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.

Shame, My Old Friend

(By Jason Rovenstine)

I never realized I kept a secret until a pretty girl in the university cafeteria helped me see it.

She sat across the table from me, her lunchtime friends nearby. A subtle smile and twinkle in her eye told me it wasn’t an accident she chose to sit by me. I was flattered and hopeful.

It was lovely. Before long her foot slid under the table to touch mine and her smile let me know it was intentional. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?

But I kicked her. Hard.

She fled in tears leaving an untouched plate of food and friends looking at me in disgust.

That's when I realized I had a secret.

My secret started in the second grade. A high-school babysitter discovered I loved the attention she lavished on me. At bedtime she asked me to do things with her that didn’t feel right—but I loved the attention and since I was a compliant and sensitive child, I only mildly objected.

My mother was perplexed to find me hiding in the garage the next morning and asked what I was doing. I couldn’t answer because the babysitter told me I would be spanked if I admitted what I had done.

The shame of that secret gnawed at me through the years. I carried it diligently, like a pennant pilgrim through grade school. It was there with me as I struggled through math. It tripped me the day I gave my book report. Shame was a faithful friend at junior high church retreat when the speaker told the story of Potiphar's wife and praised Joseph’s ability to run.

Shame was the silent, constant partner that saw my late bloomer changes in high school. Shame was the salty nauseous taste in my mouth the day the basketball coach gave me a chance off the bench—and I messed up. I wasn't able to connect such experiences back to the second grade, I just knew that shame was a familiar part of who I was.

After eighteen years of bearing the burden of that secret, I shared my secret with my parents through tears and bitter self-loathing. And as any loving parents would do, they wept with me, embraced me, and released me from the guilt.

Fast forward to today. I’m happily married to a woman who knows the value of complete acceptance and openness in our relationship. I have four children who bring me great delight. I have a healthy self-awareness and gratitude to the Creator for the blessings of life.

Maybe you're like I was and you still carry a secret. The funny thing about secrets is that they only hold power over your life if they remain hidden and unspoken. Once you share a secret, the healing process can begin.

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