Erickson, Landon

My name is Landon Erickson, and I’m a survivor of CSA at the hands of Herb Erickson.

Herb was an uncle on my dad’s side. This occurred while my family was together at my Aunt Carol’s place outside Rochester, WA. I have tried to pinpoint the year, and as near as I can figure, it was in 1984 when Herb came up to WA for my grandfather’s (his dad’s) last days in hospital or funeral. I don’t recall his family being with him.

However it happened, it was decided that I should spend the night with him at my grandmother’s house a short distance away in Oakville, WA. We stayed in a small room in the attic with one bed, and I remember the chimney came up through the room and kept it warm. It wasn’t long before he had my pajamas down and was assaulting me while my grandma slept downstairs. Afterward, he appeared to have no worries or shame, and I didn’t know what to do. Our family didn’t talk about bodies or sexuality, and at that time, kids weren’t taught phrases like “bad touch”, etc.

For years after, he would send me birthday cards in the mail with money, much more than my siblings would receive, and I always felt dirty and disgusted about it.

So I buried it, and never talked about it to anyone until I shared it with a girlfriend in my early 30s who couldn’t understand why I had difficulty letting down barriers and being emotionally vulnerable, even after over a year together. She wisely suggested therapy, which I promptly ignored. In the years since then, I’ve shared my experience with less than 10 people, mostly very close friends, partners, my sister, and my cousin Suzi, Herb’s daughter.

Cut to present times:

Early last month I received a call from my cousin relating that Herb’s name had come out as a perpetrator, just to give me a heads-up. Until this time, I had shied away from telling the rest of my family (still professing) out of a combination of shame/guilt/fear of affecting family dynamics, as Herb was my father’s brother. I had heard from my sister and another friend that there had been some upheaval lately in the church, but I hadn’t really checked it out until that evening when I opened Facebook and went down the rabbit hole.

The first thing I read was Dale Doering’s account of his abuse, and all the raw feelings came bubbling up that I had managed to tamp down and restrain for nearly 40 years. As I continued to learn of the scope of abuse and the sheer volume of survivors, I was struck with the importance of people stepping forward to normalize the act of speaking up for what’s right, and more importantly, to stop these cases from occurring.

As fate would have it, we had an immediate family reunion planned for the middle of August. On the first night, my brother began to bring my parents up to speed on the scope of what was happening, and how Herb fit into it all. At this point, I finally stepped up and shared what had happened in my childhood and brought everything into the light. My parents were aware of the tip of the iceberg, but didn’t know how close to home it was, nor the scope of abuse that had happened and had been covered up over the years in the church. Long story short, I’ve discussed and shared more about my abuse in the last month than I have in the last 40 years. Thankfully I am part of a tight and caring family, and there is much love and support surrounding me.

As far as the shaping effects the abuse has had on me, I can pinpoint several areas:

-I have difficulty accepting love or compliments.

-I compartmentalize feelings too much.

-I struggle with being closed off/guarded and being emotionally unavailable or “stunted” in relationships.

-I make friends easily, and can fit into most social situations, but still maintain a wall inside myself that most don’t penetrate.

-I don’t feel “normal” (whatever that means) in relationships, and doubt I’ll ever have that.

-I have deep guilt and shame for not coming forward sooner. Herb caused more destruction after my assault, and that could have possibly changed, even as late as 20 years ago. I’ve been told that it’s not my fault or responsibility, but that’s how my mind works.

-I’m turned off by spiritual explanations/advice when someone is trying to encourage me. I could never really put my finger on the “why”, but really related to the point in the outline for moving forward shared a few weeks ago warning against quoting scripture as means of encouragement/guidance for child sexual abuse survivors…hadn’t put my finger on exactly why that is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me until then.

-Talking about my childhood trauma wrecks me. Speaking with Cynthia Liles on the hotline for the first time had me physically shaking and sometimes unable to speak.

As a sidebar, can I just commend the entire Advocates for the Truth team (AFTT) who have taken this on their shoulders? Each person I’ve interacted with has been overwhelmingly professional, compassionate and empathetic. I don’t know how one collects the filth and degrading stories and pain and still shines bright.

Just to be clear, I have fond memories of the friends in our area, and I still care for the community I grew up in. I know from reading posts on the Ex-2×2 Support Group and AFTT Facebook pages that there are people who would like to see the church burn to the ground. I don’t share that sentiment. I recognize that the church represents many people’s entire social network, and I wouldn’t want that to go away.

However, any of the structures/traditions/practices/people present now who have allowed the lack of transparency regarding abuse, etc., or the practice of shielding perpetrators, or punishing whistleblowers needs to be burnt to the ground. I don’t know what that looks like, but I know ensuring that there isn’t a system whereby abusers can exist and be protected is more important than keeping with tradition. I have a deep loathing towards the people and structural parts of the church that made covering up abuse and perps possible and normalized. They can rot in hell if I truly believed in that concept anymore.

Moving forward, I’d urge parents to raise their children with an openness and necessary vocabulary about their bodies in order to have a level of comfort when discussing hard topics like bad touch/inappropriate behavior. I see this normalized in many families now and am thankful for the forward march of progress.

I’m a fairly private person when it comes to my personal life, and I don’t usually post on standard social media platforms (I’d say Strava is the one I use the most), but I feel the need to add my account to the long list in hopes that people similar to me will feel better about coming forward to the hotline and also going public with their stories.

Each voice needs to be heard.

By Landon Erickson
September 14, 2023