By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, February 22, 2013
For Atlanta builder Dave Moody, his life’s biggest project has been rebuilding himself after having been sexually abused when he was only 10 years old.
Moody kept that secret buried for 26 years until 1992 when he finally told his wife, Karla.
But Moody wasn’t prepared for what followed — repeated anxiety and panic attacks that left him unable to breathe. After undergoing countless medical tests, through therapy he finally realized that his attacks were connected to the abuse that he had tried so hard to ignore for most of his adult life.
Now Moody is on a mission. He wants to share his story so people can see that one can successfully survive sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress disorders as well as anxiety and panic attacks. If his story can help just one person, it will have been worthwhile.
Moody, 56, is no stranger in Atlanta’s business and social circles. His firm is the second-largest minority contractor in Georgia (after H.J. Russell & Co.); and C.D. Moody Construction Co. ranks as No. 46 in Black Enterprise magazine’s 2012 list of the nation’s 100 largest black businesses.
Moody has been involved in the building of Underground Atlanta, Philips Arena, the Olympic Stadium and Turner Field, the new World of Coke, the recently opened Maynard H. Jackson International Terminal at the Atlanta airport, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Omni Hotel.
Moody Construction also has been the sole contractor on several other projects including buildings at his alma mater — Morehouse College, Atlanta Metropolitan State College and the restoration of the historic Tompkins Hall at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
“Even with the success I’ve had, I have had to push myself to gain self-esteem,” Moody said in a recent three-hour interview. “I’m still dealing with it. It’s taken me up until now to be at peace.”
Moody’s story goes back to when he was living in Chicago’s South Side. Both his parents were teachers, and there was a woman who would take care of Moody and his two younger brothers when they came home after school.
When he was 10 years old, when his parents were going out at night and their regular baby sitter wasn’t available, she sent over her teenage son to babysit the Moody boys.
The male babysitter first started showing Moody some pornographic cartoons, and then he made his move.
“It was sexual,” Moody said. “He did things to me that a man shouldn’t do to a child.”
As best he can remember, the sexual abuse occurred at least twice.
“Pedophiles are good at what they do,” Moody said, adding that his abuser threatened to beat him up if he were ever to tell someone what had happened.
Fortunately, the teenager only babysat Moody a few times. But the abuser still lived in the neighborhood — a constant reminder of what had happened.
Then, in 1970, Moody’s father got a job in Ann Arbor as vice provost of the University of Michigan — causing the family to leave Chicago’s South Side.
“I was no longer there, so I was able to bury what had happened,” Moody said. “Ann Arbor was really paradise for me. It was what I needed at the time. It also gave me the ability to realize I could do whatever I wanted to do in life. It gave me the freedom to dream.”
Moody was a quarterback his senior year of high school. He enrolled in Morehouse College and received a degree in psychology in 1978. He then earned a bachelor of architecture degree from Howard University in 1981.
He then went to work for Bechtel Power Corp., working as a field architect on nuclear power plants. That’s when Moody realized that his heart really was in construction rather than design.
So he began working for a couple of contractors in Atlanta. And then on April 1, 1988, C.D. Moody Construction was launched.
(In celebration of having been in business for 25 years, Moody has launched a website — www.moodyspeaks.com — where he has been sharing his business and personal experiences.)
Five years later, all of those experiences surfaced. The Moodys found out that a close family member on his wife’s side had been an abuser. That was the trigger that led Moody to tell his wife what had happened.
Instead of that being a relief, Moody’s life turned upside down. Soon after, while he was driving, Moody thought he was having a heart attack. He pulled over and called his wife to say goodbye. Then Moody was attending the Regional Leadership Institute in St. Simons, and it happened again, sending him to the hospital.
At the same time, the Moodys had two young children, and his mother-in-law was dying of a brain tumor — all adding more family stress.
“My wife’s mother died in June, and I couldn’t sit through the funeral,” Moody said. “I came as close to a breakdown as one can get. I didn’t know what was going on.”
And there was the business. While he was crumbling inside, Moody was part of the team seeking to build the Olympic Stadium.
He remembered being part of presentations with builder Larry Gellerstedt, mustering all the strength he could.
“I could always get the stomach and courage to get the business done,” Moody said. “Construction is so therapeutic for me. Any time it got to be too much, I just could go to the job site. If I hadn’t been in construction, I don’t know if I could have recovered the way I did.”
Still, looking back, Moody said: “There’s no way I should have survived 1992; 1992 was the toughest year of my life.”
Somehow Moody managed to live with his “tarnished” past, something he still had only shared with his family and closest friends.
Then came Penn State’s sex abuse scandal, in which assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused and found guilty of sexual assault of at least eight underage boys.
“It was just so horrible that adults turned their backs on those kids,” Moody said. “It made me sick. When I saw their eyes, they were lifeless. I wanted to reach out to those boys to let them know that life can be OK.”
That was when Moody realized that he could no longer be silent and that God had a plan for him. He toured the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, which helps kids who have been victims of sexual abuse. At the end of tour, he broke down and cried.
“If I help just one person realize that life can be OK, it will be worth it,” Moody said. “I want to give hope to people who have suffered from sexual abuse, panic attacks, anxiety attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Moody also has realized that being a victim has impacted him in several ways. It was difficult for him to leave his children with babysitters. Until recently, he had a hard time hugging children. He worried if people would look at him differently if they knew about his past abuse. Moody also has been trying to forgive and not let his abuser “have control and power over me,” he said. “What bothers me the most is that I let him get away and allowed him to hurt others.”
Earlier on, Moody wanted to exercise revenge on his abuser (and he still doesn’t ever mention his name). But over time, Moody has been able to move on — partly because of his faith in God as well as his love for his family and profession.
“With architecture or construction, you are either rebuilding or creating something,” Moody said. “That’s what I like about my life — it’s a continuing building process. I’m finally finding out who I am as a sexual abuse survivor.”