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.

“God Didn’t Care”

I’ve heard men say, “God didn’t care.” They usually go on to insist that a loving God would have protected them.

“I was an altar boy and loved Father Michael.”

“I never missed his Sunday school class.”

“He seemed like God himself by smiling, listening to me, and expressing sympathy.”

The stories start differently, but they all ask the where-were-you-God question. I understand the confusion of someone who’s trying to relate to a God who says he loves us.

We seem to think that if we love God nothing bad happens to us.

This morning, however, I was reading the story of Joseph in the Bible. Why didn’t God protect him from being sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and thrown in prison? Didn’t he love Joseph?

David, designated by God to be Israel’s king, spent years running from the attempts on his life by King Saul.

The only answer I’ve ever had and which has brought me comfort was from the mouth of Joseph himself.

He became the number two ruler in Egypt. Later, when famine struck the entire Middle East, Joseph spared the lives of his family. In the final chapter of Genesis, the ten older brothers, fearing that Joseph will take revenge on them, say, “We are your slaves” (Genesis 50:18).

He tells them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (verse 20).

That’s my answer: God doesn’t promise to protect us from hardships, pain, and evil. He does promise to be with us while we’re going through our tribulations.

I’ve been a serious Christian since I was 21 or 22. I hate the abusive childhood I endured. But now I know there was a divine purpose. God was with me. And God has taken away all that abuse, healed me, and is teaching me to be more compassionate for others.

I didn’t see God in my young life, 
but he was with me the whole time.

“You’re Not Alone” (Part 2 of 2)

We battle alone, but we also need to know others are there to support us. We can ask the questions, and others can make suggestions, but it’s still a personalized, individual battle that only we can fight for ourselves.

Others can help by their presence and caring. A common biblical story inspired me when I was going through a dark period. In the book of Exodus, chapter 17, the Israelites are fighting their first battle with the Amalekites, led by Joshua. The leader, Moses, stands on a mountain with his hands raised as a symbol of victory. Joshua’s troops are winning.

Moses’ arms grow tired and he starts to lower them. When he drops his arms, the Amalekites prevail. Two men, Aaron and Hur, make Moses sit on a boulder and they get on either side of him and hold up his arms. And that continues until they thoroughly defeat their enemy.

Holding up our tired arms makes a powerful image for me. We get frustrated, confused, and feel lost. One of my problems was that as memories came back, my deep resistance was to say, “That’s only your imagination. That’s not true.” But when I told the two people who held my arms, they helped me accept the truthfulness of my flashbacks and memories.

When I doubted that I’d ever get healthy, they assured me that I would. They held up my weak, weary, and discouraged hands until my biggest battles were over. We all need those caring people who are there to lift up our arms.

Who is holding up your arms?

“You’re Not Alone” (Part 1 of 2)

I read those words often: “You’re not alone.” Sometimes I find them comforting because it implies that the speaker/writer is reaching out for us. And knowing that we’re not alone can be immensely helpful on our journey.

And yet we are alone—a reality we have to face.

We must do the inner work ourselves; we have to feel the pain, the doubts, and the self-accusations. No one in the world knows exactly what we go through.

We are alone because the battle is within—a place others can’t go.

Think of it this way. We were victimized in isolation. Our perpetrators sought us out, groomed us, separated us from others, and then molested us. Healing means going back into the place of segregation from others. Our problems started there; our victories arise from there.

This isn’t to rule out the help of others—and we do need others. But the battle is ours alone.

We are alone because the battle is within.

The Best Words

My healing journey was slow and painful (or so it seems to me) and part of that may be because I live in a culture that expects miracle makeovers. I worked at my healing. I read everything I could find on the topic. I attended conferences where they had breakout groups to deal with sexual issues. I connected on the Internet with men all over the country and a few overseas. I joined a small group of men—I was the only admitted survivor—and the other five men affirmed me and loved me.

Nearly three years later, my wife and I were with another couple and Shirley said, “I don’t know Cec anymore. He used to be predictable, but he’s changed so much. It’s like having a different husband.” She held my hand, smiled at me, and said, “And I love the new man even more.”

Those were the most affirming words I heard during my healing journey. The woman with whom I lived every day saw and affirmed the difference.

She asserted what I had begun to feel.

We all need the outside witness—someone else to notice and appreciate the change. When that happens, we’re able to move farther and faster down the healing path.

Stealing Second Base

I don’t remember the first time I heard or read this truism: you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.

The impact of those words is that the healing journey is risky. Any healthy survivor will echo those words. Once we open the door to our painful childhood, we never know what’s going to come out.

For example, I hadn’t cried since I was 11 years old; I started my healing journey 40 years later. Then I cried—almost every day for weeks. I’d see something about mistreatment on TV and the tears would flow. Or read a scene in a book.

More than the tears, I began seeing things about myself I didn’t like—things others could see but had previously hidden from me. It hurt for me to face them and say to myself, “Yes, that’s true.”

Hard. Risky. The safer, easier path is denial. I had lived in that community too long.

The acute responses to my self-knowledge (i.e., the intense pain) lasted months. But I prevailed. I can only thank God, my wife, and my best friend because they were there when I needed them. Even so, it was my pain, my traumatic past. And as one wise survivor said to me, “The only way out is through. You’ll never be free of the pain until you re-experience it.”

Today I’m healthier. I love being who I am—something that didn’t seem possible 10 years earlier. I took my foot off first base. I risked being hurt, humiliated, and misunderstood, and I just kept going.

So can you.

Move your foot off first base. Take the risk.

“I Emotionally Abuse My Wife”

A lengthy email came from a man who had gotten in touch with his abuse in his early 50s. He confessed to emotionally abusing his wife. “How can I stop doing that?”

I don’t know the answer, but I offered him a suggestion: start by being compassionate to yourself.

Whatever is in our hearts comes out in our actions. Long ago I realized that the people who criticize and speak harshly of others are really letting us peak inside themselves. The way we treat others reflects the way we treat ourselves.

I suggested the emotionally wounded do what I did when I realized some of the terrible effects of sexual, emotional, and physical assault: I admitted I couldn’t be truly kind to others until I was genuinely compassionate toward Cec. That meant loving and accepting myself.

I wrote several statements on three-by-five file cards and repeated them several times a day.

Here are examples:
  • I am loveable.
  • I am worthwhile.
  • God created me lovable.
  • I like who I am and accept who I am.
  • I lovingly embrace every part of myself.
Weeks passed before the truth of those new messages slowly sank in. Today I can say those words with a smile on my face. I truly like Cec.

The residual effect has been that as I’ve become more accepting of myself it shows up by my being more compassionate and less judgmental of others.

Collateral Damage

The term collateral damage began as a military term to refer to damage done to civilians or unintended targets in warfare. Today, most of us understand it means the undesired consequences of horrific events. For survivors, it’s the harm done to those within our circle, especially family members.

In my own journey, I can think of nothing more difficult for me than speaking to my family of origin about the abuse during my childhood and then informing my own children. The first was more difficult because I assumed they, like me, lived with denial. To my surprise, my three older sisters either said, “I knew” or “I suspected.”

My own children, again to my surprise, handled it well. The thing about which I’m grateful is that I never took my molestation to the next generation—that is, did to them what was done to me.

I’m grateful I caused no collateral damage for my children.