I’ve written more than once about child sexual abuse, particularly in the context of the Catholic Church’s clergy crisis. (For my personal experience of how that played out, see here. To see all my articles on that subject, in reverse chronological order, click here.) I also had not inconsiderable contact with child molesters and abusers as a prison chaplain. I wrote about some cases in my memoir of prison ministry.
However, nothing can capture the agony of child abuse, mental, spiritual and physical, like the recollections of an abused child. Moira Greyland is one such person. Daughter of famed science fiction and fantasy author, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and her husband, convicted pedophile Walter H. Breen, she was abused by both of them, rampantly and repeatedly, for many years. In a 2014 letter to blogger Deirdre Saoirse Moen, Ms. Greyland said this:
The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away.
I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy. I had tried to intervene when I was 13 by telling Mother and Lisa, and they just moved him into his own apartment.
I had been living partially on couches since I was ten years old because of the out of control drugs, orgies, and constant flow of people in and out of our family “home.”
None of this should be news. Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse. She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.
There’s more at the link. You can read here her more detailed account of her abuse, including her rape by her father, and the psychological conditioning and grooming from both her parents that still affects her.
Her brother, too, was the sexual victim of his parents. He’s spoken about it here. (If that screen is hard to read, highlight the text. It will stand out from the background.) It scarred him for life.
I live in an echo chamber where memories of yesterday can swell up into thunderstorms of thought and go rolling through my troubled valleys like a drunken Zeus hurtling thunderbolts in every direction laughing to raise the dead. And it does, corpses of memory before me shaking to the Monster Mash and filling my eyes with what I try so hard not to see.
Physical. Absolutely. But that is so much easier to bear than head games. Screaming is bad, but little whispers and threats work so much better to chill your blood and recreate being cold and naked hiding under tables hearing the shouting. To be “Bone Chewing Bear”, robbing the plates of every scrap of food you could find. Life got better as I got older and there was more money, but the earth could turn any day to seeing the big cat stalking in her skin. I flinch from hands and eyes and am very polite and patient day by day by…
Mental. My god, I have no way to say this. Words work so well on me; before long the raised hand I am cowering from becomes reflex. The face is the face of guessing moment by moment what she would bring. As I got older humiliation and embarrassment became the thing and more and more indirectly as time went by.
There was no believing she was getting better as you could not tell which one of her would wake up at any moment. It is so much easier to bear being hurt yourself than being blamed for someone hurting someone else. The shame from that alone is this boulder I have hanging around my neck.
Again, more at the link.
Now Ms. Greyland has written a book, ‘The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon‘, describing, in detail, what it meant to grow up as the victim of such abuse.
The blurb reads as follows:
Marion Zimmer Bradley was a bestselling science fiction author, a feminist icon, and was awarded the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. She was best known for the Arthurian fiction novel THE MISTS OF AVALON and for her very popular Darkover series.
She was also a monster.
THE LAST CLOSET: The Dark Side of Avalon is a brutal tale of a harrowing childhood. It is the true story of predatory adults preying on the innocence of children without shame, guilt, or remorse. It is an eyewitness account of how high-minded utopian intellectuals, unchecked by law, tradition, religion, or morality, can create a literal Hell on Earth.
THE LAST CLOSET is also an inspiring story of survival. It is a powerful testimony to courage, to hope, and to faith. It is the story of Moira Greyland, the only daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley and convicted child molester Walter Breen, told in her own words.
I think this is an extraordinarily important book. I believe we all need to understand the horrifying impact of child sexual abuse on its victims. Most of them can’t speak for themselves. I commend and applaud Ms. Greyland’s courage in speaking out, not just for herself, but on their behalf, too.
On a personal note, I find this book a ghastly reminder of why I took the stand I did when the Catholic Church hierarchy signally failed (and has continued to fail to this day) to address the issue of clergy sexual abuse in any meaningful way. I don’t think the bishops, archbishops and cardinals in general have any idea of just how horrifying is the reality of child sex abuse. If they did, I can’t believe they would have allowed their neglect of the situation to continue for so long. Nevertheless, they did . . . and the result for the Church has been catastrophic. By their wrong actions and deliberate inaction, they have destroyed the faith of millions – their faith in the Church, certainly, and in tragically many cases, their faith in God too. That destruction will be weighed in the scales against them when they come to the Judgment we all must face. I would not like to be in their shoes when that happens.
I can only suggest most strongly that you read Ms. Greyland’s book for yourself. Right now, today, there are tens of thousands of children among us who are going through what she went through. May her story motivate all of us to do better for them, to help them escape their living nightmare; and may all of us do our utmost to ensure that those who abuse them are prevented from ever doing so again. Furthermore, may all those seeking to justify such abuse (for example, NAMBLA and its supporters) be publicly called out for the scum they are. Let them be treated in the same way as abusers. They deserve no less.