Trigger Warning: This true story includes content about the sexual abuse of a child.
The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer or any organization mentioned here.
I can still recall every minute detail about that night. It was 1983. I was five years old. I can tell you the layout of my bedroom: there was a sliding glass door to the back, my lamp with the wooden base and a glass globe covering the bulb was on my dresser against the wall shared by my mom’s room, and my bed was on the left-hand side of the room. I had Smurf sheets on my bed. I was wearing blue Go-Bot pajamas (Go-Bots were one of my favorite toys). I had my favorite stuffed animal on my bed, Lamby.
I can also still remember every detail about what that man did to me— though I’ll spare you those details. In 1983, at the age of 5, I was the victim of a pedophile, and these images were seared into my brain forever.
My mother, sister, and I lived in a 3-bedroom apartment complex in Dallas, TX. The apartments had no stand-alone balconies; all rear entrances were connected and easily accessible. The sliding glass door in my room went to the back walkway on the second floor. A man that we knew, our downstairs neighbor in his mid-twenties, used this door to enter my room one night.
I had been crying in bed that night, and he must have heard me, as his apartment was directly below ours. I don’t know why the sliding door was unlocked, but it was. I understand why my mother didn’t hear anything; this man was a predator. Predators do everything they can to avoid detection; that’s how they survive. I kept quiet because that’s what he told me to do. After he was finished, he left the way he came in. At the time, I was unaware that anything that had occurred was wrong, but still— I never said a word to anyone. We moved a short time later, and I don’t recall that I ever saw him again. I sincerely wish I was his only victim, but sadly I know better than that.
As I grew up, I learned how awful this was, and I felt ashamed. I felt it was my fault this happened. I should have locked the door. I should not have been crying so loudly. If I had just done things differently, none of this would have happened to me, right? I felt tainted, dirty, ruined. I believed there was something wrong with me and that I deserved to be a victim. I didn’t tell a soul until I was in my early twenties when I finally told my mom. After telling my mom, I went to therapy and worked through my messy mental situation— the best decision ever.
I now realize my crying or the door being unlocked never mattered. This is my first time speaking publicly about my experience, and I am no longer ashamed that this happened to me. I’m not tainted, broken, dirty, or ruined. I was a victim. I am not a victim anymore.
Unlike 1983, today’s child predators don’t need to live downstairs and seize the opportunity. They don’t need to sneak around an apartment complex at night. They don’t even have to live in the same state or country. The internet makes it so easy for these despicable human beings to prey on the innocence of children. They have mobile phones, computers, cameras, gaming systems, and the internet. They can hide in plain sight.
This is why we need the Innocent Lives Foundation. The charity founded by Chris Hadnagy specializes in identifying child predators to help law enforcement. Since 2017 they have been helping to bring pedophiles— and anyone who produces, profits, or trades in Child Sexual Abuse Material— to justice. The ILF team consists of the most outstanding security minds in the industry. They need your support. This 501(c)(3) is funded by donations, and I ask you to donate if you can. Follow them on social media. If you can’t donate, or if social media isn’t for you, I ask you to talk about the ILF mission and engage people in fighting for this cause. They are keeping our children safe, they are getting justice for 5-year-old me, and I love everything about it.
Currently, I am a 42-year-old Security Engineer. I have a wife, two kids, a dog, a pickup truck, and a house. I play hockey poorly. I love life. The thoughts of the past do not haunt me. I tell this story not to highlight myself, garner sympathy, or stand out in any way. I tell this story to bring awareness to the fact that evil people are out there preying on kids, but good people are using their skill sets to find them. If you could even help promote the mission, there will be kids who don’t have to endure what I did.