Singer Rahsaan Patterson shares his painful childhood memories of molestation, and how he used music to heal.
I was molested at church when I was 6 years old. For a long time, because of where it happened, I blamed God. How could something so vile take place in setting where we were meant to praise the Lord? The soundtrack, as the molestation occurred, was preaching and shouting. It is a strong memory that still resonates with me.
I was 18 years old when I finally got the courage to tell my family and friends. It was a shock to my family, who had to learn how to deal with that truth. I did find comfort in being able to talk to my closest friends, who happened to have had similar experiences. I have not had any formal counseling, but I do recall as a youngster going to see a psychiatrist and I remember sitting there not really saying a word. I just wasn’t in the space to talk to a stranger. I knew I had the option to tell that person any and everything, but for whatever reason I didn’t.
I immersed myself in music and art to cope with what I experienced. One of my blessings is being able to have an outlet vocally, as a singer, and lyrically, as a songwriter. That has helped me heal tremendously and gotten me through all the years of having to deal with memories of what happened.
Essentially, music saved my life! The artists who have influenced, inspired and taught me saved my life through their communication. Music was something that made everything okay in the midst of the trauma and the drama of my life and my childhood. From an early age I realized music was one of the first things that allowed me to really feel the presence of the universe and spirit.
It’s still difficult for me to go to church because I immediately go back to the moments of my molestation. My mind just instantly goes to that place and it’s not a very comfortable place to be.
I can tell you that the one thing I am truly grateful for is that throughout the years of doubting God and being angry and blaming God I have been able to find the God in myself, and I have been able to really maintain a belief and a faith in the universe and what God is for me. I know firsthand that people spend a lifetime trying to figure out why sexual assault or molestation happened to them and trying to undo the pain that it caused in their lives. The most that I can say is to at least be able to acknowledge that it happened. Some people suppress it, but I think it’s important to acknowledge and talk about it.
I recently partnered with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, which operates a National Sexual Assault Hotline that people can call for help dealing with traumatic life occurrences like what I experienced as a child. I wish RAINN was around during my adolescent years when I needed a place to turn to.
It may have taken me 30 years to get here, but at this point in my life I feel extremely triumphant because I’m still alive! I have been through the layers and the darkness and have still been able to find my God, know my God, have faith and be in tune with my spirit, in tune with the universe and in tune with humanity.