Recovering from abuse

Craig+Gettman+at+age+13+leans+behind+the+shoulder+of+his+younger+sister.

Courtesy of Craig Gettman

Craig Gettman at age 13 leans behind the shoulder of his younger sister.

Craig Gettman, Staff Writer

My name is Craig, and I’m a survivor of sexual abuse.

I was 13 at the time. It was that awkward time of life when my voice was changing, my hormones were raging and hair was growing in places I’d rather not mention.

The voice-changing part was particularly unfortunate because I was in the Piedmont Boy’s Choir. I was the choir’s first and only baritone. The other boys managed to stay in the tenor range, or even higher. When the choir performed Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” I was the soloist on the lower part of the song.

In the summer of 1986, the choir had a retreat in Feather River, near Quincy, California. It was a remote, backwoods location straight out of “Deliverance,” or perhaps “Cabin in the Woods.” Luckily, there were no lustful rednecks playing banjos or murderous zombie families.

Unfortunately, the real danger was hidden, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

His name? Let’s just call him John. He was a counselor, one of the four adults tasked with supervising nearly 30 boys, all aged 10-13. As I recall, John was about 30 or so.

One afternoon after my voice lesson with another counselor, John summoned me to his cabin under the pretense of “private instruction.” I had no reason to suspect otherwise, not being old enough to be wise to the ways of the world. As it turned out, that would be the day I’d lose my innocence.

The entire series of events happened without me really realizing what, exactly, was going on.

John locked the door, sat on his bed, and asked me to join him. He began rubbing my shoulders and then asked if I would return the favor. I did so without question. He was, after all, an adult.

Then he laid on the bed, and asked me to rub his stomach. I complied with this request as well, still fully under this man’s spell.

He took off his pants next. While he did have underwear on, I could tell his penis was erect.

He asked me to remove my pants. I told him no, but he grabbed me and stuck his hand between my legs. Somehow, I broke free.

I ran as though the devil were chasing me. In a panic, I desperately tried to find the nearest adult. The one person I did find was the choir conductor’s wife, a woman who clearly did not abide children, let alone one who was in an agitated state.

Nevertheless, I tried desperately to tell her what happened. She dismissed me immediately, claiming that John would never do such a thing. She even went so far as to threaten that I would be kicked out of the choir if I insisted on accusing him, or as she put it, “tattle-taleing.”

I decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and did not speak of the incident until almost a month later. When I did it was to my mother, but she told me practically the same thing as the conductor’s wife, minus the “tattle-tale” part.

This event had three major impacts on me.  I developed a distrust of males as friends or authority figures. I developed the habit of bottling my emotions and frustrations, rather than to speak of them to anyone. I became incredibly uncomfortable around men in situations involving intimacy, even hugging.

My main hope in speaking of this event now is to start the healing process. I’ve held this in for too long, and I’ve avoided it throughout my life. For one, distrust of all males is unhealthy: I’m sure that most men would not sexually abuse me if given the chance. Still, the most important thing that might come out of this is closure. By finally opening up about this, I can hopefully one day clear away one of the clouds that has been hanging over my life for nearly three decades.