Scroobious responded to my previous post by quoting Chandler from Friends: “Can – open. Worms – everywhere!” Sorry to do this, Scrooby, but today there are more cans and more worms – and they’re breeding.
The content of this post does not belong on this blog. It has (almost) nothing to do with the church, and nothing strictly to do with LGBT/queer.
It is also not easy to write (especially as my daughter is one of my most loyal readers), and may be disturbing to read. Those of a sensitive disposition – be warned. However, it is an important sequel to my last post on the subject, and an essential prelimiary to my more important observations on abuse in general, and of the church in particular. And so it must be done.
The Gang Show, Johannesburg, 1960′s.
In my early teens, I spent some very happy years as a boy scout in a troop affiliated to our Catholic parish (although the church connection is only minimally relevant here). A highlight of these years was my annual participation in the local “Gang Show” – a variety concert produced annually as a regional fundraiser, by individual boys and adult scouters drawn from scout troops across the city. From my own troop, there were three adults fully involved (sometimes more), and 6-8 boys. Transport was provided for the whole group by the dedicated scoutmaster, who drove a typically 60′s VW ‘Kombi minibus, in which we all travelled twice a week to rehearsals, and later to performances.
During the third year of my participation, when I will have been about 13, I found myself being befriended by a man who was the District Commissioner for my own troop. It did not occur to me to question why I should have been singled out for his attentions – although I did become aware that he had a reputation for having befriended other pretty young faces in previous years. On a few occasions, he volunteered after rehearsals to drive me home in his smart red convertible. These trips were without incident – exccept for the icecreams he treated me with en route.
The climax of the rehearsal period always came with a weekend scout camp, for intensive rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, and technical preparations, as well as more conventional scouting fun things – an evening campfire and the like. Given the large numbers attending, there were not tents for all, so the boys and some of the adults spread our sleeping bags in a large shed of some kind: 30 or 40 boys, and perhaps 6 or 8 adults. Surprise: one of those adults was my district commissioner, who contrived to lay his sleeping bag next to mine.
After lights out, after quiet had begun to settle, he began to whisper endearments, then surprised me by slipping his hand inside my sleeping bag, and caressing me – before giving me my first experience of fellatio. I vividly remember two incidental features in particular: his constant assurances that what he was doing was not wrong, as he was simply expressing his great affection for me; and the after action cigarette he lit up, the red coal glowing brightly like a beacon in the night. (Complaints from the other adults about the smoking made it clear the other adults were not yet all asleep).
During the 40+ years since, I have never thought of the experience as particularly traumatic. What I found remarkable, and want to stress now, is not that the event occurred, but the obvious (albeit passive) collusion of the other adults around us.
This man will have been well known to the adults of my own troop – he was our district commissioner. They must surely have known of his reputation – if I, in my innocence and naivety, overheard rumours of his attentions to other young boys, so would they. Yet they went along with him in allowing him to butter me up on transport home. Then, on the night of the camp, could the other adults n the shed really have been oblivious to what was going on amongst them? Even if they did not realise the full extent, nor made out the actual words, surely they must have realised that the constant low murmuring was from an adult man addressing a young boy under cover of darkness?
Whenever I have had cause to recall these events, I have felt and believed that I did not feel particularly ‘traumatised’ or ‘victimised’. That was certainly so at a conscious level. However, in starting to write this series of posts, and thinking about this one in particular, I have found myself emotionally affected at a level I have not done before. I also now recall something previously forgotten – a deep feeling of confusion and panic as I realised he was doing down on me.
Now I have to ask: if writing about psychological trauma is healing and therapeutic, but I have never before felt traumatised, why have I now felt the need for healing?
I hope this has not been too uncomfortable to read, but you were warned. Thanks for sticking with me. Now there will be no more dirty lttle secrets – the next instalment will move on to the lessons and conclusions I draw from the experiences.
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- Tom Doyle on the Catholic Clerical Sexual Abuse Situation: A Dark and Destructive Force Rooted in the Institution Itself (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Irish archbishop: Cover-ups made child abuse worse (seattletimes.nwsource.com)