Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, who committed suicide on July 20, once revealed in an interview that he had been sexually assaulted by an older male “friend” for much of his adolescence, and that, that, combined with his parents’ divorce and his working father’s absence, had left him feeling alone and helpless.
Meanwhile, back at the Catholic Church… yet another criminal report surfaced on Tuesday involving the Domspatzen choirboys in Germany, 547 of whom were physically or sexually abused by Catholic clergy between 1945 and 1992.
I wrote the following story in 2010 and posted it in response to Jerry Sandusky’s 30-60 year prison sentence in 2012 for having sexually abused countless young boys who entrusted them as their father figure and mentor.
Who among us can say that we truly understand this darkest of crimes – pedophilia – which decimates the human soul and shatters the spirit of its victims, leaving them clamoring – usually lifelong – for redemption and understanding? Chester Bennington’s gruesome tale pretty much sums up how a child becomes magnetized to these demon-predators among us. Any child who is abandoned, neglected, disrespected, abused, or feels unseen can become fair game for a marauding pedophile.
I offer to you the following, fictional possibility for how a child might be set up for this particular type of victimization.
“Jim-mee,” Father Leery beams. “Please, come in. Sit down. Right here. Here – in my favorite spot.”
Jimmy smiles his best smile. His teeth go in all directions, like a box of Chiclets dumped out of its box. Jimmy’s 10, but he’s small, like he’s seven. He hoists himself up onto the unusually high sofa, which reminds him of his bed at home.
“I’ve had some very special sandwiches and cookies prepared just for you,” Father Leery coos. “I hope you like peanut butter and jelly and chocolate-chip cookies…oh, you do?…oh, I am so pleased, Jimmy…so PLEASED!”
Jimmy picks up a whole sandwich. It’s pumped so full of jelly that it flops in all directions and drips all over Jimmy’s hands. “Thank you, Father Leery,” he says.
“Now, Jimmy, I believe that you want to talk about the problems you’re having at home. Is that right, Jimmy? Is that why you’re here?” Father Leery locks his eyes onto Jimmy’s.
Jimmy whispers, “Yes, Father, you see it’s my…….”
“YOU are SUCH a handsome boy, Jimmy!” Father Leery gently skims his hand over the top of Jimmy’s head of loose red curls, sending a tingle down Jimmy’s spine. “How could anyone treat you with anything other than absolute love and respect?”
“I don’t understand, Father. I’m an A student. I do a lot of work around the ……..”
“Yes, Jimmy, I know. I KNOW.” Father Leery places his left hand on Jimmy’s upper thigh. “You are such a perfect, beautiful child. I don’t understand it myself.”
Jimmy starts to cry. He cries heavy teardrops that soak his face and his shirt in about two seconds. Father Leery gathers him up in his hairy, muscular, grown-up-man arms.
“Don’t cry, Jimmy,” Father Leery says, stroking Jimmy’s head and uncoiling his curls. “Father Leery loves you. Matter of fact, I love you more than any other child in my parish. Did you know that, Jimmy? No, of course you didn’t, but it’s true. You want to know a secret? I’ve never invited anyone else in here. Ever! Do you know why, Jimmy? Because this is my special place. So that means that you would have to be someone very special for me to invite you here. Do you understand?”
Father Leery dabs a tissue on Jimmy’s cheeks. That’s when Jimmy notices the face of Father Leery’s watch. He bolts out of Father Leery’s arms. “I HAVE TO GO, FATHER! I CAN’T BE LATE! I’LL GET IN TROUBLE!” Jimmy lunges toward toward the door.
“O-kay, Jimmy,” Father Leery chuckles. “Here, take some of these special cookies for your long walk home. Father Leery stuffs three cookies into each of the tiny slits of Jimmy’s jacket pockets, crumbling them into bits in the process.
“Remember, Jimmy, you’re my special friend. You can come by anytime you like and we can have special times together here in my special place.”
Jimmy races out the door of Father Leery’s Special Place, leaving it wide open behind him. Once outside, Jimmy realizes that he’ll be late getting back home if he doesn’t run every step of his two-mile trek home.
At 5:15 p.m., panting, Jimmy throws opens the back door to his family home, landing him right in the kitchen.
There She is – standing by the stove, waiting for him, her spatula dripping Ragu spaghetti sauce on the dingy linoleum floor. She has curlers in her hair from the day before and She’s wearing the same tattered and faded green housedress, the stains on its pockets reminding Jimmy of his past four night’s dinners. Her lips are so tight, so tense, that they appear to be sewn together.
“YOU’RE LATE FOR DINNER, AGAIN, JIMMY!” Her voice ricochets in Jimmy’s head. “Your brother and sister are home every day. On time. But not YOU, James Walker Junior. Not YOU!!!
Jimmy’s spine turns to dry ice. He has seen those inflamed eyeballs and that granite jaw many times before. “I’m talking to you, Jimmy…. I’m asking what is wrong with you, Jimmy? What the hell is wrong with you?”
Her nostrils expand and contract like a bellows and Jimmy is frozen to the linoleum floor.
“GET>>ME>>THE>>HOSE!” She thunders, to anyone who will listen, but to no one who will obey. She walks to the space between the refrigerator and the giant freezer to retrieve her weapon. Jimmy’s heart is a jackhammer. No matter how many times Jimmy has experienced that hose upon his flesh, the terror of it was always brand new.
She knew that.
Doubled over, the hose was doubly potent. A single section was once tested, but it proved too flaccid to serve her purpose. She quickly learned that her fury – lethal as a high-tension wire – wouldn’t be able to course through such an impotent vessel and the experiment was never repeated.
The pursuit begins. Predator. Prey. PrayJimmyPray. Jimmy runs…round and round the wall that cleaves the downstairs in two.
“STOP NOW OR YOU’LL GET DOUBLE!” she explodes.
Jimmy runs. Up the stairs.Across the landing.Down the stairs.Up the stairs.Across the landing.Back down the stairs.
“I can tire her out!” Jimmy’s brain reassures him.
Jimmy runs upstairs to his bedroom. He jumps up onto his bed and corners himself, like a reviled rat. Now, he thinks, he’s equal to her – in size, at least. But, in reality, he knows the game is over. The hose crackles as it makes contact with Jimmy’s delicate flesh. Jimmy grabs for it. “I can stop her!” his brain champions him. Again and again, the rubber lash tears at Jimmy’s sensitive young forearms, sticks to his strong-from-boy-sports legs. His knotted snot and elephantine tears betray Jimmy’s angelic face. “She always stops when She gets tired,” Jimmy’s brain reminds him.
Panting, She turns away from Jimmy’s bed and drags herself out of his room, the spent hose trailing behind her. Jimmy has collapsed on his bed. “I know my mother loves me!” Jimmy’s brain sobs into his pillow.
The next day at school, Jimmy haltingly peels back the sleeves of his white turtleneck, ever-so-lightly dusting his fingertips over the raised welts on his forearms. He puts his sleeves back in place and his eyes well up with tears.
No teacher ever notices.
No kid ever witnesses.
“It’s not that bad,” Jimmy’s brain lies to itself.
Jimmy plans to visit Father Leery after school to tell him all about it.