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Climbing Out From Hell

A Personal Story

Copyright © 1996 by Jeffrey Miller


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Why are words told us at birth unintelligible, when someone should say truthfully, "At some point during this average life expectancy of 73 years, you will twice experience a crime"? Are we so optimistic that the bad stuff simply escapes our memory? Obviously we don’t keep watch at our front doors, guns ready to fire at an intruder, but that’s the sensational image the media associate with crime. The crimes we all share aren’t as glamorous. Crimes against boys bring emotional challenge from society. However, even the child must first prove that the crime occurred.

Two Dallas men have been brave enough to pursue Father Rudolph Kos for allegedly assaulting them sexually when they were altar boys some 12 years ago. Kos was recently indicted. The case was originally brought three years ago, and in public the plaintiffs remain anonymous.

On average, the FBI says one out of five boys will be molested before the age of 18. That’s a good-sized number, but the real figure is likely to be even higher, since the stigma attached to the crime discourages some victims from making official complaints. Because of this, much of the information we draw on in our research comes from criminals themselves, rather than from victims.

We know that pedophiles were molested as boys, or shown how to molest, and that on the average, serial pedophiles molest 120 boys each before being caught. Since 1990 in Texas, more than 11,000 child molesters have been either in prison or on parole at any given time. This calculates to more than one million boys molested per group of 11,000 molesters.

If the numbers aren’t of concern and they should be there are other factors to consider before deciding this problem isn’t a big deal. It is virtually impossible to be molested as a child and grow up to live a healthy, productive life without post-assault treatment. Children need to recover before they can accept the crime done to their body. Those who do not recover grow into adulthood severely marred by the body trauma. Males who have been assaulted as children go on to host behaviors ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to violent crime—including sexual assault.

Boys who have been molested will often act out sexually, or aggressively toward themselves or others after their assault. They keep the crime secret for fear of being judged gay or of being weak. My research has shown me that once a boy is assaulted, his chance of being victimized again quadruples. Three out of four inner-city gangs use sexual assault on new members as part of initiation. The leading cause of attempted suicide among males is rooted in prior sexual assault. More than 90 percent of teenage alcoholics and drug addicts in treatment have been victims of sexual assault.

The Adult Response

In a rational and kind community, what purpose would public places serve where men congregate for sexual stimulation? In every American city, certain clubs and parks are notorious as spots for men to seek anonymous sexual gratification with other men.

When these men return to their routines, they are across the conference table from us at work, possibly after having made excuses to their wives about where they were all night. The act of anonymous sex continues to be a humiliating secret and sadistically keeps the (inner) child’s molestation alive.

Not all men who frequent the places mentioned suffered childhood assault, but those men who exhibit the need for sexual gratification in this manner exhibit addictive behavior. There is a direct correlation between adult sexual addiction and childhood sexual assault.

Anything that keeps the man from admitting his failure to protect himself will seem to help him forget the pain, whether it is the high from seeking anonymous sex without being caught, or the high from drugs, or the similar high that some men experience from consuming themselves with work. These perfectionists build a neat stage around their lives, so as not to draw attention to their out of control sexual behavior and their secret life in hell.

As the survivor of a sexual assault that occurred when I was 15, I have always found it difficult to describe the fury of emotions and self-assessment that followed the crime. Even though I coped, my struggle is made insignificant with words. I felt worthless, helpless, and guilt blossomed inside and rooted into every nerve. By not having been able to fight him off my body, I told myself, I was therefore a wimp, and insignificant and horrid waste of a man, a fag. There was no one to tell. I didn’t cry, I didn’t laugh, and above all I didn’t feel, because feelings would build me into a raging maniac. I kept everyone away by hurting them, believing on some level that in this way I would ensure that no one would ever be close enough to hurt me again. No one had told me that an adult co! uld harm a child. I wondered what else they hadn’t told me about life, what other lies would haunt me as I grew into adulthood.

When I finally turned to my family, we visited our parish priest, who advised us to "forgive and forget"—two words the Catholic Church uses often—what the molester did to my sister and me. We didn’t know that the priest was in on it, too. That was almost 18 years ago.

There is no quick recovery. Healing the crime may be the greatest challenge during a lifetime. Healing can drain a survivor of everything he ever learned about life, people and religion, and there is a tendency to become physically exhausted for months or longer. Everyone the victim knows becomes a stranger, except for his therapist and other survivors. Maybe this is why so many men choose another way out.

What hurts today is the way in which society remains out of focus and seemingly uninterested in the sexual abuse of a boy. It’s much easier to believe a boy is reporting a false memory, because it makes the real world seem a bit safer if everything we say is a fantasy. It remains taboo for a boy to discuss what happened. Parents assume an apathetic role because they say, "It won’t happen to my son. It only happens to . . ." (fill in the blank—Black kids, gay people, etc.). The evidence of denial grows as the communities build guarded gates and private schools, all in hopes of protecting their children from someone who fits society’s stereotype of a child molester.

No matter what we do, pedophiles are the only people who have cracked the system. Their crimes generally go undetected by the parents of their victims until the damage is done, and if offenders are caught, their sentences generally last no more than two years. Only pedophiles who murder a child receive enough press coverage to rally local input—just two out of 11,000 last year in Texas.

The case against Kos isn’t new to Dallas. This has fumed and smoldered for three years. There have been insensitive remarks made by people against the men who brought these charges, but their bravery has made it possible for more than a dozen other boys to step forward with similar charges against Kos. Dallas residents who feel these men are in it for the money, or glamour, or a cheap thrill are the same people who believe that castration is going to stop a pedophile from molesting again.

What we need to create for our children is an environment that embraces a boy who has the courage to tell of his rape. We must believe him, and support him, and not make him responsible for holding the burden of the adult act. Being molested is not what a boy wants. Even though it is out of his control, he all too often is the only person who must pay.

Jeffrey Miller is a communications specialist in cross-cultural studies and male sexual abuse at Cal State Long Beach, and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. He is on the board of directors of Hands Off Inc., and his e-mail address is


Related stories:

"False" Memories, Repressed Memories, by Scott Abraham.

Take Care of Your Mother - Or Else, by Scott Abraham.

Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold, by Scott Abraham.

Be Gone!, by Scott Abraham.

Yes, Women Do Abuse, by Scott Abraham.

Survival and Living, by Scott Abraham

Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse: Book Reviews, by Scott Abraham.

John Lee on Anger, an interview with John Lee

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