Monday, September 26, 2011

Yet More Background

At the end of the 7th grade there was a "retreat" for new incoming youth choir members.  It was great!  We hung out with the older kids (most of them officers in the youth choir), we sang (sometimes as a group, sometimes in a room alone with him).  Looking back, its so obvious now (as are so many other things) that this was the beginning.  This was where he picked his "special guys".  See, men like David Pierce are many things.  Sick, twisted, perverse, evil?  Yup.  Ignorant?  No. 

Remember, the actions of these "men of God" were not to be called into question, especially when they had a viable Biblical explanation for what would, outside of the church, be such suspect behavior.  Want to spend tons of time alone with young boys?  Simple solution: just call it Christ-like behavior.  Tell the world you are following the same example of discipleship Christ followed.  Luckily for David, while Christ had 12 disciples, He also always had 3 He was closer with.  3 He invested more of Himself into.  So, like Christ, David always had 3 he was closer with.  Unlike Christ, David's 3 just always happened to be 13-18 year old boys. 

I often think about what it was that made David identify me as an easy target.  After thinking about it for years, I don't have a good answer.  Looking back at the other victims, there are some common traits and themes.  All were devout Christians.  Most had some musical ability.  Most (oddly enough) did not come from single parent households.  Many of us, at one point or another at First Baptist, would commit ourselves to enter the ministry.  These are the young boys that would worry about impressing someone like David Pierce.  Looking at many of these same young boys as men now, you see the exact opposite trends.  Broken marriages, drug and alcohol abuse, atheism, etc.  The wake that is left by a predator of this nature is one of destruction, desolation, and despair.  Am I an alcoholic?  No.  But I certainly have my addictions.  My marriage is still intact (some days more than others).  I am not an atheist, although I would hesitate to call myself a Christian (or a man of faith).  I am, however, a completely different person than anyone, myself included, thought I would be. 

In high school, by all outward appearances, I was that guy.  Never cussed, never ever drank.  Kind, caring, joyful.  President of the Fellowship of Christian Students both my junior and senior years.  Obviously, the time I spent with David had quite a bit to do with the way others perceived me.  Anyone that spends that much time in "discipleship" with such a great man of God must truly have a great relationship with Christ, right?  I surrendered to the ministry the summer after my sophomore year of high school.  Initially, I wanted to go into music ministry, just like my mentor.  Slowly, the more I was able to detach myself from David, the more that changed, until now I am not even a church goer, let alone a minister.  That's touching on the end of my story though.  The beginning is back at that 7th grade youth choir retreat.  David's personal meat market.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little More Background

It's easy to wonder how something like this went on for as long as it did. What isn't easy for me is thinking about how close I came to letting it continue. I was such a typical kid. Especially in the Bible Belt. Middle class, with a dad that traveled too much and a mom that taught school. I grew up in church, taught from an early age to regard ministers with the utmost respect, adoration, and awe. I wasn't a loner, nor was I one of the "cool kids". I was smart (one of the main reasons I was never one of the "cool kids"), musically gifted, and spiritually devout. I was one of those kids that adults loved and kids loved to make fun of. Although, I don't really think of my childhood as one of ridicule and abuse by my peers. Overall, I was a happy kid and have generally fond memories of growing up.

At the age of 8 I started piano lessons, and in doing so found one of the only things I'd ever truly excel at. The one thing that allowed me to stand out (in a good way, finally). And, of course, one of the many things he would eventually steal from me.

Growing up at the largest church in a small southern suburb, my family was at church every time the doors opened. I participated in children's choir, not because I enjoyed it, but because it was a gateway to something bigger and better. Youth Choir. But not just any youth choir. One of the largest, most talented, and well disciplined youth choirs in the South. I couldn't wait. A place where musical ability was fostered, encouraged, and celebrated. A place where I would finally be in my element. And even better, the chance to work with one of the most respected ministers and choir directors in the Southern Baptist community.

Anyone who didn't grow up in the Bible Belt will never understand the pedestal even below average ministers are placed on. The "good" ones? Forget about it. These aren't just men who made religion a job. These are men anointed by the very right hand of God. Men whose every action, every word is approved and ordained by the big man himself. Questioning these men out loud is complete and utter blasphemy. Thinking it in your head reason enough to pray for forgiveness.

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Story Begins

It's a bittersweet thing, being able to remember in all the gorey detail the exact moment your life went from normal, middle class suburban WASP to something far from normal.  Everything.  The car (or in this case, the truck), the spot in town we were driving, the questions being asked (including that one fateful questions that would begin a downward spiral that would change my life forever).  Everything was so benign up to that point that the shock I experienced from hearing that questions uttered aloud, at hearing what would be the first of hundreds of prying questions (and looks, and measurements and suggestions) over the years, I was completely unable to respond with anything but the truth.

Of all the many, many moments in my life since then that I wish I could change, this is the one moment I keep coming back to.  The only words that I've never been able to get out of my head, but always wanted so desperately to forget.  I still hear him flippantly ask (as if wanting to know what my favorite football team was, or my opinion on the designated hitter) "you masturbate much?"  I was a 13 year old boy.  What did he think the answer to that question was?

Still, looking back, he didn't care about the answer.  It wasn't the specific words that were important.  For the first time in my life, I passed a test I shouldn't have.  Unfortunately for him, I would be the one student he should have never taken.  His one mistake.

The Beginning

As an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, there are countless issues I deal with on a daily basis.  Just one of those is the fact that on many days I still feel completely without a voice, totally unheard.  Because my abuser also happened to be a minister at the church I attended, there are still many people to this day who either don't believe that it happened, or don't want to hear about it.  That is the driving force behind this blog, to provide me with an outlet to express, in some sort of public way, both my story (the past), and the constant issues I continue to struggly with as a survivor (the present).

I imagine the structure of the blog beginning with a chronological telling of my story (and the story of dozens of other victims of the same abuser), with some current struggles and issues thrown in as they arise.  Obviously, as the story of my abuse comes to an end, my current issues will become the main meat of my writings (or ramblings, who knows).

I also feel like the title of the blog requires a bit of explanation.  The darkest part of my life was also, spiritually at least, the highest point of my life.  I felt closer to God, and closer to many of the people in my life, than I ever had before, and ever have since.  In order to deal with my abuse, I have in a sense had to descend from that time in my life.  In many ways, I also feel like I had to descend deeper into the darkness and madness of my abuse in order to escape it.  For several years as an adult, I chose to lock away the abuse I suffered, not even allowing myself the realization that what happened to me was abuse.  It was much easier to ignore, even attending the same church where the abuse occurred, where the music was led by the same minister who was my abuser.  As I finally began to wrestle with what happened to me, I forced myself to unlock the box containing those events and descend into that darkness as a means to finally begin to rid myself of it alltogether.

I may be the only one that ever reads this blog.  If so, that's fine.  It's the outlet I need, not the recognition.  If I do end up helping someone, so be it.

If you are reading this, thanks for your time.  I know that what I will write here won't always be easy or fun to read, but it's necessary for me.