Grade School

Me in grade school Photographer unknown.

Why I didn’t report?

Blame. I did report. As a little boy I told my mother and her response was, “You shouldn’t let him do that to you.” She didn’t know any better and neither did I. So when it happened again I didn’t tell her because I had let him do that to me. And the next time. And the next. The next. Next. I didn’t report because I didn’t know I could or should or that there was anyone I could tell who would help me.

Why I didn’t report?

Fear. Because I was told that I had better not ever tell anyone. I was threatened. Years later, when I was writing a play about surviving my childhood sex abuse I had irrational (or maybe they were not so irrational) fears that if he found out what I was working on he would kill me so that no one would ever know.

Why I didn’t report?

Shame. I told a friend in high school, but then immediately told her that she could never tell anyone else. I was ashamed, embarrassed, afraid. What would people think of me?

Why I didn’t report?

Processing. It took me years, as it does many survivors, to sort through and process what had happened to me as a child. While I told a few close friends over the years, it took me decades to be able to talk about it in any kind of detail. It took time, exploration, courage to be able to face the horror of it all.

Why I didn’t report?

Time. Even if I wanted to have him put away, by the time I had enough courage to deal with it, the statute of limitations had long since expired. Plus, our justice system is such that it would have been clear that even without a statute of limitations the burden of proof would be too great. There was no physical evidence, no corroboration–nothing but my memories, some of which are still vivid to this day, but with many of the specific details lost. Who remembers the date or day of the week every time something like this happens? I can say with certainty exactly where some of the incidents took place, but not all of them.  Memory is imperfect and so is the justice system.

Why I didn’t report?

Gender. As a boy and young man I was supposed to be strong. I was supposed to be able to protect myself. Admitting it was like admitting weakness.

Why I didn’t report?

There are too many reasons. What if I wasn’t believed? What if he found out I told and hurt me? What if everyone said the same thing as him, that it was my fault and that I wanted it? It was far easier to drown myself in alcohol and drugs, think of killing myself, ignore the reality as much as possible, and blithely go on living, hoping the pain and the burden of it all would go away.

Why am I speaking now?

Because it is never too late. Because other survivors need to know they are not alone. Because there is at least justice in naming what happened. Because I know now that it was not me–that it was on him. Because I am no longer afraid. Because I love myself enough to claim my truth.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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2 Responses to #WhyIDidntReport

  1. Suzy Grindrod says:

    Thank you, Callen.

  2. Anna Hahm says:

    Much respect for your courage and healing wisdom.

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