Ruben Rosario -
Pioneer Press columnist
|| Ruben Rosario
"about a little boy"
by Bill Murray
We talk to many child abuse survivors every week, and hear from even more, yet we were so impressed by the following newspaper column that we felt compelled to ask Ruben to appear as a special guest on our Internet-based "Stop Child Abuse Now" (SCAN) talk radio show on March 14, 2013.
We've re-printed the original autobiographical newspaper column here below, his thoughtful and well-written story "about a little boy."
also offer you a direct link to the 90 Minute "on demand" version of Ruben's appearance on the talk show: Stop Child Abuse Now (SCAN) - 529
Ruben Rosario: Today, I need to tell you about a little boy
by Ruben Rosario
March 2, 2013
The little boy, no more than 7, knew what was coming when the orange drapes were drawn in the bedroom window of the ground-floor Bronx apartment on Hoe Avenue.
It would be icky. It would be painful. But this was his 15-year-old primo hermano , a first cousin who was like a big brother to a little boy who had no siblings and no father present at the time.
And, at the end, sometimes but not always, the little boy would be given a quarter as long as he promised not to tell anyone. The little boy would use the quarter to buy candy or those plastic insects he loved so much, the ones that came inside little globes from the gumball-like machine at the corner bodega. Then he would stay outside on the street to play with his friends.
That little boy had no clue that he was being raped and molested.
I was and am still that little boy.
I decided last week -- more than half a century later -- to publicly bare what I should have told someone decades ago. I do this now not so much for me. I'm doing this for the little boys and girls across this state, across this nation, across this world, who are being similarly abused, as I write this, by a loved one or a family friend or a so-called trusted adult.
If you are a child dealing with this or an adult who knows of such abuse, overcome the fear. Go outside the family if you have to, and tell someone you trust. Don't wait the way I did.
A YEAR OF ABUSE AT AGE 7
Child sexual abuse is an epidemic that in recent years has gradually, thankfully shed some of its stigma for victims and drawn some light through high-profile cases like the clergy pedophilia scandal and the recent Penn State University molestation cases.
The stats are sobering: In this country, one in four women and one in six men were sexually abused before the age of 18. In 2005 in Minnesota, 17,690 of the 61,000 reported cases of sexual assault involved a child victim. And the overwhelming majority of cases throughout the years -- upward of 80 percent, according to some studies -- involved an abuser who was either a relative or a close family friend known to the child victim. Then throw in the fact that this is the most underreported of crimes.
No matter what form it takes, this kind of abuse is sick and evil. There is no justification for it. But I would argue that when the abuser is a relative, the dynamics are messier, more complex and a bigger barrier for a child to come forward than if the abuser was from outside the family circle.
"Part of it is that you don't have a safe place," said Mic Hunter, a St. Paul-based psychologist and author of "Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse" (1990, Fawcett Columbine). The book is still considered a landmark in literature about child sexual abuse.
"If it's happening at a school or church, hopefully you can go to your home to escape," Hunter added. "But you're living in the home where it is taking place, and it becomes really awkward when you are giving, say, Father's Day or birthday cards to the person who is sexually abusing you."
Hunter says child victims are three times as likely to be abused by a family member as by a stranger.
Although my memory of time is hazy, I believe my abuse occurred several times over the course of a year or so. At the time, my divorced mother and I had moved in with one of my aunts because we could not afford our own place.
The abuse stopped when my aunt and her husband relocated to the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx. I believed it stopped because my cousin no longer was afforded the opportunity to find a way to be alone with me at the new place without someone finding out or walking in.
We moved out a year later in 1963 when my mother married my stepfather, the man who raised me.
MEMORIES BURIED, NOT GONE
Like most victims, I disassociated myself from the child abuse. I tried hard to believe it never happened. I tucked it deep into a remote corner, forgot about it and moved on with my life. I excelled academically. I graduated from college, married, raised two kids and worked at being a success. My abuser got married and had two kids. I don't believe he abused others, but I really don't know, and that still haunts me.
I never confronted him, and he never talked about it at family gatherings. His presence would trigger the memories, but I always felt at fault for my victimization. I allowed him to do it, right? I got a quarter out of the deal, right? I did not want to break my aunt's or my mother's heart by coming out. I did not want to stir up a past that would surely sever family relationships.
And I thought that as unpleasant as it was, I had come out pretty well. The abuse did nothing lasting to me.
I was wrong. Like many, I self-medicated at times to kill the pain. I drank quite a bit through college, but since everybody was doing it, I thought that was just a rite of passage. I would get into what I call my "dark cloudy day" moods, but I shrugged that off as just the blues -- it had nothing to do with my childhood victimization.
A REVELATION AFTER DEATH
The tucked-away memories surfaced with a vengeance the year I was informed that my abuser was diagnosed with leukemia. I thought I had forgiven him for what he had done, but I really had not. It triggered bouts of binge drinking and episodes where I would fly into a rage at my wife or kids at some slight or disagreement. I busted a few doors in my home with my fist.
It was then that I confided to my wife, about 16 years after we wed, what had taken place as a child. She made the connection between the abuse and my behavior. Concerned about my drinking, she told my late stepfather about my abuse. He broke down and cried. But he agreed that the disclosure would break my mother's heart.
My abuser died from his illness at age 48. I made it a point not to attend the wake or the funeral. My family was puzzled by my absence. Now they realize why. I waited until his mother, an aunt I cared for very deeply, died two years ago.
I told my mother the same day I also broke the news to her that I was diagnosed with an incurable but treatable cancer. She's a strong woman. She took it well. She responded that she would have contacted police had she been told sooner. I doubt that, but I appreciated her words.
COURAGE AND SOLACE FROM OTHERS
Another barrier for me, beyond self-inflicted shame and guilt, is that this subject is super taboo in the Latino culture. But in telling the stories of other child victims through my columns over the years, I've learned that there is nothing more macho than having the courage to come forward. And there is nothing more important than having a trusted confidante. That would be my wife, who has been my therapist, consoler, adviser and shoulder to lean on, the one who has unfairly borne the brunt of the negative effects this abuse has had on me over the years. I would have left me years ago.
Then there are the fellow survivors, whose courage also gave me the motivation to tell you what I'm telling you now. There's the 16-year-old Bloomington girl I wrote about 21 years ago, the one who stood before a packed courtroom, confronted her abuser, and then insisted, with her father's blessing, that I identify her by name in my column. There are the numerous prostituted females who shared their stories of sexual abuse at home and how they sought to find love and affection through the men who pimped them out. And then there's Al Chesley, the former NFL player and fellow childhood sex-abuse survivor who came here this past week to testify in favor of a bill to eliminate civil statutes of limitations for child sex-abuse victims.
I embrace and celebrate now that little abused boy who will always live inside me. I'm not ashamed of him anymore. He is no longer dumb or stupid. I thank him for helping me to be nobody's fool, to develop a healthy skepticism about human nature that has served me well in my chosen profession, and to be more empathetic and passionate about this and other issues and the plight of others.
As Chesley so eloquently put it last week: "I nurture him now. I give him a lot of love. I'm good to him today."
Ruben Rosario can be reached at 651-228-5454 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @nycrican