Children are some of the most vulnerable in society. They are trusting by default and unaware by necessity of nature. Popular culture and the Arts are filled with the sexual exploitation of, and the aggrieved results of, unattended children in peril with no one to protect their best interests except, oftentimes, their grooming predators.

As a child of Nebraska, I vividly remember at least three examples of sexual predators coming after me — but I didn’t really realize it then — it was only years later, in reflection on my time in the Flatlands, that I understood the real intention of those adults against me.

If the Midwestern moral strictures weren’t so tight and codifying 40 years ago, I’m not certain I wouldn’t have fallen in grace. Children in larger, denser, urban cores — with more predators per capita, and everyone crammed into tighter living crates — exponentially expands the chance of sexual predator prevarication against a child.

The first example was a stalwart in the Arts community. The longer version of that story is here: A Blind Dog and a Dungeon. Some details may have changed as emotional tide rushes against intellectual memory. The guy was a local newspaper critic and at least 50 years older than me. He played the harp in live performance at a major hotel chain each evening. He took an early liking to me, expressing interest in my burgeoning acting career, and hired me for my first paid acting gig that went on tour as well as getting me a contract for my first children’s television performance. He was also a public drunkard.

One day, after several years of working together, he invited me over to his elegant home in a tony part of town in a right neighborhood — his wife was not there — and he offered me a breakfast of “thinly sliced ham, on a croissant, with sugared strawberries on the side.”

The idea of the visit was to work on my resume, but when he greeted me in his bathrobe — it was an Asian silk thing cut above the knee and held together with spun rope. I was a little put off, but I entered his home anyway because my mother had dropped me off for the meeting and she was already gone.  I was 13-years-old.

After breakfast, he invited me into his basement to smoke some weed. Then, in a poof of smoke, he opened his robe and began touching himself. I froze. He was displeased with my cold reaction and later drove me home while still wearing his silk bathrobe that, when he said in the car, revealed his junk.

We never spoke again.

Years later, I learned I wasn’t the only boy he’d tried to serve in that manner.

Later, the guy was arrested for openly masturbating in the only XXX Adult Porn store in town and his life as an upright was finally, and rightly, ruined. He later died of consumption and homelessness in the hard streets of the city.

The second example of sexual predation happened a few years later when I was 16 — yes, still a child, and still unaware — but I was able to drive myself directly to my predator. He was in his late 40s.

That guy was a local TV critic in Omaha. His father owned a construction company that built sports stadiums, so there was a lot of family money while he was growing up, but his aged mother was “sucking it all up” and he “wished she’d die already” so he’d have some inheritance left.

He contacted me about my local Movie reviews on TV in Lincoln and wanted to get together and talk shop about entertainment. As a fatherless child, I was always eager for a mentor or a hero, so I agreed to meet him.

Then, he said he wanted me to send him a photograph before we met so he’d recognize me in person.

I drove to Omaha and met him at a seafood place for lunch. We were supposed to attend a Melodrama performance together in the Old Market that night. The first thing he said when I met him was that I didn’t look like my photograph. He went on to talk about the shape of my face and legs and arms in person. When he started playing with my hair, I excused myself to the bathroom.

When I returned to the table, he sensed my distance, and we decided to head to the theatre in separate cars.

He sped through Omaha drive-time traffic so dangerously that I could not keep up with him. Only by luck, and swerving for my life, was I able to later find him at the theatre. He was clearly disappointed I caught up with him and yet we served the night together at the performance until he had to “race home” to his wife.

We were never in contact again.

It was years later I realized that when he sensed I wasn’t going to play with him after his critique of my photograph vs. real life, he was trying to ditch me in traffic.

I should’ve ditched him myself at the quickest possible moment, but it doesn’t occur to you then, in an unraveling real time, that devious people around you are looking to set a hook in you. Blindly expecting the best of people — as you are hard-raised to believe in the Midwest — is the predator’s first, and foremost, gift of faith.

The final predatory example happened when I was around 10 or so and I was starring in a local community playhouse show. On the eve of our final show, a beautiful woman acting in the show — and three times my age — entered my dressing room. I was standing there, alone, in my underwear when she surprised me and gave me my first French kiss. I didn’t know what to do or say. All I could think about was our tongues touching!

She wanted to drive me home after the show.

I blubbered something about catching a ride with another cast member as I discreetly tried to spit the taste of her tongue from my mouth. She told me to let her know if I changed my mind. I stood there, fully and memorably excited as she touched me on her way out.

I never saw her again.

Years later, you think back and wonder — “What an opportunity missed!” — while in the moment you feel used and disgusted by someone older, taller, and sexier than you putting their tongue in your mouth like bubblegum, and the irretrievable erection that starts to autonomously grow between you. There’s no real turn-on here, only a turn-away from the disgusting unknown and the physical twitch of something that cannot be controlled.

I realize these three examples are all theatrical — and not every dramatic effort is filled with perverts — there are lots of great, fine, moral people working in the Dramatic Arts, but access is key to these predators, and theatre and television and the movies are all open avenues of emotion, intellect and prescience that must be fairly shared with all involved in order to create an effective whole.

If you think too much, and react to little — all monuments are lost to dust.

So, you read this, and you think — “Well, nothing happened. Good!” — but something did happen each time, a marring of intention that fogs the mind and blisters the future, something irrevocable and dirty and evil. There was a presumption that, because of what interested me as a career, was some sort of acquiescence-by-default that I was open to any offer, but I was not.

I never misled anyone, or flirted with anyone, I was just doing my best to get through the day and do good work. It’s a shameful fact there are those out there who are only too willing to help you get into their pants, when that is the furthest thing from your misinterpreted intention in context.