Stolen Innocence: A Childhood Lost

By Michael Walter

Episode 9: It Wasn’t Your Fault

Lori sits down with Michael Walter, author of “Stolen Innocence: A Childhood Lost”. Michael discusses his journey through an abusive childhood, the turbulent decades that followed, and finding healing through fatherhood. Michael has found peace in being open and honest about the abuse he experienced as a child, and hopes he can relay a simple message to other survivors of child abuse: it wasn’t your fault.  

Episode Transcript

Transcript of the Louder than Silence Podcast

Episode #9: It Wasn’t Your Fault 

Transcribed by Lyndsay Lack 

[Inspirational theme music plays.] 

>> Lori: Thank you for joining us. In this podcast, we are real people, talking about real things. Child abuse and neglect: a topic that is all too often left in the shadows of silence, leaving survivors alone, fearful, and often times without a voice. We’re having conversations to become louder than silence. It is here, where we will invite you to join us and be the change needed to end child abuse and neglect. 

Hey everybody, thank you so much for join us for The National Foundation to End Child Abuse and Neglect’s podcast. My name is Lori Poland and I’m the Executive Director of EndCAN, and today I have my dear, dear friend Michael—I have been waiting for this interview for a [chuckles] really long time. I am just really excited that Michael’s here with me to be doing this and we have so much to talk about today and Michael has a story like so many people but is so brave and so unique in the way that he tells it and talks about it, and has truly lived his life to break the cycle of abuse, is an exceptional father, a wonderful husband, and a very, very dear friend. So—Michael, I’d love for you just to tell us about you, and what makes you tick in this world.  


>> Michael: Well, it’s really hard to describe who I am, I’m just, you know, an average guy, that struggled for a lot of years to try to figure out who I was and where I belonged. It wasn’t really until I had my own son that life kinda made sense—because for so many years before that, I was really in a self-destruct mode. Any time something felt good to me, I pushed that away or destroyed it—in every aspect of life, whether it was jobs, or relationships, or even my own life—I just tried to put it all out—and it was just the miracle of being a father, and realizing that, you know, hey, fatherhood is good, and having a child is a great thing. So I’ve learned to live my life not necessarily for my son, but it gave me such clarity, and it gave me a new direction about child abuse, really, because I couldn’t look at my son, especially when he was very, very tiny, and now he’s taller than I am–  


>> Lori: [laughs] 


>> Michael: –but when he was really really small, I couldn’t ima—I couldn’t imagine somebody abusing a child. I just couldn’t— I couldn’t comprehend it—and it made me really angry, more so than I’d ever been before. I, at that point, had gotten back in contact with my mother and tried to put all that behind me because it was the Christian thing to do. But, you know, I decided it’s like when Spencer was about four, that’s when I decided, hey, I’m gonna go back and kind of write all of this stuff down—everything that happened to me as a kid I’m gonna write down, because even though you remember it and you know it—I mean it’s like it happened yesterday all the time—I needed to read it. I needed to [chuckles] put it down in words and read that to digest it I guess. So then the more that I wrote, the more I remembered how I felt back when I was struggling. So that’s kind of what got me to the book, and even though– 


>> Lori: Yeah– 


>> Michael: –when I started writing I was planning on writing a book, you know? 


>> Lori: Yeah– 


>> Michael: —it was for me. It was—everything was to try to heal me. Like I said, I remembered being thirty years ago, and struggling, really struggling, to understand why this happened, you know, did it happen, and then knowing it did, why it happened, and then, why was I at fault, but then I wasn’t at fault, it’s just all of those things– 


>> Lori: Yup– 


>> Michael: –and you know, going through counseling and having to tell these horror stories that happened—it messes [chuckles] with your brain.  


>> Lori: Yeah. 


>> Michael: So I searched to try to find somebody that I can relate to. Child abuse in the sixties, and seventies, and eighties—really wasn’t spoken about. It was something that was at home, and even though people might suspect it they didn’t know how to identify it, and they weren’t trained to identify it—and it certainly didn’t happen to boys, and if it did, what was wrong with the boy. I think was this week or last week—that teacher who had abused her student, and then ended up going to prison and marrying him—she just passed away, and [chuckles in disbelief] it was crazy! She still was like, “Well I didn’t know it was wrong.” How do you not know it was wrong? So that’s where I was really at when I started to write, and then I realized at a certain point, this needs to be out for someone else to find, and to read, and to understand, it doesn’t just happen, you’re not alone, you know what I mean? It’s a very hard thing for anybody to try to accept and admit to, because you definitely feel the shame.  


>> Lori: Right.  


>> Michael: You feel blame for that. Really, the message I wanted to get to every person that’s been abused is it’s not your fault, you know, and you’re not alone. I don’t care if someone needs to call me at three in the morning, if I can help them just by listening, and have them know I have been through that and I know exactly where they are—that’s my goal. 


>> Lori: That’s amazing. 


>> Michael: There’s a few different instances that happened to me, but hopefully there’s enough of those that somebody can relate, and not so much to the incidents, but the feelings, and the fear, and the things that go along with those incidents. 


>> Lori: So tell us the title of your book. 


>> Michael: It’s called, “Stolen Innocence: A Childhood Lost”, and I called it that because of course my childhood was lost. I had a childhood but I didn’t have a childhood. My childhood was surviving, and living in fear. I mean every day, what was gonna happen today? When you’re a child, the one person that you’re supposed to be to trust in life is your mother. So all the innocence a child should have was taken from me at a very young ageSo I don’t ever remember being innocent, [chuckles] I was exposed to the horrors of life—of just the most despicable thing that a person can do to another person. It didn’t end when I turned seventeen and left my home, I mean it was something that I struggled with for another seventeen or eighteen years, and well into my forties–  


>> Lori: Yeah. So, why now? 


>> Michael: Well, it was interesting. As I was saying, when I started to write to it, it was to cleanse again, and it helps. The more you talk about it, for me, it helps. It’s easier, and it’s so matter-of-fact now. I don’t have any fears about sharing, I don’t have any apprehension about it, it’s like, yeah, I’ll tell you anything you want to know, because it helps me. It gives me a release and a relief from all of it. So as I started to write and really focus on making it a book, then it was almost a, [chuckles] an “F you” to my family, really, because then it took a whole different animal. It was like, maybe it’s a get back at them, but then at a certain point it didn’t even—I don’t care about them. I don’t care if they ever see it, I don’t care if they ever read it, because it’s just like everyone else, they’re in denial. They’re gonna say, “Oh, that never happened,” or “Well, it wasn’t that bad,” or they’ll try to minimize it like it was just normal. I don’t need anything from them. So it’s not about my family. The reason now is because it’s time. I’m at a point where, like I said, I’m as strong as I’ve ever been, and people need to hear this. I’m tired of abuse. I’m tired of reading about other people being abused. I’m tired of listening to the stories of other people that happened last week, and I’m tired of it being kind of glossed over, like it’s a not a big deal, or it’s, “Yeah, well it happened to her but it’s okay, it wasn’t that bad”. And really, [laughs] because we have a president that I just really really think that he’s one of them. 


>> Lori: You mean a survivor? 


>> Michael: No. I think he’s an abuser  


>> Lori: Hmm 


>> Michael: –and, um– You don’t have that kind of attitude towards people that are suffering without being an abuser.  


>> Lori: Hmm…  


>> Michael: —but, you know, that’s a whole different subject. [laughs] 


>> Lori: Sure. [laughs] Okay.  


>> Michael: So that’s why.  


>> Lori: Yeah, I love it, and now that it’s out, you can get your book on Amazon– 


>> Michael: Right, right.  


>> Lori: Is there anywhere else people can get it?  


>> Michael: It’s just on Amazon right now– 


>> Lori: Ok, cool. It’s the easiest– 


>> Michael: I haven’t started a website– 


>> Lori: –it’s the easiest place to get a book. [laughs] 


>> Michael: Yeah, it’s super easy, and it’s really inexpensive, I mean, if you have a Kindle account you can get it for free.  


>> Lori: Yeah, yeah.  


>> Michael: It’s really funny because when I first—I contacted my family, a year and half ago, two years ago, to let them know it was about to be published, because obviously they’re in it, so you know I didn’t want it to be a big shocker, and you know, “Hey, um, here it is,”, they were like, I mean they, filed a lawsuit against me. They wanted– [laughs]– they thought it was about money. I mean, I’d have to sell quite a bit to make anything on it.  


>> Lori: [laughs] 


>> Michael: It’s not about money. It’s about getting help to people that need help, even if it’s just one other tool, that’s what it’s about. 


>> Lori: Yeah. 


>> Michael: I encourage anyone that has gone through abuse, especially people that are still trying to get their heads around it, and trying to – maybe they’re not ready for counseling, because when I was a kid, when I was in my early thirties I guess, is when I – when I first got out of the military I went back to school, and my whole focus was to learn as much as I could about psychology and all of that, but I still went into bookstores, and I looked, I was looking over my shoulder to make sure nobody knew what I was looking at or trying to research, I was looking for a story that I could read. It goes back really all the way to the Menendez brothers. I remember when they were arrested, and they were telling their stories on the witness stand, and people were discrediting them because, “Oh no, that couldn’t happen,” and you don’t tell these stories unless they happen.  


>> Lori: Right. 


>> Michael: This is not stuff you make up.  


>> Lori: Right. 


>> Michael: So, you know, unfortunately they’re in prison for the rest of their lives, and I’m not justifying that they killed their parents, but it’s just they had no other place, they didn’t know what to do with it, and you know, a lot of abuse victims have that anger and are mad at the world– 


>> Lori: Yeah. 


>> Michael: –because they don’t have anybody else in their corner or they don’t feel like anybody else is there on their side.  


>> Lori: Yeah. 


>> Michael: So, yeah. I encourage anybody who’s struggled and wondering why this happened or “Who’s on my side?” you know, read my book, and you know, hopefully it will help you.  


>> Lori: Well, and I think if anything your book highlights that you are not alone. If anything 


>> Michael: Right. 


>> Lori: Like if anything, and that, alone, is like the single sense of hope, that’s like the string to the kite that could take us somewhere. Right?  


>> Michael: Right. 


>> Lori: I mean that’s how you and I connected, I mean I’ll never forget our first conversation, it was like three hours long! I mean– 


>> Michael: Oh I know! 


>> Lori: I didn’t want to hang up the phone! I was like, and I’ve met thousands of survivors in my life but I’ve never felt like I was with a fellow the way that I did on that day, and I was in my office, I’ll never forget it. I cried, we laughed, I mean we just went on and on.  


>> Michael: Right. 


>> Lori: You have a way of making people feel like they are not alone, and when I read your book that was my sense, like first I just ached for your experiences, the stories were heart-wrenching, and the same questions that I’ve asked of my perpetrators, like, “How can somebody do that to another person?” I had those same questions about yours and my initial response was anger and frustration and then my follow-up responses as I kept going were that of it’s not about them. It’s not about the people that caused us harm, it’s about what we’re doing with our experiences and how we’re taking it to another level. 


>> Michael: Right. 


>> Lori: Tell me, how do you feel now that it’s out? How are you feeling? 


>> Michael: You know, it’s funny, because I thought – I mean I feel absolutely relieved.   


>> Lori: Yeah.  


>> Michael: I feel like it’s– I’ve run this race for so long and I never believed that I would get to end of the race. It took me ten years from the time that I sat down to start it to get it finally out, because there was a lot of times that it was too much for me, and I put it away, and so it was kind of that same self-destruct thing rather than just buckling down and getting time, and it took me, it was a long, tough, tough journey going through it again, three or four times, because every time I would edit it, I would have to re-go through all this again—and they aren’t just words, you know, they’re those memories, and they come back pretty vivid. So, it was tough. I’ll never forget when I – [laughs] — hit send– 


>> Lori: Send.  


>> Michael: –and it was out– 


>> Lori: —I know you texted me –[laughs]– 


>> Michael: Yeah! It was crazy! [laughs] When I got the notification that it was live — [laughs] — I couldn’t believe it so I went I looked on Amazon and I was like, “Wow, there it is.” Now it’s funny, because I’ve reached out to people that I knew when I was in elementary school, because I remember how I was in elementary school and how I lived in this very protected shell that I had created, so I was certain person to them, but I probably didn’t make a lot of sense to them because I had so much sadness within me. So I contacted— [laughs]– great thing about Facebook and social media, is that you’re able to find people that you never thought you’d see again. They probably don’t want to ever see anything from me again, but I let them know–  


>> Lori: [laughs] 


>> Michael: I’m like, “Hey, we knew each other years and years and years ago — [laughs] — when we were like seven, and you probably don’t remember it but I do remember a time in Mrs. Goodhope’s class, when we all had cupcakes and I just lost my mind, and I started crying for no reason. You guys didn’t know what was going on with me, you just thought I was a basket case. Well, I wrote this book, and if you can take the time to read it you’ll understand a little bit better why I was like that then.” Not for them to forgive me or anything like that but just to let people have a clear picture of who I am, who I was, what I was going through, and looking back, I know kids that were abused too, you know, just because I recognize that stuff in them, but of course when I was a kid, it was, you’re all about you. I don’t know if I ever told you this story about my sixth grade teacher, did I ever tell you about my sixth grade teacher? I went back as an adult and went by my old– 


>> Lori: Oh, yeah. 


>> Michael: —elementary school, and I was an adult, and I was okay in my brain at that time, and I stopped by and he was the principal at this point, and he was the coolest guy I ever met. He was a cool guy, he had a cool charger, I mean he was just a cool guy, big long sideburns, and I went back as an adult and had coffee with him in the cafeteria. You know, and you’re in this cafeteria that you were in when you were a third grader and fourth grader and you’re like, “Wow this thing is way smaller than it was back then.” So he says to me, he says, “Mike, years after you left we had to start taking some training. You came to mind. We were being trained to recognize child abuse and home. I need to ask you, were you abused as a kid?” and I said, “Oh yeah, like any way you can imagine a child could be abused, I was abused.” I didn’t know how he was going to react to that but he started crying, and apologized to me for not protecting me, and that’s something that, you know that was thirty years ago, and that has stuck with me. It’s just so horrendous, child abuse. It’s about the kids of course, but it’s the other people who feel helpless not knowing what to do. That’s why child abuse is so horrible. Society wants to address it but they don’t want to address it. It’s the right to address it, but don’t want to get involved type thing. Everybody needs to get involved, because you would not want this to happen to your child, and there’s no reason for it. There’s no excuse for it. I don’t know how to end it, but if everybody yells about it, maybe it will stop. That would be great if my book wasn’t needed anymore, or if no other book was needed about child abuse, that’d be awesome. 


>> Lori: Yeah, if they were just books about history, right?  


>> Michael: Yeah! Yeah. 


>> Lori: Yeah, man. Thank you, thank you for being here today, thank you for being candid, thank you for sharing your heart, thank you for writing your book, thank you for being my friend, and thank you for being such an advocate for this issue. I am such a cheerleader of yours, I know you are of mine–  


>> Michael: Yes I am. 


>> Lori: –and I think we’re going to be longtime friends and I am just really, really grateful. So I just want to thank you again and thanks everybody for listening in today to our podcast and you can check out Michael’s book on Amazon, again it’s called “Stolen Innocence: A Childhood Lost”. Right? 


>> Michael: Right, right.  


>> Lori: That’s what I thought. Good. It’s an exceptional book, it’s so from the heart and I would encourage anybody and everybody to grab it and read it and join us. So. Thank you my friend! –[blows kiss]– Much love to you! 


>> Michael: Thank you so much!  


>> Lori: You have an absolutely beautiful day. Take care everybody! 

[Inspirational theme music plays.] 

>>Lori: I want to thank each of you again for joining us today and listening in. If you or someone you know is being abused, please call 1-800-4-A-CHILD. To learn more about EndCAN, visit or find us on all social media platforms. Join us in being Louder than Silence and being a part of the change. Please leave a comment, like our podcast, or share with your friends. The more the word spreads, the more of a collective impact we can have. If you have a question or you know someone who would want to be a guest on our podcast, please contact Thanks again, and have a great day. 




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