Many years ago, I corresponded with a man named Eric, on an Internet website for survivors of child sexual abuse.
Eric was articulate, creative, and deeply passionate in his convictions, and he was generous enough to have allowed me to use his story for my book.
I have chosen to instead share Eric’s story on my Blog because my book will probably not include the stories of other survivors, but the documentary I want to make will. I hope that Eric will one day be in that documentary, as well as some of my other readers.
I hope Eric realizes that I am posting his story here to help other men like him, because I know there are untold numbers of silent men, whose stories are similar to Eric’s.
Eric was sexually abused as a child by his mother, father, a family friend, his brother, and cousins. He also suffered physical abuse by his mother, including being strangled by her at age three.
Eric was a recovering alcoholic at the time I knew him, and he survived several suicide attempts.
In spite of all this, Eric had maintained a marriage and often had a very eloquent manner of expressing himself. He was professionally effective, and had a good sense of humor. This is not to say he is not still affected by the abuse and that he does not suffer, but I found him to be coping quite well.
As a young child, a male graduate student, hired to take care of Eric, sexually abused him. The man slowly groomed Eric into a victim and became Eric’s “special” friend. He lavished attention onto Eric, brought him treats, took him for walks in the city, held his hand while crossing busy streets, and even went so far as to pick him up and cradle him whenever Eric felt unsafe. At some point this man began to subtly become sexual with Eric and he gradually built up to violent and degrading sexual abuse. The man was in his early twenties, Eric was five years old.
Regarding the anal rape, Eric says,
“I have fragments of memory of him telling me that ‘he didn’t mean to hurt me, it just happened and he was very very sorry and it wouldn’t happen again’ and that ‘things got out of hand.’ “I remember very little of the actual event, but have pieced together, the vivid aftermath of at least one time, in which I remember ‘coming to’ in a bathtub filled with blood and shit and this man’s semen, beating my head against the tile wall until I could make the pain stop. I was left to clean up on my own. I’ve never been able to enjoy tubs, hot tubs and whirlpools to this day, and learning not to beat my head against the wall has been a major challenge.”
Eric went to his mother and instead of protecting her son from his rapist, she flew into a rage and told Eric that if it was true, it was his fault. Eric believes that his mother was solely focused on the possible loss of a caretaker for Eric.
He believes his mother was charmed with the man’s gentleman-like behavior and that he lightened her load. The man was handsome and engaging, and his mother was most likely not only captivated by him, but also deeply relieved by finding a cheap solution to her care-taking needs. Eric says, “Somehow, [he] knew that I had talked, and that it hadn’t worked, maybe he and mom talked about my disturbed fantasy life. Maybe she did query him and his adult voice was more believable than my five-year old voice, and [he] knew he had a victim.”
At some point in time the man began involving Eric’s older brother, who was heading towards puberty. There were “games” in which his older brother helped the man chase, capture, and rape Eric.
Eric’s older brother continued to have sex with him long after the male caretaker was no longer a part of the household. Later on, the brother would team up with their cousin to trap Eric and rape him.
Although Eric says the initial part of his mother’s sexual abuse is still being hidden from his conscious mind, he does retain some fragmentary memories.
Eric remembers his mother using enemas on him when he was about three or four years old and this lasted until about age ten or eleven.
According to Eric, his mother showed enjoyment while performing the last several enemas. He believes that his mother took a specifically sexual approach to the enemas by intentionally stimulating nerve endings around the anus but was still able to explain this away if housekeepers happened to witness the act.
Enemas are not an uncommon or strange thing to have to explain if a parent is found doing them to a child. Eric feels that, for the most part, the pleasure his mother experienced from the enemas wants to remain in Eric’s subconscious mind.
When Eric entered puberty his mother shifted her advances as she began to recognize him as a man, and no longer a boy. She switched from being dominant over him to being seductive. Mostly while intoxicated, she came into his bedroom and attempted to kiss him while simultaneously fondling his genitals. Like many abused children, Eric pretended to be asleep.
Eric’s father took his mother’s “interest” in Eric quite seriously and began to go into his room to do essentially the same thing. Eric says, “He was trying to prove that he was a ‘bigger man’ than me.”
In many conversations with Eric, his mother would also express an inadequacy about his father as a sexual partner for her. She continued to periodically enlist Eric in inappropriate dialogue and even flirted with him at restaurant dinners that she insisted they go to while Eric’s father was out of town. Eric says dinner with his mother was like a “date,” even including “coquettish” behavior.
“Part of me believed that she was a wonderful woman and that I could make her happy by setting the table right, by getting good grades and by being a ‘good boy.’ Ultimately what she wanted was sex, and I grieved and felt guilty about not being able to respond.”
By the age of twenty-one, and because of so many male abusers, Eric began to feel a deep compulsion to go to male bathhouses to have gay sex. He was intelligent enough to recognize that he began going to the bathhouses when he reached the same age of his boyhood care-taker who had abused him. Acting on his impulse, Eric began a pattern of going back to the bathhouses, generally about every two months, and though there were times when months and years went by without visiting a gay bathhouse, it was sometimes a weekly event.
Eric painfully and honestly writes:
“Critical to me was the anonymity of a gay bathhouse, the absolute avoidance of an emotional relationship, and the freedom to be utterly hedonistic without discovery. Once I made the decision to go to a bathhouse, it was irrevocable—nothing could stop me. After a lost night or weekend, I would clean up, dump my cruising clothing into the corner and arrive at work as fresh as a bright shiny dollar”
Much later in life Eric realized that one of his strongest different personalities was the person who went to the bathhouses. This alter ego believes that it was Eric who instigated the sex as a child, and that he incorrectly believed he had control over the abuse. Eric’s alter personality in the bathhouses was acting out in a way to re-enact the sex from Eric’s childhood, and thus, hoping for a different outcome.
Eric’s sexual activity paralleled much of what he endured as a child, including seeking out two partners simultaneously. Eric feels the alter personality believed that Eric truly wanted to re-enact the abuse of his youth in a way that gave him a sense of control.
“The fact that it never went that way, of course, only draws the compulsion tighter –the next time it will be different. Fun, caring, whatever. Also, the reenactment reduces—I believed in some corner at the time—the importance of the initial sexual activity. If I was raped fifteen or twenty times in my youth, doing it repeatedly in a month makes the first fifteen seem statistically irrelevant. The compulsive reenactment, in addition to being a source of physiological stimulation (endorphin rush) was a way to both suppress and maintain the memory of my youth. However, compulsive reenactments rarely (if ever) nourish or salve the essential pain, and the activity becomes more and more involving until one realizes that it doesn’t work.”
After his memories began to become clearer, and after becoming sober, Eric contacted the brother who sexually abused him. Eric shared his flashbacks with him and his brother was incredibly helpful, even sometimes giving information that Eric had not previously remembered about the abuse.
Eric writes, “Although it was a rich process at first, my brother struggled to reach through his own alcoholism and drug dependency, and the process halted when the information became too intense for him”
Many survivors lose family members when the silence is broken. Most lose them when the family member refuses to see the truth and they cut off all contact with the person they once sexually abused.
Eric lost his brother in a more final way; Eric’s brother killed himself. Eric feels that the pain of remembering, finally facing, and having to actually think about what he had done to his little brother was too much for him. Eric feels his brother also feared his ability to molest another child, maybe one of his own.
“He committed suicide. It was no ‘accident’ or ‘warning-signal’ for getting help. I truly lost him, in part, because I broke the silence and the information I was providing was too frightening for my brother to sustain.”
When I asked Eric about forgiveness, he described a mental image about his mother. It was quite beautiful because it was not one of malice or revenge. Instead, it was honest and innocent:
“I recently had a fantasy of going to the cemetery, unearthing her ashes, forming a female figure on the top of my father’s coffin and confronting her. A few days later, I replayed the fantasy, but instead, a soft rainfall began and in the grayness of the sky, her ashes became rivulets and washed away. I sat on the edge, reveling in the coolness of the rain, feeling it in my hair, saturating my clothing. When I opened my eyes, there were several shadowy skeins on the ground, and mom was gone. I’ve come to believe that my mother had no capacity to relate, to apologize, to understand, and perhaps fundamentally, to care about others in any giving or loving way, that she may have been fundamentally evil and malevolent. I wished she wasn’t the way she was, but she was, and it is time to let her be washed from my life, and for me to accept that she was pathologically the opposite of whom I might have wished for a mom. That may be as good as it gets.”
Eric’s story has always reminded me to never judge the behavior of people who engage in indiscriminate sex with other adults in places like gay bathhouses. We never know what darkness drives a person to act out in such ways.
The sexual inclination of someone, which is determined by causes that we do not all penetrate or understand, does not stop them from being a bearer of the presence of God.
I cried the first time I read Eric’s story. I wept the second time, and I mourn now as well.
Many years ago, something about this man brought a deep wound of my own to the surface, and it still does.
Maybe it was the sexual abuse by his mother, and maybe it was the fact that his brother could not stand his own truth and took his life after being truthful with his victim, and for realizing he would rather die than hurt a child.
But I think what strikes me the most about Eric’s story is his love for his brother, and his forgiveness for his mother.
I do not know what has happened to Eric in the past ten years, or where he is, but I think of him from time to time and always wonder how and where his journey has taken him.
At the time Eric and I corresponded, I did not yet remember being sexually abused by my mother and my sister. I am certain his story had stirred something up in me because we know the truth inside ourselves. Our conscious mind might not know it, or want to deal with it yet, but the soul knows.
Peace to you Eric.