When I was twelve and chopping wood, I remember fantasizing about killing Mr. Morgan and his wife. They were my neighbors. They were my abusers. I broke down in tears of confusion and horror. I didn’t know why I was having these thoughts. I was still in denial about my abuse. Shortly after this experience, I discovered alcohol. Alcohol made me feel better. Alcohol made me forget. It worked for a while. Around the same, I discovered working out and playing football also helped. After high school, I went to college to play football. While playing football, I sustained a spinal injury. Afterwards I got in trouble for drinking and had to go to alcohol classes were they suggested I start counseling. This was the best thing that ever happened to me. Within in a few sessions the abuse started to surface. My counselor suggested that I start seeing another consoler who specialized in child abuse. I saw this new consoler for almost four years on a weekly bases. During this time I read every book I could find on human sexuality, sexual abuse, religion, and philosophy. I also became very involved in a campus organization called “Choices”. This was a group that helped educate students to live healthy life styles. There were two things I did that I felt were very important to me and others. One was starting “Varaw” Violence Acquaints Rape Awareness Week, which is still active at my university. The second was a series of painting with short stories that was shown in the main gallery. Threw all of this I went from a victim to a survivor.
In the spirit of disclosure, I was fucking nauseous writing the following post. I delved into the one of darkest crevices of my being, and will continue to do so, in the spirit of this project. I only ask you to keep this mind as you follow this project.
I was sexually abused as a child. I am utterly astounded in having just put that sentence on the page and the individual progress that it implies. I know this post will be seen, in whatever capacity, on the blog and social media. As this project continues to gain traction, I know strangers, friends, and family will know, I, Derek Hopkins, was sexually abused as a child. To me it is rather profound to have manifested the courage to admit this fact. And I reiterate a sentiment a shared several days ago; this project has had a liberating effect on me.
I was inclined to keep my childhood sexual abuse a secret for the majority of my life. It was as if I had struck a baleful pact with those who have victimized me to never speak on what they did to me. It was as though I wanted to protect them in the most perverted of manners. I was indirectly providing them with anonymity, allowing them to continue on with their lives unscathed, and potentially victimizing more children.
As an adult, as a person who is constantly growing emotionally and spiritually, I am cognizant that sharing my experiences as act of righteous or pious vengeance, as a proverbial witch-hunt to bring shame on those who victimized me, will only be internecine. I want to grow as a person and as an artist. I want to learn from my experiences. I even want to forgive my abusers in my own way and in my own time which I figure to be a lifelong process. But even in that, it represents progress.
I am doing this project to bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse. It is impossible to gauge what impact will come from Allen and I opening ourselves up. As this project moves along, I will tell the stories of my sexual abuse and allow access to my most intimate thoughts in relation to sexual abuse. How I have carried and will continue to carry this allegorical pain, and what I have to do on a daily basis to prevent those demons of time from consuming me.
I am writing this on August 12th, 2016. It is nearing 5:00 pm. I have been looking out of the window of this cafe at the rather dreary sights of city. A grey has overcome it all. The homeless people in the park are fleeing for cover from a tremendous downpour. So are the pigeons. After rummaging through, what I perceive as, the rigid complexities of my mind, I have only just mustered the courage to elucidate on my experience this morning. As some of you may know, Allen and myself, began the “A Childhood Fractured” project almost two weeks ago. Since the projects inception, Allen and myself have started a blog for the project, compiled research on childhood sexual abuse, created a Facebook page, and discussed, at length, Allen’s life story. Discussing Allen’s life story has provided me with invaluable insight into who Allen is, how he thinks etc. And will allow me to craft more precise stories for this project. In the process, we have bonded by exploring the atrocities of sexual abuse we experienced as children and how those atrocities have manifested themselves in our respective adult persons.
Until this morning, we hadn’t started the artwork itself. I had no idea how emotionally charged and daunting this work would truly be. To look another person in the eyes and share with them your most horrifying experiences, with no guarantee as to how they will receive it, takes a certain amount of courage in itself. To create artwork based on those horrifying experiences, to be put on display for everyone’s eyes to see, judge, critique, and analyze, I dare say, takes an entire different category of courage. This morning I gained the slightest glimpse into that courage. I must admit, on the way over to Allen’s house, I was full of nervous excitement. I had no idea what to expect, what emotions would arise. Prior to this day, we agreed, for the sake of the art, that we would attempt to combine our creative process. The agreement was Allen would be painting while narrating the subject matter of the painting; something that he has never done before. And I would take notes and absorb the experience and begin crafting the story. We did just that.
We began with Allen introducing himself to the camera that was filming us. And after a brief introduction, Allen began imprinting his memory of a particular experience onto the canvas as I took rigorous notes while absorbing as much as possible. I was astounded by the grotesque nature of the subject matter. I was even more astounded by Allen’s courage. It took some serious balls to conceive a project such as this, nonetheless do it. He continued painting with strokes of bravery. The emotional tension of the space grew. With each stroke of his brush and with each heavy word, the painting began to take on a life of its own. And in this moment, I gained insight into what we are truly doing. Allen continued on, forging and speaking. Spilling out his soul in a way I have never seen a person do. He started painting faster and with more fury. And then, without notice, moments before the awesomeness of this experience reached new heights, a shriek of thunder and lightning could be heard tremoring the earth. It broke our collective moment. This was followed by immense rainfall. It was as if the gods were weeping. The basement began flooding and we scurried move Allen’s belongings to prevent damage.
Afterwards, we briefly discussed some things and I was on my way. I could see in Allen the emotional toll painting this experience had taken. He looked weak and lightheaded. As if he had come down with an illness. I commended him even more for his bravery afterwards. Today, I truly felt as though what I am doing, what we are doing, is a good thing. If the proceeding moments of creation are at all similar, you will have some stellar artwork fashioned from the souls of two men. As I finish writing this, I look outside. The sun peaked out its head briefly and then disappeared back behind the grey. I know the Sun is there. It will come out soon enough. Mother Nature back at it with the symbolism.