My name was Cordell Anthony Settles. I was born on September 18th, 1972 at 12:11 PM in Seattle, Washington at Swedish Hospital. My father’s name was Roy Cordell Settles; my mother’s name was Magda Camile Settles. Sometime later, they split and divorced. After a third failed marriage, mom married for a fourth and final time, to Raymond Harold Bradbury. She passed from this life as Magda Camile Bradbury on June 26th, 2003. My father remarried; his third wife Shirley Ann Anderson became Shirley Ann Settles. Their marriage seemed to have worked out, despite them having been convicted and sentenced for molesting me from the time I was five until I was fifteen and one half years old.
She was sentenced to six months.
He was sentenced to fifty-four months.
Their sentences, combined, totaled five yearsI endured ten years of sexual abuse and have never felt their sentences were adequate to amount to anything close to justice. I’m thirty-three years old. Seventeen years removed from the sentencing, I found myself doing an internet search for their names, hoping to come across an obituary. What I found, instead, was a brief article about the abuse in correlation to them being nudists. The writer of the article, Nikki Craft, posted a comment at the end of her article that both frightened and intrigued me. She invited the ‘victim’ in the case to write about his experiences as a nudist child. I sent an email with one question? "What do you want to know?"
Her reply was as simple and as difficult as anything Id ever written. She invited me to write about everything, if I felt comfortable doing so. In theory, this seemed like a simple thing to do. After all, I am a writer and as a friend of mine pointed out, the abuse has permeated much of my work. How difficult could it be? Id grown up being extremely vocal about what happened to me, but when I sat down to write this article I discovered just how difficult it was.
For one thing, though Roy and Shirley were nudists, the abuse I endured happened at their apartment as well as at the nudist park. I found it impossible to extricate the geological conditions of my child abuse. For me, it wasnt so much that they were nudists and they abused me, but, rather, they abused me and they were nudists.
You see, the two are inseparable in my mind. I’m all for consenting adults doing whatever it is they choose to do amongst themselves, but when children are involved, it becomes a whole different matter altogether. And for me, writing the article has been the most difficult thing I’ve had to writeever. Although much of my art exposes the evils of child abuse and the damage that it does, I’d never taken the opportunity to sit down and write about my own experiences, point-blank. After years of alcohol and drug abuse, psychotherapy, spirituality, religion, medication...et cetera, I don’t believe I’d ever found myself as deep in depression as during the past month or so that I’ve been working on this article. Twenty-five pages later and I thought I was done. I thought I’d finally stared down the beast of my past. But other than the fact that it was done and out of the way, I found I honestly felt no better about what I’d written.
I knew I missed something.
I knew I missed the mark, entirely.
Id focused on all the physical things that had happened during those horrible years called my childhood. I realized, looking at those pages, trying to ready myself to revise and edit them, what I missed was the emotional content. To me, a writer of poetry and prose, I missed the most important part about writing: That simple indescribable thing that is not so simple to describe which allows the reader to feel for and empathize with the character or characters being portrayed on the page.
And after much reflection I think I have to come to terms with something that disturbs me: Ill never be able to make someone feel what it is I feel. After all is said and done, if you have never experienced such spiritual, psychological, and emotional devastation, you will never feel what it is I feel, every day, every hour, every minute. Unless you have gone through what I have gone through, you will never know how it feels to never be able to take a bath, to go swimming, or to walk barefoot in the grass. These simple acts have not only become fears for me but I have found by avoiding them I have been able to somehow move on with my life. Unless you know, viscerally, the soul-deadening experience of on-going traumatic abuse, you will never know what its like to despise your own childhood as I do mine. You wont know what its like to hate your own reflection because when you look in the mirror, all you can see is your biological father.
The saddest thing about my life is that it is not an anomaly.
What I have experienced has happened to others, is happening to others, and will continue to happen to others. The only hope I carry is the hope that by speaking out perhaps you, the reader, will take action. So here are my experiences as a nudist child. I’ve done my best to extricate the weekend visitations and the child abuse as a whole. I’ve done my best to focus on the nudist colony but this story starts out where all of my abuse had started...at their apartment.
My father and stepmother lived in, what was at the time, an 'adults only' apartment complex. I had no friends; there was nothing to do. My fondest memories of my father were playing billiards with him in the cabana. When I beat him for the first time he bought me my own pool cue. On it was inscribed: Cordell Anthony Settles, September 18th, 1980.
Whenever we played, if I missed my shot but was able to block his shot by hiding any one of his object balls away from the cue ball, he would say, "Snookered. You snookered me."
I never went to the nudist park the first time they wanted me to go. I was twelve, and I remember them telling me about that parkhow wonderfully freeing it was to have found a place where they could walk outdoors in the nude.
I told them earlier that Saturday I would go, though I did not want to go. Later that afternoon, after having packed a change of clothes, sleeping bags, et cetera, we stood in the apartment doorway, ready to leave for the park, but I stood frozen. My father said, "Let’s go," and my response was tears. I started to cry. I couldn’t stop. I finally blurted out, "I don’t wanna go." A brief argument ensued until they gave in and we didn’t go, my father telling me, "It’s okay, it’s okay. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to."
A few weeks later, one Saturday morning, early, there was a knock at my mother’s door. When I opened it I expected to see my father. I was surprised to see Shirley. She’d never picked me up before. In fact, I can remember only a couple of instances when she came with my father to pick me up for our visits, but this was not the norm. The norm would be my father, alone, no one else. "Where’s dad?" I asked her. She replied, "He’s busy. We’re going to go meet him." I said, "Oh, okay." I gave my mother a kiss, told her I would see her Sunday afternoon, and left. I slid my overnight bag across the backseat and climbed in after it. I buckled my seatbelt and we were off.
The drive from Kent to Issaquah isnt a long oneonly about an hour, but it felt as though it took forever. I remember asking her, again, where my father was. She only replied by saying we were going to go meet him.
We pulled off the freeway and traveled down some paved rural roads. I remember seeing an old barn, some farmland...those sorts of things. I remember feeling as though I was in the middle of nowhere. Shortly thereafter, the car pulled off the paved road and onto a dirt road, enshrouded in trees. A moment later, we drove past a yellow sign with green lettering. Doing my research on Fraternity Snoqualmie, the yellow and green sign is still there, though it’s different from how I remember it.
The current sign has the letters: FS. I remember the sign having the letters: ASA, encircled with the words: AMERICAN SUNBATHING ASSOCIATION. Whether I have remembered the sign incorrectly, or it has been changed since that time, I do not know, but one thing remains factually true: there is a yellow and green sign posted just off the main road when you enter the nudist park.
I remember the car slowing down as it lurched forward, the dirt turning into a cloud of dust behind us. I turned around and watched the main road disappear beyond the trees. I remember the car slowing even further and the dust cloud dissipating. The sound of rocks and gravel displaced underneath the tires permeated everything. The car shaking back and forth, the overpowering shadows from the trees, the noise from the gravelI remember hearing my own heartbeat increase when we came across another sign, this one on boards painted white with black letters. It read: WARNING: NO CAMERAS OR BINOCULARS BEYOND THIS POINT.
I remember wanting to leave but not knowing where to go.
The car pulled through the gate and we came to a stop inside what was the visitor’s parking area. Shirley turned around and looked at me and said, "Take your clothes off." She then pulled her top off. I sat frozen. "I don’t wanna," I said. "Where’s my dad?" Before she could answer, I found him, walking towards the car, wearing nothing but a pair of flip-flops and a smile. She said, "Get undressed." I shook my head. I said, "No." My door opened and my father greeted me by saying, "How come you aren’t naked, yet?" I told him, "I don’t want to. I want to go home." He said, "We’re visiting this place. It’s really nice; you’ll like it. Now take your clothes off. Come on, there’s other kids here you can play with." I was crying by now, "I want to go home." His response was simple and direct: "Take your clothes off now. Don’t embarrass me here."
Crying, I slowly began to remove my clothes. I remember thinking only that I wanted to leave, to go home, to get out of there. I didnt want to be there in the first place and I was told before if I didnt want to come I didnt have to. As I write these words now, I can only think of one word to describe my first experience at Fraternity Snoqualmie: SNOOKERED.
Id made friends with two girls, they were a year or two older than me and I dont recall their names. I remember the older one would often take me, with her sister accompanying us, off into the woods. We would play like any other kids would play, albeit we were naked. I was told the park was clothing optional and there was nothing in the rules stating I had to be naked. I could be dressed and no one would be upset with me.
I found out this was not the case. Although the camp rules did state the park was clothing optional, I found not only was I made to be naked because my father and stepmother ordered me to be, but I couldn’t wear a bathing suit in the pool. It was summer and it was hot. I remember digging my swimming trunks out of my overnight bag and I slid them on and ran down the grassy hill as fast as I could. I jumped into the pool and thought what a wonderful way to hide from all of the leering adults. At this time, there was one man in the pool with me. He was naked and I simply just stayed at the opposite end of the pool, away from him. At one point I pulled myself up out of the pool and jumped back in. When I came to the surface, the man was a few feet away from me. He said, "You’re wearing a bathing suit." I said, "Yeah. So what?" He said, "You can’t. You gotta take it off." I argued, "But the park is clothing optional." He smiled and then said, "Yeah, but the pool isn’t. You can’t wear a bathing suit in the pool." I said, "But...why?" He said, "We like to keep the pool clean. Bathing suits can contaminate the water. Take them off or get out." I figured I could stay in the pool and remain hidden from everyone. Under the water, I slid my shorts off and placed them poolside.
I later found out, on subsequent visits, that the sauna and hot tub were ruled the same way: No bathing suits were allowed.
My friends, the sisters, had told me about one member whose name I cannot recall. He was an older gentleman and he had a television in his camper. Apparently he lived on site. It was the only television I knew of. The three of us were dressed when we climbed the hill to his camper and asked if we could watch his TV. He said, "No problem," and let us in. He was naked, and as I don’t recall any adult there ever not being, this wasn’t too much of a surprise. What did surprise me was what happened after we walked in.
He immediately took his seat on the small loveseat-sized couch. He curled his legs up and leaned against the arm of the couch, his feet underneath his butt, supporting him. He was overweight and smiled a lot.
My friends went in first and they undressed. Then, one after the other, the girls sat on the couch next to this man. He put his arms around them. I wanted to leave my clothes on, so I just walked in and took a seat on the furthest end of the couch. The man told me, "You gotta take your clothes off." Again, my argument was, "But isn’t this place clothing optional?" He said, "The park is, but this is my property. Read the sign." He pointed to a sign posted over the faux-entry to the small area where his television sat. This sign read: NO CLOTHING BEYOND THIS POINT.
I figured being in this man’s camper, naked, was better than being in the pool. In the pool, anyone could see you; this way, I was only naked with this guy and my two friends. So I took my clothes off at the entryway to the faux-living room and retook my seat on the farthest edge of the couch. The man said, "No, you sit here, next to me. We can make room." We were then rearranged, with me squeezed next to the naked man on my right, the younger sister to my left, and the older sister to the left of her. The man put his arm around me and beyond to the younger sister; every now and then his fingers caressed the older sister’s right shoulder and bicep.
I dont remember what was on television.
After a few more visits, I gave up on my Clothing-Optional vigil. This was because my father and stepmother would always make me get undressed when they found me running around the park with clothes on. I went completely naked, as the flip-flops my father bought for me hurt my feet; the piece of rubber that went between the big toe and the one next to it would rub against my skin, causing irritation and pain. My two friends would often be naked too.
Looking back, I think we all gave up.
I remember one time: we were playing, and the sisters had gotten into an argument. I dont remember what it was about, but there they were, yelling at each other. Soon the argument escalated into a fight where they started to wrestle each other, holding each other hand in hand, as though they were playing the childhood game Mercy. If you dont know about this game, its the one where two people would face off, hand in hand, palm to palm, and try to force the other to cry out Mercy! by bending one or both of the opponents hands backwards.
During this sibling fight, I remember a small group of men and a couple of women laughing and cheering them on. One man grabbed a hose and sprayed them with it. He also sprayed the patch of dirt underneath them, turning it into a mud puddle. There, the sisters continued to fight, probably not having a clue their actions were unwittingly transformed into a more lascivious game made for spectators, commonly known as Mud Wrestling. I believe this was the year I was thirteen years old, maybe fourteen, so that would make them around fourteen or fifteen at the time.
On a few occasions, my father and stepmother brought an air mattress along. In a last ditch effort to hide my bodyas well as my shameknowing full well I couldnt hide in the pool, I grabbed the light mattress and ran down the hill, putting it in the wading pool.
Wading pool...that’s a misnomer. I remember, distinctly, it being called ‘The Kiddy Pool.’
I climbed on top of the mattress and laid face down. I floated the entire afternoon on the shallow water, slowly baking in the hot summer heat, not realizing the power of the sunor its reflection, mirror-like, off of the pool. I did exactly what I’d learned to do whenever I felt the need to escape the reality around me...I fell asleep.
I woke up hours later, the sun setting, the cooler air having drawn me from a dreamless sleep. I climbed off the mattress, plucked it out of the water, and carried it back up the hill in the same manner I had carried it down: running with it in front of me, trying to hide my genitals.
I put the mattress away, as instructed by my father, and readied myself for bed. Bedtime did not include the respite that sleep should have brought. Instead, it was the same at the park as it was during any other visit at my father’s apartment. The only difference being geographical...and the lack of a bath.
The camper they rented only slept two so I would sleep outside, on the ground, in my sleeping bag. But when it was time to go to bed, I didnt start out there. My father would go out for a walk and I would end up having sex with my stepmother in the camper. After wiping myself with a tissue, I would climb out of the camper and crawl into my sleeping bag. I would sink myself deeper into it until I could cover myself completely. I would stay that way until I heard my fathers faint footsteps come up the path and climb the two steps into the camper. After hearing him close the door, I would peek up at the night sky. There, underneath the naked sky, I did my best to forget about my own nakedness by searching out the constellations. But even the heavens could not allow me to negate the feelings of my exposed body inside that sleeping bag.
The next day, the day after having fallen asleep on the air mattress, I noticed something when I finally got to put my clothes back on. There was a dull pain on my backside. I had trouble sitting in the back of the car and I can remember fidgeting restlessly on the way home to my mothers apartment. As we got closer, I remember the dull pain growing into something I could not ignore.
My mother couldn’t ignore it either...when I later refused to sit down on the couch. She asked me, "What’s the matter with you?" I answered truthfully, "I don’t know." She looked at me, and then ordered me to, "Drop your pants." I exclaimed, "What?" She said, "Do it. Turn around and drop your pants." She must’ve seen the panic on my face. I thought she would be able to see the molestation on me, physically, somehow, so I just stared at her in silence. She said, "I’m your mother. You don’t think I’ve seen you? I changed your diapers, come on, now...drop ‘em."
So I did. Slowly, I turned around and dropped my pants and shorts and stood before my mother as she adjusted the lampshade to get a better look at my rear. She asked, "What is that? You’re peeling?" A pause, then she said, "Looks like a sunburn. Is that a sunburn?" I said nothing and quickly bent over to pull up my pants. "It is. My God, how did you get a sunburn on your butt?"
I pulled up my pants and explained, "I guess I got it from the park. I stayed in the pool all day. I think I fell asleep on the mattress." She asked, "The park? What sort of park is this? Were you naked?" I nodded to the affirmative. I added, "It’s a nudist colony my father and Shirley go to." She asked, "Are there other kids?" I nodded. She asked, "Are they naked, too?" I answered, "Yeah." She excused me as she picked up the phone and called my father.
I learned later that my father explained to my mother that the nudist park was, in fact, family-oriented, and nothing funny was going on. It wasnt until years later, when I finally told my mom about the truth of what was going on at my fathers apartment that everything connected and made sense to her. Later, shed confided in me her regret to giving my father permission to continue to take me to that place.
It seems to me one reason given for nudists to do what it is they do is the feeling of freedom. They dont want to hide behind clothes. They believe the body is nothing to be ashamed of. They feel that clothing, any sort of clothing, represents a sort of prison. I want to say Ive never felt freer than when Im clothedin fact, the more clothing on me, the freer I feel.
Hat, shirt, jacket, tie, shoes, socks, et cetera. Clothing equals a degree of freedom.
I cant even feel comfortable in a pair of shorts. I understand the ideology behind nudism; however, I have never felt it. As a naked child, surrounded by naked adults, all I felt was shame, vulnerability, and fear: more a prisoner than anything else.
In the following years, I’d finally managed to talk them out of taking me to the nudist park. The abuse continued but I told them I never wanted to go to that place ever again. I don’t remember this exactly, but I remember my father asking me about the guy with the television in his camper. I remember staring at my father in astonishment as he told me the two sisters came forward to their parents and told on the man for molesting them. I remember telling my father, "No, he never touched me. I just watched his TV, I mean, naked, because that was his house rule, but he never did anything to me." My father, to my amazement made this comment, "Are you sure? If he touched you, I swear, I’ll kill him." I confirmed, "Nope. He didn’t touch me." I remember thinking, "What...are you jealous?"
Im a writer now and Ive worked very hard at not censoring myself. I think its one of the strangest paradoxes on the planet: as a writer youre told you need to know your audience, youre told to write for themand yet, in order to dig deep enough into the work to tell the story that needs to be told, youre told not to censor yourself. So, you have to learn to be free of self-censorship knowing someone will read what it is youre writing. But when it comes to something so personal you learn the truth about this paradox: it is impossible to escape.
In order for me to tell you the real truth about what happened I have to tell myself you aren’t there. Please, don’t take this personallythink of it as my only way of getting to the pure truth of the story. After all, this is not fiction...this is the truth. This, these words, they are my truth. These things, they happened to me, and I fear they’ve happened to others, which makes me sad.
The weight of the world is so much easier to carry when you think you’re alone. It’s when you realize you’re not alone in your struggle that you discover the true weight of your struggle. I realize now, even though I’d spoken these words before, I never faced them. Not with pure honesty...which is what I’m trying to do right now.
A year or so after I came out about what had happened, Roy and Shirley went to jail. The last time I saw Roy was in handcuffs, being escorted by a guard. The local Kent paper did a story on me and it ended up on the front page. The photographer took a photo of Roy being whisked away to jail. It is truly the last time I saw him because I was standing next to the photographer at the time. When Shirley came out of the courtroom, he tried to snap her photo too, but their lawyer had put a hand up and blocked the shot as he whisked her away. Her sentence didn’t start immediately and I don’t quite remember why. Although they were sentenced and went to jail, I never felt any sense of equity: as noted earlier, their combined sentences totaled five years. I endured ten years of abuse. That’s a decade of corrupt control, exploitation, and violation which happened every weekend, fifty-two weeks a year, give or take a few extra times during spring break, winter break, et cetera. I can’t confirm this, but I heard Shirley was let out after thirty days on good behavior, finishing her time in a work release program. Roy had a heart attack in prison and received a quadruple bypassbought and paid for by you and me...the taxpayers. Again, I can’t confirm this, but I believe he was also let out early, I think after about three yearsfor good behavior. I never put much thought into it at the time, but as I’ve been writing this, I’m left to wonder if they are still members of Fraternity Snoqualmie. I’m left to wonder if they are members of any sort of nudist organization. By law they are not allowed to have unsupervised contact with children, but I’m compelled to ask the question: Having been convicted as child molesters, are they still members of a family-oriented nudist colony, and if so, why? How much supervision is there in such a place? Even if one were to argue that children are safely supervised in such a place, I have to ask: What sort of parent are you, to allow your child to run and play, naked, under the ever-watchful gaze of pedophiles? And what about those child molesters who have yet to be caught and convicted? It seems to me, bringing children into such an environment is like throwing raw meat into a pack of hungry wolves.
Honestly, whatever happens between consenting adults on private property is one thing, but I strongly suggest leaving the children out of it. Nothing good can possibly come out of a child growing up as a nudist.
When I turned eighteen, per my request, and with my mothers blessing, I was adopted by stepfather, Raymond Harold Bradbury, and changed my name. From the day I received my new birth certificate, Ive done my best to forget about every part of my childhood. Ive reinvented myself through the years with therapy, medication, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse. After exploring spirituality and religion, I made an attempt at forgiveness.
None of these methods of escape has allowed me anything resembling freedom. I am still imprisoned.
Through writing this article, I’ve finally understood that I have to come to terms with what happened. I have also finally understood I have to come to terms with my severe depression and bipolar disorder. And I have finally understood that, for me, to forgive is an impossibility...something I’m completely incapable of accomplishing. Every day, it seems, I look in the mirror and remind myself of that one day when I got my new birth certificate in the mail, opened it up and read it with the hope that I could leave behind those horrible years called ‘my childhood.’ Every day I look at myself in the mirror and am reminded that I was born at Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Washington on September 18th, 1972 at 12:01 PM. My parents were Magda Camile Bradbury and Raymond Harold Bradbury. Every day, I look in the mirror and remind myself, "My name is Stefin Mario Bradbury."
The author would like to express his appreciation and gratitude to Julian Real for his professionalism and expertise in helping to edit this article.