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Opinion: Facing the predator within me

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[su_testimonial]By Steve Croyle [/su_testimonial]

This is hard, but I’ve been thinking about sexual abuse and my role in the issue over the years. While you can take solace in the fact that I’m not a rapist, nor have I ever actively discriminated against a woman, or leveraged a position of authority over women who worked for me when I was a manager, I can’t honestly say that my hands are clean of sexual misconduct.

It’s not fair for me to choose to define when and where I might have been guilty of abuse. You see, that is subject to the interpretation of the abused.

Most of my offenses were early on. I recall one regrettable event when I was 16 or 17. I was with this girl and we were making out. She needed to leave, and I attempted to detain her while escalating the sexual nature of the encounter by shoving her car keys into my front pocket and daring her to retrieve them. She shrugged, and laughed as she extracted them, and drove off. I’m gathering no harm was done, but that was unacceptable behavior, and if she experienced more instances of abuse, it’s just another drop in a bucket of misery.

There was another encounter with another girl, that went much further. Everything was consensual, but I feel like I might have been somewhat coercive, in that “Baby it’s cold outside” way, as I talked her into risking being late for work. If you ask me where that registers on the sexual abuse meter, I’d say it was fairly low, but that’s not for me to judge. All I can say, is that moment stands out as one, of many, that I’d like to take back.

There was also groping. Not just the kind that happens at a school dance where your hand slowly slides down to cup a buttock, but also sliding a hand under someone’s butt as she was sitting down, or copping that surreptitious feel while walking through the crowded hallway. It didn’t occur to me how wrong it was at the time, but that’s no excuse. It contributes to the systemic pattern of abuse that so many women have to deal with today. Again, I wish I could take all these, and others, back. I can’t.  These are all things I did when I was younger and more selfish. I didn’t think about others and how they’d feel.  At some point, I outgrew it, but the fact remains that at some point I was a serial sexual abuser.

I’d also like to take back my behavior after a number of consensual sexual encounters. I immediately withdrew from that person, acting as though we’d participated in some horrible crime. Sometimes I could be downright cruel in rejecting future contact, and that’s something I very much regret. I was fairly active, sexually speaking, but most of the girls I sought out were from other schools. I don’t like to say I “dated” anybody because I got really weird when it came to developing relationships. As such, I mostly sought one night stands.

Even to this day, sex is not an intimate act. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, but it’s compartmentalized. Like 50 Cent says, “I’m into sex, I ain’t into making love.” That’s not meant to be funny. It’s just a statement I can relate to. I don’t think it’s admirable at all. I’m not a sex addict. I spent many years in a monogamous relationship and didn’t cheat. That said, I’m quite certain that our sex life was lacking in the intimacy department.  

From what I understand, this is not exactly unique. A lot of men are wired this way. Why?

From as early as I can remember my dad seemed very concerned with  my libido. I later realized that he was homophobic. That’s not to say that he hated gays. His homophobia was limited to one of his sons being gay. He once told me, when I was about 9 or 10, that if I ever came home and said I was gay, I would be “disinherited”. My dad threw that word around a lot. You’d think we were rich or something for him to be lording an estate over me like that, but, alas, my dad’s wealth begins and ends with 12.3 acres of land in Ashtabula County.  What’s funny, is that insecure son of a bitch always said it was 14 acres. He was insecure, and it affected his parenting.

In his mind, the best way my dad could ensure I wouldn’t turn out gay was to reinforce heterosexuality, and he started early.

I think I was just starting first grade when he introduced me to the term “split tails”. That’s how he referred to my female classmates.. Growing up in the rural part of Ashtabula County, my classmates all lived miles away from me. My neighbors were girls who were a grade or two below me, so we’d play. There was nobody else nearby. There was no playground or community center that kids could migrate to for social interactions. So we played in our yards.

I think we were playing a game of tag one day, and after everybody went inside my dad made the comment, “I see you sniffing, boy.”  This expression actually came up almost anytime he saw me talking to a girl. Sniffing those split tails, yeah buddy.

I still don’t even know what that means, but even at the age of 9 or 10, when he laid that shit on me, I felt creeped out.  I mean, I was a old enough where natural sexual curiosity was creeping in, but I didn’t need a fucking coach, right?

When he was shuttling me to one sports practice or the other he’d point out women. I’m talking about grown women. “Check that out. Look at that ass.” Then he’d add, “You wouldn’t even know how to handle that.”

Again I had no idea what it meant, but it creeped me out. I protested once. I just yelled out, “Shut up.”  He backhanded me in the mouth and told me not to talk to my father than way. Then he asked me if I didn’t like girls, or something. Homophobia.

I was sexually assaulted by a creepy old guy at the post office. I rode my bike a mile up the road to check the mail, and this guy cornered me near the lock boxes and felt me up. I screamed, and squeezed past him, then hopped on my bike and rode away as fast as I could. I never saw that man again, and I never told anybody, because I was afraid that my dad would think that it meant I was gay. That was literally my logic. I thought my dad would whip my ass with the belt because some guy grabbed my genitals and asked if I wanted a ride.  

I had another brush with sexual assault, too. A teenaged boy who lived nearby tried to make me perform a sex act with him. He cornered me in an old garage and took his pants off. He stood between me and the door. I picked up an old oil filter and threw it at him. I missed, but it distracted him and I managed to run out the door. Again, I never told anybody. That boy was actually the object of my dad’s homophobia.

I think I was 12, and my dad let me stay up late to watch TV with him and my grandmother. Magnum PI came on, and in the opening credits there’s this clip of Tom Selleck teaching some bikini model how to snorkel. He’s just staring down at her ass, then he looks up with this smirk. My dad points that out, and reiterates that I wouldn’t know what to do with an ass like that.  In front of my grandmother.

So, I respond with the ever intelligent objection of  “Shut up.” Which forced him to jump out of his chair and draw back his hand. Then he said I was lucky my grandmother was there, and sent me off to bed, yelling that I was grounded to my room for a month. Oh yeah, in addition to physical beatings, I’d get sentenced to extended periods of solitary confinement. I think I got paroled after two weeks on that one.

So, I just bit my tongue after that and played along. I had to listen to my dad talk about what he’d give to be 15 again and have a shot at a girl like one of my classmates. He also gave me helpful hints like immediately urinating after having sex. Oh, and the best was how he could spot sluts, and future fatties. I still remember him dropping me off for a 7th grade dance, noticing this girl standing outside, and he immediately pegged her as a slut.

“Stay away from girls like that,” he said. “She’s probably got gonorrhea already.” The girl might have been 14.

Another classic hit from him was pointing out another girl in my class, and telling me she was going to get fat after she got married, just like my mother. He actually said that. He was her baseball coach just a few years earlier.

So, by the time I got to high school I felt way behind the curve when it came to sex. I mean, every guy I knew was bragging about fictitious sexual conquests (yes, that’s the right term) throughout middle school. Thanks to the pressure from my dad, I suspect I was the only person to believe them. So I sought out sex with my female peers wherever I could. Sadly, it was never really enjoyable. It was duty bound act. I had to have sex to validate my masculinity. I know a lot of guys felt the same way, but I’m not sure if their fathers were quite as preoccupied as mine.

In a lot of ways, it was great because I didn’t have a real curfew. I could roll in the house at 4 am, while my dad was getting ready for work and just tell him I was with some girl from Jefferson, or Geneva. As long as I said I wore a rubber, he was cool with it. Of course most of the time I was just drinking beer on some dirt road with the guys.

But every time I did have sex, I’d never talk to her again, which is probably just as well given how lousy that sex must have been.

That’s the thing. As much as my dad wanted me to get out there and have sex, he didn’t want me to get hooked into a relationship. Especially if it was by way of a pregnancy, but any relationship had the potential of holding me back from whatever I was supposed to do.

Looking back, I realize that I was raised to value sex, but not women.

I don’t feel that way. There are women in my life that I care very deeply about. I resent my father for saddling me with this baggage, and I resent myself for the harm I caused along the way. I struggle to make sense of this, and while I realize that part of me is always going to be broken, I hope that being candid here can help start a conversation about the other side of sexual abuse.

This isn’t about feeling sorry for men, or making excuses for these creeps who continue to abuse women well into their adulthood. When I was a kid, I didn’t know any better. I learned, and I stopped.

Some of you might be inclined to try and unpack the instances I mentioned and put me on trial, but I’ve already done that, with these others. Over and over again.

Like most people, I’m a work in progress. I’m sharing  these details to provide a look into what makes one man tick. It’s not pretty and I’m not proud. If we’re going to fix this, we need to change the culture. We need to stop teaching little boys to validate their manhood through sex, while we stop teaching girls to treasure their virtue by denying their natural biological impulses. Tell the truth about sex: that it can be one of the most amazing experiences life has to offer if you do it right, and make sure that both you and your partner are ready to fully explore its potential together.  Don’t conjure up horror stories to try to scare teenagers into denying their impulses. Don’t lie and say sex is better when you’re married. Tell the truth. Tell kids that having one great sexual experience is probably better than a dozen hurried pre-curfew moment in the back of a minivan.

Don’t see it as encouraging them to have sex, see it as encouraging them to respect sex, and value the intimacy we should attach to it. If you want to deal with rape culture, you have to change the way everybody deals with sex.

Dads need to stop raising their sons to see sex as some kind of rite of passage, while simultaneously acting like their daughters’ vaginas are a family treasure that can only be shared with a worthy suitor.  Denying your daughter empowerment over her sexuality sets her up to be a victim. Encouraging your son to value sexual conquests over sexual relationships sets him up to be a serial abuser.

Editor’s note: In light of the sexual assault allegations that have been commandeering headlines all across the country—even in our own state—one of our regular contributors was inspired to confess his own personal demons with sexual misconduct. We at 614now feel this is an extremely important conversation and believe this testimonial is an honest and brave way to break the ice.
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News

Op-ed: Whitehall mayor responds to recent negative press

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As the City of Whitehall, Ohio begins a new year and reflects on the successes of 2018, we were disappointed to see a 614 Now headline reading, “Whitehall takes top spot in ‘10 Most Dangerous Cities in Ohio’” based on a November 3, 2018 blog post on RoadSnacks.com.

We strongly disagree with some of the methodology that the study relied on in making their opinion on the level of danger in our community. The safety and well-being of our neighbors and business partners always will be our number one priority and, thanks to a number of initiatives we’ve undertaken, our community is experiencing great momentum.

Whitehall Mayor Kim Maggard

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Our Safer Whitehall initiative, which includes the establishment of a specialized narcotics unit, the hiring of additional and the enhanced training of police officers, adding four new K-9 officers and our proactive Mobile Community Watch has all led to additional arrests being made, thus we are seeing lower crime rates. In fact, since the beginning of 2017, violent crime has decreased by 48%, robberies have decreased by 47% and theft arrests have declined by 22%. These are statistics from the Whitehall police department.

This positive and significant upswing in statistics can also be attributed to our aggressive approach to rid the community of criminal activity through increased economic development and innovative training for businesses and residents on how to prevent and decrease crime.

Great things are happening here. Heartland Bank and The Wasserstrom Company have moved their headquarters to Whitehall. The Whitehall Community Park is undergoing a multi-million dollar update with a new Community Park Y. And, the $50 million Norton Crossing project is underway at the gateway to our city – the intersection of Broad and Hamilton.

We are extremely proud of our community. We invite everyone to visit our city and see the progress we are making each and every day. 

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Opinion

The Closing Volley

This is my final letter as editor of (614) Magazine. Those are among the hardest words I’ve ever had to type. I’ve always told myself that I wouldn’t stay in this seat forever, but it’s still hard to prepare for the day when “not forever” arrives at your door, leaving even someone like myself at [...]
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This is my final letter as editor of (614) Magazine. Those are among the hardest words I’ve ever had to type.

I’ve always told myself that I wouldn’t stay in this seat forever, but it’s still hard to prepare for the day when “not forever” arrives at your door, leaving even someone like myself at a loss for words.

As a little inspiration for one last Opening Volley (by my count, the 102nd), I reflected on my first one, penned June 2010:

“I’ll put my own stamp on the magazine, sure. Most likely, some of these ideas haven’t yet presented themselves to me.”

If only you knew, you big dum-dum.

I’d love to give myself points for prescience there, but how could I have known what this would all mean? How could I have known we’d last at all?

I didn’t know we’d print a story about a long-forgotten Columbus swimmer that would lead to justice for his legacy in the Wall Street Journal (Thanks, Lori Gum).

I didn’t know I’d watch my Uber driver make global news and come out of the closet on The View four months after picking me up on a random Friday (Thanks, Trey Pearson).

I certainly didn’t know that I’d win an *Emmy for the least amount of work I’ve ever done on something so cool, hosting a food show called NOSH. (Thanks, NBC).

(*Regional, and the interns always assume it’s just a prop sitting at the front desk).

I did know that when I first sat down in this chair to write this letter that I was sitting in a position that was perfectly suited for me—even though it was something I never could have aspired to back when I was starting out.

I didn’t know it would give me the most satisfying and fulfilling time of my life, a period of feverish creativity, passionate collaboration, and an intense feeling of civic pride I’d not previously enjoyed.

“What (614) will continue to do is to present Columbus as the diverse, interesting—and growing—Midwestern hub that we feel it is. To hell with that Cowtown bit.”

My thesis statement in that first letter—I called a shot I didn’t have the right to. But damn, if we—and I do mean we—haven’t helped accomplish that in this last decade. We used to have to prove that we were more than college football and chain restaurants. Now, we’re having spirited debates over the loss of cocktail bars and craft breweries.

It’s that collective effort to move the Columbus culture that fueled us at (614)—less so than the other way around. I’ll put that humility aside only long enough to say, I do think we succeeded in our goal to make this magazine stand out from the rest of the rack. If I do say so myself, we set a new print standard for those glossy city mags you see strewn about any active city. Yes, we are the city guide—this festival, that band, those food trucks—but it’s always been my hope that we could be more. It’s been my hope that we’ve been able to serve as part of the city’s conscience, and present a curation of our collective personality on display. Maybe we’ve been a guide to what life feels like in Columbus’s modern rebirth, a new outline for a city without an identity for so many decades—other than their incessant, sometimes obsessive search for one.

But, we’ve mostly been YOU. If there’s one thing I’ve been most proud of over the last 10 years and 100-plus issues, it’s that we produced an open-source document for Columbus—an approachable read that gave access to the everyday folk in Columbus. It’s always been a poorly kept secret that if you have an idea that Columbus would love, you have a spot in (614). No credentials or diploma needed. Just someone with the same passion we had. Your new editor-in-chief Jeni Ruisch has it. And I can’t wait to see her era of this funny little journalistic experiment begin.

I’m gonna miss the work like hell—I won’t lie. It’s been one of the great pleasures of my life to put this thing together. I’ll miss wondering what’s on your mind; what stories you were excited to share with and through us.

I’m not going anywhere, though. I have plans and schemes to continue to pay forward what this magazine and this city has given to me. In what capacity? I suppose I am still plotting that chapter, but as always—I’m open to Columbus’s input. In other words:

“Most likely, some of these ideas haven’t yet presented themselves to me.”

Cheers, Columbus. I’ll see ya out there.

Travis Hoewischer, Editor-in-Chief

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Opinion

The Closing Volley

This is my final letter as editor of (614) Magazine. Those are among the hardest words I’ve ever had to type. I’ve always told myself that I wouldn’t stay in this seat forever, but it’s still hard to prepare for the day when “not forever” arrives at your door, leaving even someone like myself at [...]
614now

Published

on

This is my final letter as editor of (614) Magazine. Those are among the hardest words I’ve ever had to type.

I’ve always told myself that I wouldn’t stay in this seat forever, but it’s still hard to prepare for the day when “not forever” arrives at your door, leaving even someone like myself at a loss for words.

As a little inspiration for one last Opening Volley (by my count, the 102nd), I reflected on my first one, penned June 2010:

“I’ll put my own stamp on the magazine, sure. Most likely, some of these ideas haven’t yet presented themselves to me.”

If only you knew, you big dum-dum.

I’d love to give myself points for prescience there, but how could I have known what this would all mean? How could I have known we’d last at all?

I didn’t know we’d print a story about a long-forgotten Columbus swimmer that would lead to justice for his legacy in the Wall Street Journal (Thanks, Lori Gum).

I didn’t know I’d watch my Uber driver make global news and come out of the closet on The View four months after picking me up on a random Friday (Thanks, Trey Pearson).

I certainly didn’t know that I’d win an *Emmy for the least amount of work I’ve ever done on something so cool, hosting a food show called NOSH. (Thanks, NBC).

(*Regional, and the interns always assume it’s just a prop sitting at the front desk).

I did know that when I first sat down in this chair to write this letter that I was sitting in a position that was perfectly suited for me—even though it was something I never could have aspired to back when I was starting out.

I didn’t know it would give me the most satisfying and fulfilling time of my life, a period of feverish creativity, passionate collaboration, and an intense feeling of civic pride I’d not previously enjoyed.

“What (614) will continue to do is to present Columbus as the diverse, interesting—and growing—Midwestern hub that we feel it is. To hell with that Cowtown bit.”

My thesis statement in that first letter—I called a shot I didn’t have the right to. But damn, if we—and I do mean we—haven’t helped accomplish that in this last decade. We used to have to prove that we were more than college football and chain restaurants. Now, we’re having spirited debates over the loss of cocktail bars and craft breweries.

It’s that collective effort to move the Columbus culture that fueled us at (614)—less so than the other way around. I’ll put that humility aside only long enough to say, I do think we succeeded in our goal to make this magazine stand out from the rest of the rack. If I do say so myself, we set a new print standard for those glossy city mags you see strewn about any active city. Yes, we are the city guide—this festival, that band, those food trucks—but it’s always been my hope that we could be more. It’s been my hope that we’ve been able to serve as part of the city’s conscience, and present a curation of our collective personality on display. Maybe we’ve been a guide to what life feels like in Columbus’s modern rebirth, a new outline for a city without an identity for so many decades—other than their incessant, sometimes obsessive search for one.

But, we’ve mostly been YOU. If there’s one thing I’ve been most proud of over the last 10 years and 100-plus issues, it’s that we produced an open-source document for Columbus—an approachable read that gave access to the everyday folk in Columbus. It’s always been a poorly kept secret that if you have an idea that Columbus would love, you have a spot in (614). No credentials or diploma needed. Just someone with the same passion we had. Your new editor-in-chief Jeni Ruisch has it. And I can’t wait to see her era of this funny little journalistic experiment begin.

I’m gonna miss the work like hell—I won’t lie. It’s been one of the great pleasures of my life to put this thing together. I’ll miss wondering what’s on your mind; what stories you were excited to share with and through us.

I’m not going anywhere, though. I have plans and schemes to continue to pay forward what this magazine and this city has given to me. In what capacity? I suppose I am still plotting that chapter, but as always—I’m open to Columbus’s input. In other words:

“Most likely, some of these ideas haven’t yet presented themselves to me.”

Cheers, Columbus. I’ll see ya out there.

Travis Hoewischer, Editor-in-Chief

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