I can’t even…
Colette Clarke Torres
51

Thank you. I’m staying up late again. Just thinking. Thinking hard. Sometimes, I feel utterly exhausted. But tonight, it’s energized. It’s determined.

Reading responses like: “Trump is the President. He must be respected no matter what. You should not be anywhere near a child.”

And that was among the benign and the mild. The ones who were going to GET me and beat me up, I have to say, I am compelled to say, and people who get attacked and say it doesn’t bother them with stuff like death threats, I for one simply do not believe it, it’s a brave front, but when people want to kill you, it scares me, it’s frightening, I have to say that, I just don’t have a brave front, death threats bring me way down. I lose my concentration. I jump from one thing to another, like the jitters.

Kids console me.

I am the one who is supposed to be consoling them.

The threats are becoming out of control. The past few months, there have been so many of them, much of it bouncing off my work on Medium, and these people even say so, reflecting so much intransigent rage, I am convinced I am seeing the beginning of a creeping sickness in America, maybe it was always there, and we just put a lid on it, I do not know, and the EXACT moment it began is not a question in my mind because I remember it clear as day. It began with the revelation that Trump abuses women.

After that, all the gloves came off.

The pieces I am trying to assemble. The culture is very, very ill. It is suffering.

It has nothing, nothing to do with politics. Journalists can disagree with me all they want, and many do. They are putting a cultural illness into political constructs because that is what they are trained to do. But this is bigger than politics, and a LOT bigger than me.

I am here to tell you that at-risk children are more afraid than I have ever seen them. And I have seen a lot.

Americans need permission to become their darker selves, and we are becoming our darker selves at lightning speed.

An abuser has become our leader, and it has consequences.

The kids I deal with are already beaten up. The current electrical spark that is running through them causes them to ask in many ways, time and time again; they want to know if this man who can get away with rape will rape them, too. Even hard, bigger boys want to know.

I have made the mistake of saying no. In their book, it is a lie. They say I am lying to them to make them feel better. They know disingenuous patronizing when they see it. I dare not do that again.

They just don’t have the kind of internalized structures to understand that not everything is an attack. On them.

What they do understand is that an abuser was not only let off the hook, he was elected.

They have dreams that the President is raping them or grabbing them and violating them and that other adults are watching and cheering him on.

Psychoactive pills are not the answer. They’re already on tons of medications, and all of it is designed to shut them up.

More medication will simply destroy them. A zombie can only live so long.

I was not totally surprised by the death threats. What shocks me is that all of the people who responded to my article that was hijacked for this alt right site, is that there was only one woman, one woman, who said: I think we better listen.

Just one person who was outnumbered by an entire barrage of outraged Americans who do not want to hear that the emperor has no clothes, that any messenger who articulates these things must be physically silenced, and they will under no circumstances so much as look at the emperor.

At some point, denial becomes the illness more than the illness ever was.

None of the above even matters.

Colette, here’s what matters.

There is something coming. I can see it. I can feel it. I can hear it on its wings. There is going to be a HUGE mushroom cloud of sexual child abuse and it is about to land on America.

Things were actually getting better. But since the Trump allegations around the man abusing women, Americans who were already a little marginal, and so filled with anger, now have permission to let that anger loose, and this society is simply not prepared for it.

I am not prepared for it. And I feel afraid.

My voice has been drowned out many times by people who will not accept that as many boys as girls are abused. But I have always pretended it was a minority opinion.

It isn’t. It’s a majority times ten opinion.

We are already beginning to see the figures start to bloom. I think it’s WAY TOO LATE to head it off. There is nothing anyone can do about it. The tiger has left the cage.

Scared kids are just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s coming.

There was no closure. No one DID anything. The man became our leader. Sexual abuse meant nothing.

The abused kids of our culture are trying to tell us something. They are canaries in the coal mine.

We are not listening because our rage and our denials are blinding us.

How do we treat the interpersonal damage done to kids without treating the culture that damage comes from.

Do we treat the culture or the child. No one, no one, can do both.

I have no choice. There ARE no good choices. I will choose to treat the child. And I am not ASKING for anything. I am not asking to be supported. The people who feel I am, are wrong. It’s just the right thing to do. Not complicated. I can remember what it was like as a kid to be abandoned. To be left to fend for yourself. And THAT is where the abusers find you. When you are alone. Safe places are rare. We can’t even admit as a culture we need them. Kids need them, if not to thrive, to at least survive without being torn apart. Vulnerability is contingent on time and place. Places where a kid can be himself as he faces whatever he has to confront about himself and grow. They say location is important. It is more important that people want to know.

I know I can be torn to shreds. The media has already had its day with me. The books I have written are about AIDS. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The identity of culture. And sex. Yet Tim Barrus is personally the issue because it’s just easier to point a finger at an individual versus looking past that individual to see what is really going on. It’s not about writing. It’s not about publishing. It’s not about anyone’s territorial claim. As much as I loathe admitting it, it’s not even about the kids who have already been destroyed. We can’t even accept that these kids CAN be destroyed.

It’s now about the horror that is coming. NO ONE has to believe me. They can make me the issue for as long as they want. But it’s coming. America now has more permission to hate than it has ever had, and it’s about to hate itself by raping its own children, and they are going to arrive in numbers that are going to leave us breathless. All the signs are there. We just don’t want to see them. The tips of icebergs are things like the declining numbers of people willing to be foster parents, the inability of institutions whose purpose was to protect children but are now totally unable to keep children in homes for an less than a year and kids are bounced around so many times they have NO idea who they are. When kids are put on the floors of office buildings in our biggest cities because we run out of places to put them, it’s coming. We have seen nothing yet because it’s coming. It doesn’t matter if I am considered to be a nut. It’s coming anyway. Our lip service as to the sacredness of family is going to be stripped away, and we will not recognize what it looks like even as it has unraveled what we have built to the very roots. I see a tidal wave of abused kids, and it’s coming. It doesn’t MATTER if no one believes a word I say. It will arrive and it’s arriving anyway.

There are connections to all these things.

But no one wants to hear it. And they want to kill the messenger. I do not want to be him.

I would trade all that writing I have ever done for one kid to not have dreams for one night.

One night.

Our children have stories to tell us. When they hold up the photographs they make for our family meetings, I see it. I see it coming. Even children who are mute can often handle a camera.

People steadfastly refuse to believe I do not even have photoshop. We don’t photoshop because we do not have it or NEED it.

I do not have photoshop. Kids create their own art with determination.

For one thing, I can’t afford photoshop. For another thing, I don’t need something that teaches very little and nothing about determination where a kid sticks to a project like superglue. Any kid can be an artist. And these children are telling us — LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO ME, THIS IS HOW I FEEL ABOUT THAT, AND IT’S COMING. All anyone has to do is look at the above graphic. Kids are saying they need help. They are singing it from the rooftops.

The reason I cannot publish the work of the most angry kids isn’t because of anything graphic or worthy of being censored. It’s because these children destroy the work. They pound away at it. They take hammers to it. They set it on fire. They rip it up.

I have seen them eat it.

They are eating themselves.

Some of that work makes it to Real Stories Gallery. Rachel Chapple is the most committed woman I have ever met and she has poured herself into this. She is attempting to set up a forum where all the layers of the onion can be examined and not just in the States, but in the world.

I am going to try to convince her to explain some of that here. On Medium.

I am not the only person who is afraid. Of the hate. Of the ugliness. Of the willingness to destroy kids. Of a culture who cannot contain an abuser but who embraces him and crowns him and feeds his illness. There are others like me. And their are others who hide behind their institutions with their degrees and their inability to get down on the dirty floor and play with a single kid.

You CANNOT do it in high heels. It CANNOT be done.

I have not yet gone through today’s photographs the kids took. I need to do that now.

I remember a time when Rachel and I started connecting abused kids to cameras. We were told over and over and over and over NOT TO DO IT BECAUSE THE BOYS WOULD ONLY STEAL THE CAMERAS.

We as a society claim we love our children. What bullshit. We love our fear and our anger and we are married to our stinking hates.

I have seen all the comments I ever want to see.

They are not going to stop me. I am going to keep giving kids FOR FREE cameras and those people can kiss my fat white ass.

In a decade of doing this, not ONE kid has stolen a camera.

When they’re done with them, they give them to other kids just like them.

Here is a piece I started writing tonight. I have not finished it. But I will. And I will put it here.

I GIVE THEM CAMERAS

I give the foster-boys I work with, all of whom have been sexually abused, cameras. You can see much of our work at the Real Stories Gallery Foundation’s website http://real-stories-gallery.org/. Many of the images there are metaphors of what the boys themselves have endured. It is my belief that there is an epidemic of the sexual exploitation of boys in America, and in reality, the world. It does not end or begin in the United States. It is my belief that this epidemic is at the brink of an explosion. I did not see it coming, and I should have. The people who say they want to beat me up don’t have to do that, I can do enough of it myself. When Donald Trump’s sexual exploits were being described by victims as pussy-grabbing, I did what most Americans did. I allowed it to go in one ear and out the other.

Children who have been raped did not allow it to go in one ear and out the other. It was an issue that struck deep chords of turmoil, distress, internal chaos, rage, and clinical depression.

When you work with these kids, you do a lot of reflecting, and, in fact, that is what I mostly do. I will bring a group together, hold up photographs the boys took, and ask them how it feels for them to see the images they have made. Allow me to reiterate that these are not shocking images produced by Mister Perverted Somewhere Else. These are STORIES the boys tell themselves. The hands fly up: “Do you think that as president, he still grabs pussies,” I am asked.

Even if Trump is innocent, he will never be a role model to children who are victims of a violence that will always be a part of who they are. To them, he represents authority in the world.

“I don’t know if he still does this,” is my stock reply.

“But it’s still rape, right.”

“Touching someone in private places where they do not want to be touched can be rape,” I say. “But what I want to know is how these issues make you feel.”

Most of the boys I deal with have done sex work. The CDC calls them: The Hard to Reach. Often, when they try to kill themselves, they are internalizing what they believe is complicity. They were doing what some sick adult told them to do. This is why I am so liberal with them. I can and do give them structure. But I have to temper it with the knowledge that they have done way too much of doing what some adult told them to do. My job is to help them find themselves and to hang on to it.

They are far, far more sophisticated than your typical kid, and my stock answers around second grade terminology such as “touching someone in private places” gets roundly ridiculed.

“Grow up, Tim,” they say. “You mean like fucking someone in the ass is a private place.” Hilarity ensues. They do not believe there is such a thing as a private place. Until they begin to build one. Doctors who examine them, especially with rape kits, find them fighting mad. I was. I am still.

The boys are hardened.

But this is where it begins.

A few boys will very slowly begin to rock back and forth.

They take a lot of pictures of bottles of pills. Mainly antiretrovirals. They hate them. And they will throw them at you. One, Sustiva, gives them nightmares they describe as “it’s like you are on LSD.”

There are newer drugs. But not all the people who prescribe drugs to treat HIV keep up with what is new. It is a huge problem.

“But, Tim, you wrote a lot of sex.”

Many have read those books. Long before I arrived in their lives.

“I’m a writer. I write what I know. I did sex work to survive. Just like you. I still write about it. I don’t think it should be a dark secret because dark secrets just become darker secrets. I have HIV just like you do. We are in this together. We can’t run away from our feelings about our past or about who we are. There are no saints in real life. I take photographs around where my head is at, too. I shoot metaphors so I can try to understand it. Even in collage. We bring our photographs to family meetings and we talk about our feelings in terms of what caused us to see what we see in the photographs we take. I want to understand where you are coming from. Abuse is what keeps us in our place as long as we allow it to define us. We are not the abuse we were victimized by. Maybe were were victims once. But we are more than that. We are survivors. To access any of it, we have to stand up for ourselves by saying to ourselves: this is how it feels.”

More rocking.

We go around the group. Each boy picks a photograph he took. “This is how I feel.”

Lately, what I feel personally, is afraid.

Having been roundly trashed on conservative websites where I am beginning to feel as if my life is in danger, all I want to do is go take photographs with the boys.

The site that hijacked my writing with gooey sweetness has responded to my legal intervention and removed the work.

The boys and I have picked another spot where we are far from the madding crowd. Kids taking pictures of horizon after horizon.

Everyone’s horizon is a different picture. But we claim them, we own them, and we will not give them up.