I was in prison less than a week when I learned a group of inmates was planning to hurt me. They did not like child molesters.
The inmates had no interest in my history of abuse, ACEs, trauma, and mother issues. The “understanding” from my private therapists became name calling, threats, having my belongings stolen and bullied. The resources I once had were unavailable, my coping mechanisms useless. I was alone and terrified.
A “lifer” told me that I carried myself poorly. I had to take a stand. If I went to a guard for help, I would be labeled a ‘snitch.’ If I “checked in” to protective custody, I would be back in general population in a month. And that would make me lose all respect.
The men defined themselves by bravado and violence, stabbings, beatings and rape. Kindness was taken for weakness. My fear of harm resulted in me giving away much of my commissary, and asked to perform sexual acts. Based on my demeanor, they thought I was gay, or weak, or both.
My polite refusals of sex increased their advances. One man groped my breasts in front of the entire unit. When I told him to stop, he laughed, and patted me on the ass in front of 200 men. If I tolerated it, word would spread to the 3,000 inmates and I would be raped. I punched him in the face.
“Keep your hands off of me!! I shouted at him. 200 men observed this. Word spread. No one put their hands on me again.
I made no friends, people avoided me, I ate alone, cell mates tolerated me. The taunting and threats continued. At the age of fifty, with a profession and a family, I was back on the school playground. This was prison. There was no one to turn to and nowhere to run.
People sent me letters. I read, played cards with the few who endured me, and attended religious services. I enrolled in a computer typing class as my job. A guard in my unit was stabbed nearly to death by a gang member; an offender was found hanging in his cell, hands tied behind his back, semen in his rectum. The prison told his family it was a suicide. A year passed. I was accepted into the sex offender treatment program.
The sex offender treatment program housed about 150 inmates. Their offenses ranged from the rape of adults to offenses against a child. All admitted guilt. The groups were composed of roughly 17 men, and met for 2 hours daily. My therapist was tough, and I soon learned I could not manipulate him.
I viewed the men in group as beneath me, and my arrogant self with all my education thought this would be an easy ride. I began my story by telling them I was raped as a child; my mother was incestuous. Before I got much further, I was interrupted by a man with an 8th grade education.
“What does that have to do with you molesting a child?”
“I have post-traumatic stress disorder,” I replied, a bit offended.
“And?” asked the therapist.
Panic set in. These ignorant people were so dumb they had no idea how PTSD works.
“PTSD—” I began, when another inmate broke in.
“—Stop making excuses and take responsibility!”
I went numb. For the first time in my life I was being told that I was responsible. No excuses? No justifications? No bad dad, no bad mom? Now what? After nine months of my dancing around in denial, they kicked me out of the program and shipped me. I had failed and I knew it. I was too sick for treatment.
Back at the original prison, I sought the help of the prison psychiatrist and psychologist, and took a course in anger management. I became a legal aid which gave me some respect and relief, but I was far from safe. A white gang member entered my cell intending to stab me. He fled when an inmate came in behind him asking for legal advice. I stopped handing out commissary. A sex offender in another unit was stabbed 16 times and left for dead. A year later, I reapplied to the program and was admitted. They said it was my last chance.
To my dismay, and ultimate benefit, the same therapist awaited me. I told the group what I had done to a child and took complete responsibility. When I was confronted, I accepted what I heard. The modules we studied included empathy for the victim, anger management, understanding our cycle, communication, and relapse prevention. We were assigned reading, we did behavioral tapes, took the plethysmograph, and made charts of our cycle of abuse and how to counter it. My relapse prevention plan was over 30 typed pages.
One evening, I was in the common area talking with another offender when the “chain” came in. This was the bus of inmates transferring to the program. A new guy walked in shouting praises to the Lord, telling us God had sent him to help us. He walked around inviting us to pray.
When he came to me, Bible in hand, he asked, “Do you believe?”
I stared at him. “I believe you are a child molester. How old was the child you raped?”
Caught off guard, he paused, then muttered, “I didn’t rape anyone and she was not a child. She was fifteen.”
I informed him this was not the chapel; this was a treatment program. We were child molesters and rapists here. He was kicked out several months later for non-compliance, denial, and refusal of treatment.
It was around this time that I had a breakdown. I became overwhelmed and went to a counselor’s office. I sat down with my head in my hands, and sobbed uncontrollably. It poured out like an unstopped drain; I had destroyed my family and caused enormous harm to an innocent child. I caused a divorce. I burdened my wife with raising and supporting two traumatized children who now had a child molester father in prison. I had done that.
That was my turning point. It was no longer about me.
Five years later, I completed both phases of the sex offender treatment program. The information I had was fresh and first hand, and I wanted parents to have this. Since my release, I have published The Parent’s Guide to Protecting Children from Pedophiles, presented at conferences and organizations, published online, and continue my recovery.
As of this writing, the treatment I received is unavailable in the free world. If it is out there, I have no idea where, or who could afford it. The cost of five-years of residential, daily group therapy, a trained therapist, room and board, and medical, would be staggering. To the best of my knowledge, that treatment is available only in prison.
Recovery is never finished. I have crossed a line and will never allow myself to be alone with children. I have no reason to be and no need to be. Why would I be around children anyway?
As an offender, I cannot allow myself to believe I am “safe.” And I will not put any child at risk to test it.
Offender in recovery. Advocate for preventing ACEs
I show ways to recognize the behaviors of sex offenders and breakthrough their feigned innocence, denial, blaming, and excuses.