I am here today to talk about the sexual abuse of little boys, through my own story. I grew up in a modest, blue collar home, in inner-city Pittsburgh. It was a very tough neighborhood; tough kids, lots of fighting. A very “macho” environment. Football was an integral part of the social fabric of that community. I played four years of college football – I was a middle linebacker – the tough guy. This was all a mask to protect myself. To the outside world, I was a “normal” guy, but, I held a terrible secret. I was abused for two years from the age of 11 to 13. The very first incident of sexual abuse was everything to me. This meant that I was a BAD person. Somehow, I had determined that I “gave in”, that I was to blame. This devastated my self-esteem for years. The perpetrator was a serial pedophile; he probably abused over a hundred boys in his lifetime. He was a football coach for a 13 & 14 year old elite travel team in Pittsburgh. He would abuse players, then work his way down through all the younger brothers. He was not a homosexual, not a heterosexual, he was a pedophile. He was very subtle, very smooth. He would have you over to his house to wash & wax the car (always a flashy Cadillac). He provided alcohol, dinner at fancy restaurants – he lavished attention on the victim. He took me on trips to the NFL Hall of Fame, Niagara Falls, even the Orange Bowl in Miami. What poor kid from Pittsburgh would turn down a trip to the Orange Bowl?
To me, it was imperative that no one found out my secret. I withstood repeated abuse to avoid discovery. If I refused a trip to the Orange Bowl, that would bring on a deluge of why? questions. This secret dominated my life for 25 years. The abuse continued unabated – the child could see no way out – all I could do was keep it a secret. But the hurts compound daily for the child. I spent 22 of the 25 years as an advancing alcoholic, along with other self-destructive behaviors. It is very difficult for me to convey to you the overwhelming fear that I had of being discovered. All of this happened and was allowed to happen right under my parents’ noses. They failed in their primary role – protect your children. Many other bystanders had suspicions, but nobody ever spoke up. Nobody stepped in to help that little boy. They were silent bystanders. My efforts today are intended to eliminate today’s silent bystanders.
There are many effects of the abuse that are particular to males. Men are not supposed to be victims; throughout my recovery, that has been the most difficult concept for me — I am a tough guy, not a victim. Society tells us:
- Men are not victims
- Men don’t get depressed
- Men don’t seek help
- Men don’t need therapy
All of these attitudes are reinforced by the society that we live in. But, attitudes can be changed, and this speech is part of that process. In closing, I would like to tell all the hidden survivors out there: Get help, ask for help, help is out there. If you live in The Illinois Valley you can speak to an advocate at The Illinois Valley Safe House Alliance. They will enable you to remember that you are not alone, that there is help available and that most survivors have had to wrestle with all the same effects of abuse that you and I have.