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.

Running from the Past

My friend Gary Roe sent me a copy of his book Heartbroken: Losing a Spouse. Much of what he writes applies to healing from abuse as well as from the loss of a spouse.

One sentence stayed with me long after reading: "As we allow ourselves to feel the pain, our hearts will begin to heal."

Wonderful words, but the problem comes for many with the statement, "allow ourselves to feel the pain." That's what many won't or can't do.

"It hurts too much," is a common response.

Of course it's painful and traumatic. If it didn't hurt, the healing would have taken place long ago.

Instead of facing the situations, too many medicate themselves so they can run from their past—and it's not a conscious choice. It's our individual way of coping. Some resort to drugs, others by cutting off their emotions. My medication was busyness. For years, I was a driven man but had no awareness of it. "That's just the way I am," I often said.

Gradually, I learned to stop running (which is what my busyness was accomplishing). I wrote gradually because that's probably the best expression I know.

After I became aware, I decided to do something about coping with my drivenness. I read everything I could on how to live in the present and slow down. Taking time to read, in itself, was part of my slowing down. Yet slowing down was painful because I had time to think. And to feel. But I stayed with it and I'm making progress.

The struggle to run from my pain was useless. I couldn't outrun my childhood trauma.

But I could face it.

And I have.

Naming Myself

One of the most difficult (and painful) steps is to identify ourselves by name. I can still remember—vividly—what it was like to give my name to a group of men, all of whom had been sexually molested.

Identifying myself and not worrying who knew was a powerful healing step.

Here’s something I’d like some of you readers to respond to: Tell us your experience in telling about yourself. When was the first public admission? What brought it about? How did you feel?

As you do so, think about the newer readers of this blog. Think how you could help them by sharing your experience.

"You Shouldn't Feel . . ."

In conversation with my friend Beth, I mentioned that even though I knew the molestation in childhood wasn't my fault, I still felt shame and guilt over my abuse as if I had failed in some way. "I keep thinking that only if I—"

"You shouldn't feel that way," Beth said.

Before I could respond, she listed my achievements (as if I didn't know them) and told me how much she admired me for the way I had dealt with my painful childhood.

"But still—"

"You don't deserve to feel that way."

Beth was trying to encourage me and I appreciated her concern; however, nothing she said was helpful. She tried to persuade me with logic and tell me how unreasonable it was to feel as I did.

I knew that, but I also knew that emotions don't listen to logic.

Beth could have told me a thousand times not to feel as I did because of what someone did to me. I would have agreed, but nothing would have changed.

What I also hear from well-meaning friends when I speak of my painful feelings is, "Just get over it!"

Easy words, but meaningless and powerless.

Do they think I want to hold on to my painful emotions? Do they believe I want to wallow in self-judgment?

One time when I spoke about the lingering feelings of shame, my late friend Steve Grubman-Black, also a survivor of sexual abuse, said, "Be kind to yourself. Accept those feelings because they're real. When you're able to feel compassion for that innocent child you were, those negative feelings will begin to dissipate."

Steve was right, even though it took at least three more years for me to become aware of the change.

These days whenever I feel a negative, condemning emotion, I remind myself that I can't argue myself out of feeling as I do. But here's something I tell myself: "I accept myself the way I am."

I also remind myself that emotions don't listen to logic.

* * * * *

A note from Cec's assistant: A big thanks to those of you who have responded to our request for influencers for Cec's upcoming book, More than Surviving. Some of you have asked what's involved in being an influencer. It's basically just helping get the word out about the book to people you think might have an interest. That could be through social media, blogging, writing reviews, word of mouth, or any other way. If you are interested, please send Cec an email with your contact info at
cec.murp@comcast.net. The publisher will send you a free copy of the book when it's due to be released.

"We Didn't Know"

"We didn't know," the civilians said when asked about the gas chambers after World War II.

"We didn't know," neighbors say when they learn that the man across the street had molested a boy.

"We didn't know," parents say when their adult children talk about their past sexual abuse.

When I began to deal with my abuse, I told my three older sisters. They said the same thing.

I don't think they were lying. I think they couldn't accept the enormity of the revelation. If they had known, perhaps they wouldn't have been able to face the personal guilt for doing nothing.

What about abused kids' point of view when they hear those responses? One of the witnesses against Jerry Sandusky said he never told anyone. Asked why, he repeated an answer that rang true to me and to many others, "Who would believe a kid?"

When the perpetrator is a prominent person in the community, leads a scout troop, teaches Sunday school, or runs a charitable organization for kids, who wants to hear such stories?

The answer: No one wants to hear such stories.

Perhaps the question should be, Who needs to hear such stories?

When asked that way, the answer is obvious. Parents and religious and civic leaders need to hear. But too often they don't.

Sandusky's wife said she never heard the boy screaming in the basement. Apparently, she also didn't know when their adopted son said Sandusky molested him repeatedly for several years.

When will they believe us?

When will the cries of bruised and raped boys be heard?

Until they are, the survivor on the witness stand has spoken for all of us who were abused in the past. He speaks for those who are or will be molested.

"Who would believe a kid?"

* * * * *

A note from Cec's assistant: Cec's publisher (Kregel Publishing) plans to release his newest book, More than Surviving, in March, and they've asked us to provide a list of influencers. An influencer is someone who is familiar with Cec and his work and would be willing to help get the word out about his book through reviews, social media, blogs, and/or other ways. If you're interested in being an influencer for More than Surviving, email Cec at cec.murp@comcast.net to let him know, and make sure to provide your contact info. The publisher will send you a copy of the book when it's available. Thank you!

Why Am I Still Not Healed?

"Why haven't I worked through all these issues? Why am I still not healed?" Most of us survivors ask ourselves that question many times. "I've been on this journey for five years. When does it end?" Those are the questions we ask on our worst days.

On our better days, we examine our lives and remember where we started. In those self-reflective times, we admit we've come a long way. A friend said to me, "In those depressing times when you tell yourself that you ought to be farther down the road, you're probably more healthy than you know."

Maybe he was correct, but it doesn't stop us from asking the question. Why not? Why not?

For myself, I can say this. I keep discovering the insidious consequences of my sexual abuse. It's a good thing I didn't recognize all the effects in the beginning, or it would most likely have overwhelmed and immobilized me. In my darkest moments, it seems as if the healing takes place one day at a time, or perhaps even slower—one small step a year.

I've jokingly said, "If I'd known in the beginning that this would be such a hard, painful journey, I probably wouldn't have started."

In my early days of grappling with the issue, I felt that way because the feelings were too intense and too brutal. But now I add, "I'm glad I struggled and fought. It's been worth re-experiencing the pain. I've learned more about myself. I've not only accepted who I am but I honestly like the person inside me."

Here's something I say to myself regularly: I am not quite healed; I am a healing-in-progress.

* * * * *

A note from Cec's assistant: Cec's publisher (Kregel Publishing) plans to release his newest book, More than Surviving, in March, and they've asked us to provide a list of influencers. An influencer is someone who is familiar with Cec and his work and would be willing to help get the word out about his book through reviews, social media, blogs, and/or other ways. If you're interested in being an influencer for More than Surviving, email Cec at cec.murp@comcast.net to let him know, and make sure to provide your contact info. The publisher will send you a copy of the book when it's available. Thank you!

Self-loathing

(This post comes from a reader named John Joseph.)

One effect of my early childhood sexual abuse has been self-loathing. For the longest time I didn’t understand that was what I was dealing with. I thought I was just so messed up that I didn’t deserve the air I was breathing. I constantly compared myself to others, especially men, and I never measured up. The problem with that perspective is that it kept me from being the best me that I could be.

Self-loathing is an emotional habit rooted in envy. As a child my body was never as big as the men who abused me. They were taller, stronger, and their genitalia were bigger. I could never measure up. I can see clearly now that my lifetime of irrational comparisons was founded in those moments of abuse in which I was weaker and the abusers stronger. It wasn’t a fair fight. I was a child.

My continuum of self-loathing ran from a minor comparison of hair or height to athleticism or financial status. At best, it caused an irritation. At worst, it caused deep anxiety and self-destructive behavior such as addiction or depression. A few times I was so distressed by not being like someone else that I despaired and could have taken my life.

The cure for self-loathing I have found, is to recognize that envy hurts me. I am learning to celebrate myself—my body, and my lot in life. What I have is what I have. Comparing myself to others causes me to devalue myself. As I grow in recovery my goal is to love and appreciate who I am and to resist falling into the abyss of self-loathing.

Lasting Effects

The impact of sexual abuse can be devastating and it is long lasting. Because you were a child, and you were victimized by someone—and most of the time it was someone you trusted.

The first thing you need to know is this: The sexual abuse was not your fault. You may even be told that you did something wrong, but that person lied. You were a victim; you were an innocent child.

Most of the adult survivors with whom I've talked told me that they grew up feeling something was wrong with them. They believed they caused the abuse and blamed themselves.

You may have tried to talk about the molestation and no one listened. Until recent years, too many adults refused to acknowledge that such things occurred. If that happened to you, you have probably felt inadequate, embarrassed, isolated, guilty, shameful, and powerless. Then you probably reacted by suppressing this as a shameful secret.

For example, I was once involved with a men's group. One member, Greg, said that when he was seven, he wanted to tell his mother that his own father was sexually abusing him. One night at dinner, he said, "Daddy has been pulling down my pants and doing bad things to me."

"Eat your dinner," his mother said.

His two siblings said nothing; Dad continued to eat. That was the last time Greg opened his mouth about his abuse until he was thirty-one years old. That's when he joined a group of survivors of male sexual assault.

Research now affirms the link between the abuse and the effects. Each of us needs to be able to admit that the long-term effects are powerful and include poor self-esteem, difficulty trusting others, anxiety, feelings of isolation, self-injury and self-mutilation, eating disorders, sleep problems, depression, self-destructive tendencies, sexual maladjustment, and substance abuse.