“Be happy in order to live long. Worry makes you sick”.
– Hopi Teaching
In 1985 I was Sent away to a group home called Home on the Hill in south Tacoma. It was ran by Children’s Industrial Home, the predecessor of Gateways For Youth and Families. What ensued for me over the next 7 months was absolute mystery. The home had a storied history of abuse. Unbeknownst to my parents , prior to placing me in the home’s care, 3 older boys had raped and tortured another resident of the home. The victim was 8 years old.
At the time of my placement the total sum of my experiences were limited to what you would expected of a 12 year old child. Prior to going to the home I attended private school, had been raised in a nice neighborhood and for the most part led a sheltered life. One of my favorite things to do was to go fishing off the Edmonds pier and play pee wee league football. I was a boys boy and to me the world was full of promise and adventure. I believed that the group home was going to be like a summer camp. Little did I know that the home, described as a semi secure facility, housed mentally ill and violent children ages 6 to 18. Imagine a dimly lit run down house. The atmosphere itself was gloomy. The acrid air reeked of urine, stale smoke and stringent cleaners. This was an eternity away from my home and family in Woodway.
What happened to me in that place pierced my soul. It cast a long shadow which darkened my path for many years. The home’s policy of a 6 month black out period ensured that no one who cared would ever hear my cries for help. For 7 months I was sexually abused by multible boys. The brutality of those first couple of encounters coupled with staff, who were aware of the abuse, and chose to do nothing and in fact orchastrated stage fights pitting one boy against another, weakened my resolve. In essence it was safer, less violent to just allow them to do what they would. I remember living in constant fear. When they would come I would close my eyes and hold my breath through the blinding pain. After the first 2 or 3 times I stopped fighting back. This really messed me up though. As a kid I internalized this and it made me feel responsible which filled me with guilt and shame. Tragically the home never told my parents about the abuse. I went back to my parents because the home had temporarily shut down after another boy told his case worker that he had been raped. I was so ashamed of what had happened that I did not tell my parents. I thought they would ask me about it. But instead I was sent to another group home called the Jessie Dyslan Ranch in Auburn. I believed that my parents knew about the abuse and that they blamed me, I truly felt like damaged goods and this was the reason I was being sent away again. From 12 to 17 I experienced an unanchored childhood. I bounced from placement to placement. I was never in one spot for more than 6 months.
what happens to a child when the world he knew is obliterated, when love, safety and security are replaced with pain and uncertainty? Where does a child go when no one wants him? How does a child survive under the yoke of untreated sexual abuse and abandonment? For me, I took all that pain and sickness and pushed it to the farthest reaches of my mind. I learned to be distrustfull of all I encountered, especially adaults and people in positions of authority. I became a master at reading people and sittuations. I tried as hard as I could to forget the sobbing little boy huddled in the corner of a shower watching ribbons of blood swirl down the drain. But that injured little boy never truly went away…. he was always residing just below the surface.