The last time I heard from Mike he was in Cook County Jail. He had somehow persuaded a guard to find my number in Aspen, Colorado and call me. Mike was shy and vulnerable so it’s not hard to understand that the guard felt compassion for him and helped make the call. I was shocked to hear his voice but not so surprised he was locked up again. Heroin is a powerful master that requires complete devotion and money gained through stealing. No matter how strong the desire to kick the habit, it still held control over every aspect of his life. The only way Mike had to serve this master was through burglary.

We chatted for a while then Mike went quiet; something was on his mind. After much persuasion, he finally spoke and with difficulty told me something he had never mentioned during the year he was at Geneva or during the months I had contact with him on parole. He had never told anyone this before. Mike said when he was first locked up at 13 he was sent to the Reception Center at Joliet. There he was sexually assaulted by a guard that made Mike preform oral sex on him. This abuse he kept totally to himself, trusting no one as the horror replayed in a continuous loop in his mind for eight years.

Mike was locked up at that young age to be ‘rehabilitated’ for being ungovernable (truancy) and deceptive practices. The judge probably thought his would help him ‘straighten out’. His mother must felt relief that her son would get the help he needed to settle down and attend school. Everyone’s trust was betrayed but not so much as Mike’s. His world was forever haunted by the horrors of this pedophile’s abuse.

I was furious but most of all, I felt helpless and a deep sense of sorrow for what could have been. At 13, Mike’s future was severely damaged. Was this the root of the heroin addiction? Was his whole life now destined to be impossible to live, enjoy, feel safe and find contentment?

When he called, I was preparing to leave for six months backpacking around the South Pacific to Australia. I begged Mike to confide in someone he trusted and to get help to deal with the trauma of the abuse. He promised me he would. That was the last time I heard anything about Mike. For over 30 years, I’ve wondered where he is and if he found peace. He told me many times he’d like to meet a girl to love and who loved him then have a family. I’ve prayed a million prayers that Mike found his love and is happy. And if that’s too ambitious for a child with Mike’s demons, I pray that he survived what was done to him and is still alive. Because, if he is, there is still hope.