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.

“But It Felt Good” (Part 1 of 2)

I don’t know how many men I’ve talked with who equated abuse with excitement. It felt good, and consequently, they questioned their own sexuality, whether they actually did something to make it happen.

To add to that, it may push them to wonder if they’re really gay. It’s as if they say, “If I was normal, it wouldn’t have felt good.” We need to admit that when we were sexually assaulted it felt good. Of course it did.

I still recall the old man running his hands around my body telling me how soft it felt, and I enjoyed this touch. All of us have skin hunger, and no one in my family ever touched me—or if so, I don’t remember.

Everything the old man did to me felt good. In retrospect, I felt shame for responding to a natural, normal act—the human touch.

An online article stated that three of four Americans suffer from skin hunger. I don’t know how they arrived at that statistic, but I accept it. Our perpetrators used that unfulfilled human need and we suffered because of it.

I was an innocent boy who needed loving touches;
my perpetrator exploited a basic human need.

Sexuality and Shame

Shame is one of the common elements of us who are survivors of childhood abuse. My definition of shame is that it’s a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong behavior or imagined bad behavior.

My definition means that regardless of who assaulted us, on some level we sensed it was wrong. Individuals older and larger took advantage of us, and we didn’t know any better. We were immature children and didn’t know what else to do, but we had some awareness—possibly while it was going on or later—even though our perpetrator certainly didn’t inform us.

Because of that, as adults we struggle with shame. We have no logical reason for those feelings. We were innocent and powerless. We forget that shame is an emotion and doesn’t obey rules of logic.

As an adult, I understand shame is part of our socialization process. Someone said, “No action is required; merely existing is enough.” We can’t change the feeling, but we can change our attitude toward the effect.

One day I realized, “I wasn’t a bad kid. Those who abused me were bad.” The shame didn’t disappear, but it troubles me less and less. After that, one of the things I said to myself daily for months was, “I wasn’t bad; something bad was done to me.”

How do you deal with your sense of shame?

The Exercise Factor (Part 4 of 4)

Along with moving the body, something else I’ve learned is to incorporate positive self-talk while I’m on the move. We chatter to ourselves all the time, and it’s impossible not to talk to ourselves. When I caught on to that years ago I realized I could improve my life by choosing to say positive things to myself and about myself.

My rules (which I learned from others) are simple.

1. State facts that are true.

2. Commit yourself to goals you can easily achieve.

For example, I started making two statements to myself:
  • I need to exercise.
  • I will exercise three times a week.
Both were positive and easily accomplished. At times I had to push myself to do three mornings a week. But once it became habitual, I increased it to five times. Over a period of weeks, I realized how much better I felt about Cec, and I was more energetic and creative in my work. And in those days I was running one mile. Before long I got up to six miles each day.

I kept telling myself the positive effects of those two things. I kept my goal simple and obtainable.

Perhaps I sound like a fanatic on this topic. I know only that I’ve reaped immense benefits, and exercise has played a major role on my healing journey.

Energy, Energy (Part 3 of 4)

I am and have always been a high-energy person, but even people like me have bad days—really bad days. Some mornings it takes immense effort for me to get out of bed and go for a run. Days with rain and freezing weather add another reason to turn over and sleep.

Then I remind myself that I’ll feel much better after running. And I always do. A few times I drag myself out there on the streets early in the morning and I start out wondering why I’m doing it. Even on those days, by the time I’m home and ready for a shower, I know why.

I feel better about myself. It’s that simple. I don’t have to fight negative self-talk or beat myself up emotionally. I realize how blessed I am and enjoy my life. That’s the reason for being able to develop the self-discipline of getting up every morning—and it’s worth the effort.

I kiddingly say to my friends, “I’ve saved $300,000 in therapists’ fees through exercise.”

I’m a self-starter and I realize that some people need others to keep pushing them forward. If that’s you, recruit a friend. Get one or two buddies to run or walk with you or whatever exercise you choose.

I’m a professional writer and work at home. Almost every morning I see others in my neighborhood exercising while I’m at work. One man and his wife jog (which I use to refer to a slower, more relaxed pace). A little later, two wives in their early 30s make the loop in front of my house, which is at the end of a cul-de-sac.

I live 1.3 miles from a high school and sometimes I run there and do a few laps on the track. For the past several weeks, a group of five women have been coming out. They yell at each other, laugh, and I can hear them halfway around the track. They’re having fun.

In an earlier blog I wrote, “Start small.” If there is any secret to an ongoing exercise, that’s it. Don’t set lofty goals of learning to run a 10k race in a week

In my next blog, I’ll give you one more tip on developing an exercise program to push away negativity and depression.

The Exercise Factor (Part 2 of 4)

Just to encourage people to exercise isn’t enough. I read an article early this year that said health spas get most of their new members during the holiday season. The article also pointed out that by February 9, most of them have stopped coming.

One reason people fail with exercise is that they try to make immense changes and then give up. My advice (and my own experience) says, “Start small. Decide on one thing that you can do faithfully. Then add something else.”

Next to my faith in a loving God and the positive support of others, I place physical exercise as my best form of therapy and healing. That’s because I know what it has done for me. The best way I know to express this is to use myself as an example.

I was born in 1933, so you can figure out my age. Certainly genetics play a role, but I’m healthy and exuberant with no physical problems and I take no medication. That’s not meant to brag, only to point out what physical exercise does for me.

In 1974, I had been hospitalized twice with ulcers, my blood pressure was in the high normal range, and I was about 30 pounds heavier. My doctor said having ulcers twice made me chronic and he would soon start treating me for my high blood pressure.

I left his office with a prayer in my heart and determination never to have to go back. (I never did.) I chose to take care of my body and I chose to run. It took me almost two weeks before I could run a whole mile without stopping for breath.

But the single most significant benefit was the positive effects on my psyche. Some days I felt lousy, and in the early days of my recovery I’d have to say close to helpless.

Then I went for a run—no matter how much effort it took to get my feet moving. By the time I came home, I felt good. We sometimes call it the runner’s high, or we can say the endorphins kick in. Perhaps it’s just as important to say that God made our bodies to move.

The more I move my body, the better I feel.
That’s excellent and inexpensive therapy.

Just Move It (Part 1 of 4)

As a survivor, I believe strongly in daily, physical exercise. Most experts on physical fitness suggest some form of aerobic or cardio exercise 3 times a week for about 30 minutes.

Dr. Kenneth Cooper introduced the term in the 1960s, and I’ve been an advocate of his approach since the mid-1970s. He uses the term to refer to exercises that demand the use of oxygen during the workout, such as running/jogging, swimming, cycling, and walking (fast-paced walking).

For survivors I suggest a different approach. Do it every day and as early in the day as possible. (I’m a morning person so that’s easier for me.) I chose running, although I now rotate it with fast-clipped walking. I used to be able to do 15-minute miles walking, but now it takes me 17 to 18 minutes a mile.

The purpose is to get that heart pumping. Not only does it improve our health as Cooper and others have advocated, it improves our mental health, reduces stress, and lowers depression. The experts claim (and so do I) that daily exercise increases our cognitive capacity.

My Merriam-Webster defines cognitive as conscious mental activities (such as thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering).

For those of us who were victimized as children, this is the easiest and least expensive form of therapy. My daily run doesn’t cure anything, but it improves my spiritual and physical outlook.

Skin Hunger (Part 2 of 2)

As I pointed out in a previous blog, all of us need to be touched and held. Others took advantage of our neediness and exploited it. We were innocent kids and eagerly accepted affection from anyone.

Regardless of how much help or therapy we receive, the skin hunger doesn’t go away. How do we handle it? If you have a spouse, that’s probably not a big issue. You touch each other, I assume with some regularity.

But what if you’re single? Or widowed as I am? Needs don’t disappear. Perhaps because I’ve long been one of those individuals who likes to hug and receive hugs, I’ve been more acutely aware of it.

About a year after my wife died, I noticed a row of gray-headed widows who filled up one pew at our church. I’m not sure what compelled me to do it, but I went up to the woman on the end and said, “I need a hug. Would you give me one?” She smiled and did it.

The woman next to her smiled and I said, “I’m open to one from you if you can spare it.” Within a couple of minutes, I had gone down the entire row. I felt good about it and it has become my weekly ritual.

A few weeks later I said to one of them, “Thank you for that hug. I don’t get touched all week.”

“Neither do I,” she said. “And I look forward to your hugs.” She was 91 years old.

Two more years later I’m still hugging them, but now all of us see it as mutually needed. Best of all, they’re safe hugs. We’re both responding to that need for a physical, human caress.

That practice has grown beyond the row of widows. I’m now the hugger in the church. A woman named Kay runs up to me every week. “I need my Cec hug!” And I’m delighted to provide that. Men get hugged too.

I’ve been careful about the people I embrace. If I’m unsure I ask, “May I hug you?” In two years, I’ve had only two people say no, and both times I’ve answered, “Okay, thank you” and moved on.

I focus on this because, as a survivor of childhood abuse, on that preconscious level I needed the skin contact, and getting older doesn’t destroy it. Each Sunday when I leave church I’ve been hugged at least 30 times and possibly even more. I know I feel better about life and certainly better about Cec.

I need hugs.
And in giving them, I also receive them.