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.

Distorted Relationships (Part 4 of 5)

“It was all a lie,” Max, a 23-year-old, said to me. He told me of the leader in his church who befriended him when he was 10 years old.

“I was the only boy who didn’t like sports, and my classmates called me ‘faggot,’ even though I didn’t know what the word meant until later.

“The youth leader encouraged me. ‘You’re a nice, sweet kid. Don’t pay attention to what they’re saying.’ He spent time with me and he was the first adult who ever listened to me. After I cried, he hugged me and whispered, ‘It’s all right to cry. Let it go.’

“After that, we started with hugs and I felt so grateful to have a friend. I didn’t like it when he taught me to masturbate him and the other things, but I loved the man so much I would have done anything for him. ‘It’s our secret,’ he said. ‘Just you and me.’

“I thought he really loved me. The church fired him, and he refused to talk with me. So it was all lies. He hurt me, and I thought he truly loved me.”

Max and I met at the 2016 annual conference of “Hope for Wholeness.” He said that occurred during his teens. “For a couple of years I became that faggot my classmates labeled me.”

When Max was 20 years old, he was a miserable drug addict, a college dropout, and isolated from his parents. He attempted to take his own life and obviously didn’t succeed. A wise therapist suggested that he attend the “Hope for Wholeness” conference.

That was three years before we met, and he said that group saved his life and he’s finding others who strengthened him.

“My classmates were wrong about me,” he said. “And for the first time in my life, I’m happy and like who I am.

“I can define myself,” Max said, “And I don’t give anyone else that privilege.”

Distorted Relationships (Part 3 of 5)

“If he hadn’t . . .”

I wonder how many times I’ve heard that statement from survivors. And it’s a true statement. None of us survivors of abuse would be where we are if he or she hadn’t done something to us.

It’s easy to blame them and say, “It’s all their fault.” And yes, it was their fault. They did it to us. We can stand as accusers every day of our lives and the statement will still be true.

And we’ll still be miserable.

Or we can make that our starting point toward healing. If we continue to focus on blame, we trap ourselves inside a cycle of negative, destructive thinking.

Why not say the sentence this way? “Even though she . . . ,” and we focus on our healing journey.

This is where my faith (despite being shaky at times) reminds me of a loving, compassionate God, who desires to heal me. I can point to a number of individuals who embodied the kindness and love I needed and embraced me.

I began this blog in 2010 to reach out to hurting men who could remain anonymous if they chose, but I wanted them to read about the healing that’s possible. I stand as one sexually, physically, and verbally assaulted kid who has traveled down that healing path.

I’m not quite healed,

but I’m getting close.

Distorted Relationships (Part 2 of 5)

“I have an inner circle—myself.”

Of all the things the man said, that’s all I remember. It took place in a meeting where I was the guest speaker, and several people responded to various questions about being open with a few people. I had suggested they establish an inner circle—a cadre of people they could trust, such as two or three individuals.

The man admitted that he had never had a close friend, and “I used sex as a way to achieve love.” He added, “For a few minutes I felt good, but afterward I felt worse.

“I can’t open up to anyone because I’m afraid they’ll tell somebody or feel disgusted with me.”

Before I had a chance to respond, the leader of the group said to him, “Several of us felt that way when we first came.”

“Yeah, I was one of them,” another man called out. “But after three meetings here, I learned that some of their junk was worse than mine.”

Another man called out, “One day I opened up and told the group a couple of terrible things I did. No one seemed shocked.” He smiled before he added, “It’s still not easy, but the only way I know to get rid of those fears and inner demons is to tell someone else. And these guys have pulled me out of my self-disgust.”

I could have said many things that evening in response to the man’s confession about isolation, but the other 20-plus men did a splendid job. The next thing I remember saying is, “When you admitted to us about being isolated from everyone else, you were trusting us. We could have told you what a jerk you were, but none did.”

His eyes clouded up, he nodded, and dropped his head into his hands.

One man walked across the room, hugged the newcomer, and said, “I want to be your friend.”

I don’t know the end of that story, but I sensed two things. First, the newcomer opened himself—not a lot, but enough to admit his aloneness. Second, the others nodded, encouraged him, and one of them embraced him.

The healing had begun.

Distorted Relationships (Part 1 of 5)

About a decade ago my friend Gerald Coker died of cancer. What I remember most about our relationship was his attitude toward women. I didn’t know all his history, except that he detested his mother, who was his abuser. I don’t know if there had been sexual assault (he never said, and I never pried).

She had abused him verbally and possibly physically.

The significance of that—and I think it’s often true no matter the form of abuse by a female—is the distorted perception of women in general. Not once did Gerald ever talk about women in a kind or caring tone. He mentioned women he had dated, and he’d say things such as, “I know she’s slept with a dozen men.”

His references weren’t limited to them, but he tagged every woman as immoral. We were still good friends when he married either his third or fourth wife, and she was one of the finest women I’d ever known. He made accusations about her I was sure were wrong, but he insisted he knew the bad things she had done.

That’s what I mean by distorted relationships. One time I said, “You’ve never had a satisfactory relationship with a woman, have you?”

“Not yet,” he answered.

The last I saw Gerald before he moved to another state, had married the woman he had vilified. And I thought, it will never last.

It didn’t.

I tell this about Gerald because he lived and died without facing his distorted view of women. That’s one of the sad results of abuse.

I want to face my pain
because I want to be free from it.

The Impact of Your Story

In a previous blog, I told you the question Paula’s husband asked. She’s a writer, and he asked her a second question: “What kind of impact do you think your story might offer those who’ve been wounded as you have been or who are still living in abusive situations?”

Powerful question, and I answer only for myself. In my case, I faced the molestation and have learned to talk freely about it. Would it make a difference if I specifically revealed the name of my first perpetrator? The only “good” I could see is that I would have been transparent. I don’t think any further revelation would significantly impact readers.

If she were still living, would I confront her? Perhaps. But first I’d have to decide what I expected to gain. If I wanted to force her to admit her acts, I’m not sure she’d do that. Even if she did, so what?

For me, the only reason I can think of for confronting that woman or the elderly pedophile, would be to say something like, “I know what you did, and I’ve come to tell you that I’ve forgiven you.”

My Struggle

(This post comes to us from Mark Cooper.)

I struggle with homosexual attractions, fantasy, and masturbation. Because of my Christian beliefs, I see this as sin.

I have finally admitted a long-seeded desire for revenge, especially against the older brother who abused me. He had more power.

As a “good boy” who grew up to become a man committed to presenting a good front, I stuffed my anger and desire for revenge. Sexual sin has been my drug to dull my anger. Sexual addiction is a result of the deeper issue, my anger.

In a moment of insight I’ve seen an issue that runs even deeper than my anger. That is my experience of being powerless when I was abused.

Every time the truth of my powerlessness hits, I feel terror. I can’t face that terror for longer than a few seconds. Then I pull away from both the reality of the powerlessness and the resulting terror. Anger kicks back in. The layers of self-protection begin again.

Honoring or Protecting?

My friend Paula said her husband asked, “Are you honoring your mother or protecting your abuser?”

In my writings I refer to my first abuser as a female relative—which is true. I’ve not identified her even though she’s now dead. I’ve held back because she has still-living children and grandchildren. I also learned that she, herself, was a survivor of sexual abuse.

I chose not to state her relationship to me—not to protect her and certainly not to honor her. My reason was to avoid tainting her memory in the minds of her children and grandchildren.

Was I right? She died before I faced my childhood and I never had to face whether to confront her. But I’ve chosen to protect her memory in their lives.

More than that, I realized my not revealing her relationship means I’ve forgiven her. That’s what’s important. Even so, occasionally I ask the question: “Are you honoring or protecting your abuser?” I’m learning to say, “It’s neither. I don’t want to destroy others’ faith in her.”

How would you answer the question?