Yesterday, a woman passed out flyers in the neighborhood of Saint David’s School. Why? Because she was very “Interested in drawing attention to a good cause.”
Why care? Because it's about children.
The cause remains the same as it has for nearly a year now: Saint David’s School has the moral, ethical, and spiritual responsibility to honor its lineage by listening to, apologizing to, and compensating the alumni – at last count, twelve men, and the number will grow as more men speak up – who were sexually abused by four teachers at the school in the 1970s.
In other words, this is NOT a legal issue.
That woman passed out flyers because not everyone in the school’s community is aware of or cares that boys were raped on that very street 40 years ago. Boys like this one in the blue sneakers.
Not everyone is aware that one of these rapists – Rey Buono – is still alive and awaiting trial in Massachusetts for raping more boys after he left Saint David’s in 1973 to teach at Milton Academy (see footnote 2).
Not everyone is aware, because Saint David’s has not acknowledged publicly that these crimes occurred, and instead of advocating for alumni, is instead actively rebuffing them.
Saint David’s implicitly allies with Rey Buono by not acting to support its own alumni.
Saint David’s tacitly condones the behavior of a man who is facing two counts of child rape.
The school therefore ALSO condones the behavior of the other teachers cited in lawsuits against the school.
This action/non-action is essentially an act of violence perpetrated on the boys/men (9 - 12) who were raped at 12 East 89th Street; next door in a building used to house teachers; or in connection with school activities elsewhere.
Do I really have to repeat myself over and over about this?
A couple of times these past nine months I’ve been asked why I became involved in the Saint David’s situation. Early on, one person asked me, “You weren’t abused by Rey Buono, so why get involved?” (He HAD been abused badly by Buono, and his tone was indignant.) Another, recently, asked me why I continued to be so passionate about this.
Well ... if you see your house is on fire and your children are inside, do you run towards the house or away from it?
[I want to ask back, “Why would you NOT get involved in this?” (see footnote #1 below).]
Me, I was sexually molested by a “friend” of the family, and by two other men three times my size, when I was between the ages of 8 and 12.
But friends of mine, when we were in 7th grade at Saint David’s, told me about what happened with Buono. Later, other friends told me about Bob Ludlow and Chuck Jones. Please read the New York Post articles and the civil complaints available elsewhere. Not easy. Therefore necessary.
The second questioner also said: “But I want others who read your work about this to fully understand your raison d’être here. Write about this! Few can dismiss you if you do this.”
So, here’s why:
1. I feel in my blood that we are all connected, subtly and overtly. This is both a product of Catholic upbringing, as well as an essential aspect of the Zen thought and action which I practice.
3. I will not be told to shut up.
3. I no longer tolerate being messed-with.
4. I am angry that I was abused as a child and that my parents did nothing about it.
5. I spent nine months each year, from Kindergarten through Grade 8, with a bunch of boys, now men, with whom I developed a sense of family and brotherhood. Why would I abandon them?
6. I care about Saint David’s
7. I learned about compassion and justice at Saint David’s
8. I feel betrayed by the place where I spent much of my childhood, a place that was supposed to act “in loco parentis” and to protect me
9. I feel betrayed by the place that won’t really walk in another’s shoes: the shoes of the abuse survivors who have come forward
10. I’m disappointed beyond all measure that Saint David’s says one thing about good ethics, but practices the opposite
11. I’m upset that money is driving this conversation
12. It’s in my genes to advocate for the oppressed. Yes, I’ve read all of Paulo Freire. Where else have I worked? Hospice, hospital, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, among cancer survivors, among homeless people, in school classrooms.
13. Helping other Saint David’s men has opened my heart to huge pain, and unexpected gifts of gratitude for reconnecting with my brothers.
14. I can be a bulldog when I get my teeth into something.
15. I’m a survivor and I know what it feels like.
16. I feel responsible to and humbled by the eight men who’ve come to me as a result of my first letter to forgotten alumni which I sent last winter.
17. The spiritual life is nothing if it does not include compassionate and firm action. (Jesus, for example: a man not to be messed-with).
18. Saint David's stuck with me, and so even just my school credentials beg me to do something:
- Saint David's 7th Grade Religion Essay Prize on Bartolomé de las Casas
- Saint David's Graduation Awards: Top Scholar, Best Athlete, English, French.
- Numerous Saint David's "arm bands" (Hey, are these still given out?)
Feelings, properly acknowledged, can be translated into appropriate and creative action. That’s why a woman was passing out flyers on 89th street yesterday: politely, considerately, with compassion. That’s the essence of good social justice work: compassion for all parties, but necessary limits in place. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Someone mentioned that I don't want to come across as some kind of "angry young man." Well, I'm 58, so only young at heart.
But actually, don't you think that anger is an appropriate response to rape?
(NY Times photo April 2018)
1. For sure there are plenty of good reasons not to get involved: it’s painful, time-consuming, and the stress of being in an adversarial relationship with an institution you once trusted can sometimes feel unbearable. It triggers my own abuse experiences at the hands of another teacher, and reduces me to tears possibly every day. I’m not paid, either, by any of the parties involved, and hundreds of hours of work have gone into this website and everything associated with it. More practical folks have urged me to find a job that pays an hourly wage. Frankly, I would not wish this work on my worst enemy.
2. Buono is under “house arrest,” wearing a GPS ankle-bracelet, somewhere in New England, while he awaits trial. See news articles on this website. His location is undisclosed because he's not well-liked.
For more on “Why do you care?” I invite you to take the following questionnaire. Notice how your body feels as you read each one and think of your answer.
If your child were assaulted, what would you do?
If your house was on fire, what would you do?
If you saw a friend being attacked, what would you do?
Do you believe you have an effect on other people?
Do other people affect you?
Do you feel connected to other people?
Did you have friends in school?
Why did you get married, if you ever did?
Were you the only student in each grade you went through?
Do you remember any of your teachers?
How many hours of your life did you spent in elementary school, grades PK – 8?
What do you remember most from that time?
Have you ever called 911?
Has anyone ever died who was close to you? How did you feel and what did you do?
What have you lost? (Jobs, relationships, people, items?)
What does grief feel like, to you?
Have you ever grieved for someone or something?
How long should the feeling of grief last?
Have you ever stayed in bed most of a day because it was too hard to get out into the world?
Have you ever felt depressed? Not slept? Not eaten? Thought about suicide?
What’s the best thing for you to do when you feel sad?
What’s it like to feel happy?
When is the last time you felt weightlessly happy and carefree?
When did you last feel a sense of a burden lifting from you?
When did you last stop worrying about money?
Did anyone ever tell you to shut up, and if so, how did you feel, what did you think about yourself, and what did you do?
Has anyone ever asked you to speak more quietly?
Did someone ever tell you that you “should” do, be, think, or feel something other than what you were actually doing, being, thinking, or feeling? What was that like?
Do you know what it’s like to feel guilty or ashamed?
Have you ever slept restlessly because you were thinking about something “bad” you had done?
Have you ever kept secrets? How did that feel? How did it affect others?
Have you ever been punched by someone else?
Has anyone ever insulted you? Called you “motherfucker”?
Has anyone ever shouted at you in anger?
Have you ever been threatened with death?
Has anyone ever shot at you or held a knife to you?
Has anything ever been stolen from you?
When did you first feel – if you ever did – that you were no longer protected by your parents?
Have you ever been fired?
If so, how did those things make you feel, viscerally, emotionally, in your stomach, in your heart, in your head?
Did you mother or father ever forget to pick you up from school? Have you ever done that with one of your own kids?
What has been the feeling in your body when you forgave someone, if you ever did?
What does it feel like to hate someone? To feel resentment?
Have you ever been at a party and felt all alone?
Do you like to stand out, or do you prefer to disappear?
When you were in school and you raised your hand to answer a question, and the teacher didn’t call on you – what was that like?
If your child were murdered, would you call the police?
If your child were kidnapped, would you say to yourself, “Oh, that’s the way of the world”?
“Boys don’t cry”: do you think that’s true? Should it be?
If your daughter were raped, what would you do?
If your son were raped, would you do differently? Why?
Has anyone ever instructed you with any of the following phrases: “Man up ... Just get over it ... Pull yourself up by the bootstraps ... This thing shouldn’t bother you any more .... Grow up.... Think good thoughts! ... Be more positive ... Look on the bright side ... Practice gratitude... Forgive and forget ...”?
What did it feel like in your body to hear that advice?
Do you believe that rape victims somehow invite the rape on themselves, or are to blame for being raped?
If a boy or girl becomes aroused (erection, moistness) while being raped, does that mean that he or she enjoyed and wanted the experience?
Okay. So with all those questions, I invite you to notice in your body how you feel when you read them. Yes, the entire list. What’s tightening up? Where is there tension? Where is there heat? Is there a hollow or scared feeling? Angry? Irritated? What makes you uncomfortable? Is your stomach upset? (Think of all the possible phrases around this somatic experience; for example, “I felt a pit in my stomach ... My heart went cold ...”)
Then you could take one question, any “yes or no” question, say, and sit with it. You can just sit with the question, without making yourself answer. Again, what is going on in your BODY as you sit with it? And then, if you answer, what happens then?
Second to that, once you have answered, and felt the feelings in your body and head, tell me this: what do you think about yourself? What do your feelings make you think about yourself? (Proud, guilty, upset, strong, etc. etc...)
Use this list from the Hoffman Institute to help to catalog feelings.
We all want to be understood by others, AND we also have to understand others too.