Ask Why Eight

My personal experience with sexual abuse and learning how to turn these unfortunate events into a positive message for other victims.

Ask Why Eight

Todd Mozzer knew something was broken inside. He was 8 years old and struggling to keep up with his third-grade schoolwork while his twin sister was breezing along.

Triumph Over Tragedy

Sensing developmental issues, his parents held him back in school that year and took him to a hospital to be tested.

"I tried to tell myself that I was just a stupid little boy who couldn't comprehend things as quickly as the kids sitting around me," Todd said.

But that wasn't true. Todd's problem was that he feared for his life because of threats from a middle-aged man who was a relative of a neighborhood family.

Todd knew the family and had grown to trust the man. That man preyed on Todd and took him down to the basement of the house where Todd was sexually abused. I assumed that was what every 8-year-old boy had to endure," Todd said. "Do you know when I realized it wasn't normal? When he said, 'If you ever tell anyone about this, I'll kill you.' I thought I was going to die if I said anything."

Point Of Awakening

The pattern of sexual abuse traumatized Todd. He endured silently as the joys of childhood were crushed by the weight of his fears. He couldn't concentrate in school. He couldn't sleep peacefully.

"I used to creep into the hallway and fall asleep from pure exhaustion by the light of the television my dad was watching," Todd recalled. "For so many years, my dad picked me up from the floor every night and put me to bed. I couldn't go to bed because I didn't feel as though I was going to wake up."

For nearly 40 years, Todd remained silent. But he has reached a point of awakening in his life after he lost three important women, including his mother who died of cancer. "I never wished she was gone but part of me is at ease because she doesn't have to deal with this," he said. "It would've killed her before cancer did."

Now he is speaking out against such heinous crimes. He established "Ask Me Why 8" as a public acknowledgement of his abuse and a rallying cry to help all victims and prevent future abuse.

"I have felt ashamed since it happened, and I'm not going to feel ashamed anymore or embarrassed or feel that this guy ruined my life," Todd said. "I want to save children from going through the pain that I've gone through and I want to help adults from going through this heartache. I don't want people to hurt like I hurt."

He added, "We, as survivors, let abusers exist in our society without saying anything, and I'm not doing that anymore."

Helping Others Heal

Todd will use a Connecticut River Swim to raise funds for child-abuse prevention programs. People can sponsor Todd during the gut-wrenching swim in the Connecticut River that will take place on June 28th through the 30th, as Todd treks from Hartford to the Old Saybrook shore.

Helping others, Todd said, has always been his outlet from the pain. And despite his traumatic experiences, he is not interested in people pitying him.

"I don't need you to feel sorry for me," Todd said. "I need you to make a donation so I can help other people."

He receives emotional support from his friends, family and two sons, Trevor and Andrew, and he's no longer afraid to tell his story. When discussing his abuse, his emotions are raw and unvarnished, but he apologizes for none of it. His father, his sons, and total strangers have experienced the intensity of his honesty.

Todd now believes openness is the only way to repair himself emotionally.

"If you can't cry, you'll never heal," he said. "It's worth it . . . cuz I'm worth it." --JS