Unleashing the Jedi Within:
Reclaiming a Stolen Childhood Through the Power
of the Force
In May of 1977 I was invited to a friend’s birthday party at the local Odeon cinema to watch the film Smokey and the Bandit. However, a film playing in the next theatre caught my attention, and I remember going back and forth between the two. Each time I returned to the birthday group I would find another excuse to leave and sneak back into the other cinema. I wasn’t aware, however, that the film I couldn’t tear myself away from was half an hour longer than the Bandit. I was engrossed watching the final battle when the birthday boy himself grabbed me by the collar and removed me from my seat. He and his parents, who had driven us all to the theatre, had been looking for me. It wasn’t long before I convinced my father to return so I could see this fascinating film in its entirety. The film was Star Wars, and I was unaware how it was to change my life.
I was nine years old when I saw the original theatrical release of Star Wars. Only two months before this, my mother had removed me from a Catholic private school and enrolled me in a public school in one of the poorest areas of my hometown, XXXXXXXX, British Columbia. My mother knew that something was not right at the Catholic school, but she did not yet know the extent to which I had been physically and sexually abused by the staff. Leonard Shengold defines the type of abuse I suffered as soul murder (Doyle et al. 244). Through extensive research and interviews with sexual abuse survivors, Shengold and Dr. Leslie Lothstein observe that “…victims feel that their soul has been murdered and they can never get over the guilt and shame of what their responsible role was – why was I chosen, how did this happen to me, and can I ever be reconnected with god?” (244). I was dying inside. Star Wars became my redemption – my reincarnation as a spiritual being. Star Wars not only gave me strength as a sexual abuse survivor, but it also had a direct impact on my career as an actor, stunt performer and fight director. The focus of this paper is to examine the abuse I endured, and how the original Star Wars Trilogy and my devotion to it began the healing of my soul. This paper will act as chronicle and testament to my suffering, and how the journey through the films has helped me grow as an artist, father and compassionate human being. My aim is that this paper touches the lives of other survivors – in hopes that my story will serve to bring others back in touch with lost childhoods. I intend this paper to serve as a warning to all those who have tried to silence us in the past – with every survivor that gains the strength to speak out, the power that was once lauded over us will erode and justice shall finally be ours.
Part 1: My Past
My hope is that when He comes again, He will still be human enough to shed a clown’s
gentle tears over the broken toys – that were once…children (qtd. In Bruni and Burkett 2).
My parents were hard working people. My mother held an executive position in a bank and my father was a welder by trade. In hopes to provide a good education for my older sister and myself, they enrolled us in the only private Catholic school in XXXXXX. I was five years old when I began kindergarten and my initiation to physical abuse happened when I spoke out of turn during story time. I was told to wait in the hall for Brother L, the principal. I stood out in the hall waiting. The nervous anticipation of what was going to happen terrified me. I had never been disciplined physically at home and I had heard the rumours of the strap L carried. Finally, Brother L approached me from the end of the hall. He was dressed all in black – from his pork-pie black hat to his shiny black oxford shoes. The only contrast to his uniform was his white collar. He knelt down and asked me what I had done. I told him and he produced a strap from his coat pocket. It was about 8-10 inches in length and ¼ of an inch thick. I was instructed to hold my right hand out in front of me and keep my palm open. He then began to play a game of missing my hand. He tried three times to strike it and by the time he missed me the third time, I was uncontrollably shaking. He assured me that God had spared me because he usually did not miss. He suggested that perhaps God was warning me to be a good boy. He put the strap away, turned me around and walked me back into class. I was so happy and thankful that God had intervened, and it appeared that Brother L was fairly nice.
This seemingly innocent encounter between Brother L and myself was anything but. It appears to be a common tactic among pedophiles in authoritative positions to gain the trust of their potential victims. In this case, I believe, L was merely testing the waters to see if I made a suitable victim for him. This is not an unusual tactic for pedophiles in general. In Earl K. Wilkinson’s book Priestly Pedophiles he writes, “…usually the abuser is someone who, over a period of time, has gained the trust of not only the child, but also the parents. Most pedophiles have great patience…” (Par.4).
Brother L worked diligently gaining my trust that year. Father R, who effortlessly made friends with my family, also hunted me. He would regularly come to our house for dinners, and tell jokes to befriend my sister and myself. I found it funny whenever he said grace. It was always the same – “Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub. Thanks for the grub.” As a child, it was amazing to hear a priest say a prayer like this. I liked him.
The next few months at the school felt great. L and R often approached me on the school grounds. L would sometimes walk with me and whistle a tune while he placed his hand on my shoulder. It felt comforting to feel his calm presence around me as if he were there to protect me. Father R also took great interest in me at the school. He was a favorite because he was known to give the children candy. However, there were certain rules a student had to follow to receive the candy. Students had to approach him on the school grounds during lunch or recess and tell him they had a secret. He would bend down so children could whisper in his ear that they wanted a candy. Then he would arrange a time to meet them to get the treat. At first he would ask students to meet him somewhere outdoors, and usually during the lunch hour, but he said it had to be a secret place so other children would not get jealous. His initial treats were quite significant to a child. My first treat was a large blue lollipop that he handed me near the back of the rectory. He told me to keep it a secret from my family. Eventually the meeting places got further away from the open school grounds, and closer to the living quarters. Then the meeting place became just outside the entrance where he would meet me and take me to his room.
By the time I had finished kindergarten, R and L had brushed up against me on several occasions. I had even taken candy from R’s pants pocket when he invited me to do so. I had no idea that the lump in R’s pocket which I was often guided to touch, or the bulge I felt on my back when they walked up behind me were their erections.
It was in grade one when the abuse escalated. I had grown accustomed to R’s candy ritual. I felt slightly uncomfortable when he would help me out of my jacket from time to time and adjust my pants. His hands often brushed against my groin. Brother L, however, became more aggressive. I was getting punished on a more regular basis. Each time I received the strap, I was reminded how upset God was with me, and that I had to do better to earn God’s love. By this time L was also strapping me in his office. He would hold me across his lap, and strap my (sometimes exposed) buttocks. There were times I could feel his erection digging into my stomach as he strapped me there. Another Brother, P, had arrived at the school and favoured striking my knuckles and buttocks with the cane he always carried. I was often told that I was dirty, and I had to work hard to gain God’s love. What saddens me the most is that I believed them.
…The abuse will generally occur [on] more than one occasion. Each time the child becomes more traumatized. The guilt has to be carried everywhere…A priest, by merely donning his collar, automatically becomes a person to be trusted. Worse, to a child he has a magic power about him, He is above being human… (Wilkinson).
I remember sitting in the dark assembly hall in the basement watching a Ma and Pa Kettle film. The northern winters get very cold, and it had been declared an indoor day. R sat beside me for a while and took my hand and placed it on his groin. I was terrified and didn’t know what to do. Later that winter in his private room, I was told I needed to be fitted for a cassock as an altar boy and he helped me undress. He fondled my genitals and exposed himself to me – making me watch him masturbate. He made me simulate what he was doing. I listened to him; after all, he was a man of God.
From this point on the abuse became more traumatic for me. I began to overeat at home and gained weight. I cried a lot at home. I didn’t say a word to my parents about what was happening at school. I was sure they would not believe me, and even if they did, I believed it was my fault. I was ashamed and embarrassed about what was happening to me. I wanted to keep the abuse a secret. Only in my adult years did I learn that most sexual abuse survivors resort to silence when abused by such figures of authority (Browne and Browne 100).
The abuse escalated to more than simply fondling and witnessing masturbation. During my five year sentence in that school I was forced to:
-receive frequent canings and strappings on my hands and buttocks;
-perform fellatio on the priests until they ejaculated;
-attempt anal sex with the priests;
-be whipped with an electrical cord (Nicholas John Harrison VS. The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation et al. 05306. 06. Prince George. Sup. Ct. B.C. 1998).
In addition to these horrendous acts I was forced to participate in, I was often told that:
-God hated me;
-I was a dirty boy;
-It was the priest’s duty to punish me for my sins;
-I had to be punished for what I made the priests do to me;
-If I told anyone, God would not love my family and we would be destroyed by God for what I was making the priests do (7-8).
I remember after the first anal sex attempt by L, I had severe pain in my rectum. It was hard for me to sit, and I was terrified when I discovered I was bleeding. I still was noticing blood after a couple of days and I summoned up the courage to ask my parents to look at my buttocks. My father came into the bathroom to look and told me that I had probably just wiped too hard. I didn’t have the voice to tell my parents what was happening to me, but I had hoped my father would have found out that night and saved me from that school.
As recently as the early 1990’s an archbishop commented that priests who got involved with minors were the “naïve victims of streetwise youngsters” (Doyle et al. 75). Victims of sexual abuse by the clergy have reported feeling that they were viewed as “…seducers, seductresses, sinners, or in some cases, opportunists, and treated largely without sympathy” (75). Looking back now, I cannot imagine what the reaction might have been if I had fully disclosed what was happening to me in the late 1970’s.
When I started doing research on this subject, I was surprised to see my story repeated by so many other men. A commonality is the set pattern abuse follows. As explained in Sex, Priests and Secret Codes, the pattern may be as follows:
- The sexual contact arises from a relationship involving immense trust on the part of the minor;
- The child is extraordinarily vulnerable in that the priest is seen as an agent of God;
- An affectionate relationship often precedes the sexual contact so that the child feels that he (usually) or she has a very special relationship with the priest;
- There is an incredible helplessness on the part of the abused child – most abused minors either feel responsible for the abuse occurring, or so powerless that they feel they cannot disclose the abuse to their parents, or, often, anyone else;
- Such secrecy surrounds the abuse that disclosure is inhibited – sometimes reinforced by threats – allowing the abuse to continue; and
- If the abuse is revealed, bishops rarely treated the child victim in a responsible, pastoral manner. Moreover, the parents’ trust in their bishop permits manipulation, intimidation, and, in some cases, active deceit, with additional negative consequences to the welfare of the child (79).
It was a warm spring day in Grade four when my Mother asked me to come outside and get some fresh air while she worked in the yard. She told me to put on shorts and a short sleeve shirt. There was no way the shorts could hide the welts on my legs from the electrical cord I had been whipped with. She asked me what had happened, and at first I denied that anything had. But after more queatoins, I told her how one of the female teachers had whipped me for being last into her class. I did not tell her about any of the sexual abuse at that time. As scared as I was, I knew that God would not destroy my family because I had reported only a regular teacher and not a servant of God. My mother went to the school alone to raise hell. As I look back, I find it very interesting that L begged my mother to keep me in the school until the end of the year for my sake. I am not completely unconvinced that my life was in danger there. Luckily my mother immediately pulled me out of that school and placed me in the neighborhood elementary school. The sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the priests had stopped, but my recovery was far from over. My soul was crushed, and my self-esteem was lnon-existent. Leonard Shengold observes that [child] victims of clerical abuse
…desperately need to maintain a mental image of a loving and rescuing parent. However, torture and deprivation under conditions of complete dependency elicit a terrifying combination of helplessness and rage. These are the feelings that the child must suppress in order to survive. The child, therefore, denies or justifies what has happened, deadens emotions, identifies with the aggressor, and even carries the guilt that rightfully belongs with the abuser (265).
According to Shengold, sexual abuse does not simply harm, it kills a part of a child (265).
I agree completely with his view. A large part of me was gone forever. I felt inadequate and undeserving around the new group of classmates I found myself with. I was terrified of the teachers and believed that the abuse would start there too. I was relieved I didn’t have to pray or have private meetings with priests anymore. I had lost spiritual access to my life. There was no guide to help me cope with what had happened (Browne and Browne 75). I started to fantasize about my own death.
Part II: Salvation comes
It was only a few months later that I was invited to Smokey and the Bandit, and was compelled to go into the theatre showing Star Wars. That movie changed my life completely. I became a Star Wars fanatic. Fanatic has its roots in the Latin word fanaticus which literally means “Of or belonging to the temple, a temple servant, a devotee” (Jenkins 12). Unfortunately, media fans have often been represented as simple-minded, withdrawn, and weak individuals in pop culture (277). In an episode of Triumph the Wonder Dog for the Conan O’Brien show, for example, Star Wars fans were stereotyped as “losers”, and were made fun of because they had likely never kissed a girl, or were still living in their parents’ basement (The Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). While it was a funny segment, the fans of Star Wars were dismissed as simple-minded idiots. It upset me to see how fans could still be viewed as a negative subculture.
My experience as a fan was more internal. I had stumbled onto a method of therapy without knowing what I was learning from these films. My spirit needed to be nurtured and I found great comfort, guidance, and a sense of belonging in the films.
As a sexual abuse survivor, my personal boundaries were destroyed by the priests. The balance of good and evil was blurred during my time at the Catholic school. The priests who were supposed to feed my soul and educate me had instead violated and terrorized me. In the dark theatre, although I was surrounded by other people, I felt comfortable being alone. John Williams’ musical score somehow comforted me and filled me with a sense of hope, and life. Within the first few bars of music I was intensely emotionally engaged with the film. The music of John Williams continued to heal my soul and inspire me through my teen years. I recently found an essay I wrote for English 11. In it I wrote, “…John Williams saved yet another life and gave Raiders of the Lost Ark a refreshing life of its own…” (Harrison 2-3). The clear themes of good vs. evil and the importance of friendship within Star Wars resonated within me. I wanted to believe that good could overcome evil. I hated Darth Vader. He was manipulative, all-powerful, and a destroyer. Dressed all in black, to me he represented the priests at the Catholic school. Similarly, the Emperor’s own aides looked sickly priestly. In Star Wars: The New Myth, Michael J Hanson and Max S. Kay observe that
[They are] pallid individuals lurking in the background, dressed in ornate clothing similar to that of a Catholic bishop. Here perhaps is a subliminal jab at the Roman Catholic Church. They have been often criticized for their corruption and politicking in the name of power, permitting a mix of religion and government. This is the case for the Empire, which in essence has a religious icon (a master of the Force) as its leader…(254)
To me, Vader’s abuse of power was exactly like the priests’. For example, I had been grabbed by the neck and forced to perform fellatio in the principal’s office. My neck hurt, and the violent act not only humiliated, but also terrified me. A scene from Star Wars parallels this incident:
INT. REBEL BLOCKADE RUNNER – CORRIDOR
The evil Darth Vader stands amid the broken and twisted bodies of his foes. He grabs a wounded Rebel officer by the neck….
…The Rebel refuses to speak but eventually cries out as the Dark Lord begins to squeeze the officer’s throat, creating a gruesome snapping and choking, until the soldier goes limp. Vader tosses the dead soldier against the wall and turns to his troops…(Lucas 5)
I was creating a relationship with the characters on the screen. Darth Vader was L, and I became various Rebels in the movie. In that moment I was the Rebel officer. My would attempt to cry out was only met with more force. The easiest and most painless thing for me to do was to go limp, as if feigning death. I knew the rape wouldn’t last too long. In another instance, L grabbed me by the neck in the school’s corridor and threw me down the stairs into a wall. Even though I smashed my chin on the hard floor, I was as limp as the office Vader killed in that early scene in Star Wars. The scar on my chin reminds me of that incident to this day.
I was inspired to see that there could be such a thing as a Rebellion. The Rebels fascinated me. They were much smaller in number and not nearly as organized as the Imperial army. They were united, however, against the seemingly indestructible Imperials, and they believed in themselves and what was right. What was even more interesting was the diversity of characters from farm boy to experienced warrior to Wookie. The Empire was more machine-like. The officers’ uniforms were colorless and bland and the storm troopers were faceless soldiers. Darth Vader was half robot and the Death Star, like the Church for me, represented a “loss of humanity” (Fader 202).
In contrast, the Rebels’ uniforms were far less imposing, more casual and colorful. While in Catholic school I was forced to wear a bland navy uniform. I suddenly felt more free in public school with no formal dress code. Looking back now, I can see why my favourite shirt, and the one I wore most often, was a bright red Star Trek shirt. The Imperials ruled with authority and used fear and intimidation to maintain power. The Rebels relied on friendship and trust. Their struggle was to fight for freedom from Imperial domination (Cameron 159). Because I had been so repressed, these were foreign concepts to me, but I desperately wanted to stand up for myself against the injustice. My heart was bursting for that kind of friendship and trust.
I was also introduced to a new spirituality. It was the Force. As it was new to Luke Skywalker, so it was new to me. Obi Wan Kenobi tells Luke in Star Wars, A New Hope:
….For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.
How did my father die?
A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.
Well, the Force is what gives the Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together. (Lucas 36)
The Force became my new spirituality. In that small movie theatre I decided I wanted to become a Jedi. I wanted to be a guardian of peace, and use the Force to protect my family and myself. I had no idea how this would happen, but I knew it had to. It would be mostly an internal journey, but I had started my ‘training’ and my healing all by myself.
The Death Star represented the Catholic Church in all its power. I felt such an overwhelming sense of joy when it exploded on the screen. It represented an end to tyranny, and a new beginning. Like the title, the ending of the film literally did give me A New Hope.
I began to read as much as I could about the Star Wars Universe. I wanted to know what the Jedi were, and I started to visualize myself as a powerful warrior. I dreamed of the Catholic school blowing up and thus liberating all the tiny souls who had been victims of the priests’ tyranny.
This was a cause I could identify with and believe in. I turned my hatred towards Darth Vader and wanted to see him destroyed. I could not understand how such an evil Empire could have so many followers, but I knew it angered me. Obi Wan Kenobi tells Luke that the Force has a strong influence on the weak-minded. This is also summed up in Star Wars; The New Myth: “…people who are weak admire the powerful, even if the powerful are cruel toward them. This is the antithesis of symbiotic behavior, which emphasizes mutual respect” (Hanson and Kay 185). As a young child, I did not consciously associate the other priests, nuns, and teachers who turned a blind eye to my abuse with the weak-minded followers of the Empire. However, I was determined not to be weak-minded myself. I knew that in order to be a Jedi I must train, and learn.
As a victim of pedophile priests, I was carrying the guilt of what had happened to me as my fault. It was my burden; after all I caused it all in the first place, didn’t I? According to Jeanne Sarson and Linda MacDonald, “Pedophiles frequently believe they are superior, for instance, in the case of priests they are groomed to believe they are next to god…[T]o help excuse their pedophilic behaviors the perpetrator engages in blame the victim excuses. The victim is blamed for what happened to him/her” (“The Modus Operandi…”).
Even though I had been removed from the Catholic school, I would not wear any type of short clothing. I wanted to hide myself and insisted I cut my own shorts. The most I was willing to expose was my ankles and a little bit of calf. I was afraid of causing someone to attack me because I provoked him or her. I also took an avid interest in my father’s military history. He was a paratrooper in WWII. Every time we went on vacation I had to stop at any military exhibit and look at tanks. I wanted one so badly. My mother still remembers me asking my father to buy me grenades for my birthday. It used to be a funny story for her, but now she knows why I desperately wanted them.
I returned to the theatre to see my sacred film again and again. I wanted to see the Death Star blow up and Luke learn about the Force. I had no idea how I was going to be a Jedi, but I knew it had to involve some kind of martial training. By the time The Empire Strikes Back was released, I had seen Star Wars 22 times in the theatres.
During this time I became accustomed to physical attacks by other neighborhood children. They ranged from the usual name calling, to children punching and kicking me, and eventually escalated to a vicious attack in an alley one winter that left me lying alone in the snow. I thought I was going to die because I had been repeatedly kicked by a teenager wearing steel-toed work boots. Soon after that, my mother enrolled me in my first martial arts class for self-defense. My parents were worried because I would not strike other children back. Being an overweight child, I was an easy target for children looking for a punching bag. The best defense I had learned at the Catholic school was to go limp when attacked. My private Karate lessons were the beginning of my martial career.
A year later The Empire Strikes Back was released. I was amazed to see that once again my life was parallel to Luke’s. He too finds himself the victim of an attack in the snow that leaves him unconscious and almost dead. He goes to Dagobah to continue his training under Yoda, the Jedi Master who trained Obi Wan. Though I was studying karate at that time, I felt a similarity in the philosophy of the Jedi and the Bushido code. Martial arts rely on the training of the mind and the body in harmony. The code of the Samurai warrior includes justice, courage, compassion, courtesy, truthfulness, honor, and loyalty. Good martial artists do not let emotion get in the way of their training. Hours are spent on meditation and self-reflection. Japanese traditional martial training can be described in three stages: Shu, Ha, and Ri (Furuya 24). The first stage, shu, is represented as an egg. In this stage, the student is taught to protect the form of their martial art. It is a difficult stage that involves learning and protecting, much like a mothering bird protects her egg in the nest. The next stage is the breaking form, Ha. In this stage the young chick breaks through the hard shell of the form. The shell is broken in many different pieces, meaning that the fundamentals are mastered and are applied to all situations. The third form, Ri is the releasing form. In this stage, the bird has matured and is ready to leave the nest. The student in this stage forgets all the forms and masters the formless technique. The student thereby sheds all old ideas that have hindered the training (24).
In The Empire Strikes Back, we are introduced to the Eastern Martial arts philosophies. As Yoda explains to Luke:
A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger…fear…aggression. The dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi Wan’s apprentice…For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we…(Yoda pinches Luke’s shoulder)…not this crude matter. (a sweeping gesture) You must feel the Force around you. (gesturing) Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere! (Brackett and Kasdan 68, 75)
I was compelled by Yoda’s lessons. Yoda is the perfect ideal of a spiritual leader. He is unassuming and small yet he contains a powerful spirituality within him. Never does he train Luke to wield a light saber. Instead he focuses on his mind, and his Zen conditioning. He teaches Luke that [the power of] the mind is far greater than the physical ability of the body. I liked this lesson. While my body had been violated, the priests could not touch or physically fuck my mind. It was the only untouched place I could escape to. My mind could still conceive a form of purity and resilience far beyond anything that had been physically done to me. I knew I could use my mind to overcome.
I practiced everywhere I went. If I found myself getting scared doing something, I would tell myself it was a Jedi test. I was beginning to be able to turn my fear around. Instead of being afraid of roller coasters, I convinced myself I was training to fly X-Wings and I turned that fear into excitement. I was learning to work with my fear instead of letting it rule me. I was learning to be with myself, and I was often surprised how simply focusing on breathing helped relax me.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about this new spirituality, and my own path to becoming a self-professed Jedi Knight, was that there was no concept of the Force as God. I could relate to the Force. It was all around me, in the flowers and other animals. It surrounded me. God, however, was this entity that allowed his ministers to abuse me. I feared and hated the concept of “God” as taught by the Catholics, but I embraced the idea of the Force. I have come to understand the Force as a powerful energy. Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it simply changes from one form to another. I have also come to understand that there are equal amounts of light and dark energies in the Force. Bringing a balance into the Force is bringing both light and dark into harmony. At times one may dominate the other, but to be at harmony is to balance the light and dark in the universe. I learned this at 12 years old.
Recently I picked up a copy of Sidney Poitier’s book, The Measure of a Man. Sidney has his own belief about spirituality, and it is not that surprising that he uses the same idea of the Force to describe the dark-side in all of us:
“The dark side in each of us operates from behind masks of varying complexity, coming to the fore when we elect to use its services…sometimes the dark side is turned inward. Some people take pills; some jump out the window. But whether violence is turned inward or outward, people can’t isolate components of their rage – it’s an accumulation. We think we’re raging against the darkness, but in fact we’re struggling against a life we can’t control. (225-27)
In Sex, Priests and Secret Codes, the authors write of cultivating anger but controlling emotion:
…Anger should be cultivated. Anger is a normal consequence of being betrayed, molested, victimized, deceived, or persecuted…by religious authority. Anger provides the energy necessary for survival. Anger is not an evil word, although it has been vilified in the clergy-dominated culture where docility and subservience are extolled above self-assertion and independence (and even reason). “Anger,” St. Augustine said, “is the beginning of courage.” (274)
As a growing boy with anger that absolutely could have taken me to the dark side, I was fortunate to be learning about control through martial arts and the Star Wars trilogy. As Yoda says to Luke: “Control, control, you must learn control” (Brackett and Kasdan 79). It is ironic that it was a lack of control and the dark side turned outward that led Rainer and Leopold to abuse me and who knows how many other innocent children.
I often wonder what would have happened to me if I had not accidentally stumbled into that theatre in 1977. My sister, who is five years older than me, was also physically and sexually abused at the same school. Her anger turned outward, and being the younger brother, I was subjected to varying degrees of sexual and physical humiliation by her and her friends. My parents were unaware of this abuse as well. However, soon after that she began to run away from home. Unfortunately my sister turned to drugs and alcohol. It is not uncommon for sexual abuse survivors to turn to drugs and self-destructive behavior to “numb themselves to the pain of the past” (Browne and Browne 35). In my early thirties I made the decision to confront my abusers. When I talked to my sister about it, she admitted to her abuse but was terrified to testify against the church. The Catholic priests had succeeded in silencing her. Today she is addicted to crack-cocaine, and lives with a drug dealer. Once again Poitier describes the evil nature of the dark side so well:
When hopelessness succeeds in narrowing the distance enough to infect hopes and dreams and slowly sap their strength, then their instinct to survive falters. Begins to wear down. And if it’s ever subdued to a point where it can no longer churn out the stuff from which dreams are spun to give flight to hope, then one resigns oneself to what follows. And, over time, hopelessness lays claim to another victim…(Poitier 227)
What resonates for me within Poitier’s book is that “hopes and dreams are necessary tools to the survival instinct” (227). Because of the power of the Force, I was able to hope and dream. After everything I had endured, I was not afraid to live. My mind became my playground, and Star Wars was my redeemer.
Part III. The Jedi I Became
In high school I took to wearing camouflage. Partially, it was because I desired to emulate the rebel soldiers on Endor in Return of the Jedi, and there was still a part of me that wanted to go about my life unnoticed. At the Catholic school it was important not to be singled out. Ironically, camouflage clothing was not in style in the early 1980’s, and so I did stand out. A part of me craved attention and acceptance, yet I would try to avoid being noticed. When I went to University I joined the Kendo club. The light saber fighting in the original trilogy was based on Kendo. Even though I was a young adult, I still wanted to fulfill my Jedi desires and I loved my Kendo training. It became a regular part of my life for several years. When I moved to England I actually became a member of the British Kendo team. Gradually I had stopped thinking so much about Star Wars and worked towards my education and my career as an actor and fight director. Of course I still am able to annoy my friends with reciting every line of the original trilogy.
In 1996 I realized I could not continue to do my own therapy. I found a great therapist who let me revisit the events of my past and grieve for the child who was silenced and needed to be heard. Perhaps the most important thing I accepted was that the abuse was not my fault, and I had not brought it on myself. I made the journey from victim to survivor. I felt anger against the priests, but St. Augustine said, “Anger is the beginning of courage” (Doyle et al. 274). I tried to contact victims of the priests but either they had passed away or would have nothing to do with me. The victims did not want to face their demons. Again, this is a common experience with abuse survivors. Some survivors may “…deny anything had happened” (Bruni and Burkett 12).
I knew I had to share my experience. I needed to let people know what occurred in that Catholic school. Unfortunately, so many victims of this kind of abuse will stay silent and carry the guilt of their abusers with them all their life. I believe if the true number of victims were known, it would be staggering. In fact, a 1962 church document Sacramentorum Sancitatis Tutela “reflects the church’s insistence on maintaining the highest degree of secrecy regarding the worst sexual crimes perpetrated by clerics” (Doyle et al. 50). This decree remained in effect until 2001 (62). Title V of the decree, “specifically included homosexual acts between clerics and members of their own sex (Par.70), bestiality, and sexual acts of any kind with children (Par.73). The document used the Latin word impubes (lit. beardless) taken to mean ‘before the age of reason,’ which is defined in Canon 88 as seven or under” (49). Under this same document, accusers and witnesses “were obliged to take the oath of secrecy. Although the penalty of automatic excommunication was not attached to the violation of their oath, the official conducting the prosecution could, in individual cases, threaten accusers and witnesses with automatic excommunication for breaking the secret” (49).
Since I have chosen the path of the Jedi, I can not keep silent about the injustice I had suffered as a child. I have a responsibility to stand up and be the voice for the child within. My close friends and family give me their support. However, I have encountered some resistance from people who feel uncomfortable with my past. For example, I was the most popular radio personality at local radio station Z-95.3, and was one of the producers of the morning show. I confided to my boss what had happened, and that I was involved in a law suit against the Catholic church. His initial concern was how my law suit could affect the station, but he promised me that the station would support me. A week later I was fired because the station had decided, in his words, to “shake things up.” The next day I was hired at another radio station (JR-FM). A few months later, when I disclosed my abuse to the management, they supported me. Most importantly, I was standing up for myself.
I have found an inner strength in the Force. I teach people how to fight and be strong. I have taught self-defense to people at risk. I am a graduate student at the University of British Columbia. I am an actor and I perform stunts in the film industry. I have never had an addiction to drugs or alcohol. I have a successful marriage and two beautiful children. I am not afraid to laugh and play. I have learned to stand up for my family and myself. I am a survivor of physical and sexual abuse. I am a survivor. I am a spiritual warrior. I am a Jedi.
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