A friend tells me that her son, sexually abused by a close relative starting at age two (2), has a mental illness as a result, and yet can hold a job and maintain a relationship.
My EMDR therapist tells me that often the victims of trauma are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and treated for these conditions with medication and various psychotropic medicines. He has over 20 years experience in working ONLY with trauma.
He says that it would be more accurate to say they have post-traumatic stress that is wreaking havoc with their nervous systems even years after the fact of the event or events that hurt them. (There is so much scientific evidence for this now, in 2020, that it makes me choke when people deny its reality).
The people who really have mental illnesses are the ones who disparage or dismiss survivors of abuse like the kind that took place at Saint David's School in the 1970s.
This is the Class of 1974 in their 8th Grade photo, publicly available but blurred for the sake of privacy.
As Fourth Graders, three of these boys were sexually abused by Robert Ludlow in a classroom at 12 East 89th Street, New York, NY. They came to me this year and told me about, for the first time in their lives. Sit with that for a second, please.
Read all about it in their civil complaints filed in NY State Supreme Court. Public documents that will make you retch. "Sexual abuse" or "rape"? What Ludlow did to each boy includes about everything you can imagine. Nine. Year. Old. Boys.
Ludlow said to them, "I will kill you and your family if you tell anyone."
The phrase "Good old Mr. Ludlow!" appears on another student's Facebook page. These perpetrators - "fixated abusers" like Ludlow and one of the other rapists at Saint David's, Rey Buono, hide behind charm and likability, being a "character," as well as promoting fear.
Another friend was told, as a child, by his own father, to just turn his head to the wall, in bed, as yet another "friend of the family" molested him. Ignore it and it will pass.
It doesn't pass, is the problem. It's excreted by the body about as slowly as heavy metals are.
Sexual abuse is like being poisoned by a heavy metal. Me, today, I go for the seventh MRI in two and a half years to see whether any cancer lesions remain in my prostate. MRIs, when they are performed "with contrast," use a heavy metal called gadolinium in the contrasting agent (which comes in several brands and formulas). The contrast helps a radiologist distinguish between cancerous lesions and scar tissue and so is immensely helpful in viewing MRI images.
And yet gadolinium is now becoming known as a cause of a host of neurological and kidney diseases and conditions. Like, for example, the autoimmune disease "chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy," with which I am diagnosed. This shows up as intense, 24/7 pain in my feet and legs that rendered me unable to work. There's no cure, and the current treatment actually makes me feel worse. Some days, I wish I'd let cancer run its course.
This, and sexual abuse, don't just go away. They have to be carefully extracted from the system. (Chelation, for example, may be my next course).
This doesn't happen too often (another symptom of our collective insanity).
When I was sexually abused, my father had "conversations" with the abusers (multiple, at different ages in my life). Never did I hear an apology. Never was the police called.
"Don't talk about it," I was told. "He [the abuser] has children too." [Not to mention he was also a teacher, swim coach, and tennis instructor in the Montclair Public School system and on Shelter Island, NY; I wrestle to this day about telling his own children, who were my friends, who I have not seen since I was molested by their father in 1975, and wonder what they know; his wife still lives].
I sat in a sweat lodge earlier this year with a Lakota healer. He was thanked for his service, and asked what it was like to be a medicine man. "I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," he said.
Healing oneself is hard. Helping heal others is hard too. For those who watch, who are friends of the Saint David's survivors, who were abused themselves too, it is like being abused again. Vicarious trauma. Bystander trauma. Like watching your child be run over by a car - the car, in this case, being a school that fights its alumni rather than supports them.
Stonewalling for a year - deriding various attempts at discussion or mediation - now facing $20 million lawsuits - carrying on publicly as if nothing is happening at Saint David's - one has to wonder where the mental illness really lies. And at least take some solace in that.
Photo from a private collection: unknown Saint David's teacher or administrator at a faculty party in the 1970s. Looks like he's having a blast. Where can I get pants like that?