident Reporting

Having committed for the second time an offense I would never have believed would happen the first time, I concluded regardless of what might happen, as a matter of honor my obligation was to minimize any further damage and ensure against further offense.

On Sunday evening after my offense on Friday night, the mother of my second victim was online and asked to chat with my wife. I knew immediately her daughter had told her of my sexual abuse of her. This was confirmed when I heard my wife begin to cry.

Having given much thought to the choices I now faced, my conclusion was the most honorable and least damaging action would be suicide. There would be a brief period of trauma and grief, but from the victims viewpoint I would have been punished and there would be no more reason to be afraid. Soon I would be no more than a bad memory that would fade over time.

I left with a small pistol I owned. For some reason I wanted my last sight to be looking out over moonlit water, so I headed toward the river. Stopping under a lamp in the XXXXXX parking lot on South XXXXXXXX Parkway, I wrote my suicide note, letters of apology to my victims and farewell letters to my son and a number of friends.

During this period I received numerous calls on my cell phone from my wife and the second victim’s mother - begging me not to go through with my plans. I was undaunted in my determination to act with honor, although they made the impression the victims might be more harmed in the long run by blaming themselves for my death, rather than being glad I had been punished.

Finishing the letters, I headed for A MARINA. I was calm, resolved and determined to pay for my crimes. I had little faith in God because my prayers in the basement were never answered, but I tried one final time. I asked that if this was not the best choice, to be given a sign. When I got to THE MARINA, there was a city maintenance truck with flashing yellow lights parked across the entrance blocking it. Was this the sign I had prayed for?
I called the second victim’s mother. I asked her, “Tell me how my life can be livable?”

Her answer was firm. “If you will get counseling and do everything the counselor requires, I will not report this.”

I called my wife and asked her the same question. Her answer was almost identical. This then I took as the sign from God that my time to die had not come and I returned home.

My wife and I made an appointment with a psychologist. Although I was specifically guaranteed confidentiality the doctor chose to break his word and insist a report be made to authorities. I again became suicidal.

Over the next few weeks the reports were made, the victims interviewed and I was questioned by a sheriff’s investigator where I confessed and accepted responsibility for my offenses. During this time my wife and I met with Dr. XXXXXXX. I was further devastated to learn if we had chosen his name from the phone book instead of the one we selected, the reports would not have been demanded and he could have treated me for my problem. He also told us about the district attorney's diversion program that could result in a prosecution agreement allowing me to enter this Sex Offender Program and thereby avoid conviction, imprisonment and inclusion in the Sex Offender Registry.

On May X, 2002 I was arrested and walked out of my place of employment in handcuffs. To deal with the anxiety attacks I had been experiencing after the psychologist betrayed me, a doctor had prescribed Xanax, a psychotropic drug. As I was processed into the county jail I managed to open a bottle in my pocket and took about 18 of the pills. I survived.

I spent 37 days in the county jail and after about two weeks received divorce papers from my wife. When I finally received a bond reduction hearing the bond was reduced by two-thirds. By the time I returned to my cell, other inmates who had been in court with me had spread the word on my charges. That night I had to demand protective custody due to threats on my life. My last five days in jail were spent in solitary lockdown for my own protection.

Up until the end I hoped for the diversion program, but was denied by the prosecutor without being given a reason why. It finally came down to standing trial or accepting a plea bargain. I could not bring myself to further injure my victims by putting them through a trial. I accepted the plea of guilty to two counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, was sentenced to two five-year terms in prison to be served concurrently, was placed on probation and was ordered into this Sex Offender Program.

After my arrest and until my sentencing I was impotent and had no discernable sex drive. Since then my partners have all been adult women. The one bright spot in my life is now having a wonderful lady who loves me in spite of being aware of my crimes. I have no fantasies regarding children and avoid memories of my sexual activities as a child with other children.

My background of surviving and escaping a traumatic foster childhood, then becoming an activist on child abuse and neglect makes me unusual, but in no way special. I am not better or worse than anyone else who has committed a similar offense. What I have tried to relate is that I have a special ache in my heart on top of the shame we all should feel for our victims. That special ache is for my betrayal of that little boy in the basement who suffered so much and fought so hard to become honorable.

IV. Impact of My Offenses on Others

My child molestations are actually no more or less significant, important or horrible than those of other offenders committing similar offenses. We all share or shared a space at the bottom of humanity for our crimes and must claw our way back up. My self-imposed punishment has greased my way and made the climb more difficult. Now I choose to abandon that attitude. Knowing how it feels to be a victim of sexual abuse does not make my crime greater, for if I say this to you, it is as though I do not respect that your victims suffered as much as mine.

The only real difference is that because of my history, empathy for my victims came instantly. I reacted to my crimes by assuming my victims were feeling all that I had felt. I know from experience my victims may awaken in the night screaming from nightmares about me. They may walk in fear because they know I am now free. They may feel dirty and ashamed. They may have anxiety attacks. They may suffer terrible anger and lash out. They may be consumed by hatred for me. They may feel the offense was their fault. They may feel betrayed by someone they loved.

The victims of my abuse may still love me and feel guilty. They may fear any intimate contact with others. They may have lost the ability to trust. They may fear men. They may never fall in love. They may feel responsible for my arrest. They may feel guilt for the tears of their parents. They may be afraid their friends will find out what happened. They may come to hate their bodies. When they begin to have sexual feelings they may be ashamed or afraid. Their sex lives may be forever affected. They may become sexually promiscuous. They may need counseling in the future. They may have trouble in school. They may become aggressive. They may suffer depression. They may become suicidal. My greatest shame is that as victims of sexual abuse, they are now much more likely to become sexual offenders themselves.

The mothers of the victims are victims as well. My ex-wife may feel guilt for not responding to knowledge of my first offense and thereby may feel responsible for the second offense. She lost a husband she loved and who loved her. She lost my income and suffered financially. She may fear me. She may have anxiety attacks. She may have nightmares. She may be consumed by hatred for me. She may never fall in love again. She may become over-protective. She may have lost the ability to trust. She may fear friends and relatives will blame her.

The mother of my second victim may face many of these as well, plus guilt for putting her daughter in the care of a molester.


My first wife and my son were also victims. They lost the support I provided for a long period of incarceration and unemployment. I have now learned my 11 year old son has been aware of my sexual abuse for some time and I know he must be disappointed and ashamed of his father.

The greatest consequence I have suffered until now for my crimes was self-imposed. My first and last thoughts each day were of my shame. My dreams were often nightmares filled with torture and torment for my crimes. I despised myself for the suffering my abuse caused two innocent victims. To forgive myself would be discounting their suffering.

While I cannot accomplish it overnight, permission for self-forgiveness someday has now been granted. This was done by choosing to believe that allowing self-forgiveness is not disrespectful to my victims.

Redemption of my honor will come through atonement. My time, talent, abilities and resources are now dedicated to that task. While through my actions I have lost my honor, I will every day and in every way act with honor. If every night when I close my eyes I can face my shame knowing I acted with honor that day, I will never destroy another life. In this way I can forgive myself, my honor will be restored and I will again become worthy of respect.

_______________________________________________________________

That was the end of the self-examination. Insights gained led me to the Cycle of Shame idea and making an effort to educate all other victims that they too, have the potential to offend. As victims we are 75% more likely to sexually abuse a child as one who has not so suffered. Yet, because we suffered, the thought is unthinkable... we not only refuse to believe it can happen, we refuse to even consider the possibility... the possibility does not exist in our universe.

I preach only Awareness and Vigilence... self-defense against that which may lurk within... silent... sleeping...

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Building A Support System for Molesters...

Child molesters who have received therapy have a very low instance of re-offending. Unfortunately therapy is not available at present. One path of atonement will be to establish a website for child molesters. While there are hundreds of sites for victims of abuse, there is no support system for abusers. Many of us despise what we did and wished for help in stopping while we were doing it, but no help was available. Abuse reporting laws have evolved to the point that psychotherapists believe they are obligated to make official reports if someone comes to them for help after committing sexual abuse. While this is not true (as I will discuss more fully later) the net result has been to prevent people needing therapy from getting it. The term "chilling effect" is often used in such instances, but in this case it is the equivalent of Antartica.

To accomplish my website goal, I ask for the help of web professionals. Offenders coming to share their cries for help must be confident of confidentiality, therefore the site must not make any identifying record of visitors. I need the expertise to accomplish this and a place for the website to live in security.

Until we can establish the already existing fact that therapy is legal without criminal action, the website will offer a place where those who want to stop can receive support, counseling and help from others who have been there. We can help them stop the abuse. After all, that is the only important issue... making the abuse stop. Yes, prosecution also stops the abuse - in spades - but only a very small percentage of abuse is ever reported. If the website helps prevent even one case of abuse, it will be worth the effort, but I believe many who are abusing want to stop and never abuse again.

If you have resources to offer in developing such a website, please email me at cycleofshame@yahoo.com.

Will you be a Child Molester?

Do you know the answer to that question? The only correct answer is "No"!

No matter who you are... no matter what you believe... you have the potential to sexually abuse a child.

There were no circumstances under which I could ever have believed that I could become a child molester... but I did. The only responsibility for this is mine. I now suffer the consequences and accept them fully.

This blog begins an online effort to atone for my crimes. I cannot turn back the clock... I cannot undo what I did... I cannot remove the pain and suffering I caused... I can only share my experiences and help others to either stop what they are doing or make them aware of their inner potential to offend.

Here I will share essays. Take them for what they are worth.