“I’ve learned a lot in these last four years. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m not alone. One in six men have an abusive sexual experience before they turn 18. Secrecy, shame and fear are the tools of abuse, and it is only by breaking the stigma of childhood sexual abuse that we can heal, change attitudes, and create safer environments for our children.”
Positive Earth, Negative Earth
A true account by Denny Moody
What do I recall of the summer of ’67? Well, I’ll feel safer if you came back into that memory with me. I share the details so that others will see what’s coming.
By the summer of 1967, at age 14, I felt that I had shaken off the junior high school gawkiness and was ready to take on the world of girls. The world of “them” had been in my social gaze while I was trying so hard to be like and bond with junior high male classmates.
That summer was the first time I acknowledged my human existence – myself as apart from others and responsible. That frame of reference also brought a new-found loneliness. It didn’t help socially that hormones and organic circumstances made my incoming high school freshman’s face breakout. And though my skin would eventually settle down, life in that the skin would never be the same after the summer of 1967.
It was June, 1967, when I first met Ken. He pulled into the parking lot of the Bible Church driving his ‘63 convertible T-bird, the AM radio blasting. Getting out of his car, his lanky body navigated over toward us guys and then over to right in front of me.
“Hi, I’m Ken.”
“Hi.” I responded looking at my best friend Bill. “I’m Denny.”
“Do you think that we’ll get everyone together and get over to the park? He asked.
“I think the girls are figuring out who they are going to ride with.” I responded looking at the ground.
‘Yeah, I think your right.’ “Are you just starting high school?
“Yeah, I’m a freshman.” I started kicking loose gravel.
“I’m a senior this year. I transferred from York High School because they finished building the high school here in town.”
“I’m in summer band and I’m on the cross-country team,” I answered, trying to leverage my freshman standing.
“You can ride with me to the park.”
“OK.” was my answer, with an instant pride at being selected by a senior to ride in a rag-top. I asked my best friend Bill to ride with us. With the T-Bird filled with just the guys and with me in blue jeans and a white tee shirt, I was on top of the world, or at least a James Dean world. The girls in our group just had to notice – a freshman riding around with a senior. Yet, years later I finally realized that the girls perceived something about Ken that I was too childlike to notice. They avoided him. When they later saw that I hung around Ken that summer they must have thought the same about me as they did about Ken. This explains a lot and way too late.
That summer there were many such church teen outings. I joined them all in hopes of making new friends before entering high school. It was after several of the group outings that Ken started calling me and asking me to come over to his house. He said that he had a Triumph TR3 that he was rebuilding and that he needed some help. I told him I didn’t know anything about cars except something about oil changes but he begged for me to come over. I finally accepted his invitation on one hot, boring summer day. I was eager for friends and to learn about cars. I figured that I would be driving soon enough.
I rode my bike across town to Ken‘s house. I pulled up to his parent’s house and found the garage door open with Ken standing inside. His hands were black, holding an oily car part in his hand. The TR3 was parked in the garage with the hood up. I said “Hi” and then asked about his parents. He explained that his mother was at work and that his father worked the men’s locker room at a country club. He told me, “They are never home during the day”. I felt a little unsettled not knowing the neighborhood or Ken that well. It must have showed. Ken immediately began talking about the TR3 and what he was trying to do.
Looking at the Triumph, Ken explained: “The Triumph has a positive earth electrical system and I’m trying to connect this radio I just bought. There are only three items on a stock positive earth TR3 electrical system that care what the polarity of the system is: the ammeter, the coil and the generator.” I just nodded my head and looked informed. The most I knew about what he was saying was that there were positive and negative forces in the world. Opposites attract and like polarities repel.
I went on to handle a few car parts trying to look into the whole matter. My hands soon became like his, greasy, with fingernails covered with the black muck of spent oil. I remember being extremely interested in seeing the sporty little car repaired, especially if Ken would let me drive the car. At fourteen, I was eager to drive fast sporty cars. At that time, I believed a new friendship was forming and one focused on cars.
After we completed the polarity conversion for the radio Ken invited me inside the house. There, we washed up. He then offered me something to drink. He handed me a glass of lemonade and we sat down in his kitchen, talking for a while. After about half-an-hour, Ken asked me if I wanted to play cards. I told him I didn’t know how to play cards. He said “I can show you.” I thought that here was something else that I could learn from another guy. So, I agreed.
Ken left the room and came back shortly with a deck of cards. He began to shuffle the deck in ways I had seen on the TV show Gunsmoke. He began to tell me about the different hands and their value and the rules of five-card stud, his favorite game. He dealt the cards and I gathered them up, holding them, fanned out in my hand, just the way I saw Maverick hold them in the TV western.
I quickly lost every hand I played but Ken he convinced me to keep trying. After seven games and only one win, Ken asked me if I wanted to bet on the next hand. I said “I don’t bet.” He came back, “It will only be for candy.” He threw a handful of M&Ms on the table. I hesitated and then said, “Why not.” I continued to lose the rounds and my pile of M&Ms disappeared. I said I had to get home for dinner. I grabbed my bike and headed back across town toward home. It felt good knowing that I had a new friend and that I had learned ‘guy’ stuff in the process.
The rest of June I hung out with the teens from our church. I sought ways to be with the girls as much as possible. Then in July Ken began calling my family’s house often. He was inviting me to come over to his house. I finally went over to see him.
We again worked on his TR3, this time cleaning the carburetor. He asked about my family. While cleaning out the butterfly valve with some solvent, I told him about my family.
When Ken and I finished the carburetor repair we cleaned our hands and then grabbed a couple of Cokes from his parent’s icebox. I soon noticed a deck of cards on the kitchen table. With our cold drinks we sat down and played several hands. After winning a few rounds, Ken wanted to know if I “wanted to play for stakes?” “I don’t know. I just like playing,” I responded.
Ken then pestered me to “up the ante” and I kept saying “No”. After several more hands he asked me again and I said “what are you talking about.” He said that if I were to lose the next hand that I would have to do whatever he wanted and that if he was to lose that he would do whatever I wanted. It felt weird to me but at the same time I knew that I always had the power of “No”, so I said “OK”. I desired his friendship and socially, I thought it would help to have a senior as a friend in high school. And, he would probably ask me to do something like polish the TR3.
I lost the next hand. He then told me what he wanted me to do: “I want you to clean the house. Sweep, vacuum, everything.”
I looked at him incredulously. “What?’
“You lost. You said you would play and now you lost. You must do what I want.”
I resisted, looking everywhere for a way out of the bet. “I’m not going to clean your house.”
“You have to,” he insisted. “You gave your word. You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” He left the room and came back to the kitchen with a tiny men’s Speedo swimsuit. “I want you to wear this while you’re cleaning.”
My face flushed lobster red. I said, “No way!” I immediately began trying to lower the debt to just cleaning the house. I felt like running. I also felt that I needed to somehow save face, to be a Christian and honor my word. I had no idea of the consequences this bet imposed on me. Rattled, I got up from the kitchen chair I promised to come back another day and help him with the TR3 and maybe even play cards again, “Without betting,” I added while heading for the garage. I got on my bike and sped off towards home.
That July I was invited to play trumpet in the concert band after an audition. Soon I began to generate friendships in the band and with the cross-country team during their summer training runs. Along with the church teens group I was developing many positive relationships.
At the start of August, twenty days before school started, I got a phone call from Ken. He wanted me to “come over”. “The TR3 is ready to roll. I’ll take you for a ride.”
Thinking that this would be a harmless way to honor my unpaid “bet”, I said,” OK”. I headed over to his house and found the Triumph parked on the street. Ken walked out of the garage and asked me if I was ready and I nodded “yes”.
We got in the sports car and Ken started the engine. Ken drove the TR3 out of the neighborhood and headed for the nearby highway. About an hour later we returned to his house. Ken parked the car in the garage and we went in for a Coke. I knew at this point that I would not play cards. So, when he asked I said, “No.” He persisted in asking and I persisted in resisting. Then he said that he had a roulette game in his bedroom. I had heard about roulette from a TV show but I knew nothing about the game. Ken persisted in his desire to show me. I went with him to his bedroom thinking that I would see this thing and then head home.
When we got to his bedroom, Ken uncovered the roulette game from a box that was stored under a bunk bed. He spun its center wheel, showing me how it worked. He handed it to me and I sat down on his bed to hold the wheel on my lap. I spun the wheel to see where the red, black and white balls would land. As I did, Ken sat down next to me. I quickly moved over to make room for him. Ken then moved closer. He then put his arms around me and started wrestling me down to the bed. I was shocked.
Taller than me, Ken leveraged himself on top of me, grappling every which way to confine me. I squirmed under him, thrashing my arms every which way, trying to push myself out. I was yelling “Stop it!” over and over.
Ken began to use his feet against the footboard of the bed and his tall frame as a lever to hold me down against the bed. He then grabbed one of my legs and pulled it up onto the bed. As I lay face down across the bed, I struggled in vain to get out from under him. I had wrestled many kids when I was younger so I reacted to his “take over” by trying to roll out sideways from his body. When I started to do this Ken grabbed a rope from the wall side of his bed. He must have hidden the rope for a time like this.
While on top of me, Ken tried to loop my neck and hands to the headboard. I continued to struggle, turning sideways, but with no luck. Then, I felt his pelvis thrusting into my backside. I immediately pushed myself up from the bed with all of my strength and put a shaky leg on the floor and then another. I wrenched my head out the headlock he put on me. When I finally pulled myself free I ran out of his room. I headed straight for my bike and took off for home. The summoned surge of adrenaline enabled my feet to pump the pedals faster than ever.
That night, I ate dinner silently. I have never mentioned what had happened that summer of ‘67, not to my parents or to anyone until now. I felt shamed and wounded. I felt dirty, dirtier than when I worked on his car. I felt used. I felt used as a car part, as a means to an end.
At fourteen years of age I had some understanding that someone would take advantage of me and my desire for friendship. Some of my Junior High pals, my fickle friends, would offer me sex with a girl to lure me into their clique. I said “No” to their offers. I came to expect their attempts to sway me in their direction. What I wasn’t expecting was that some guy, using the ruse of friendship, would want me to join his private clique by raping me.
I have always wanted to have close friends–male or female. In fact, friendship means more to me than marriage does. With Ken, friendship meant forced and unnatural things, things born out of his brokenness.
From that summer on, throughout high school and into college, I always made a point of never being alone with Ken and others like him (I gained a “sense” of things.). My ‘67 summer was forever flawed. Would I be? Would a new friendship become a vehicle for an attempt at violating my boundaries? More would try but I would distance myself from them. Thankfully, there have been trustworthy and correctly-connected friends in my life. Friends like Bill. Friends like Steven (now with the Lord).
The above account is true. Denny Moody is a pseudonym.
Years later I would learn that Ken would go on to become an attorney and then a mayor of a small village outside of Chicago. Ken had always boasted to me of his being a lifelong Democrat. He said this deliberately, knowing that my family and I were Conservative Republicans. No matter, in any election, he would never get my vote of confidence.