Jim Ott's Blog

This blog is a collection of columns I've written for Bay Area News Group newspapers serving the East San Francisco Bay region.

Monday, April 16, 2007

100 times in a boy's childhood

This column was published in April 2007 in the Tri-Valley Herald.

His eyes are blue, his hair is short. He’s 29 years old and lives in the Tri-Valley. Along with reading and chess, he enjoys, ironically, playing basketball.

Here’s his story.

“Toward the end of my dad’s life,” he said, “my dad moved out and my mother began going to a therapist, whose name was Bill.”

The young man, then nine, also began seeing the therapist, who took an interest in the boy and began spending personal time with his young patient, as did Bill’s roommate. “I spent weekends at their house and they took me places and on vacation,” he said.

Although the two men were lovers, “they were always appropriate with me,” he said. “But they were inappropriate professionally with how they manipulated our family.”

In the absence of the father, the men disciplined the boy and his younger brother. They choose which friends the boys could spend time with. They set strict rules of behavior and took away the family’s television.

After three years, a family friend, who happened to be the boy’s basketball coach, stepped forward and persuaded the mother to stop the therapist and his partner from “brainwashing” the family.

The coach’s intervention freed the family of three, and led to a successful malpractice suit against the therapist. But the new freedom soon turned into nightmares.

First, his father died from cirrhosis of the liver. Then, after the boy turned 13, the basketball coach who had rescued the family began to spend a lot of time at the family’s home.

“My mom always had him over and even had me spend the night at his house,” the young man said. “But he began abusing me.”

It happened at night, he said. “I always pretended I was asleep.”

He told no one and wouldn’t acknowledge the sexual encounters, even to the coach.

The abuse continued, and over a period of two years the bedroom door opened and closed over 100 times. Then, just before he turned 15, the boy put an end to it.

"I was bigger and stronger and finally confident enough,” he said.

Still, he kept the nightmares a secret for another two years because he didn’t think his mother would believe him.

And, in fact, she didn’t believe him at first. “My mom and I had been fighting a lot because I had refused to stay at his house,” he said. “He was such a close family friend and I knew that my mom had a strong connection with him.”

Eventually, after being persuaded of the truth by a neighbor and another friend, she came to the boy’s room.

“She held me for about 30 minutes,” he said. “We cried in each others arms. She must have said she was sorry 100 times. Then we called the police.”

Wearing a wire, the 17-year-old met the coach in a restaurant and tried to get him to confess, telling him that his counselor was legally required to report what the coach had done.

“He asked what it was he did,” he said. When the young man told him, the man said nothing like that ever happened. “He said he couldn't understand why I was saying it.”

Because the coach didn’t confess initially, police taped subsequent phone conversations. Finally, they got what they needed, and the case went to court.

“He was charged with 21 counts,” he said. “He pleaded no contest to two counts and served 18 months.”

Though free again, the boy, still in high school, now lost his mother to rheumatory arthritis.

“It got into her lungs and she was put on a ventilator,” he said. “I believe the actual cause was heart failure.”

After her death, the young man found journals that were supposed to have been thrown away: “She wrote about how in love with the coach she was. That’s why she always had him over and had me spend the night at his house. She wanted to have a relationship with him.”

In the years that followed, and in spite of the abuses, betrayals, and the loss of his parents, the young man found an inner strength. He went to John F. Kennedy University and earned a bachelor’s degree, and he found the courage to enter therapy.

“My therapist was amazing,” he said. “I personally wouldn’t change any situation I’ve gone through. I’m very happy with who I am today.”

Today the young man with short hair and blue eyes—undeterred by his past—is pursuing a master’s degree.

And yes, he even enjoys playing basketball.

“Each experience teaches us something,” he said, “and each should be valued regardless of how difficult it was.”



she said...

i'm always so grateful, impressed, inspired when people like this young man summon up the courage to share their stories and demonstrate that ability to overcome, persevere, grow and help others -despite so much loss, and so many obstacles

but equally in need of help, are these predators

the abusers

we need to hunt down truths about why this behavior occurs

and deal with that truth accordingly

key word here being "truth"

we need to stop pretending that anything we've done so far has reduced the problem, and stop pretending spending x amount of time in jail changes the behavior

we are currently set in an infinitely repetitive traumatic cycle

we need to put an end to this destructive behavior, which can only be achieved through first thoroughly understanding it

... all those in favor -ask why?-

and, as always,

thank you jim ott for posting your wonderful articles! ~s.

Jim Ott said...

Thank you for your keen observations, she.

You write, "we are currently set in an infinitely repetitive traumatic cycle...we need to put an end to this destructive behavior."

That's the million dollar statement and question. Finding out how to do so would unlock a powerful mystery and give us a quantum push up the evolutionary scale.