Most people in my life that I deal with on a day-to-day basis know what A Voice For The Innocent is. And most of those people know why we exist and how we started. But sometimes, someone I am talking to doesn’t know what we are and will ask about us. So I tell them a general outline of what we are. Then they often times ask how we got started. As with anything else you repeat over and over, I have established my patter. My routine. My own personal mission statement.
“Well, I was a sexual abuse victim when I was growing up. I’ve never been quiet about my own story, and as I came into my teenage and adult years, I really wanted a place where people could anonymously tell their story without the pressures of judgement and shame. So I gathered some close friends, and that’s what we did.”
That’s it. Enough to let people know that I have been there, that I understand the struggles a victim of sexual abuse can go through, but saving the details of what the struggles actually are. I tell enough to let people know I am passionate about the issue, but not enough to create a conversational faux pas out of my periodic attention to detail. And for the given situation, I think that’s enough. I really believe in meeting people where they are and allowing them to come forward as they’re ready. And a lot of people aren’t ready to hear stories of sexual abuse, let alone share their own. And that’s okay. People all around the world, including us, are working on that. And it will come with time. For now, the script I say is sufficient for our cause.
For two years I have handed out that pre-packaged sample of information to curious inquirers. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t even think about it. Think about the things you do daily. Perhaps it’s retail. Perhaps it’s sales. Or maybe it’s serving tables or delivering pizzas. Driving a taxi. Working in mental health or social services. Whatever it is, I’d bet my next paycheck that you have a series of things you repeat over and over on consistent basis. I work in a used bookstore which buys items from the general public, and I have to repeat our buying policy over and over. It’s gotten to the point where I can tell people about our buying procedures while talking on the phone, sorting another customer’s merchandise, and answering a question for another employee. It’s simple. Mindless. And that’s how my little mission statement has gotten.
A few months back, my friend Jason mentioned a podcast he’d been listening to called Sword and Scale. Jason is super into comics and horror movies, so naturally I assumed it was a podcast of similar topics. And it’s not that I don’t like comics and horror movies, but I am nowhere near the fan he is, and I probably wouldn’t have much interest in a podcast that discusses them. As it turns out, it was a true crime podcast. I have an interest in true crime. Not so much as entertainment, but I am fascinated in the psychology involved. So I decided to give it a listen. And I will admit, right now, before I go any further…it’s rough. The host of the show does not shy away from details. And I think that’s a good thing in the context of the show because he is certainly not glorifying anything. He is discussing. Exposing. The tagline of the show is “we show that the worst monsters are real.” And trust me, they do.
I decided to contact the host of the show and see if he would be interested in hearing my story of sexual abuse. I will tell my story by any means necessary if it means reaching just one more person to let them know that people understand, and I figured that in a way, AVFTI was started from a story of true crime. And sure, Ann Rule isn’t going to write a true crime book on my story. It will probably never be made into a movie. It isn’t sensational and it won’t make headlines. But it’s real. And the scariest part is that it happens to millions of people.
The host of the show agreed, and we talked on the phone for over an hour one evening and I recounted my story. And he asked questions. He was respectful yet inquisitive. And I told details that I hadn’t told in a while. When we started AVFTI, I wrote my own story out. After editing it and rewording a few spots, we threw it up on the site and it hasn’t been reviewed by me even once. In over two years. I was already living with my fiancee Pinky, and she definitely knew my story. I realized halfway through that phone call that I hadn’t told my story in years. It was certainly more than I said on a day to day basis. It carried more of a punch than my bite-sized personal statement that I give to people. And with more of a punch comes more of a sting. I hadn’t told my story in a while, and I’ll be honest….parts of it weren’t fun at all.
But I am glad I did it. I needed to. And I need to again and again. My story is my story…it’s not a mission statement. And if I am not telling my story on a more regular basis, I am not giving it the power that a story can have. If I bury my own story, even if it’s for the reason that I don’t find the time or means to tell it, or I am busy listening to other people’s stories, I am doing the exact opposite of what I encourage others to do. My story belongs to me…not the other way around. I will choose to tell it more. Maybe not in my initial mission statement…I think it’s important to let people work their way into such a difficult topic. But I will. Starting now.
Although it’s recorded, I’d like to give anyone the opportunity to hear my story that hasn’t already. And if you’ve read it, you can hear me say it. If you want to. I do have to warn you though that this comes with a strong trigger warning. Those affected by detailed accounts of sexual abuse may be better off avoiding it. And that’s okay. I won’t be bothered by that.
I also want to point out that I really want to make sure that Sword and Scale gets the proper credit. He didn’t have to interview me, but he did. And he said some really nice things about A Voice For The Innocent in the process. I really appreciate the opportunity. If anyone has an interest in the true crime genre, and likes podcasts, Sword and Scale may be something you have an interest in. But as strong as the warning for my own podcast is, I have to give it tenfold for the rest of the episodes. Listen at your own risk. And although I appreciate the platform Sword and Scale gave me, I just have to make sure it is known that it is a completely separate entity from AVFTI. With the exception of the show that I was on, I can not endorse any other episode. It’s not against them…it’s just that it is a totally different world from us, and sensitive listeners should take extreme caution.
My story is below. Thank you in advance for listening. If you choose not to, that’s okay too. Thanks for reading this blog. It means the world.