Six Degrees of Separation

by | Aug 12, 2017

Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. —Wikipedia

As I began to write my followup book, that deals with my childhood of abuse and destructive behavior, I asked a college friend for a recommendation. As a therapist, I knew that she, or someone she knew, might be helpful in working through issues that I’ve kept buried for more than 50 years. I have been pleased working with her suggestion – being able to talk freely about things I’ve never shared as well as, gather explanations for some of my past decisions.

After several weeks of working with my therapist, we began a session with a personal conversation where he mentioned his late uncle, who had been an art collector. It turned out that I knew his uncle, his aunt and had worked with his cousin. And then it hit me… “That means your mother and dad are… and you lived…,” and then I went on to describe their home. My therapist was taken aback and asked how did I know his parents. I answered: “From church.” Being younger than me, his parents had left First Baptist by the time he was born.

And then it hit him: “You mean First Baptist is the church we have been discussing – where you were first molested?” To which I replied: “Yes, and your parents would have been members while this was going on.”

The horrific events that have been reported regarding Brentwood Academy, and the multiple times a 12-year-old boy was sexually molested by older students, have rocked the private school’s reputation. Plus, the response, or lack of response by those in charge as well as, Daystar Counseling, again in the article, is also disturbing.

My only affiliation with the private school has been as an exhibiting artist in their annual fundraising art show. I had been invited back and agreed to return this year. However, in light of everything coming out, along with my own past abuse issues, I made the, very public, decision to withdraw. Since doing so, I have had so many people reach out to me in support.

I have not asked any of my gallery artists, participating in the art show, to pull out. That has to be their decision. I have heard “innocent until proven guilty” as justification to continue supporting the school. And while that is true, to now read that others have had similar situations with the school in the past, leaves me wondering if there was a lack of response in addressing these earlier issues – and if so, caused them to escalate to the current heartbreaking details being reported of what this young man and his family are going through.

As a board member of the non-profit STARS, I have begun a campaign to raise funds to help offset, in my own way, the tragic story unfolding. STARS has multiple programs that go into schools, throughout middle Tennessee and provide education regarding bullying and abuse. Their Kids on the Block program works with puppets to help make children comfortable and able to open up to adults. Donations are greatly appreciated, in fact, you can even adopt one of the puppets! I encourage each of you to take a stand – to comfort those in need. But more importantly, listen to and protect our children.

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For more information on the STARS program, visit www.starsnashville.org

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J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.

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