I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Still Feeling Powerless

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)
I’m about to enter my seventh decade as a man, so one would think that I’d be pretty settled in my own skin by now. And yet, in certain situations, there are men (and even some women) who can make me suddenly feel like a ten-year-old boy caught trying to steal candy from the drug store.

Why is that? What is it that can make me feel so powerless in those situations?

Recently I was at work, which I love by the way, and was called to the manager’s office. I’d done nothing wrong as far as I knew. I was told that I’d made mistakes—small things of no consequence. And yet I felt my stomach begin to squirm on my way across the store. As I entered his office, he greeted me and then asked me to close the door. The butterflies in the tummy got worse as I sat down and he looked at me across his desk.

As it turns out, I’d done nothing wrong, but someone else had in regard to my paperwork. I’d covered my butt with notifications to all parties involved, and they had verified it too. The matter had to be explained to me because I would probably receive some disciplinary letters in the mail from headquarters’ human resources. That would’ve been upsetting had I not been made aware of the corrective action taken already on my behalf.

I was relieved and let out a big sigh as I left his office. In spite of the pleasant outcome of the visit, my hands were still shaking. A life of keeping secrets and walking on eggshells has left me constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, even though there isn’t one any more.

Some call it PTSD. I took a test over the internet and that’s what it said I had, but I never suspected I could have anything that serious. Most of the time I feel okay, but I have to admit that some things can still trigger a panic in me that is way beyond what situations or persons are able to induce in others.

Peace and contentment can be elusive, but I’m learning to recognize the triggers and change my response.

My Inner Dialogue

A few months after I began my healing journey, I had several dreams one night. In the first, I saw myself as an adult and I held an infant in my arms. I knew it was myself and I said to him, "I'm Cec and you're little Cecil. I'm sorry I wasn't able to take care of you in childhood, but I'm here now."

In the second, little Cecil was maybe six years old. I stroked his cheek and said, "I couldn't help you then, but I'm here now."

In each dream the little child was older. In the final dream, Cecil was a teen. I took his hand and we walked down the street together. "You were so brave," I told him. "You survived and you're healthy. Your brothers didn't make it, but you did. I'm proud of you."

I stopped, turned to him, and hugged him. Then I awakened.

The meaning was obvious, but it started an inner dialogue with me. Even today, years after that dream, I still talk to the boy. I remind him of his survival and thank him for not committing suicide (which he tried to do once).

I like who I am now. I like who I am because that younger self was brave and kept fighting. He didn't let Dad or others defeat him. Growing up, he felt alone and like no one cared.

I'm strong today because he was strong then—even though he didn't realize he was.

All-powerful God, thank you for your strength.
Thank you for enabling my younger self to survive his painful childhood.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).

Life Is Messy

(This post is from Roger Mann.)

Life is messy. Messier than I ever imagined. I grew up in a house that celebrated truth and honesty. At the same time, I was told/taught to keep secrets and lie. I was just a kid, but there was something about it that didn’t sit well with me. But being 9 or 10 years old, what did I know? “Father knows best” is what I was told.

Even as a kid I got an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach about what was going on, but I was conditioned to override that and obey my parents.

But stuff like that won’t stay silent for long. As a teenager I began to see that Dad was not so all-knowing and perfect as I had been led to believe, and that made me mad. I had been lied to, betrayed, and eventually set aside. He hadn’t given me much attention throughout my childhood, but what he did give changed to less and less as I got older. I think he began to worry about what I might say or do.

I let it go. There was nothing I could do that would not cause even more problems, so I left home as soon as I could. I think he was relieved. I thought I’d managed to get away and put all that behind me. I was wrong. All the secret abuse and lies didn’t stay buried. The older I got, the more problems I seemed to have until finally I had to deal with it all.

The anger didn’t go away. The flashbacks and the bad dreams that scared my wife led to my trying to deal with it on my own. That only made it worse. I was a lost soul, and the foundation I had so carefully laid began to crumble beneath me at around 45 years old. I needed help and I searched to find it.

When we reach a certain age, we often look back on things. That’s when the fa├žade shows its cracks. For me it was 45, and I have talked to many others around that age with similar stories.

Whatever your age, get help. 
You can’t do it alone. 
The results are worth it.

Feeling My Feelings

As I've mentioned elsewhere, my major coping method of survival from abuse was not to feel. When the emotional level got heavy, I went numb. I didn't do that consciously, but it was my way to handle the trauma of  childhood. Once I became aware that numbing was what I did, I also realized that I needed to feel my pain--to reexperience the hurts of my past--if I wanted to be free from the past.

Here's how I did it, and this may not work for others. Each day I said, "God, help me feel my feelings." Followed by, "I feel my emotions." I usually spoke to my reflection in the mirror. I wanted that message to get into my core being.

Although I hadn't talked to a therapist or a pastor, I sensed that facing the hurts and feeling them once again was a step I had to take.

It took months before I became aware of how I felt; it took even longer before I fully accepted the abuse of my childhood. It took years before I knew I had been healed.

The journey wasn't easy, but I refused to give up. At times, I felt alone, unloved, unwanted, unworthy--and other negative emotions flooded through my soul.

Each time I felt my emotions, however, and thanked God for allowing me to experience them, the pain seemed to lessen a little. Now, years later, I can honestly feel my emotions.

Caring God, teach me to feel and to accept my emotions.
You made these feelings, and I want to honor them.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).

The Man Card

(This post is from Roger Mann.)
I hear this concept every now and again as part of some joke. For me it’s no joke. I understand what they are talking about, but I’m sure I don’t have one and don’t have a clue as to how to get one. Dad never taught me how to dress, how to play sports, how to shave, or anything else but to shut up. Children were to be seen and not heard.

I began elementary schooling wondering what it was all about, being a boy that is. I had all the right equipment but no clue as to what to do with it all. How do you make your legs run and not look stupid? How do you throw a ball and not look like a girl? How do you keep from flinching when a ball is thrown your way so you can catch it like you know what you’re doing?

How do you not react like some little baby when you fall and hurt yourself? Most of this stuff I learned by watching others and risked looking like an idiot trying to imitate their skills. As I went through the educational system learning my math, English, and science, I was constantly in a state of anxiety trying to pretend my “man card” was fully legit and endorsed.

I thought after I graduated from high school that I was finally finished with the game of “am I just as good.” But as I got into the work place, the rules changed once again, and I was on edge once more trying to figure out this thing of being a grown-up man. Of course, there was the sex thing too, which now complicated an already complicated navigation. Now I had to pretend I knew what that was all about. So here comes the eyeroll, the nudge, the grin, the “oh yeah, I know what you mean there, buddy.”

I didn’t know what they meant—not really—and I ached, feeling all the more exposed.

It has taken me a long time and a lot of stupid mistakes and bad choices to realize most of them were as clueless as I was. I shunned many a potential good friend because I didn’t want anyone to find out how clueless I really was.

Scott's Story

I recently received this poignant email from Scott (which I’ve edited with his approval). He wrote an additional 500 words, and the pain was so obvious. I was especially touched when I read that he wasn’t believed. Many of us know that experience. (Cec)

* * * * *

I reached puberty at age 16. I was put on growth hormones at age 15, as I had not started growing.

Around that time, a teacher fondled me at least once. He was reported by other parents for doing the same to their sons and dismissed from the school. I remember feeling sorry for him as I didn't realize he had done anything wrong.

The serious abuse started when I was 14 or 15. A friend, only 6 months older, began to abuse me. That situation continued for 5 years until I was 19.

All that is mild, and I could live with it. Now comes the bombshell: I became a perpetrator, and I’ve never truly forgiven myself. I had a sexual experience with a 7- or 8-year-old boy. I was 16.

Then on a Tuesday—a day I’ll never forget—the boy’s mother knocked on our apartment door. My life forever changed on that day. I confessed and had to go to the police. I was lucky because the case was dropped by the judge.

I had stopped by then, although I’m pretty sure I would not have done it again even if I had not got caught.

I explained to my parents and the psychologist that I did it because it had been done to me. They didn’t believe me because the person who had done it to me was not much older than I was.

I accepted that, and never understood why I had committed that most awful sin. Eleven years later, I realized I was re-enacting what happened to me when another psychologist suggested it— as a reason, and not as an excuse.

Maybe that’s why I let the abuse to me go on—as self-punishment.

A Letter from a Female Reader

The letter below comes from Jen Puckett, a female follower of this blog.

* * * * *

Dear Cec,

I want you to know what your willingness to share about your abuse has meant to my husband and me. After reading your book, my husband felt understood and not alone or like something was wrong, defective, or disgusting about him. We’re especially grateful that as a Christian man you were gut honest about same-sex attraction and the struggle that causes when you genuinely love your spouse. I read your book for wives too and found encouragement in your words and in the ways you said your wife supported you most, even when she least knew how.

My husband is reading More Than Surviving right now. He appreciates knowing he’s not alone. He's 48 years old, and his abuse happened from childhood through age 16. It's been a long road. We've been through intensive individual and marriage counseling over the last couple years and are rebuilding our seventeen-year marriage.

A few years ago, I felt a desire to write a book of my own from the wife’s perspective—before we were ever ready ourselves—and treasured it in my heart until now. I struggle to tell the agonizing stories, but my husband and I agree that unless the raw truth is told, it won’t help other survivors’ wives. Your honesty and transparency in writing are what enabled him to open up toward healing.

We both know the price in exposing the truth is high. My husband’s ministry could be devastated, or we could have a shift in the way people look at abuse—especially male sexual abuse among Christianity. The chasm between true compassion and hope for the hurting and the shock or discomfort with the symptoms of abuse seems insurmountable; therefore, the church often refuses to acknowledge it. But you gave it a voice long ago, and voices are beginning to join yours. Ours will. Others will too.

We sincerely thank you, Cecil, for sharing your harrowing journey. You risked so much to help other hurting men heal and know they’re not alone. You exposed light into the darkest places of unspoken shame. You opened never-before-opened doors for abused men and showed them firsthand the courage it takes to walk through them. As a wife to an incredible survivor, I am beyond blessed that you chose to use your voice and write your words.

God bless in every way,

Jen