Scholar of Mazes: Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse

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At The Globe and Mail, Scott C. Jones writes about being molested by a neighbor as a young boy. When he reveals to his mother what’s been happening, in a bid to stop the abuse, she refuses to believe him. Knowing he has to survive on his own, he finds solace in conquering Pac-Man’s mazes.

The Atari 2600 version was not the real Pac-Man. No matter. I sat in front of the TV in our living room for hours, foolishly trying to get the mazes in Mr. Uston’s guidebook to bend to my will, to co-operate with me, to be what I wanted them to be. I kept obsessively searching for the “safe spots” in the maze that Mr. Uston’s book said existed; the mysterious places where Pac-Man himself became invisible to the patrolling ghosts. Because this is what I did when I was a kid, for better and for worse: I found silly things, like safe places in a pixelated maze, to believe in; and I had a very difficult time accepting that those silly things didn’t exist.

I still do this today.

As I explained everything to her, I braced myself for that wrath again. I looked forward to it, in fact. I wanted her to do to the man what she had done to me. I wanted her to snatch him up as if he was a rabbit she’d caught in her garden.

But there was no wrath. None whatsoever. She did not transform into the powerful creature I’d seen before. Instead, she peered at me with an indifferent look in her eyes. She shook her head from side to side, slowly. “I think you must be mistaken,” she said. She set the onion down on the newsprint. “Those people are our neighbours,” my mother said. “That man is a friend of the family. He was in the military. I know that man. He wouldn’t do something like that to you.”

I was dumbfounded. “But, Mom …” I said.

She said one more thing I’ve never forgotten. She said, “And one more piece of advice? Don’t be melodramatic all the time. It’s not flattering for a man to be so melodramatic.” She frowned at me in a theatrical way.

Then she picked up the onion off the newspaper. She resumed peeling.

My mother didn’t believe me. She did not believe me. She didn’t believe me, and so she would not help. She would not help. So I was alone.

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