When I was six years old, there was something wrong with me. My body was revolting against an attacker and as a result, stabs of pain coursed through my abdomen. The doctor’s examinations and tests continued to come back with inconclusive results. My parents were beside themselves, unsure of what to do and feeling helpless against the unknown feeling in my body. Reflecting on that time, on the pain that I have long since forgotten, I cannot imagine the agony my parents felt knowing that their youngest son was folded over, attempting to control the spasms.
That was the first time I remember someone wishing to take away my pain– the selfless idea of taking on someone’s plight in order for them to feel peace, even for a moment. While that was the first, it would not be the last.
Pain is everywhere: a victim of a motor vehicle accident; the feeling in a recently punched cheek; the finger slammed in a door; the gunshot wound in a teenager; the slowly deteriorating body that comes with age. Physical pain subsides in intervention, recovery, or expiration.
While physical pain is uncomfortable, it is very different from the spikes of emotional pain. Humans possess a need to wish that pain would cease, whether it’s our own, or that of those around us. When the pain is not defined by comprehensible description, emotional pain… pain that isn’t able to explained and feels unlike any other pain… and each feeling is described differently: the ache of loss; the stretch of want; the knots of despair and self-loathing; the cloud of uncertainty. Empathy, to those who have it, is a tool that can drag the imagination into the gallows with those who are suffering. Wanting to change the past and wishing to have intervened in a moment when you thought you should have known something was wrong– however, it was not your time to know. It wasn’t your fault. Beating yourself up years later is not going to change anything. You didn’t do anything wrong and there’s no way you could have known.
After publishing The Predators Among Us, I received an overwhelming outpouring of support and well-wishes. For that I am appreciative. To clarify, not that there was much confusion, the praise and support did not drive me to write. The impetus was rooted in the 18 years that led up to that moment– 18 years is a long time to hold a secret, to protect someone who never made an effort to protect me. Additionally, I want to reiterate that I did not share my story to be pitied or make anyone feel like they were responsible for not seeing the extent of Frank’s “abilities.” This man is a predator. It might be fair to say that he is a sociopath.
Frank duped me… and he duped you.
Frank convinced those in his presence that he was a fun-loving, gregarious, well-intentioned teacher. He lived, and likely still lives, shrouded by a distorted blanket of smoke and mirrors. Sexual predators do not wake up one day and decide they are finished seeking out prey– they will always have the urge to assert their power onto the unsuspecting and impressionable minds around them.
What is the solution? That’s a good question. Living in fear gets you nowhere– except diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (which I am happy to tell you all about when you have a minute). If you want change, you need to have the difficult conversations and you need to hold those accountable who have made choices that negatively affect others’ lives.
Those of you who reached out to me, thank you. Your words were powerful and moving.
Those of you know Frank and reached out to him, thank you. My hope is that you had an honest conversation with him about his behavior and his predilection towards underage boys. If you still consider Frank to be a friend of yours, that’s your choice, but you can eliminate me from any association you have with the word friend. I don’t take lightly to the allowance of destructive behavior to continue in the world. It took me a long time to get to this point– many shame spirals later, I no longer relate to shame. If it creeps in, I check myself and reevaluate the circumstances– and on my terms, I get what I want.
After all, there is a lesson in this. While the teaching method was out of line and, to be frank, criminal (pun intended)– we aren’t thrust upon circumstances for naught. There was no “divine” purpose for Frank treating me the way he did, but there was a lesson in regaining control of my life and refusing to fall victim to the power of manipulation on a repeated basis.
CALL TO ACTION: share your story. It doesn’t have to be in a public sphere, but open up to your loved ones. Let the healing begin and don’t let monsters continue to run your life. Some of you have done this–sharing your story with me. Now reach out to someone else; someone who is directly in your life and who may wonder why sometimes you have bizarrely sensitive responses to poorly timed jokes and innuendo. There is no prescription for the knee-jerk reaction, but it is rooted somewhere. Share. Get it off your chest and work toward moving past it.