Wednesday, October 21, 2020

This Victim Refuses Silence

My rape, its aftermath, and my poor choices

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Many readers have told me that this post was difficult to read. It was also difficult to write, but I will not be silent. I originally wrote about my abuse in Bob Hoffman—#GayMeToo. I have expanded on it in two other posts: Forgive and Forget? Impossible and A Very Personal Question: Can I Forgive Bob Hoffman?

I can find no silver lining in the story of my abusive relationship with Bob Hoffman, but even if there were one, the relationship was so muddy that I don’t know where to begin to look. It is a lot like trying to write about it. I feel that I cannot write because I would be obligated to disclose too much about what I consider personal failures. I cannot write from the position of a life that didn’t turn out even though opportunities and avenues were most probably closed off to me by the events I’m going to describe. The only thing I can say with any certainty is that my life is not what my parents nor I envisioned for myself, but it has been my own life, and I am responsible for my choices. 

Any light at the end of the tunnel would shine. It would mean that the residue of the abuse was over, and I would be able to forget Hoffman and our relationship. But that does not happen. It’s just not enough for me to declare “This happened,” and move past it as I’ve been counseled from many quarters, new age therapists, love and light gurus. I know that Hoffman’s selfish actions had an effect on me. Of course they added unnecessary suffering. As I recently told a friend, every gay person I know would love to be guided by the loving, wise and resourceful example of a older queer man or woman. But by the luck of the draw, I got a narcissistic predator. I’ve told the story of how Hoffman came into my life in some detail in my blog Bob Hoffman—#GayMeToo.

A friend recently told me that she had accomplished what the Hoffman Process promises, “putting the past in the past and obliterating the traces of your parents’ negative influence" in a 20 minute process of stamping out any memories of them in a ritual practice. Only time can judge its effectiveness. Only future actions which do not bear the imprint of past missteps can be trusted as indicators that the past is truly in the past. 

As I've watched the #MeToo movement unfold in the press, all the attention has been focused on the bad actors. Whether famous men Epstein or Weissman or Trump or Cardinal Pell or ordinary men like Hoffman, we cannot allow any one of them to escape the consequences of their actions. But it occurs to me that what’s still missing are stories of the victims. 

And so I have decided to write about my abuse. The only possible path I see to freeing myself is a thorough investigation of what occurred, including my own missteps. If my writing really leads to liberation, “the function of freedom," in the words of Toni Morrison, "is to free someone else;” so I will write as candidly as I can. I had hoped to avoid a painful and lewd description of the sexual encounter as I describe some of the repercussions, but find I have to talk about some of it. 

Bob Hoffman, my therapist and mentor, invited me to dinner less than 5 months after I completed the first 13 week Fisher-Hoffman Process of Psychic Therapy. After some very awkward conversation and a few glasses of wine, I found myself on the living room floor of my shared apartment naked, on my stomach, being brutally raped. After Hoffman had his orgasm, my anus was bleeding. Then the situation became surreal—I listened to apologies which were actually blame shifting—he told me that pain was normal when a man first had anal sex and that in time I’d learn to enjoy it—that anal sex was an important part of spiritual development because it mirrored the reality of the mother-father god, both active and passive. I remember this statement after all these years because of the horror and lunacy of justifying rape in the name of some intrasex godhead. I didn’t throw him out as I should have, had I been capable of it, but when he asked if we could have another date, I did say no. However, in true co-dependent fashion, I left the door open to further contact as friends. I realize now that I had to—I was still in transference with him. In fact we maintained a strained acquaintance until he died.

I came out as a gay man in the Hoffman Process, but the process wasn’t coming to terms with a part of myself that I’d left hidden, festering under parental and societal disapproval. It wasn’t part of a program of careful analysis and self discovery. I wasn’t led by a professional to see layers of self-deception. Rather I stood uncomfortably in the doorway to Hoffman’s office, while he, red in the face, screamed that I was gay, told me that I was playing games and couldn’t love myself. This only reinforced my own learned, negative views of being gay. I sensed the same angry, defensive stance in the way he dealt with his own homosexualty and he certainly displayed its brutality when he forced anal intercourse.

Hoffman was both a narcissist and a predator, but I was in such denial that I allowed myself to be manipulated. Over the course of intermittent conversations which spanned more than 25 years, I discovered that he lied about many things; he exaggerated; he made empty promises; and he entertained grandiose ideas about himself. Dr. Fisher, the being whom he called his spirit-guide, had not been, as he proclaimed publicly, a family friend but rather his therapist; he felt he was destined to have a young lover because the immense contribution he was making; he had singled me out when he first saw me in Naranjo’s SAT; he started frequenting the only gay bar in Berkeley to stalk me, and not because, as he told me then, he usually stopped in to relax on his way home. The truth is that initiating a sexual relationship with me was a criminal violation of his professional responsibility as a therapist, mentor and spiritual guide, but his psychosis did not allow him to understand this.

In true predator fashion he groomed me. He told me that, if I played my cards right and listened to him, I was destined to become a leader in the gay community; that I had extraordinary powers, like his spiritualist mentor—I think he named her, Florence Becker, though he was vague—had singled him out as a person of great psychic abilities. He also insisted that I was attracted to him, and he knew it because he was a powerful psychic as well as the fact that I had an erection during our encounter. Recalling this fills me with disgust. I recall that most of the people around Claudio viewed Hoffman as a buffoon, a conman, or at best a crazy wisdom seer. I thought he was unintelligent and crude plus being sexually repulsive, yet something compelled me to continue to place my trust in him.

Within a year of our encounter, I’d left the Jesuits, moved to San Francisco with my SAT friend Hal Slate and began experiencing the burgeoning Castro gay scene of the ‘70’s. I became promiscuous, but, at the same time, I was very unhappy and frustrated with sex itself. I could not achieve orgasm. I cannot claim that Hoffman’s brutal abuse was the direct cause of my sexual dysfunction but I am certain that it played some part. But my solution to the problem became more of a problem. As in my college days and my life as a Jesuit, alcohol became an antiseptic for the wounds. But now pot, and eventually cocaine and methamphetamines, became a way to lubricate sexual activity. 

There is a very high rate of alcoholism and substance abuse among victims of rape, and that is certainly part of my story. Drugs opened up a whole new world for me though they took an immense toll. Eventually the number of days of work I missed because I was still too high to work safely began to outnumber the days I was late because I was hung over and unable to get out of bed. This December I will be 10 years free of drugs and alcohol. The 12 Step Program does not encourage any playing victim and always redirects a person to recognize his or her own part in the matter. However facts and situations do matter. Hoffman’s sexual abuse, the threads of our relationship, and my part in the matter are all part of the equation.

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

Emily Dickinson

© Kenneth Ireland, 2020


Jon said...

It is so difficult to hear this testimony from a friend of many years. I understand why. A few things I want your to know.
1. You are loved by myself and so many others in your life.
2. My love for you has endured a lot of the bullshit during the meth days. It was not easy or pleasant.
3. You have given much to me both spiritually and in longtime friendship.
4. You have the ability to help others experience joy. I hope you are able to do this for yourself.
5. In experiencing the deaths of our friends, you taught me how to embrace the inevitable, be myself, and be there for our dying friends. You helped me understand death in a way that no one had ever done. You made it possible for me to be there totally and that death was not some ooky part of life that you don't talk about. This has been so important in my life and I will never forget this lesson and the many others you imparted to over the last 30-40 years.
6. I am glad this is now something you can talk about this part of your life and begin your healing process. It is never too late.
7. I am proud to have you in my life. It is time to heal, but also to live your life to the fullest.
8. Whether you know it or not, you have made and continue to make the lives of others better.
9. Take care of yourself, give yourself a break, practice what you preach so well and continue to be a shining light in this difficult world.
10. I love you.
11. Your gift is special. The love you get is equal to the love you get.. or something like that. Apologies to George or Paul or John.

jpelt2 said...

My very, very dear Ken Ireland! "how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!"
You told me, so many years ago, about Hoffman's attack on you. I dimly recall that it wasn't a particularly emotional retelling, but you needed to share with me what occurred. I did not notice your alcoholism or drug abuse. I do remember the love and friendship and deep, big humor we shared as our two friends died, HIV/AIDS. You are, and were, a deep well of caring, acceptance and breath. We both laughed uproariously as the macabre body-snatchers from Hollywood Central Casting came and brought David down the steps. And many months later, equally as macabre, Bryan was brought down those same stairs. Again, gales of laughter, we could barely breathe. You have been my mentor, friend and companion in all things dying. I only wish that I, too were gay, so we could connect more deeply.
"The love you take, is equal to the love you make."

Daniel said...

I am happy to see you give words and expression to this set of life events. And so sad that our teachers and healers sometimes are so broken themselves. Ken. I give thanks for you in our lives. You were such a good friend and priest (Zen + Catholic) to our dearst Bonnie during her Induction Chemotherapy when you guided her through her Saint Ignatious Exercises. She was forever changed and uplifted, maybe saved from premature death in the process. May God Bless you and keep you close. with Love and Appreciation Daniel