During my time in Bellefonte, I met hundreds of people.
I also met dozens of survivors.
This is one man's story...
[Title Change to correct spelling error - Thanks 2thanks]
Re-printed with permission: If you really believe it will make a difference - even it it helps just one victim - please feel free to use the letter I sent to you.
I don't know if you'll remember me or not. We met in Bellefonte, PA while sitting in a courtroom. You shared your story with me and I was very moved. I gave a small donation to your wonderful organization. Although you had to return to Maryland the next day and were unable to attend the second week, I thought of you every day while I was there and hope you found some comfort in last evening's (6/22/12) verdict.
I never got the chance to tell you my story. I don't know why. I suppose because it sounds so pathetic coming from a gray-haired, middle-aged man who, at the time, was listening to the anguish of children and young men who still haven't come to terms with the pain and torment caused by a monster such as Jerry Sandusky.
I, too, was sexually abused as a child. I was six years old. "He" was a neighbor and, like many pedophiles, knew all the tricks, even though "he" was just an older-age teenager. "He" knew how to isolate. How to intimidate. To control with physical force and also by use of threats against not only myself but also by telling what he would do to my other siblings and mother if I told anybody.
I never told. Instead I learned to isolate myself in the safety of our home. Instead of playing with the other kids outside or going to the playground down the street, I remained in my fortress, where "he" wouldn't see me, or trap me in an alleyway. Or put his hand over my mouth and carry me to his parents home while they were away at work.
Eventually "he" moved out and away from the neighborhood. I was able to come out of my self-imposed exile. But I was painfully shy, socially backward and hated myself. However, I eventually learned to place what "he" did to me in a dark corner of my mind and move on. I forgot about him, and what happened. I was normal after all.
After I graduated from high school, I enlisted in the Navy and found myself aboard an aircraft carrier deployed in the western pacific. Long before the era of satellite phones, Twitter and email, "mail call" was always a huge event for a crew away from home for many months. We all knew when the cargo plane landed on the flight deck it would be loaded with bags stuffed with letters and packages for us.
The box my loving mother sent contained lots of goodies. Letters, candy, cookies and even newspapers from my hometown.
When I read the headline my world imploded. A local man had been arrested after abducting, raping and murdering a young girl. "He" tried to hide the crime by setting fire to her body. "He" failed and was now in jail awaiting trial. The little girl's family was beyond devastated.
And it was all my fault.
If I'd had the courage to confront what was done to me, she'd still be alive.
If I'd just TOLD someone what "he'd" done, she'd still be alive.
But I was a coward. And now, because of it, an innocent little girl was dead.
I don't really remember much about the next few days. I was fortunate in having a chief petty officer who knew "something" was wrong with me. I wasn't talking. Or eating. I was making mistakes in my job. I was sick and staying in my rack. I was close to being in big trouble. The chief sat me down and told me I had to pull myself together. My job was one in which other people's lives were at stake. I needed to snap out of it. Fast.
I did. I managed to bury my past even deeper. It never happened. Never. Any of it. Life went on.
Twenty years later. I'm married, living in a house with the well trimmed hedges, a job which paid well and a son who is my pride and joy. My wife decides she hates me and wants to leave. She's taking my little boy with her. I'm not the husband she thought I'd be. I work too many hours and spend too little time with her. I don't care enough about her. I ruined her life. I'll ruin my son's, too.
Maybe she's right.
I spare her the trouble of moving because I don't want my son to abandon the only place he's ever known as home. I sign the papers. I don't want to ruin his life.
I decide I'm not a very good man. The world will be better without me. I start drinking. Lots of drinking. It's the only way I can sleep. My work suffers. I get a big life insurance policy so my son and his mother will have enough money after I'm gone.
I'm a terrible person, but not an idiot. I know insurance companies don't pay out for suicide. I discover a way to make it look like an accident. Foolproof. All my affairs are in order. My will is up to date. My funeral is pre-paid.
I want the last time I spend with my little boy to be special. Maybe a camping trip. Or visiting an amusement park. Or swimming at a water park.
Afterward, as I drop him off at home, he hugs me - harder and longer than he usually does - and tells be he loves me. That he'll see me on Tuesday. He can't wait!
I'm still a little fuzzy on how I landed in the mental health facility. My sister and, surprisingly, my ex-wife had a lot to do with it. Therapy, medications, classes, hypnosis, sessions of all kinds. They helped me remember things. Scary things. Hurtful things. Things from years ago that came from some black hole of a brain on overload. It was one of the toughest things I've ever been through. Certainly tougher than any training course the Navy put me through, and that includes SERE school, where young aircrew trainees learned to experience "waterboarding," long before the mainstream media made the public aware of it's use on terror suspects housed at Guantanamo Bay. I'd think I'd rather spend a decade in Gitmo than go though what I did again.
But it helped me.
I finally learned that the scared little boy didn't murder an innocent little girl. That there was a reason my childhood was so different from the other kids. I learned to forgive myself. It comforted me knowing that "he" was locked-up and will never see the outside world again.
I still have some hard times. Relapses. These past few months have been one of them. I'm a proud Penn Stater. I love this area. The people here. The students and all the good things they do. How could this, THIS, have happened? At this great institution? At my son's school? How did we allow this monster into our midst?
We didn't. THEY are still out there. If it can happen here, in this Happy Valley, it can still happen anywhere. We must become vigilant. We must educate our children. We must tell the world how the monsters operate. If there's a silver lining in the catastrophe which has happened here, I hope it's that the world has seen the devastation and is taking steps to insure it doesn't happen again.
Keep up your good work, Roxine. The world needs more people like you.