***Notes about the names in this story: Before I legally changed my name to Wylde Abandyn in 2002, my name was Chris. I only bring it up because there’s a direct quote in this piece that mentions my previous name. Also, I’ve changed the name of the probable pedophile in this story to “Phil”, since I have no idea if he was ever charged with anything.***
I’m reading a book right now called “Love Nor Money” by Linda Grant. It’s the story of a private investigator trying to come up with evidence against a well-respected judge who is molesting children. In the story, the investigator just visited the mothers of three of the kids she suspects are being molested. Two of the mothers turned her away and the third agreed to let a psychologist interview her kid to see if the judge has been demanding anything sexual in return for his kindness.
As I read the passages about the visits to the mothers, it reminded me of my own mother’s reaction to a pedophile that had his sights set on me a long time ago.
In the summer of 1978, when I was 12 years old, my mom’s direct supervisor at work was a man named Phil. Well, Phil was supposed to be this great guy who really liked kids and was involved in some sort of youth group. So, one day my mom told me that Phil was going to take me to see the movie “Grease.” Without her – just me and Phil. She either had something to do or they decided she needed some time for herself – I can’t remember exactly. But the bigger concept was that it was supposed to be good for me to have a “male figure” in my life and they decided that Phil could fulfill that role.
So, the big day arrives and Phil picks me up to go to the movie. On the way, he makes a detour to his buddy’s house. Phil parks in the guy’s driveway and his buddy gets in the front passenger seat (I was in the backseat.) Phil says to his buddy, “So, what do you think of my Chris?” The buddy turns all the way around in his seat and looks me over and says something positive about my physical appearance. The fact that the guy said something nice about me wasn’t a problem because all adults try to be upbeat and encouraging around kids. It was the way they were looking at me and Phil’s use of the phrase “my Chris” that struck me as weird.
After the little show-and-tell presentation, with me as the main attraction, Phil’s buddy got out of the car and did not accompany us to see “Grease”. Now, I don’t recall anything noteworthy happening during the movie itself, but afterwards, on the way home, Phil gave me the “Grease” movie soundtrack album as an extra bonus prize. I thanked him and told him I wouldn’t be able to play it since we didn’t have a stereo. Phil promptly informed me that he would buy me a stereo. At 12, I was old enough to know that strangers offering to buy you expensive stuff wasn’t the norm. A $5 album was one thing, but a $100 stereo was different.
Well, after Phil dropped me off at home, I showed my mom the album. She also noted the fact that we didn’t have a stereo. I told her what Phil said about buying me one.
And here’s the part of the story where my mom diverges from the mothers in the book I’m reading. In the book, the investigator is attempting to get the mothers to realize that the molestation is occurring. Two of the mothers in the book refuse to see the truth at all and the third admits she has been worried about something for awhile. The author of the book would not have used my mom as a character because the story would end before it began.
Because as soon as I mentioned Phil’s offer, my mom said, “He’s not buying you a stereo and you’re not going anywhere with him again.”
The instant the words were out of her mouth, I felt both relieved and vindicated. I wasn’t in the market for a father figure and had no desire to hang around with some stranger (the relief) and my sense that Phil calling me “his” Chris was bizarre (the vindication). My mom and I were in sync. Something out of the norm was going on with the guy and neither one of us wanted me anywhere near him.
I’ve thought about this scenario over the years and I’ve always felt my mom’s reaction was right on the money. Call it mother’s instinct. Call it radar. Call it common sense. Whatever you call it, it saved me from falling victim to that creep. What I don’t understand is how so many other parents don’t see the warning signs and allow the abuse to occur. The best way for us, as a society, to prevent kids from becoming victims is to remain vigilant and remove them from situations that are potentially dangerous. Immediately. Don’t wait for hard, irrefutable evidence. Don’t wait and see if your instincts are right or if you’re simply overreacting. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Do exactly what my mom did, slam the door hard at the first sign of weirdness and walk away. All the way away. With no doubts and no guilt. Because even if you’re wrong, the end result is the same. Your child will be safe.
By the way, years later a girl in college borrowed the “Grease” movie soundtrack album and never returned it. That’s fine by me.