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It wasn’t an experiment. It was sexual assault.

One man’s journey in an almost-50-year effort to make sense of the ‘aggressive molestation of a heavily drugged teenager by a perverted coward who then smeared an innocent 16-year-old kid to everyone who meant anything to him.’

Barry Adams is a former resident of Brattleboro. He, his partner, and their family of rescue Chihuahuas now live in Heath, Mass. and Tuscon, Ariz.

Heath, Mass.

RE: “No more secrecy” [Viewpoint, Aug. 11]:

I have read with deep personal interest Mindy Haskins Rogers’ Viewpoint and all subsequent responses to it. I immediately wanted to respond, but hesitated.

Outside of the Catholic Church scandal, we don’t hear too much from men who have been sexually abused and how they’ve coped with it. I wonder why.

So, here it is.

In 1974, just before my 17th birthday, I was sexually molested by a heterosexual man. He was a good friend. He was 21 years old.

We had gone out to “party” early in the evening when he gave me some barbiturates, which I willingly consumed. After a night of drinking, we returned to my parents’ home around 3 a.m., and he said he was unable to drive (better late than never, I suppose) and asked if he could crash at our house. My parents always welcomed a parade of strung-out youth into their home, terrified of what drugs were doing to us in those years.

At sunrise, I woke from a deep, drug induced sleep to find this guy with his hand in my pants, struggling to get my pants down. I froze, terrified.

In the name of brevity, I will report that this man reacted by telling everyone we knew that I had made a sexual move on him. Being only 16, and long terrified that I might be gay, I felt powerless to defend myself with the truth.

Who would believe a 16-year-old androgynous boy with a ponytail that trailed down his back, one who wore strands of love beads, bracelets, and flouncy embroidered-gauze Indian shirts?

The only person I tried to tell the truth to was my best friend, a 21-year-old hippie woman who believed him, not me. She tried to disguise the smirk on her face by saying, “Oh, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. People are curious and experiment.”

This had not been an experiment. It was aggressive molestation of a heavily drugged teenager by a perverted coward who then smeared an innocent 16-year-old kid to everyone who meant anything to him — an effective strategy to preempt any possibility that I might talk first.

For years, I have wondered how many young boys have similarly been molested by heterosexual men and, if these boys were non-heterosexual, whether others also found it unlikely or unbelievable that these events could have even really happened.(1)

Power and perception are amazing and subtle things.

* * *

Flash forward to 2014. Forty years had passed since I last saw this bastard.

I received an email message from him: “Barry, it’s been 40 years and here I am at 4 a.m. wide awake thinking of you. Weird, huh?”

He then proceeded to recall what good friends we were in those days and how particularly difficult the year 1974 had been for him. He left out entirely what he did to me.

This belated message allowed me to break free, finally.

I responded with a painfully succinct assessment of why he might be up at 4 a.m. thinking of me 40 years later. I recalled in precise detail what had happened. I directed him to definitions of “homosexual panic” and “reaction formation.” I called him a liar, a predator, and a coward.

He denied everything.

* * *

Of course, I considered sharing all of our communications on Facebook, where I knew many of the people who at that time believed him — and not me — might have the opportunity to consider the truth as mature experienced people, 40 years later.

But I decided to wait and think it through.

I thought a lot about power. I thought about evidence (or the lack thereof). I thought about vengeance, vindictiveness, and forgiveness.

I was aware that my molester is a man who has been married more than once. He is now retired and has adult children in high-ranking, high-visibility, professional positions.

I considered the collateral damage I might inflict on innocent people I don’t even know. I thought of the likely psychic and spiritual suffering of his wife, children, and grandchildren. I even considered the psyches of people largely disinterested in witnessing a personal vendetta over something that happened over 40 years before — something that can never be changed.

* * *

That is not to say I have done nothing.

I have joined discussions resulting from the #MeToo movement. I have told a few people who are important to me. I have told people I thought would want to know what happened to me, and what he did, including some of the people back then who did not believe me.

Today, they know the truth. Some have severed ties with him.

Despite finding my own peace, I have tears running down my cheeks as I write this.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #629 (Wednesday, September 8, 2021). This story appeared on page C2.

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