A while back, in another life, I was in L.A.
I don’t remember the exact reason I went out there. I don’t think anyone ever does. Let’s face it… L.A. sucks.
At this point I have been to that shit city more times than I ever wanted to in my entire life. It’s basically a much bigger, much more congested, much more materialistic versions of Miami, which is my hometown and I also hate with a red-hot Latino passion.
In any case, I was at Wondery’s offices for the first time and I was ushered into its CEO and founder Hernan Lopez’s, for what I thought was a one-on-one meeting. Sitting across from his desk though was Jim Clemente: FBI profiler, New York state prosecutor, writer/producer on CBS' Criminal Minds, and host of the Wondery podcast Real Crime Profile.
I sat awkwardly, twiddling thumbs, as Hernan coerced Jim into telling his story.
The whole thing felt very forced and strange, but Jim’s story didn’t. It was real. It was raw. It was full of real emotion and palpable anger. So once he was done, and once I had gotten answers to a few key questions, I told them both that I’d be honored if he appeared on an episode of Sword and Scale.
It was probably a few months before I realized how to tell this story. We finally did it on Episode 99.
This was the height of the Misandrist Uprising. The Trump-fueled “grab them by the pussy” insanity that took hold around 2016 and built upon itself via Twitter and Tumblr, and private facebook groups in every major city following a new true crime podcast by two women which spent 20% of the time reading the wikipedia article about the crime, and 80% of the time talking about how men are trash while attempting to be cute.
Toxic Masculinity. The Patriarchy. Mansplaining. Manspreading. Fuck Politeness. Hashtag hashtag hashtag… The #MeToo movement with its overreaching tentacles spreading into comedy and independent creators in podcasts and YouTube.
Now I’ll probably get into all the other utter insane bullshit we had to deal with from Jim’s two female co-hosts at some point, who also seemingly lost their minds, but that’s not what this post is about. So let’s refocus. It’s not all about you, Karen.
I decided to make an episode that was solely about male child abuse, a topic that often goes ignored. It consisted of three stories told by three men, who had been abused as children. Jim would be the crescendo final story and we would post the entire episode on both feeds to cross promote, and help out Hernan and Wondery (who had awkwardly brought us together). What I didn’t expect was that we would immediately see two things…
An immediate backlash in the form of listeners questioning the validity of at least one of the survivor’s claims. Which is inherently weird from those who proclaim to “believe all victims”
Aaaaannnnd… A massive outpouring of appreciation from those who had been abused and were touched in some way by this episode.
The latter is what this whole overly-detailed article is about. (Yes, I know I’m “wordy.” Bear with me.)
We got maybe 300 voicemails after that episode. I forwarded a lot of them to Jim early on, but due to some bullshit drama with his co-hosts that I previously touched on, we didn’t talk for a bit. The calls, however, never stopped. It was overwhelming; Depressing and overwhelming. Very very depressing and sad and filled with PURE FUCKING RAGE. I listened to every call… every single one over the course of the last two years since that episode came out.
One of those calls came in just last week.
I was immediately moved by the sincerity in the caller’s voice: a truck driver… a manly man who had been abused as a little innocent boy. I called him up as soon as I heard it and the result was Episode 147 of Sword and Scale. It was a story which felt so familiar to my experiences growing up in the 80’s that it made me wonder… just how did I get so lucky? Just how did I escape the worst of this type of abuse growing up in such a similar place and time? Survivor’s guilt, they call it…
The 80’s were a strange time. Parents were just starting to become aware of the real and present threat to their children by perverted pedophiles that could live right next door without your knowledge. I remember that even Hollywood got involved and made a series of “very special episodes” of what would normally be lighthearted primetime comedies. The Different Strokes episode called “The Bicycle Man” stands out in my memory around this time. It was about an older man that coerces the tv-show’s protagonists back to his place to take “pictures.”
The show is full of one-liners that are sexually suggestive regarding the unsuspecting child being pleasing to the old pedo. It wouldn’t stand a chance to be aired in 2019, but in the 80’s not only was it on prime time but the canned laugh track lightened the mood at all the right moments.
Looking back I can’t help but be amazed. Somehow, I escaped this fate. I mean, there are things that are quite shady about various moments in time. Maybe I’ll be brave enough to get into that one day. There are moments of WTF scattered throughout my childhood and adolescence, but I’m pretty sure things never got past a certain threshold. Then again, sometimes I wonder what the mind can block to protect itself. Who knows?
So when I talked to the subject in Episode 147 I realized that I had to do a little something extra this time, something to give all of those callers the voice they deserve to have. Just sitting here listening to their calls at one in the morning wasn’t enough. They were calling not just because they wanted someone to listen, but they wanted someone to acknowledge their abuse… their pain. They had spent a lifetime being silent and the acknowledgement and understanding was something they desperately craved.
I decided to set up a new website which would be dedicated simply to posting their stories, in their own words. I called it Surviving This.
The number to call in is 850.888.8611. So here’s the disclaimer… I did this using whatever resources I could scrounge together so unfortunately the voicemail cuts off at 3 minutes, but anyone is welcome to call back in as many times as they want to finish telling their story. We’re working to find a better solutions and fix that issue. In the meantime, we are listening to each story and publishing it on SurvivingThis.com where others can hear and comment in a moderated thread. I’m hoping this gives an outlet to a lot of people who previously were afraid to tell their story, and by doing so they can not only help others but also heal themselves.
Jim Clemente did it. He is still, in a lot of ways, that vulnerable little boy that fell into harm’s way and became victimized by an adult with bad intentions. But somehow he turned his trauma into a wonderful positive life and amazing career. I hope a lot of survivors out there take his experiences, and the experiences of others like him, as a motivation to come out of the darkness a victim, and emerge a hero and inspiration to others.
I hope, in some small way, I can be a part of that.