An attempt to reclaim a voice:

Ray Pierce, pedophile,
Montmorency Co., Michigan
-by Alice Marie Beard

Everyone called the old man "Uncle" Ray. He had a huge, hawk nose and lied to folks about being an Indian. Ray Pierce taught me how to read deer tracks and make bird calls. When I was ten, he taught me how to shoot a .22 bolt action rifle: site in; focus; take a breath; let half out and hold it; squeeze the trigger; right palm up; hand around the ball; up; back; forward; down; repeat.

I had the perfect chance to put a bullet thru the back of his head. I regret that I did not do so.

He's long since dead, but he caused damage for many women who are now wives, mothers, grandmothers, friends.

In the 1950s he ran a small vacation site in Montmorency Co., MI. In the fall and winter, hunters filled the cabins. In the summer, families rented the cabins and let their kids walk around the fish pond, sit under the pine trees, and swim in the bend of Gilchrist Creek. Ray Pierce molested every little girl he could get his calloused hands on. I was one of them.

It began the summer I was four. By the time I was eight, I had figured out how to avoid him during my family's summer stays. Even as I approach 50, there are times that the past given to me by Pierce comes over me in a cold wash and freezes me where I am.

Before my children could even talk, I told them often and in the presence of other adults, "No one should touch between your legs or inside your pants. No one should ask you to touch his body. No one should give you weird kisses with the tongue. Tell Mommy if anybody ever does this. Even if the person says it's a secret."

Children need information to protect themselves. Usually, the abuser knows everything, and the child knows nothing. The abuser knows the object of the game; the child does not.

At four, and five, and six, I was completely confused. "Why is this old man touching me like this? Why do my parents act as if he's their friend? Why does he act as if he's my friend?"

Like many children whom pedophiles select as victims, I did not have a close relationship with my parents. So when the old man said, "You like this, don't you? This is our secret. Don't tell anyone," I was sure it was something that would make my parents angry to hear about, and I felt their anger would be directed at me. Besides, why would they believe me? I figured that if I told, I'd either get hit because I had let it happen, or they'd say I was lying and hit me for that.

The first summer was the summer before I started kindergarten. Since I had told no one after the first summer it happened, I knew I couldn't tell anyone the second summer it happened. I feared if I told them, their response would be, "What?! You mean this happened last year, and you didn't tell? Why not? Why did you let it happen?" SMACK!

I was five the second summer it happened. I was getting ready for first grade. I could not read, but I could write my name with effort and do simple addition.

I had some warning before the first summer that it happened. I had an older half-sister with whom I shared a bedroom. As we lay in our bunk beds one night, lights out, going to sleep, she told the story of what this man had done to "another girl, one that we met last summer." It sounded made up. After it happened to me, she said she was that "other girl."

We made a pact, my half-sister and I: I would never leave her alone with Pierce; she would never leave me alone. Still, he was smarter than two little girls, and he didn't seem to mind sticking his hands inside my pants even when there were other children present.

I learned to dress differently. Before, I had loved dresses, but when my mother was packing clothes for our stay the second summer, I insisted, "no dresses, only pants." Dresses make little girls so frighteningly accessible. Summer by summer, I got better with the dressing. Jeans with a zipper and a belt were best, matched up with a pull-over, no-button shirt with short, fitted sleeves. I'd tuck the shirt in, cinch the belt tight and put the buckle on the side so that I could make the buckle hard to get at if I could keep my arms down. Before I was eight, I knew how to make myself inaccessible.

Understandably, my parents must have welcomed the respite from child care when Pierce would offer to sit by the creek with children and tell stories in the evening. "Go with 'Uncle' Ray, and do as he tells you." A standard command parents give children when they want their kids to behave for someone else. One more confusion for a child.

As for the false use of the title "uncle," it added confusion for a young child. To me "uncle" meant somebody in the "grandma and grandpa family," someone who would treat me kindly and allow me to eat his food and run loose in his house. "Uncle" meant, "Everything's safe, and he won't even yell."

Nothing was safe with "Uncle" Ray. He would send my parents Christmas cards with a picture of the cabins at Gilchrist Creek. My parents saw them as a business promotion; I saw them as mid-year threats-across-the-miles.

As a third grader I finally told someone a little of what had happened. Another little girl and I walked side-by-side on the cinder path on our way to school. I told her about Pierce. A child herself, she told other children. I spent the rest of that school year being taunted by the words and hand gestures of a small group of snotty-nosed third-grade boys. As I would walk the half-mile to school, they would walk ahead of me, walking backwards so I could see them make gestures with their hands on their crotches.

By my junior-high years, I was able to convince my parents that I preferred summer school to the family vacation at Gilchrist Creek in Montmorency Co., and I was able to avoid even seeing the old man. I would stay home with my older half-sisters while my parents and brothers vacationed.

Years later when I was the mother of one child and pregnant with a second, I returned to the vacation spot to help put the past at rest. The man had died years before; I had known that. The place was in disrepair, but the water still rushed from the open pipe on the artesian well. The big rock we used to stand on as we'd drink straight from the pipe was still there, wet, with emerald-green moss on one side. The creek which two of my brothers had tried to "pee" across still ran under the bridge.

But things seemed smaller; distances seemed closer together. I walked around the pond, and there was still the side where the ground was mushy and the cattails grew and the bullfrogs gathered to croak, and there was the spot where the roots of the weeping willow tree bulged up and forced me to walk around them.

Then I got to the side of the pond that was flat and open. When I was ten, I had stood there as Ray Pierce taught me how to shoot a .22 rifle. He shot at bales of straw across the pond. Then he handed me the loaded rifle and said, "Stand behind me. Balance the long part of the rifle on my shoulder as I lean over. Shoot at the newspaper on the straw." I did as he said with little thought.

As I walked around the pond years later and reached that side of the pond, I thought for the first time, "How easily I could have pretended to stumble, shooting him in the back of the head. An accident. Folks would have felt sorry for the young girl and might have wondered why the old man had been so careless. A blameless tragedy. I could have done it so easily."

I walked on. The past was past. It lived on only in my mind.

Sadly, it lives on in the minds of many victims. Ray Pierce's victims likely numbered in the hundreds.

Thirty years after I survived third grade, I was the Camp Fire leader for a group of third graders. The local council insisted all Camp Fire leaders offer what Camp Fire then called "Child Awareness Training." My Camp Fire club was sponsored by the local Catholic church, and the Archdiocese insisted that all youth group leaders go thru appropriate training and properly train the children so as to avoid as many incidents of child sexual abuse as possible. Thus I found myself dealing with my old story again. As another leader and I worked with the third graders, the children were divided into groups of three and four to do supervised role playing. I stood near one small group as the children talked. Suddenly, I heard one little girl say, "This happened to me." The two other children looked instantly shocked, and I did the only thing I could to offer her some protection: I walked over as their Camp Fire leader, put my hand on her arm, and said, "It happened to me too."

Soon after, I wrote the basic piece as it is above and mailed it to three people in Montmorency Co., MI. I wrote to the editor of the local newspaper, the county sheriff, and the county prosecutor. I mailed it to the editor with the note that he could print the story without fee so long as he sent me a tear sheet. I asked the sheriff and the prosecutor if there had ever been any action against the man.

There had never even been a police report against Ray Pierce for child sexual abuse. None of his victims had ever spoken up. There it was, years after he was dead, and I was the first to speak up.

The editor chose not to run the piece because of financial reasons. The area economy was poor, and it was dependent on vacationers. He feared that if the story of Ray Pierce were known, it would damage the fragile local economy as vacationers learned the story. If the local economy suffered, businesses would not purchase advertising, and there would be no local newspaper.

The local editor did, however, show the piece to a few local folks. Shortly after one area woman read the piece, she phoned my home and said simply, "He did it to my daughter too."

Over thirty years had passed, but I finally had the proof that Ray Pierce had molested children other than just my half-sister and me. We were not alone.

Within another week, I received another call. Pierce had no children, but he had married a widow with children. A grandchild of Pierce's wife and her first husband phoned to accuse me of having enticed her poor old "step-grandfather." Tragically, another grandchild of Pierce's wife was also one of his victims; that survivor spoke with me by phone sometime later.

If the pen is mightier than the sword, and if there is the power of the press, how shall the strength of the internet be described? I began in the days of hot type, moved on to cold type, and now we're at software type. I remember when a ball point pen cost so much that a child would have only one. Now, even young children who are not wealthy have access to the internet. They can read what other people are saying, and they can often publish their own web pages. If they can't publish a web page, they can post to a newsgroup, or send e-mail to a mailing list, or chat in a chat room. If they have the right internet service provider, their communication can be done under a nom de plume. [For children reading, that's French for writing under a fake name.]

What if all the young people whose predators are still alive began publishing the names of the people who sexually abused them? What if a pedophile who sexually abused an eight-year-old on Wednesday had his name circulated by Saturday? These children could get the names of the pedophiles OUT without having to make their own names public if they were not yet strong enough. What if the new game were "outing" pedophiles?

Too often, the survivors of child sexual abuse are faceless. This is the face of this little girl who survived one pedophile's abuse. By the time this photo was taken in autumn of 1956, this little girl had survived two summers of Pierce's abuse. She survived two more.

The little girl who had no voice

Obviously, I am no longer in hiding. After spending over forty years trying to hide my story from most people who knew me, I am completely in the open. I will be "indexing" this page with the various search engines, and anyone who has found his/her way here can easily see anything else, and can easily determine who I am. However, this does not connect with anything else. It stands alone as a personal perspective on child sexual abuse.

Alice Marie Beard
December 1997

It is now 17 months after I first "unloaded" my story by putting it on the internet. Step by step, I have gone a little more public with my story. I now have a link to this page from my main "home on the 'net"; I have told my childhood friends that I wrote this and that I have put it on the internet. When appropriate, I have spoken matter-of-factly to people and said, "I survived childhood sexual abuse." The responses have surprised me. No one has responded with horror, or shock, or revulsion. There have been many instances of folks saying their children, their spouses, their siblings, their loved ones, or even they themselves also survived childhood sexual abuse. The number of people whose lives are impacted by childhood sexual abuse amazes even me. There is not only the victim: There are the victim's parents and family, left to deal with an emotionally scarred child, scarred for reasons the family often does not know. As the child moves beyond childhood, there are the friends and lovers of the survivors who must deal with wounds that never should have been made. Survivors survive, but they aren't who they might have been had they not survived childhood sexual abuse. I do not know who I would have been if I had not survived what I did; surely, many things in my life would have been different, and many choices I made would have been different, but this is the life I got. The "life that might have been" ended with the abuse. I got the life I turned it into when I decided, "I'm not going to curl into a ball and die. I'm going to get thru this minute, and this hour, and this day." To come full circle, this is the person the little girl who survived has turned into:

Alice Marie Beard, June 1999

In a cloud of darkness it could not understand,
the Mishawaka Council of Camp Fire Girls
put its warmth around me and said,
"We're walking thru the forest with you."
On some of the darkest days,
a little Blue Bird walked beside me.
Wo-He-Lo, and thank you

Alice Marie Beard
May 1999

site by Alice Marie Beard,
Bethesda, MD

email Alice

Alice's place
the chapters:
|letters home| |genealogy| |people features|
not a law journal| |ONE HELL|
Camp Fire| |wandering trips|
Dowlut & Beard, Attorneys|

copyright by Alice Marie Beard