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.

Pope Sued; Bishop Eddie Long Accused

Another sad bit of news in the Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal involves a lawsuit from men who were once students at a school for the deaf in Wisconsin. The reported abuse began as early as the 1960s and claims that Father Lawrence Murphy sexually assaulted about 200 of them. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) who was head of the church's Doctrinal Enforcement Institute knew of the abuse and failed to discipline Murphy. The Cardinal is now pope and one lawsuit is aimed at him.

Last week, four young men accused Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Lithonia, GA, of sexually abusing them when they were in their teens.

CNN anchor Don Lemon held an hour-long newscast, September 25, and talked about the abuse issue. Lemon himself admitted that he had been abused but didn't speak about it until he was more than 30 years old.

The good news is that we're now reading and hearing about sexual abuse of boys; the bad news is that it happens.

I don't know details about the latest Catholic scandal and I don't know Don Lemon. I write about this because I know Eddie Long. I've known him for 20 years, and I've admired the humanitarian work he and the members of his church have done.

Eddie Long and I did a book together called 60 Seconds to Greatness that came out in January. We were scheduled to meet October 7 to begin a second book. I don't have any knowledge of any abuse perpetrated by Long and it's not my intention to accuse or defend.

Whether the allegations are true or not, they point out that adults in positions of trust and authority sometimes molest boys. The accusations aren't against drug addicts or men who sneak into public parks. Relatives, neighbors, church leaders, politicians, therapists, teachers—those we expect to trust to guard our children—are often the perpetrators.

For those of you who are survivors, this isn't to suggest lawsuits against the perpetrators--that's an individual decision. I do urge you to face your abuse and move toward healing.

As a survivor myself, I have this advice for parents. It's not enough to love your children, but they must know they're loved. Unless they feel loved, appreciated, and wanted, they become vulnerable to abusers who seek the loners, the wounded, and the isolated. As I look back on my abuse, I didn't feel loved and I needed attention. Because I was needy, I became an easy victim.

Loss of Control

In childhood, children learn to differentiate between what belongs to them and what doesn't. The most intimate possession is our bodies. Sexual molestation violates our ultimate sense of self. Someone else takes control of our bodies--against our wills.

Because we are children, we don't feel we have the right to protect ourselves from attack, or we don't know how. An adult, an authority figure, violates us. And as children, we "learned" that adults didn't hurt kids.

Many molested children also learned that the world isn't a safe place and they had to protect themselves. For many, though, the loss of control over our bodies robbed us of the normal ability to protect ourselves. To compensate, some men stay in the victim mind-set all their lives, rebelling and fighting anyone who tries to get close. On the other end of the spectrum are men who become revictimized, remaining naive or unaware of the evil intentions of others, and who end up being taken advantage of.

Even after we grew up and became physically larger, many of us felt small and helpless. That's the pattern we learned as children. When we looked into mirrors we often saw ourselves as ugly and unattractive--regardless of the reality.

Despite any evidence, we accepted the lies that sexual abuse taught us. We were lied to--and not only in words but in actions. We were lied to about love. We were lied to about caring. We became objects of someone else's lust. For many, to be loved meant to have a sexual experience. Is it any wonder that some adult survivors can't distinguish between making love and having sex?

--excerpted from When A Man You Love Was Abused by Cecil Murphey, Kregel Publications, 2010, pages 43-44.

Losses We Suffer--Memory

One way some of us survive the pain is to forget it or push it out of our consciousness. If we have to deny or forget what was done to us so we can survive childhood, we may grow up, look back, and ask, "Where was my childhood?" To be deprived of the memories--even the good ones--is abuse. And when we begin to recover our memories, we also understand why we "forgot."

In one group meeting, we talked about our amnesia, and one man spoke up. "Now it makes sense!" He said that the only thing he had remembered about childhood was that he seemed always to be alone. "Now I understand that being alone was when I felt safe. There was no one around to hurt me."

--excerpted from When A Man You Love Was Abused by Cecil Murphey, Kregel Publications, 2010, page 43.

Going Public

For adults who were abused as children, telling our stories can be powerful for us. It can be powerful for others, too, especially for those who haven't begun to talk about their traumatic past. They often have to cope with much shame and denial. To open up and shatter the silence of our past isn't easy, and some men never speak of it. They die with the secret buried deep inside.

Until I was able to talk openly about my abuse, I'd been haunted by the question: Will I ever be normal? I wondered if I would ever be acceptable to myself and to God. For many years I felt I wasn't worthy of God's love. Once I was able to stop thinking of myself as abnormal and unworthy (and it took a long time), I slowly accepted myself as worthwhile. I had moved from victim to survivor to victor.

When we tell the wrong people, we risk setting ourselves up to be mistreated again. As adults, however, we have choices. We don't have to tell anyone. We don't have to tell, but if we find the right people at the appropriate time, it can be extremely liberating.

Some men have been more prudent about choosing whom and when to tell. The second therapist at our state-sponsored group said at our final meeting, "Tell it on a need-to-know basis. If you think it will make the relationship better or clear up problems, tell. Refuse to give information to people for whom it would have little meaning."

--excerpted from When A Man You Love Was Abused by Cecil Murphey, Kregel Publications, 2010, pages 152 and 153.

Feeling Empathy

Two people abused me, both of whom were dead before I began to deal with my abuse. I wanted to forgive them, but it took me a couple of weeks of daily, intense prayer (it may take you only days or possibly years, because we're all different).

I don't know how God accounts for sins. The woman who abused me was a prominent Christian. I doubt that the old man ever went to church. But I prayed—fervently—that God would enable me to forgive them.

As my next step I thought of the prayer of Stephen, the first martyr of the church, who prayed, "Do not lay this sin to their charge." It took a lot of guts, commitment, and love for that man to pray that way for the people as they stoned him to death.

Eventually I was able to pray in the same way as Stephen did. I sincerely felt some of their pain and misery. That's not to overlook their awful acts, but it is to say, "God, their addiction imprisoned them. Surely they were tortured by their behavior. Forgive them for the terrible things they did."

Does such praying do anything for the perpetrators?

I don't know, but it did something good for me: I was free.

Pray for Your Perpetrator

You may not want to do this, but it's worth considering. You may need to start by praying for God to help you want to forgive. You might be able (in time) to pray for the person who is a victim himself. Likely, it's a compulsion and something he can't stop. Ask God to give you a compassionate, forgiving heart—when you're ready.

Fear

(By Gary Roe)

One of the most prevalent internal demons that I struggle with is fear. My fear equals a lack of safety. Most of the time, I simply do not feel safe. There are many nights when I wake up shaking, sweating, and terrified. I have to breathe deeply and pray, asking God to reassure me that it is not happening again.

I am tired of living in fear. I am tired of worrying about everything. If I really track all the things I worry about, I begin to get a sobering picture about where my mind can run off to. Sometimes I just talk to myself out loud, expressing what I am worried or fearful of. Thankfully, I often smile afterward, because it sounds so ridiculous. And sometimes there comes the nagging thought, Yeah, but it happened before, lots of times. And it could happen again.

It is ugly, and I am tired of it. The feelings are real, and I cannot stop them from coming. I must acknowledge them, because they are already there. I do not have to let them rule. At any point, I have a choice: I can cry out to God and trust Him (and ask for the ability to trust Him) or I can choose to continue down the endless road of fear.

I am learning that when I live in fear, I am not fully present to the ones I love. I am living inside my head. Things have become about me and about my survival. And it does feel like survival. I want to break out of that and really love those around me at any given moment.

I'm reminded that on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid" (John 14:27). The goal is not to not be afraid. The goal is, when I find myself in fear, to look to Him and trust Him that, over time, I will experience His peace, His safety.

Comments on Forgiveness

Please read Curtis Cutler’s comments on forgiving (August 31). He gave his wife, Amy, permission to tell his story and it appears in the final chapter of When a Man You Love Was Abused (pages 245-246).

It takes courage for men like Curtis to share their pain.

I’m grateful to Curtis and to all of you who have the courage to speak up and shatter the silence.

Write a Letter

Some experts suggest writing a letter to your abuser, whether the person is living or dead. They don't suggest you send it, only write it.

My advice: If it helps, do it. Try it and if you find yourself unable to complete it, be kind to yourself and say, "This doesn't work for me."

Others have suggested speaking into a tape recorder. Write in your journal. A friend named Greg used to hike in the mountains and when he was fairly sure no one was around, he screamed and shouted at his perpetrator. It worked for Greg because he said, "I got it out of my system."

What works for you?