“In 1986, my world was broken by two criminals, my biological father, who abandoned his family, like his father had, and a teenager who threatened me with a gun and raped me for three days.”
In a Huffington Post interview to promote “Something Terrible“, an agonizing and triumphant story addressing his fears of who he might become after the abuse, Dean Trippe says he considers himself lucky.
Dean was more fortunate than many child victims of sexual abuse. His mother figured out what had happened right away, and took the necessary steps to make sure his rapists were prosecuted. Dean and six other victims got the security of knowing their attacker’s couldn’t follow through on their threats of violence.
But the sexual assault left Dean feeling broken. Sent back to school to spend his days likeother children, Dean felt “alone in the darkness” as he continued to struggle with shame and guilt from his attack.
Superheroes don’t let bad things happen to kids.
It was the last week of school in 1989. Dean’s fifth-grade class was allowed to watch Batman, the movie starring Michael Keaton.
Like most kids, Dean had been a fan of Super Friends and Adam’s West’s dark knight. But it wasn’t until he first saw the super hero’s iconic origin story of loss and personal redemption, that the comic resonated with Dean as something more meaningful.
Comics brimming with superheroes gave Dean something to relate to as a kid struggling to overcome his experience of sexual abuse. But he still couldn’t shake the fear that he was now inescapably part of a cycle.
Learning that you aren’t what happens to you.
Dean had grown up wanting to be a father, to break the “chain of abandonment” in his family tree. The sexual abuse left him feeling hopelessly corrupted and news programs only perpetuated the idea that sexual abusers are all former victims whose damaged sense of morality leads to a life of inflicting their own crimes on newer, younger, innocents. After all, Dean’s abuser had been left at a young age, then did the same to his own family.
Terrified he would never escape the cycle, Dean swore to take his own life if he ever had sexual thoughts about children.
“It’s horrible, living in fear that there’s something terrible inside you,” Dean says, “ like you might be some secret monster, requiring constant vigilance lest the beast be unleashed.”
Instead, you are who you choose to become.
Dean began drawing Something Terrible after learning that most sex offenders were never victims. Complex and beautifully drawn, the graphic novel is meant for adults, and follows a child who is given the escape from an unthinkable reality by the heroes he deserves.
The knowledge that he wasn’t doomed to a broken life freed him of the invisible monster he had imagined was living inside him. Empowered, Dean finally put down the “invisible gun” he’d held to his own head all those years. He hopes that “Something Terrible” may help other survivors of child sexual abuse do the same; hopefully also shattering the harmful idea that victims of child sexual abuse become offenders.