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.

The Way to Heal

After I went public with my abusive childhood, many people reached out to me; I appreciated their concern and compassion. A few of them, however, weren’t helpful. I call them the right-way-to-heal people. They knew all the rules and emotions associated with grief and (even more important) knew exactly how I felt and what I needed to do for myself. (They told me so.)

Most of their advice came from their own experiences. Not only did I understand the agony they’d endured, I appreciated their willingness to share their pain and healing with me.

What they didn’t grasp was that I wasn’t like them—and no one else is either. We were both abused as children, but obviously no two people suffer in the same way. As obvious as that may be, too many of them had become the right-way-to-heal people.

“Talk about it. Tell anyone who’ll listen. The more you speak about it, the easier it gets.”

“Be extremely selective about whom you tell.”

“You need a therapist. They’re the only ones who can help you.”

“Don’t go to a professional. Find a friend or a small group—individuals who have recovered from abuse. They’re the only ones who can help.”

Yet they all knew.

I didn’t need a lot of advice; I did need a lot of compassion.

No one can tell us how to heal;
it’s something each of us must figure out.

Turning the Abuse Around

(By Gary Roe)

I’m inspired by the Old Testament story of Joseph. He came from a highly dysfunctional family. His father had two wives and was a deceiver who played favorites. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Over the next 13 years he was carried off to a foreign land, mistreated, falsely accused, imprisoned, and forgotten.

Through a series of miraculous events, Joseph the Hebrew slave became second-in-command of the powerful nation of Egypt. Several years later, a famine struck the region and when Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt for food, they find themselves face-to-face with their long-lost brother.

Joseph could have done whatever he wanted with them. His brothers were terrified and expected death, but Joseph embraced and welcomed them. He chose to forgive. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good," Joseph said (Genesis 50:19).

Joseph believed evil could be turned around and used for good. He chose to look at the positives instead of dwelling on his brothers’ rejection and abuse. He refused to be controlled by the past. He forgave his brothers, and in doing so freed himself.

That story tells me I can shed the abuse of the past. I know it happened, and I accept that. Now I’m trying to turn it around and use it for good, in my life and in the lives of those around me.

I can find ways to turn the abuse around
and use it for good.

My Life Is a War of Obstacles

(By Gary Roe)

Sometimes I get upset and ruffled because I expect life to be smooth. That’s ironic considering my life since childhood has been a painful war.

Sexual abuse has all kinds of horrific aftereffects. We live with the results of the abuse and our lives are anything but smooth.

What if life is really about overcoming difficulty and obstacles? Maybe part of it is designed to bring me to the end of my own strength so I can begin to trust and experience the freedom that comes from not having to be in control. Instead of exhausting myself running from the pain, I can choose to turn around and embrace it.

As I allow myself to feel the pain, I begin to accept what happened. I’m less controlled by my past and live with more freedom. I am less self-conscious and engage more naturally with others.

Healing is not smooth or easy. It can be upsetting and painful. But it is good. Very good.

Life is not smooth and neither is healing,
but both can be very good.

Healing Is Tough but Worth It

(By Gary Roe)

Healing is tough but worth it.

My daughter recently broke both her arms, one of them very badly. The pain was terrible and she nearly passed out several times. After the doctors assessed the damage, they did surgery. The recovery process was slow, difficult, and painful.

Can you imagine what would’ve happened if we had refused surgery and chosen to ignore that fact that she had two broken arms? Ridiculous, right?

Yet we often minimize the pain and damage of what I call our soul injuries. The abuse perpetrated on us was far worse than two broken arms. The damage was internal and extensive. In order to heal, we’re going to need some soul surgery. The recovery and healing process will be hard, lengthy, and at times painful.

But as we stay with it and remain committed to healing, we’ll find ourselves slowly improving. We’ll be less burdened and live with greater freedom and purpose. And one day we’ll look back and say, “Yes, it was so worth it.”

So stay with it, my friend. Make your healing a priority. It’ll be worth it.

My soul injuries need my attention,
so I choose to make healing a priority.

(This post was adapted from Not Quite Healed, written by Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe.)

Damaged but Protected

(By Gary Roe)

When people find out I was sexually abused as a child, they are shocked. “I’m so sorry that happened to you. Children should be protected,” they often say.

“I was protected,” I respond.

Yes, I was severely abused by people close to me, but I also strongly believe that God protected me. The damage has been severe, but it could have been so much worse.

For example, my desire from childhood has been to make a difference by helping hurting people. I have always been in a helping profession. I believe that was God, turning evil around and into something positive.

My heart and soul were damaged, but not destroyed. In some sense, I was protected against the full onslaught of evil. And now God is working in me to bring more healing, not just to myself but to others as well.

It’s interesting that the more available I am to God to be used in the lives of others, the more healing seems to come my way. Over time, I am able to see even more of God’s protection in my life, and my heart begins to relax a little more.

We were damaged, but not destroyed. Now God wants to bring healing and let us experience his goodness. If I can open up and heal, you can to. We’re in this together.

I was damaged, but not destroyed.
I can heal and experience God’s wonderful goodness.

(This post was adapted from Not Quite Healed, written by Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe.)

Getting Unstuck

(By John Joseph*)

Plateaus, deserts, valleys—whatever you call them—they’re no fun. The fact that we seem to be bogged down in our efforts to recover from childhood sexual abuse is discouraging, at best, and at worst, leads us to setbacks.

We become restless, listless, and even sleepless. Depression or anxiety begins to creep in and affect everything else in our lives—relationships, work, and recreation. People begin to notice and even wonder why we’re no fun anymore.

We're stuck.

What can we do to get unstuck? What will pull us up out of the mud and put us back on the road to recovery? What will help us re-center and tap into the joy of being alive?

Although the answers may seem elusive, I believe there are a couple of very important things we can do to jump-start the recovery process and start to feel human again.

The first thing I do when I realize I’ve gotten stuck is to gift myself with grace. Grace isn’t an excuse for where I am, but a kind, human-to-human response that I would want to give to anyone else I knew who was stuck. Instead of beating myself up for messing up again, I take a moment to do some healing self-talk that says, “Okay—so we’re stuck a little here. No worries. Just think about it. What do we need to do to get things going?” I don’t know why I always talk to myself in the plural. It just feels good to think there’s more of me here than just "I."

Then I take a little while to journal and meditate, then I wait. Sometimes the very thing I need to get going again shows up in a book or online. Occasionally, it hits me in a conversation with a friend. At other times, I keep pushing into different things and I realize the wheels haven’t really come off the wagon. They’re turning again, even if slowly, and I find myself back up on the road to become the person I am intended to be.

(*John Joseph is a pseudonym of a pastor. He's a regular contributor to this blog.)

Journal to the Center of the Soul

(By John Joseph*)

One of the simplest and most effective tools in my recovery has been soul journaling. There’s something powerful about the act of writing out the pain, the people, and the prayers (positively and negatively) that put them all in a better perspective. I don’t know if it’s the power of the words themselves or just the fact that I write them out of my head that brings some relief, but time and again I’ve experienced good things from journaling.

I’m not a write-in-the-journal-every-day kind of guy. I write when I feel like I need or want to. It’s sporadic, and weeks can go by in between entries. Sometimes I write four or five pages; at other times, only a paragraph.

Recently, when I needed to do some journaling about my mother, I could write only one sentence: “Mom . . . upside down spells ‘wow.' ” Obviously I have some work to do on that relationship.

I think it’s important to write positive things as well as negative. It’s good to celebrate even the smallest victories in our recovery from abuse—a day with less depression or the realization that each day is a gift. It’s also possible to address the true self in our journals—that part of our soul that responds to nurturing through self-affirmation and blessing. There’s a lot of healing we can gift to ourselves through positive words.

Writing things out is an ancient prescription for soul health. Journaling, even sporadically, can be part of your journey to the center of who you really are.

(*John Joseph is a pseudonym of a pastor. He's a regular contributor to this blog.)