How Do You Forget?

According to this story by Jennifer Delgado in the Chicago Tribune, a man says he was sexually molested in 1977 or 1978 but that he forgot about until 2011. He alleged this happened at St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago. He says: “Even now… I am still haunted by the torture I endured as a teen.”

How did he forget?

I’d like to know.

What I experience in the way of physical abuse, from my father and at Glenwood School for Boys was something I didn’t forget. And the sexual abuse that happened at Glenwood was never forgotten. Yes, details get lost, but not the main event.

I can’t forget when my father’s fists hit me, or how he abused my bother. Nor can I forget the substitute houseparent who would put his hands down my pajama’s before bedtime and feel me. He would have me sit in his lap while he did this. He told other boys that it was against the rules to wear underwear under their pajamas and that he had to “make sure” they weren’t breaking the rules. Most of them he had pull the waistband away from their body so he could look down.

I won’t forget the man who was put in charge of the ROTC program—which encouraged physical abuse and institutionalized it. He was a fat younger man that the boys ridiculed by calling him “Pooh Bear” because of his rotund nature. He had come to Glenwood fresh from some sort of scandal with a Boy Scout troop.

He created the rank of “Quatermaster” in each house and assigned it to his favorite boy. I was assigned this role though I did not want it. In reality it had no meaning, it was just an excuse for him to spend time with you. I was called to his apartment on campus one day. Apparently I got there after some of his former Scouts showed up. I inadvertently interrupted something. I knocked on the door and heard the flurry of people moving about quickly. He came to the door a bit flustered and opened it.

I looked in and saw three of four boys standing around nervously. The room smelled of sweat and I could see some of the boys were sexually aroused in their pants. The boys looked worried and I was sent away very quickly but I knew what was going on. I heard about these sorts of things on campus. I knew it was common especially for the much older boys to sexually use the younger ones. It was always a major joke at the tables.

I can’t forget the time Pooh Bear called me to the ROTC office and came up with some excuse as to why I was to be punished. He bent me over his desk as if I were to receive “swats” and pulled down my pants. He didn’t hit me, but I was crying as if he did. He moved behind me and started rubbing up against me. He didn’t penetrate me, he pushed between my butt cheeks and my legs until he orgasmed and then told me to pull up my pants and to stop crying. He did that once.

The fondling from the substitute houseparent happened numerous times. He was good friends with one of the teachers who tried to get me to spend Christmas vacation with him. I said no. I wanted to go home and be with my brothers and my mother, even though he promised to take me to a beach in Mexico. He never did anything but I’m sure he would have had I gone with him.

The swim coach was also very much into the boys. He wouldn’t allow us to wear swimsuits in the pool. He leered at us constantly. When swimming was over he would stand in the doorway of the shower room watching every boy insisting that we had to soap up—mostly for his enjoyment. I don’t know if he touched anyone. I think he was someone who just watched. As least he never touched me.

But those who did, Pooh Bear, and this substitute houseparent, were never forgotten. I can’t tell you how many times the houseparent fondled me, not for sure. It was several. He had me sit in his lap and I could feel him pressing up against my butt from below. He wasn’t aggressive the way Pooh Bear was, he was more gentle and I was unsure of the whole thing. It felt like love to me and I needed love, but I know what it was now.

I can’t remember the year that Pooh Bear arrived. I may have been thirteen or fourteen. He didn’t stay long. I suspect he was caught in some scandal and removed from his post quietly, sent off somewhere else. I doubt the police were called, that just wasn’t done. And Glenwood certainly wouldn’t want the scandal. But the school was riff with physical abuse and sexual abuse.

If I don’t count the boys who were molesting younger boys, and only consider the staff, there were at least four or five men who had sexual interests in the boys. There could have been others I was unaware of. There were at least three of the men who I think of as sadist, in the way they liked to inflict pain on the boys. To my knowledge none of them were sexually involved with the boys, but they seemed always to be on the lookout to give boys “swats,” which were extremely painful—often leaving bruising. They tended to do this until they brought the boy to tears.

The other men were gentler, for the most part. They preferred to win the boy over to get what they wanted, where the three sadists enjoyed boys fearing them.

Sure there are details I’ve forgotten. But, I can’t forget the other. I’ve tried. I’ve played games in my head to excuse it. I’ve tried to convince myself I wanted it, or that I deserved it, or that it was just nothing. But the one thing I’ve never done is forget it.

PS: I have little doubt that young children, who do not experience abuse throughout their childhood can forget. But I do question someone who was in high school who says they forgot. I don’t know why the two brothers, just under me in ago, remember. They might remember the physical abuse from our father. I don’t know for sure what happened to them at Glenwood, where both of them were also students. I am sure they got some of the physical abuse, I don’t know about sexual abuse. I’ve never talked to them about it. I have been out of touch for decades as I explained in an earlier post. I was afraid to ask them at the time. I know my third brother was much too young to remember our father and he never went to Glenwood.

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One Response to How Do You Forget?

  1. The phenomena is called dissociative amnesia–the child enters a dissociative state, separates out from what is happening and later represses the memory. Typically it functions because all the people around him also hide the knowledge and pretend that it didn’t happen. Personally, I came from an incest family and while I remembered physical and emotional abuse, I repressed all of the sexual abuse until recently, and not because I was too young to remember it either. It was simply too traumatic and the general environment in my home was one where everyone repressed any knowledge of what was actually going on and acted in contradictory ways. There are various factors that influence whether someone will forget, but it does happen, regardless of age.

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