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.

Loss of a Secret

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

In January 1995, I received a 2:30 a.m. phone call from my hysterical sister. “Dad shot Mother while she was sleeping. Then he shot himself in the front yard.”

Because she thought Mother to be alive, my wife and I got to the hospital as fast as we could. I was such a mess, all I could say was, “No, no, no.”

The rest of the month was a blur, and the next two or three years a roller coaster. Eventually, I settled into a working funk that slowly faded. Yet, at this time every year, I have an ache that won’t go away. I miss Mom and probably always will. I left so many things unsaid.

More than that, I grieve the loss of my secret. I kept it as a good boy should, but I cherished the fantasy I had made of it. In my mind I romanticized it as something other than abuse. It was a secret that was just for Dad and me and no one else. If I couldn’t have the healthy relationship I needed and wanted from a father, at least I could console myself that I had the secret of our “special times.”

After that January night, I had nothing but the truth. I wasn’t special—I was just more convenient. It wasn’t love—it was selfish, abusive, and damaging.

Along with my mother, Dad’s bullet took away everything I thought I had. I suspect I’ve been afraid to mourn Mom because I’d have to mourn all the rest. So, every January I just ache until I can push it back and move on to what the new year brings.

Some losses stick with us a long time.

Be Kind

At the end of emails to good friends, I sometimes add these words: "Be kind to [their name] today." Occasionally I'll add, "[Their name] is someone I like very much and deserves your kindness."

Not everyone responds, and I don't write it to hear from them. I write the words because I mean them. I also write them because I've had to say them to myself many, many times to remind me. When I've messed up, said or done the wrong thing, feel low or lonely, that's when I decide to be kind to myself.

How do I show myself compassion?

My words go like this: "I like Cec; he needs me to support him and he deserves all the love and respect I can give him."

Be kind to yourself.

Say only positive, loving thoughts to yourself. If I occasionally hear myself bordering on negative and self-condemning words, here's what I say: "Cec, I'm sorry I felt that way. You don't deserve the harsh things I've said about you. I promise you that I'll be nicer."

Loving God, today help me be kind to myself.
And tomorrow. And the days after that.

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

Abuse and Compartmentalization

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I talked to a friend who was in and out of same-sex relationships because of his abuse. We discussed that other victims speak of the emptiness of same-sex relationships, which leave them depressed and feeling miserable. But neither of us felt that way, and it caused us to wonder.

One thing we have in common is that riding off into the sunset with another male has never been a possibility. It’s not that we haven’t met anyone who’d be willing, but it’s because of the way we responded to our abusers.

Because of who they were, we never considered that what we had between us was anything more than a physical action. (For him, it was an older brother; for me, it was my dad.) It was a “thing” that involved connection and fondness, but also an understanding that it would eventually end. While I might have loved my dad, and my friend his older brother—and the closeness we each felt was great—life continued, and we grew up and moved on.

Part of our experience became a fixed pattern that repeated itself in similar types of sexual relationships. Because of preconditioned attitudes cemented in our impressionable years, our ability to commit intimately to anyone else was almost impossible.

We both knew men who wanted a more permanent situation with us, and while we felt genuine affection for them, a commitment was out of the question. Our idea of fidelity still included our wives.

The abuse rerouted our wiring and compartmentalized that area of our brains. I honestly believe my dad ruined any possibility of my having true fidelity with anyone. I can either love someone or have sex with them. For my wife, love and sex are a package deal—no compartmentalization. I struggle with that, and it’s hurt her.

Now that I’m older, it’s easier to be more faithful, but I fear it’s because of age rather than morality. With God’s help, and as revelation and understanding increase, I’m doing better.

Speaking Out

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

When I was 21, I suffered from some stomach ills and depression. My employer had employee assistance programs that would pay for counseling. I decided to take advantage of it and made an appointment with a psychologist. Everything was going smoothly, and then out of the blue she asked me about my father and our relationship. In seconds, I turned white in the face, became dizzy, and had to put my head down and do some deep breathing. We ended right there and I never went back.

I carried the secret of our relationship for decades. But into my late 40s, things had gotten worse for me and I realized I should see someone and talk about it. It was slow going until one day I just blurted out about what he did and how I felt it had affected me. It was painful. I must have cried for ten minutes before getting control. I felt like a fool.

Later, I felt better— better than I had in years. I went back and began the long tedious and painful process of unpacking it. Since then I have been selectively open about my abuse with certain people and situations. I feel it benefits others. I’ve sought to analyze why I feel the need still to talk about it. It hurts my wife to hear about this stuff, and I seldom bring it up with her.

But when I found a website exclusively for men who have been abused and are dealing with the effects, I was thrilled to have a place to actually talk about it freely with people who understood. I opened up about things that I hadn’t told anyone before. Getting validation for those feelings and thoughts was absolutely huge.

When I think about just shutting up and dropping any reference to it, I remember back when someone told me these words:
It was not your fault.
You are not alone.
I understand, and I hear what you’re saying. 
It's great to be heard and not just listened to. Here I am on this blog, spilling my guts, getting validation, and hopefully giving some too. To know you are not alone and can share the pain with someone who really gets it is beyond price.

It's Not Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood

I first read those words as the title of a book by Claudia Black, and I scoffed. "More psychobabble," I mumbled. But the words stayed with me, and it took me a long time before I grasped what she meant. (Then I read the book, which I found helpful.)

Obviously, I can't redo my youthful pain; I don't want to rewrite my early experiences. But I can emotionally embrace that crushed, beaten-down, pain-stricken part of me from my childhood.

I've learned to show myself compassion and to understand my defenselessness. Instead of hating that part of myself, I'm able to emotionally hold that wounded boy tightly.

Because I've become a strong believer in self-affirmation statements, here's one thing I say several times each morning: "I love who I am, I love who I used to be, and I love who I'm becoming."

And I learned, as Black pointed out, that it wasn't too late for me to heal that traumatized little boy.

I love who I am, I love who I used to be, and I love who I'm becoming.
Lord, thank you for making me the person I am.

* * * * *

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

Rewriting Life

The speaker referred to "strategies for protection from painful memories." He said many of us, unable to face the reality of horrible childhoods, unconsciously rewrote our family history and called that period of life by many terms, such as happy, conventional, nearly perfect.

Yes, I thought, I was one of them. In seminary, we had to take courses in pastoral counseling. In a personal interview, the lead professor asked me about my childhood.

"My mother was warm and accepting; my dad was quiet. I had a conventional, happy childhood." I said more than that—and thought I was telling the truth.

Years later, I was showering and realized I had not seen my family the way they truly were. "My mother was hard-hearted and unloving!" I yelled at my wife. "My dad was mean and brutal!"

Shirley hugged me and said, "Several times I heard you talk to others about your warm, loving family. I thought your mother was one of the coldest individuals I've ever met."

That opened me up. I had deceived myself (or I could call it lived in denial) and used words like conventional or happy to express my childhood. From that day onward, I began to accept my real family history. A year later, I could admit that I had been physically, verbally, and sexual assaulted as a child and that neither of my parents expressed affection.

God, help me not to rewrite my childhood history.
Instead, help me to accept the real one.

* * * * *

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

Abuse and Intimacy

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

For those of us who have been abused and exposed to some of the sordid sex practices, it’s difficult to be intimate with the woman we love. In our heads, sex has become something shameful and full of guilt. Sometimes the idea of intimate contact can bring up shameful memories and really ruin the moment.

Many times, I have spent the day at work thinking about coming home to the lady of my life and being passionate and affectionate. Then I’m driving home and, as I’m thinking about initiating intimacy, memories begin to creep back into my head. By the time I pull into the driveway, I’m a mess again. The spirit is willing, as they say, but the flesh is weak and difficult to respond.

In my teenage years and beyond, I became obsessed with sex. Discovering porn inflamed it even worse, until I realized one day that my wife and I had not been intimate in a long time. That’s when I began to look for help. I found help, but damage was done to the relationship and that marriage ended.

I swore I wouldn’t marry again, but eventually I did. I thought I was okay by then. However, during the first week of our honeymoon, I began to pull away and became irritable and angry and didn’t understand why.

Later, during a conversation, I looked at her and realized I really cared for her a lot. She was attracted physically to me and I was shutting her down. She became confused and hurt.

We’re doing better now, but there are still times when the memories intrude, and I have to push through them to stay with her in the moment. I do that by consciously focusing on just my immediate sensations.

My therapist suggested that I needed to re-sexualize myself. I think he's right, but it's difficult to do and talk about with my wife whom I love and respect. We get there, but we both have to be in the right mood at the right time. I suspect the only way to overcome this is talking it out together.