Disclaimer: This story includes details of child abuse that may be triggering to some.
“I was raped at age 12.
His touch and his betrayal caused such panic, my muscles stiffened to the point I couldn’t move. Breathing became a chore. My mind shut down. How could this be happening? I was alone with pure evil. We’ve all felt alone at times, but this was different. I literally felt like the only person on the planet. No one came to my rescue, not even God. I screamed, I cried, thinking surely that would make him stop. But no. He simply whispered into my ear, ‘Just another minute.’
My abuser was a man I not only looked up to, but trusted completely. He was a lieutenant in the local sheriff’s department, a trusted family friend, and my Boy Scout Master. What the abuse did was destroy my childhood, destroy my trust, and destroy my faith. I was broken at a far too early age. My mind, in order to protect me, told me talking about the abuse was equal to reliving it. I surely didn’t want to do that. And thus, my biggest regret in life began: the keeping of a debilitating secret.
I instantly lost interest in sports, as well as studies. I began smoking weed on a regular basis, just a few short months after the abuse. In high school, drinking became my go-to coping mechanism. This carried over into my college years and I also began experimenting with harder drugs like cocaine, LSD, and mushrooms. As my life progressed, I sabotaged every romance and squandered every potential career opportunity. Why? Because being in a long-term career or relationship made me feel trapped and that was how I felt when I was abused. I simply refused to ever feel trapped again.
I’ve led the most exhausting life. I was always in a hyper-vigilant state. I never slowed down in life, ever. I was always trying to outrun the pain that lurked within. In my thirties, a gambling addiction left me bankrupt. I was broke in more ways than simply the financial aspect. In my forties, PTSD overtook me and I fell into a deep depression. Every day, just to simply get out of bed and go to work felt like climbing Mt. Everest. I literally had to talk to myself like a little baby, ‘Come on Clark, swing your leg out of bed. Good job, now swing the other leg out. Now stand up, come on, you can do it.’
Not knowing how to combat what I was experiencing, I began abusing drugs and alcohol simply to get me through my day. I was diagnosed with a herniated disc and prescribed Vicodin. I ate these 30 pills in a few days and felt like Superman while on them. When the doctor wouldn’t give me anymore, I simply went to the street to find them and thus began a 6-year long pain pill addiction. This was how I was living when I ran into my rapist in a deli. By his side was a young boy calling him the same nickname he used to insist I call him when I was that boy’s age. I ran out of there that day and sunk into the abyss. I could no longer climb Mt. Everest after that day and quit my job of 16 years.
With time, memories of my abuse and abuser were front and center in my mind. Deeply hidden pain suddenly unlocked and I quickly began abusing any and every substance I could get my hands on. Negative influences had been building up in me for decades. My thoughts for decades had centered around pain, hurt, anger, shame, self-loathing, rage, violence, sex, pornography, gambling, drugs, and alcohol. Buddha says, ‘We become what we think.’ Apostle Paul says, ‘We reap what we sow.’ There was only one thing I could reap from allowing those thoughts to control me for such a long period of time—DESTRUCTION.
I was rapidly blowing through any and every boundary I had set for my life. I was using 12 to 25 pain pills per day, two to four bags of heroin, three to five grams of coke, 8 to 12 Xanax and drinking two bottles of wine, a 12 pack of beer, and a half bottle of vodka each day. I was a completely broken man with no boundaries left in life, not caring if I lived or died. That led me to wake up on June 12th, 2012, where not even murder was outside my realm of possibilities. I don’t want anyone to ever have a June the 12th like I had. I did the unthinkable. I murdered my abuser.
My most difficult period was the first three months of my arrest. My first 4 weeks of confinement were in a suicide cell at the county jail (a horrible existence). I had severed all the ligaments and tendons of my left hand and was kept in isolation for another 3 weeks until the cast was removed. I was suicidal and just wanted to die. Each day, I cursed my existence and hated life. I struggled with prayer and faith early on because of my anger towards God over the abuse.
One morning, I called out to God and asked for help in either killing myself or healing myself. People from all around the country had been sending me self-help, spiritual books, meditation, mantra and yoga books, mindfulness books, and the Bible. I had one of those moments where a voice within me spoke out, ‘You must help yourself by picking up one of these books.’ I picked up the smallest book someone had sent me because I figured I could get through it. The book was Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search For Meaning.’ In it, there was a quote that ignited something in me. It went like this, ‘When you are faced with an intolerable situation that will not change, you must change yourself.’ And thus began my awakening and transformation.
Upon my release from prison, I instantly became an advocate working on getting a new child abuse law enacted in New Jersey. The current statute of limitations law stated that you had from age 18 to 20 to come forward to file a lawsuit. The average age for people to talk about their abuse is between ages 48 to 52, so basically, this law was useless. Nobody was coming forward at that age to sue. I went from eating prison food, surrounded by insane inmates, to having power lunches with senators, assemblymen, and lobbyists. I went from testifying in court trying to avoid a life sentence to testifying before the House Judicial Committee, urging for a change of the law. I am thrilled to inform you on March 25th of this past year, the new bill passed its final vote unanimously. The new law gives you up to age 55 to come forward to file a lawsuit, a huge difference from the old law.
As I sat in my prison cell at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey, I had a visit for the second time from that internal voice, ‘You are going to be a motivational speaker.’ Even though I had always been afraid of speaking in front of people, the urge to pursue this endeavor was overwhelming.
Less than four months after my release from prison, I had my first motivational speech at Centenary College. From there I spoke at rehab centers, churches, high schools, and even the county jail where I had been held for murder just 2 years prior. I spoke on Broadway and organized my first charity event. I sold out the tickets in one week and raised over $10,000 for charity. Sharing my story with others not only helps in my healing, but it gives me meaning and purpose by helping others to confront their pain.
I’ve written my memoir titled ‘A Hole In My Soul’ and it’s being shopped around for a publishing deal. I finished shooting a documentary with NBC that detailed my life story and it aired this past fall. To start the new year off on the right foot, I appeared on the daytime talk show, The Tamron Hall show. Oh yeah, about that voice that told me I would be a motivational speaker. Well, I was just offered a contract by Elite Speakers International and they will begin representing me immediately.
These are all avenues I’m using to broaden my platform and reach more people who are hurting and still in silence. I don’t want anyone to follow in my footsteps. I’m trying to reach them before they become as broken as I became. The molestation is not what destroyed me, my secrecy and unwillingness to share my pain is what destroyed me.
Upon my release from prison, I went to my old gym R&T Nautilus in Hampton, New Jersey. It had been at least 15 years since I’d been in there and yet as soon as I walked in, the owner gave me a hug. He also gave me a free membership and trained me four times a week for free. Lifting instantly became part of my therapy and a healthy outlet for my demons. God, the gym, therapy, and speaking out to help others heal is how I stay healthy nowadays. I am coming up on almost 8 years clean and sober.
For anyone struggling, you need to have a support network where you can feel comfortable sharing what you’re going through. There is a saying in recovery that goes like this, ‘We are only as sick as our secrets.’ I thought I was a big bad tough guy and could simply bury or ignore all my pain and torment. Well, it doesn’t work that way, you need to be transparent and reveal your pain to others, it’s the only way to begin healing. Break the silence.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Clark Fredericks. You can follow his journey on Instagram and his website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘You and I will never speak again,’ I told my mother. She’d sleep nude next to me, crowning me the ‘man of the house.’: Man overcomes child abuse, trauma, ‘The person in that mirror was not the real me, and I knew it’
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