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.

Learning to Trust (Part 2 of 2)

This post comes from Gary Roe. 

“God, help me to trust you. I truly want to trust you.”

This has become my daily prayer.

My mother and grandfather were the main perpetrators. They sexually abused me during early childhood. If they (the ones who should have nurtured and protected me) could do that, what might the rest of the world do?

Because of them, I felt unsafe growing up.

I still do.

I’m convinced my father knew nothing about the abuse. Now I find myself asking, “How could he not know? How could he miss the signs?”

My dad lived in denial. I can look back and see it permeating his life. The bottom line: My father could have stepped in and protected me, but he didn’t.

I’ve discovered that I automatically assume that my heavenly Father is like my earthly father. That means that deep down in me I believe that even though God could step in and protect me, he doesn't. Or he won’t. I might even believe that he is clueless sometimes, he doesn’t really care, or that I don’t really matter.

I’ve made God in the image of my earthly father. I’ve let what happened to me shape my view of him. I need to repent. I want to see and know him for who he really is.

“God, help me to trust you. I truly want to trust you.”

Trust Comes Hard for Me (Part 1 of 2)

This post comes from Gary Roe.


Trust comes hard for me. That’s natural and makes sense. I was sexually abused and raped by family members in early childhood. Those events and relationships have defined much of my life.


After decades of saying that I trust God, I've discovered that I really don’t. I believe that he exists, that he’s with me, but when life gets really difficult, I don’t believe that he will come through for me or protect me.


That means I must protect myself. I have to figure things out and direct my life. Not only that, I have to manage and control other people and situations. My lack of trust puts me in an impossible position, and creates a life of fear, anxiety, and fatigue.


Not trusting God allows the abuse to still define and control me. The abuse that I hate so much becomes an idol. In order to let go of it, I must begin trusting God.


I don’t know how to do this. I just pray, “God, help me to trust you. I really, really want to trust you.”


I sense he is working. I must hold on to that. 

"He Acted Out"

I recently read a romance novel written in 1932. Quaint, of course, but one thing stood out. At the end of chapter 9, the hero picks up the heroine (his wife who had resisted his affections) and carries her into the bedroom. The chapter ends with these words: "He kicked the door closed."

"The next morning," are the first words in chapter 10.

In those days writers were careful not to write about sexual issues but readers figured out what they meant. Maybe that's why we speak of pre-World War II as the time of innocence.

I mentioned that concept because of a phrase I hear quite often today about men who have been sexually assaulted in childhood. They talk about their change of heart, conversion, counseling, and move on to the changes in their lives.

But once in awhile a man admits, "But I acted out," and that's all he says. I certainly am not a voyeur and I'm not interested in reading graphic descriptions, but I would like a little more direct honesty.

• "I fell into sin."

• "I went back into my old ways."

• “I was promiscuous.”

• “I got into porn.”

• "I had sex with another man."

• "I committed a homosexual act."

As repulsive as those statements may sound to some, they're honest. I realize that saying a simple sentence like engaging in sexual acts with someone of the same gender is too difficult for some men to admit. Or they may not feel safe in saying those words.

But if a man seeks healing, that's part of the reality if he has "acted out." He needs to learn to speak the truth as candidly as he can. Not to say it straight is a form of denial or at least an attempt to mitigate the seriousness of the activity. Or it may be a statement still wrapped in shame.

I'm certainly not trying to urge survivors to speak openly and publicly until they're ready. But to speak in euphemisms or cover words isn't being candid.

My Problem

(This post comes from Neal of North Chicago, Illinois.)

He was my role model. He was handsome and kind and everyone looked up to him. He was about the smartest teacher I ever had and he liked me. He invited me to his house one day to help me with my math problems.

He kept telling me how special I was and how much he liked to look at me. I kept wondering why he'd like to look at me so much. He put his hand on my knee while he talked and stared right into my eyes.

I won't give the details but that's how it started and I made weekly trips to his house for almost a full semester. One day I saw him in the hall at school and he said, "Don't come by this week."

He said the same thing the next week and didn't seem to want to talk to me. That confused me because of all the things he had said to me. I finally asked him what was wrong.

"I helped you as much as I could," he said. And he walked away. After that he ignored me and I also found out that he invited other boys to his house. That hurt even more.

My buddy Joe must have figured out something, but I don't know or at least I don't remember if he ever said anything. Joe gave me the book Victims No Longer. I didn't want to read it at first but I started and that's when I understood that he was a pedophile. I knew the word before then, but I didn't know that's how it was. I thought they only went for kids who were four or five years old. I was sixteen.

I'm now thirty-one but I still think about him. I don't want to see him again. But even now, after all these years, I still miss him, even though that sounds weird.

I'm getting help in a group and the other guys understand and they assure me that I'll get past this problem. I hope they're right.

"I wish I could trust."

My name is Brian Johnston and I'm like the others who read and respond to this blog. I've come a long way, but I still don't know how to trust anyone. I'm constantly suspicious. I doubt what people tell me and think everyone lies to me.

Maybe that sounds like I need therapy, and I started it a few months ago. I feel better about most things in my life, but so far therapy hasn't helped me trust people.

I don't trust God either. I want to, but I can't believe God truly loves me. I know what the Bible says and people preach to me all the time. So that's not something I say very often.

Dear Cec, if any of your readers know how to help me, will you post their responses? I want to trust people and most of all, I want to be able to trust God.

Living with Fear

This post comes from Gary.

For a long time I worried that I would turn around and abuse boys the way I had been abused. I don't know if that was a rational fear or not, but I know the thought tormented me. What if I ended up hurting a boy or many boys the way I had been hurt.

After we married, we had two girls and that didn't seem to be any problem, but our third was a boy. That almost freaked me out. I told my wife about my fear and I had never done that before.

She said, "As long as you're afraid of doing it, I think you'll be fine. That fear holds you back."

Maybe that sounds too simple, but it did so much for me. Our son is now ten and I've never hurt him. Maybe sometimes fear is good.

Afterward (Part 2 of 2)

This is a second post from Brad.

The worst part of the abuse wasn't what happened, but it was the effect of the abuse. Marvin did it to me only three times. Then I told my parents that I didn't like Marvin. I don’t remember what I said but they didn't hire him again.

The abuse was over but the effects weren't. Something is wrong with me. I'm not normal. I won't say I thought like that every day, but often enough.

I've read about the results of abuse from a lot of guys. Mine was that I couldn't—really couldn't—express affection. When I touched someone it felt as if something inside my head yelled, "That's wrong!"

My pastor let me come into his office every week for more than a year. I cried and I told him some of the same things again and again. And he listened. I guess that's what helped most of all.

One day he hugged me and I can only say that it didn't confuse me because I knew he cared about me. I hugged him back—very, very gently.

I still struggle. I've been married for two years and I've told my wife my problem and she's understanding.

I can't believe I still struggle with the abuse, but I do. I'm getting better. It's slow, but I'm getting better.

My Mind and My Body (Part 1 of 2)

This comes from Brad.

After Marvin, my babysitter, finished with me, I was confused. I was eight years old but I couldn't figure it out. I felt dirty and that it was wrong—that part is clear to me. But it also felt good. And if it felt good how could it be bad? Or if it was bad, how could it feel good?

I'm nearly forty and now I finally—finally—understand. My body responded to Marvin, but my spirit resisted. And at that age and being faced by someone twice my age, my spirit couldn't win.

Hand-in-glove Dysfunction

This post comes from an anonymous reader.

Thank you for your shattering the silence blog and your openness. It's been nearly 20 years now since my first 20-year marriage ended. I knew I had been sexually abused as a girl, but had no idea until many years later that my children’s dad also had been a victim.

It explained why we fit “hand in glove” in our dysfunction. He watched me go through recovery with a Christian counselor's help, but he said nothing. When men started speaking out, though, he discovered he wasn't unique and alone. He got good help and it changed him completely.

He’s a good friend today and a great dad/grandpa to my children and grandchildren. You are doing such a service to families everywhere by speaking out. Thank you.

Creating New Personalities

By Linda Harriss, RN, LPC

On rare occasions, people actually develop a true Multiple Personality Disorder, which is a complex, chronic form of post-traumatic dissociate psychopathology. However, anyone who has experienced abuse may selectively create personalities in [his] mind as a means of escape.

Children who use this coping device have extraordinary imaginations. When a child who has been abused encounters overpowering emotions, he may choose to escape into a safe personality, one who hasn't been abused. . . to detach himself from the memories and pain.

Many normal children play with imaginary companions; abused children can use such creative resources to a pathological extent, in extreme cases falling prey to MPD.

(Nobody Understands My Pain: Dealing with the Effects of Physical, Emotional, and Sexual Abuse by Linda Harriss, Friendswood, TX: Baxter Pres, 2004, page 121. Used by permission.)

Silent Participation

A note from Cec: The following email from Heather is one of the saddest I've received. I kept asking myself how a mother could behave as she did.

I am so glad that the conspiracy of silence in many of your families is over. Ours was different. My mom kept notebooks of every time my father came into my room for sex. She would wake up each morning after and say, "I heard him in your room last night. Tell me what he did."

I told her and she told friends, but no one came forward to help me. They gave me advice about how to stop him from touching me, advice that would have gotten me killed had I implemented it. So I felt guilty for surviving the abuse and for not stopping him.

My sister and brother found out about the abuse. They too had been abused but waited until I was 15 to ask me about it. After I was placed with my sister by the courts my mother blamed me for what he did, and then would abuse me if I sought help and betrayed the secret to anyone else.

It took years before I found an understanding therapist and later a pastor to help me. But even today, 25 years later, the family doesn't want to know what happened or to deal with it. It saddens me because they won't find the freedom God gave me.

Thanks for your posts. You always find ways to touch my heart through what you share.

My Impenetrable Silence

(By Tom Scales)

For me, the silence was an impenetrable wall I constructed. It had many uses. As part of my abuse I did many things that, even at the time, were horrific. I certainly didn't want anyone to know the facts. I worked hard to isolate myself from intimate or close relationships. If others knew the reality, certainly they would ostracize me.

The silence about being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse spilled over into other aspects of life. If I didn't want people to find out my secret, I couldn't let them get close in other ways. Open and honest expressions of feelings and emotions were off limits. Anything that would give insight to what and who I really was, I kept under lock and key.

I never developed friends, much less close friends. The first responses I got after breaking my silence were so awful and humiliating, that I quickly clammed up again. It took me decades to have the courage to shed the shame and guilt, forgive myself, and allow God to use those horrible experiences for good in the lives of other survivors.

Tom Scales is Executive Director of Voice Today, www.voicetoday.org.

A Penn State Lesson for Parents: Don't Get Star Struck (Part 2 of 2)

This is from Diane Obbema, a 27-year veteran of law enforcement.

Parents can significantly reduce the threat of a pedophile victimizing their child. Involved parenting and healthy boundaries go a long way in running interference with a child molester’s game plan. Here are simple suggestions:

Be your child’s hero. Build a relationship of trust by being involved and accessible. Ask about your child’s day and really listen. Show genuine affection. Be quick to praise and slow to criticize. Enjoy each other.

Discuss appropriate and inappropriate touches. Let him know you want to be told if he ever feels uncomfortable with someone’s behavior. Assure your child you won't blame or be angry with him for another person’s actions. Say you will listen and help no matter what the situation.

Be leery of adults who show too much interest in your child. Don’t be star struck! A title doesn’t vouch for character. Healthy adults spend time with other adults--not alone with children. Keep to group activities with multiple adults supervising.

You don’t have to parent in fear. Just parent wisely.

Diane Obbema is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement. She resides in Colorado. Contact her at: dobbema@gmail.com.

A Penn State Lesson for Parents: Don’t Get Star Struck (Part 1 of 2)

This is from Diane Obbema, a 27-year veteran of law enforcement.

Reading the grand jury findings in the Penn State child abuse scandal made me think of a conversation I had years ago with “Hank," an intelligent, accomplished man, who did volunteer work. Hank was considered an upstanding man in the community.

Hank was also a pedophile.

I was a detective, specializing in child sex abuse cases, when a mother reported to our agency that Hank had placed his hand on her son’s thigh. It happened while Hank drove the boy home from a sporting event. It made the boy very uncomfortable.

The mom did not know Hank was a convicted child molester. Neither did the organizations where Hank volunteered. Long before sex registries existed, Hank had done his crime and done his time.

Hank openly acknowledged to me his prior conviction. Yes, he had molested two boys. “I’m a pedophile,” he said. But Hank maintained he learned a lot “back then” through sex-offender therapy. He assured me, he knew how to deal with his “urges.”

When I brought up the current boy Hank was “befriending,” Hank admitted he felt that old temptation when he placed his hand on the boy’s thigh. He resisted going further, which kept it non-criminal. "It was just a lapse of judgment.” In typical denial fashion, Hank stressed the purity of his motives in helping youth, and minimized the effect of his actions on this young boy.

Hank willingly answered my questions about how he thought back then. He shared how he selected his victims, won over the victims’ families, made his first sexual overtures, and dealt with victim resistance. All those things eerily mirrored the behavior documented in the grand jury’s report regarding former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky.

Although Hank is a convicted child molester, Jerry is not. But the parallels between these men are worth highlighting as a warning to parents about the behaviors of pedophiles.

Pedophiles seek to be near children. Being a coach, teacher, religious leader, daycare worker, or volunteer increases the opportunity to select accessible victims. It also offers a cover of respectability.

Pedophiles endear themselves to their victims and victims’ parent by meeting a need. Offers of helping a stressed-out parent, providing a father figure, or treating a less-advantaged kid to gifts and events they could never otherwise have, all serve to gain parents’ trust and enable the molester to have alone-time with a child.

Pedophiles usually keep with a pattern that has proven successful for them in the past. They first test the water to see a child’s response to an invasive touch or situation. For some, it could be a hand on the thigh, groping during wrestling, sitting on one’s lap, or having back rubs. Should the child react negatively, or if someone inquires about it later, they explain them as a misunderstanding or honest mistake

Children exposed to such touches usually feel uncomfortable. They recognize it as a departure from the norm, or a violation of a private area. Confusion sets in because the child cares about the person who is making them uncomfortable.

Most children lack the confidence to challenge an adult. They are more likely to accept the perpetrator’s explanation for the touch and choose to discount their own internal warning signals.

Pedophiles bank on the child’s vulnerability to manipulation. As the sexual touching increases, a child feels deeper shame, often blaming himself. Often the child is told that no one will believe him if he tells and senses there is no way out.

Fear of rejection, or retaliation from the perpetrator, forces the child’s continued silence and insures a continual compliance. It’s no wonder that child victims delay disclosures of sexual abuse, sometimes for years.

Diane Obbema is a 27-year veteran of law enforcement. She resides in Colorado. Contact her at: dobbema@gmail.com.

Mike

His name is Mike and he sent me his story (which I've condensed).

The deacon, who was also my Sunday school teacher, started visiting me to help me understand the Bible. My folks liked him because he was friendly, and so did I. At first. But that changed.

He molested me and kept doing it every week or so for about two years.

You know what he told me? He said I was a terrible sinner and I was heading straight to hell, but he was there to help me get rid of evil thoughts and to be pure. It sounds crazy now, but I did what he told me and that was supposed to make me into a good kid.

"He was the sinner!" I told my wife just four weeks ago.

She said, "Of course he was." She seemed surprised that I hadn't figured it out.

I thought I was the one who had failed God and been evil. For more than twenty years I hated myself because I believed his terrible lies.

A Giant Step

The brief email read: When we finally face the abuse and disclose the secret to others, we've made a giant step toward healing.

He wrote only one sentence, but it's true. Here's how I think about it. I need to tell someone else who listens, who believes me, and who also understands.

Here's something I started to say years ago (and still believe): "I know of myself only what I say about myself." That is, when I speak the words about myself and get an understanding nod from someone else, I "own" my words.

Conspiracy of Silence

Since the publication of my book When a Man You Love Was Abused, I've done more than 30 interviews on radio and six times TV on the topic. (One radio program canceled because the subject was "inappropriate" for their audience.)

A question that has come up several times goes something like this: What do you mean by a conspiracy of silence?

It's not an original term, but it fits. Conspiracy of silence means that those whom we would normally expect to support and encourage us erect a wall between us (or perhaps we do it ourselves). Sometimes we who were victimized try to break through and we're rebuffed by being ignored or they don't believe us.

For me to break the silence in my own family of origin was difficult. To my surprise when I did, two of my three widowed sisters immediately affirmed me. The first had been abused by the same pedophile. The other said she hadn't known but suspected. "We didn't know what to do about those things back then," she said. And I think she spoke the truth.

A few months ago. the third sister read my book on sexual abuse and we spoke on the phone. She remembered a few details that I had forgotten. I felt such a glow from talking to her. At last, I thought, the silence has been driven away. I'm freer now than ever.

I'm the father of three grown children. I hadn't spoken to them about my abuse before I wrote my book. (I'm not sure why.) I gave each one a copy and said, "I want you to read this."

Since then, all three read the book and they've talked openly with me. They know and they love me. That's what counts.

The important people in my life know about my abuse. The conspiracy is more than silenced: It's dead.

Shattering the Silence

"I like the title of your blog—shattering the silence. I wish I had done that earlier." His name is Matt Phillips and he attended a prestigious boarding school for boys. Mark's dorm monitor, two years his senior, befriended the boy. Mark went into detail about the things that happened before the sexual abuse began.

Matt wondered if he was the only boy abused by the dorm monitor. "I didn't ask because I was afraid that if I was the only one, I'd be mocked and picked on by my peers."

Just before his last year in boarding school, two years after the abuser had graduated, Matt told his parents. They were shocked, but they believed him. "I didn't know how much Mom and Dad loved me until then," he said.

Matt shattered the silence, and it was a brave thing to do. I want more men to take such courageous action.

"I Did It!"

"I did it!" He yelled into the phone. "I did it! I got help!"

I met him nearly twenty years ago when I lived in Louisville, Kentucky. I had talked to him about abuse—which I had just begun to deal with. He didn't say anything then, but something about the way he responded made me think he had probably been victimized.

After I moved back to Atlanta, he called me three or four times a year. He admitted he had been abused but insisted it was too hard to ask for help. "I feel weak and ashamed. Men aren't supposed to feel that way."

"Maybe not," I said, "but we do. And we'll stay weak and confused until we get help." He never wanted to talk much but he'd always say, "You're a friend. You give me hope."

He is in therapy and will soon join a group of other survivors of sexual assault.

"Why did I wait so long?" he asked.

The only answer I could give him—and I think it's true—was this: You weren't ready to be healed.

An Eye-Opening Experience

An anonymous email reads:

Other men probably know this already, but it was a real eye-opening experience for me. I started talking to a small group of friends at church about my abuse. I wanted healing and wanted to forget all the pain. But something else happened: I learned more about myself.

For the first time in my life I had a handle on the powerful feelings that had been buried deeply inside me. I felt alive. And I now actually like who I am.

Howard

"We buried Howard last week and he was 59 years old," the email began. "He never talked about his abuse, but I knew because our oldest brother did it to both of us. He didn't talk to me about it and I didn't talk to him."

The writer went on to say that Howard had been a civilian who worked for Army Intelligence. "He knew how to keep military secrets. He also kept his own. They said he died of a heart attack and that's probably true, but it wasn't the kind of heart attack that medicine can treat."

The man spoke of his sadness, and that he had gotten help through AA and Celebrate Recovery. He said he wished he had talked to Howard. "It might not have done any good, but at least I could have tried."

"I Hate My Dad"

He signs it CGP.

"I think I could have handled it all right if it had been somebody else, but it was my father. I was twelve and he told me it was time for me to learn about sex and he wanted to help me. It began with touching, stroking, and kept going.

"That was my father! How can a man have sex with his own son? How could he do that to me?"

When CGP was sixteen he tried suicide twice. The first time he tried asphyxiation by lying on his father's bed with a plastic bag over his head, but his father came home early and found him. The second time he took a bottle of sleeping pills. As he was losing consciousness, he knew he didn't want to die. He called 911.

"I hate my dad," he wrote, "and I don't know if I'll ever be normal." He also said that he wrote to me because of the blog and he hadn't told anyone else.

We corresponded by email several times a week for about two months and I sensed he was doing better, but he stopped writing and didn't answer my emails.

I wonder how many others out there are like CGP.

Too many.

Stomach Pain

It was his secret and Larry said he carried a heavy ball of guilt inside. "The guilt ate at me, and I developed stomach ulcers." He gulped down the liquid medicine for relief, and snacked every two hours to keep food in his stomach.

Several times his doctor tried to find out what caused the problem but he kept saying he didn't know.

"But I did know."

Larry's secret was so deep he didn't want to admit it or talk about it. He was sure that if he did, his symptoms would get worse.

"About eight months ago I spilled my guts," he said. And once Larry began to talk about being sexually abused, the healing began. He still snacks and takes medication, but he hasn't had a serious bout with stomach pain for seven months.

From Pastor Peter

"When I was fifteen, I drank my first beer and then my second. It was strange but I didn't worry about anything. I had fun and it seemed like everything I said was witty." That's how Peter, a Southern Baptist pastor, started his email to me.
He went on to write that drinking kept him detached from his emotions. "When I was twenty-one, I almost washed out of college. What I thought was witty my career counselor told me was silly and often incoherent."
Peter went to an AA meeting to please his counselor and so he could finish the semester and stay in college. An older man in the meeting said he had been an alcoholic for fifteen years. "It was the only way I could forget that I had been abused," the man told Peter.
"That clicked!" Peter wrote. He said he felt as if someone had punched him in the gut. "That's when I knew why I liked getting drunk. I could forget."
Peter never took another drink because he didn't need the booze. He  graduated from college. "I wasn't at the top of the class, but I was at least part of the class." 
He not only became sober, but he found a fine therapist who helped him cope with the trauma of childhood abuse. He's now a pastor in Texas and has gotten his church to start a Celebrate Recovery group.

Not Quite Healed

Gary Roe and I have a contract for a book with the working title Not Quite Healed. We're aiming the book at people like you who have faced sexual abuse and are moving toward spiritual and emotional health.

(If you reply to the information below, use cec.murp@comcast.net only for this request.)

1. If you have any topics/concerns about healing that we haven't mentioned in the blog, please let us know. We want to offer everything we can to promote healing.

2. Right now I'd like to hear from some of you on the issue of same-sex attraction. I'll use your name ONLY if you give me permission. Tell about the attraction, but focus on what you've done/are doing for yourself.

3. In a few weeks, Gary and I will post a list of topics where we want input. Because we respond in different ways to male sexual abuse, we want to be as inclusive as we can.

"He Said He'd Take Care of Me"

I had an email in which a young man, age 19, said he had "done things" with his Sunday school teacher for four years. "He bought me things and took me places."

The boy's parents were both "drunks and pill poppers" who "didn't know I existed unless one of them needed me to grab a cold one from the refrigerator."

He went on to say that the teacher promised, "I'll take care of you. You can't live with me because you're a minor but when you're older we can live together and I'll take care of you."

After a few more details the boy added, "Just before my 18th birthday I asked him about moving in. He said he couldn't do that. He wanted to but he couldn't."

He told me about his agony and feelings of rejection, especially when the teacher began to make excuses for not getting with him regularly.

"It was all a lie. I reminded him of his promise and he cussed me out and told me I was evil and that he had tried to help me but he had failed."

The young man had attempted suicide once and had undergone psychiatric treatment for depression.

He has emailed me three times, so that encourages me to believe that something positive is going on. He also reads my blog (which is why he contacted me). "You can use my story," he said in his last email, "but you can't give my name."

I wish his story had a happy ending.

Maybe one day it will.

We Belong (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I belong.

I look in the mirror and I say it again. I shout, "I’m here. I count. I matter. I belong."

I’ll likely bump into other people today who don’t feel they belong. Statistically, I’ll encounter several people today who are also survivors. I want to give them the right message—the true message through my facial expressions, words, and actions. I want it to be a clear, resounding, “You belong.”

YOU belong. I belong.

We belong.

I Belong (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

My abuse lies to me. It tells me that I am worthless and less than nothing. That I am an object waiting for others to take advantage of me. That I don’t exist apart from the perpetrators and what they did to me. My lying abuse tells me I will never belong.

My abuse wants to define me.

I mustn’t let it. I must remind myself of what I know is true.

I’m not an accident. I’m not merely the result of the union of a sperm and an egg. I’m not just the genetic combination contributed by my parents and my family tree.

I’m a personal creation of God himself.

Knowing I belong is the beginning. I have to believe and acknowledge this fact before I can begin to live it.

How do I do that? I don’t know. I stumble along as I travel forward. But I started by telling myself the truth. Repeatedly. Throughout the day.

I belong.

I don’t just exist here. I belong.

I’m not simply biding my time, trying to make the best of things. I belong.

I belong on this earth, doing whatever God has called me to do.

I belong to the people around me whom I love and who love me.

I belong.


For me, this is making a difference. Over time, this truth will sink in.

The Need to Belong (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I grew up feeling different. Different from other boys. Different from other kids. Shy. Insecure. An outsider. Feeling very small, less than, and badly damaged.

Given the sexual abuse and the verbal messages of my perpetrators, it’s no wonder I felt that way. If there is any wonder, it's that I'm as healthy as I am.

For a long time, no matter whom I was with, I never sensed I really belonged. I always felt I was outside the happy home looking through the window at others' lives. I wanted desperately to belong, but my self-confidence was non-existent, and my self-hatred was enormous.

Then one morning, while reading my Bible and journaling, it hit me. God knew me before I was born. He personally created me in my mother’s womb. He wanted me and he wanted me to be happy.

God wasn't simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. He thought of me and planned me. He wanted me.

I belong. I belong to him. I belong here, on planet earth. I was meant to be here at this time.

I belong.

So I am going to face the world today as someone who belongs. I am going to continue to heal.

I Can Heal (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I can heal—I am healing. And as I heal, I experience more safety. The safer I become, the safer I am to help other survivors.

I can’t change what happened to me; I can stand against the evil of sexual abuse by becoming a safe and faithful friend.

I'm learning to deal better with my anger. I'm experiencing letting go and forgiving those who hurt me. I'm slowly figuring out how to manage the anxiety and depression that lurks around me.

I'm living a freer life and it shows because I'm able to open my heart to others. They say I'm compassionate and wise. Maybe I am—or maybe it's because I've climbed a few more hills and tripped over a few more potholes than they have.

But I can heal; I am healing.

Being a Safe Person (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I’ve had so much fear in my life. I don't want to trigger fear in anyone else. Instead, I want them to feel safe and peaceful when they are with me. I want to show that I'm trustworthy. Protective. Caring.

Being a safe person is a gift I can give others. By being safe, I stand alongside them and against the great evil of sexual abuse.

To be that person, I must continue to heal. Healing is a long, long journey full of hills, valleys, potholes, and speed bumps. It’s excruciatingly difficult at times, but it’s worth the effort and the pain.

Pursuing Safe People (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

Even though I had wonderful, safe people in my life, I went off to college and distanced myself from them. Contact grew less frequent. I thought I wasn’t worthy of such wonderful people. They couldn’t possibly want to stay in contact with me. I slowly isolated myself.

That became my pattern. I did the self-distancing with almost every safe person in my life. At first, I was thrilled to be with them, but then, the old form of behavior reasserted itself. I didn't know how to cope with safe relationships. I began backing off.

Now I understand.

If I want to feel safe, I need to stop obeying the old patterns. I must take action. I have to find and initiate relationships with safe people. Initiate and keep initiating: That's my goal.

And guilt enters into this as well. I ask myself, "If I feel so safe just hearing their voices, why wouldn't I not call, sometimes daily?"

And yet, I tell myself that I don’t want to bother them. That's a lie. Life is busy and I forget to reach out to them. That's another lie.

How long will I keep doing that to myself?

The abuse programmed me to self-isolate. I had no control over what happened to me back then; now I can choose a different path. I can reach out to the safe people God has placed in my life. I can choose to believe what they say about me and to me rather than accept messages my abusers gave me.

I promise myself: I'll resist the temptation to withdraw. I’ll reach out.

Needing Safe People (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also tells his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

The sexual abuse in my background took place early in my childhood. My world was very small. I can’t remember knowing any kids my age during that time. When I started school, things began to change.

I met a few safe people in my life—several teachers, a few classmates who became good friends. I became a serious competitive swimmer, which put me in touch with more safe people and families.

When my family blew apart, and my dad died suddenly of a heart attack, one family took me in. Living in their home, I experienced safety from the inside out. I could feel myself beginning to relax.

To this day, whenever I talk to anyone in that adoptive family, a wave of safety washes over me. Whenever I am with them, I feel as if nothing bad could ever happen again. And even if disaster did occur, I know that everything would be fine.

I was able to imagine what it might be like to live from that kind of reservoir of safety. Wow.

I didn't look for those safe people. I believe God brought them into my life. They would say God brought me into theirs.

The Best Revenge

This post comes from John.

I heard a Holocaust survivor say that the only real revenge against the genocidal murderers of Nazi Germany was to live.

That statement impacted me deeply when she said it, but over time I realized that in many ways that I was not living because of my abusers. In more ways than I could count I had shut down in life and was still under the control, abuse, and victimization they had inflicted on me in my innocence.

For instance, I lived under a cloud of generalized guilt, believing that I had brought the abuse on myself and that I deserved it. I felt inferior to everyone around me—everyone. It was as if I didn’t deserve the air I was breathing and if anyone knew it they would take it away from me.

Another way I was still being victimized was by an overwhelming fear inside that was turning into what one doctor diagnosed as “the third stage of agoraphobia." That generalized fear of anything and everything can become so debilitating that some people never leave their house for fear of what will happen. I wasn’t too far from that level.

I had to hit bottom before I recognized that my abusers still had tremendous power over me. I had to come dangerously close to losing all I loved. It was important for me to recognize that the guilt, anxiety, and phobias controlling me had deep roots in the early childhood invasions of my soul by reckless, abusive sexual perpetrators.

It has not been easy, but I have slowly begun to deny access to the negative power of the shameful memories, replacing them with the healthy, life-giving power of my present choices and opportunities to be the man I really am and want to be.

I have found for myself, as the Holocaust survivor said, that my only real revenge is not just to live, but to live well.

Longing to Feel Safe (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

Living out of fear isn't fun. I seem to have a baseline feeling that all isn't well, that I'm not well, that everything is potentially dangerous. All of that is my fault.

That isn't surprising. The abuse programmed me to think that way.

I yearn to feel safe.

I'd like to let down my guard and relax more. To let go more and to fret less. I want to stop investing vast amounts of mental energy into heading off every possible disaster at the pass. I want to be less self-conscious and more at ease in the presence of others. I want to live less in this cloud of anxiety, compelled to make certain that I'm never abused again.

My abusers told me the outside world was dangerous, implying that they were the safe people. They would take care of me. I could count on them.

If they were the safe ones, what did that make everyone else?

I'm thankful that I've finally experienced feeling extremely safe. Several safe people made that possible. But it wasn't easy.

They had to prove themselves—and it took time for me to trust them. Like many survivors, I was short on trust and long on suspicion.

Safe people have been the source of a lot of healing in my life. I want more healing. And for me, that means I need to be in deeper relationship with safe people.

First Steps

This post comes from John.

Recovering from any addiction requires intentional steps away from the addictive behavior and deliberate steps toward healing. My first steps have come in fits and starts over many years, but I feel that I have finally taken the most important step toward my healing by burning the bridge of secrecy.

Sexual addiction is built in the darkest places of our souls. Our own conscience, however darkened, knows the shamefulness of our deeds and seeks to hide from sight. Like Adam and Eve hiding in the bushes as God came looking for them in the garden paradise (see Genesis 3), we intuitively hide our true selves for the shame of our perverted desires.

As we live our inner lives in the dark, we become less and less human, less of the people we truly are, less of the people we want to be, and we begin to lose hope. The hopelessness feeds the shame and the shame feeds the desire to act out our addictive behaviors. Eventually, our minds are so filled with managing the shame and the endless addictive cycle that we no longer recognize ourselves.

When the day finally came that I could no longer live in the pain and isolation of myself, I burned all bridges back into my addiction by telling those closest to me that I was beyond helping myself overcome this terrible problem. It was simultaneously the single worst and single greatest day in my life. It was my first true step toward healing.

"Nobody Understands Me"

I've heard those words before. In my years of pain, I said them many times. And it was true: No one understood me.

How could anyone? They couldn't read my mind. They couldn't look at the way I walked and say, "There's someone who needs my compassion."

For most of us who start down the healing path, the first big step we can make is to say to someone, "I'd like to talk to you." That person can be a pastor, a therapist, a friend, or a co-worker, but it has to be someone we feel we can trust. I write, "feel we can trust" because we can't be certain about anyone, so we'll have to take a few risks.

Too many pain-filled men haven't spoken aloud about their abuse. Maybe not enough of us will listen. Maybe they don't have the courage to speak.

But unless they give others the opportunity to care for them, they'll have to continue to say, "Nobody understands me."

And they'll be correct.

Relationships?

I wonder how many men have written to me about their short-term relationships. They speak of anger, distrust, fear, and other significant issues.

I spoke to a man after a meeting in Grand Rapids. With tears in his eyes, he asked, "Will I ever find someone who loves me no matter what?"

I wish I could have yelled, "Certainly! Yes!"

He's suspicious of people and said it was a big risk for him to talk to me. "But you don't know my name and you'll never see me again, so I guess you're safe."

That's when tears came to my eyes. I understood his inability to trust, although his issue was certainly deeper than the matter of trust. As we talked he told me about his abuse and then hurried on to say that he had been in six relationships in less than two years. "At first, I was sure each one would last. I wanted each one to last—I really did."

"What happened?" I asked.

He shrugged. "They let me down. They betrayed me and told lies about me." He went into detail about his last affair. He wasn't able to acknowledge anything as being his fault. He was always the victim.

I could think of many things to say, and I started with a few suggestions. Occasionally he nodded; a few times he smiled. But whenever I paused, he said, "Yes, that's true, but. . . "

Finally I stopped. I had been speaking about practical things he could do but I realized that my words weren't what he needed. "May I hug you?" I asked.

He nodded and I warmly embraced him and held him for several seconds. "You don't need instructions," I said. "You need to feel loved and cared for, don't you?"

He pulled away, mumbled his thanks, and hurried away.

He was right: I didn't know his name. Most likely I'll never see him again. That evening I put him on my daily prayer list. I didn't have a name but I had a memory of a man with tears in his eyes. I've been praying for him daily for more than four months. I don't intend to stop praying.

I can't do anything for him.

But God can.

And God can use other people in his life. I wish I were able to be one of them.

"I Was Sexually Abused as a Child."

On Saturday, July 23, I did a presentation to a group on the topic, "I Should Be Healed by Now." It was interactive and several spoke about their abuse, their struggles, and their healing.

One young man asked if he could speak. His poignant words became even more powerful as I realized that was the first time he had ever spoken publicly. He chose to remain anonymous on this post because, "It's still so new to me."

Below is part of his story, "I Was Sexually Abused as a Child."


* * * * * * * * * *

"I was sexually abused as a child."

It has been a year since I first uttered those words. Before then, I hadn't told a soul. I'd always known the tragic events that took place, but I couldn't admit to myself that I actually was abused and that I was a victim.

Before I admitted the events of my past, I shrugged it off as "not that big of a deal" and moved on. I now know the great impact it really had (and still has) on my life.

This is what I remember:

When I was in elementary school, I often had to stay late and wait for a ride home from a teacher who lived near us. Our school offered K-12 grades and 10 to 15 other kids stayed late like I did with little supervision. I remember being annoyed that I wasn't able to go directly home after school and play like most of the other kids.

I had to stay outside until four o'clock with all of the other kids, even though I knew my mother's van wasn't coming around that corner and pulling into the parking lot to pick me up.

There was an older student who said I was a pretty cool kid. He sought me out, talked to me, and made me feel important, like one of the "big kids."

One particular afternoon was no different. I remember so many details about staying late after school, but the important details are extremely blurry.

I was in the lobby with the usual students. The older boy asked me to follow him and, being a trusting child, I did. We meandered down a couple of hallways and ended up in the boys’ locker room. He described in great detail sexual acts he did with girls. With a pencil he drew pictures of the female anatomy on the white, brick wall.

I remember thinking that something wasn't right and if anyone came in we would get in big trouble. I had the same paralyzing feeling that I have now as I write about this.

I don't remember exactly what he did—that's blotted out. But he did something to me. I'm clear about that.

The next day when he asked me to follow him to the locker room again, I firmly said no. I'm thankful for the courage I had to stand up to him at such a young age.

The pencil drawings remained on the walls of that locker room for some time, presumably because they were faint and obscure. I continued to see them over the years and they reminded me that what happened was real.

His Mother Didn't Believe Him

(This is from Stan Wangen, one of the faithful readers of the blog.)

I can't remember being told any lies. On the other hand I didn't feel I could share what that hired man had done to me. I didn't feel safe enough to share it with my mother; my dad and I never talked.

Many, many years later I worked up the courage to say to my mother, "Did you know that Jack O---- molested me?"

My mother turned away without answering the question. I never said another thing about it.

I guess I realized all along that in essence I would not be believed anyway. It’s so very hard when you’re not believed—no matter what age you might be.

Lies I Believed (by Dann Youle)

I believed that somewhere out there really was a "perfect" family. With "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Leave It To Beaver." Heck, "The Andy Griffith Show" perpetuated it as well. Even though there were no alcoholics in my family of origin, and even though abuse didn't happen overtly in my family, I knew we didn't have the perfect family.

I was always the "good boy," but even that wasn't enough. The big lie I believed was that I would never be a man. Having been abused sexually and discarded by my grandpa, struggling with same-sex attraction, not receiving the love and affirmation from my father the way I needed to, I realize that at 45 I still don't always feel like I'm a man!

I know I am a man—a real man—and I'm learning to define myself the way that God sees me. The American ideal of a man I'm not, and I'm finally learning that that's OK.

For the longest time, I couldn't move forward in life because I felt like I didn't have what it takes to have real "masculine initiative" and do the things I know I'm called to do. I'm still learning and have a long way to go, but at least I've started back to school, and I know I can accomplish all God has for me.

It's a great feeling: I'm truly the man God has called me to be and I am "living into that" more and more.

Secrecy, Shame, and Self-Hatred

This comes from an anonymous reader.

All that happened to me as a child was cloaked in secrecy. The abusive sexual activity happened in the dark behind closed doors. It wasn’t acknowledged or discussed even though it was the most consuming factor in my young life.

I lived for sex. I was active with men and women before I was sixteen years old and led a highly promiscuous life. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have sex many times a day with multiple partners.

In my recovery, I now recognize that the activity I engaged in was my attempt to cover the shame I felt from my own early childhood sexual abuse. Acting out began to feel normal and part of my identity, thus I cloaked my shame in the very activity that caused it.

The ultimate result of my acting out has been self-hatred. I look back on nearly five decades of wasting myself chasing “love” that could never exist in lust, pornography, and acting out, and I hate myself.

Part of my healing is to realize that secrecy and shame have fueled my self-hatred. The desire to be known, to be loved, and to have a healthy relationship is natural. The secrecy, shame, and self-hatred aren't natural, but were forced on me.
--Anonymous

Was It Really Abuse?

This comes from an anonymous reader.

I thought every little boy went through what I did—fondling, bondage, brutalizing. It never occurred to me that I had been abused until I sat in a therapist’s office much later in life and explained my addictive problems with masturbation and lust.

So why is it still difficult to accept what happened to me was abusive? One hurdle to accepting my experiences as abusive is that the perpetrators were family members. Whatever their own abuse had been, they inflicted their pain on me repeatedly.

Another hurdle is that I participated in the abuse. I was a child. I didn't know any better than to go along with the invasive and inappropriate advances. They made me feel important and needed. I felt a greater sense of belonging in those moments that I didn’t feel at any other time. Someone wanted me. Someone needed me.

My parent’s own abuse and abandonment at early ages left them incapable of providing a safe, nurturing environment for me and for my siblings. Sexual acting out was the way this void was being filled in our family system. Our boundaries were blurred or lost.

What happened to me was abusive. As I grow to accept this more fully, I can seek love and acceptance at a deeper human level instead of by acting out in inappropriate ways.
--Anonymous

Coping as a Child

This comes from an anonymous reader.

“Get your hands out of your pants!” is one of the first things I remember hearing my mother say to me as a child. What she didn’t know is that I had seen my father masturbating in the bathtub and that I had discovered my own genitals. I wouldn’t understand for decades how this experience would shape my own sexuality and become the root of sexual addiction, pain, and dysfunction in my life.

Although allowing me to see him may have been an innocent mistake on my father’s part, it was but a precursor to a decade of sexual abuse that I would experience from other trusted relatives.

As a child, I coped with those repeated traumas by participating in the abuse, looking for value and self-esteem by being important to someone else in inappropriate ways.

As an adult, this coping mechanism no longer works and leaves me empty, frustrated, and alone.

Part of my recovery work is through finding healthy ways to cope with my anxiety and the residual pain of childhood sexual abuse. The lust I feel for men is really just a cry from my soul to feel okay about myself and to connect with someone on a deeper level. That hopeless feeling deep down inside is the longing to have what I didn’t have as a child—a safe and healthy family.
--Anonymous

Two Responses to Lies and More Lies

Two of our regular readers responded to the "Lies and More Lies" post. The first is from Arnold Caines.

Television is one of the biggest purveyors of the world's lies. I remember being deceived as a child by that "classic" show, Happy Days.

Happy Days distorted relationships between men and women, especially as it related to dating. The focus of dating was to find some chick and to end up necking with her. The show's hero, Fonzie, personified that nearly every week. When I look back on the show, I'm astounded at the scale of the lie that was foisted on adolescents back then.

Years after the show ended I found myself battling concepts I learned from Fonzie who, in reality, was nothing but a womanizer. Amazing what a lie packaged up as a prime time hit TV show can do.


The second is from Heather Marsden.

The first time my father came into my bedroom, I was seven. "You are so stupid, dumb, and ugly no one will ever want to marry you unless you put out," he said. "I'm going to teach you how to put out."

Those words stuck with me most of my life. My first marriage was based on the fact that the guy asked me and I figured no one else would. It was a mistake.

Even today my self-esteem is not what it should be.

Words hurt, and they stuck.

My mother and sister convinced me that the abuse was my fault. I should have said no to him. I should have pushed his hands away. Somehow the abuse was my fault.

Later, my mom told me it was my fault my father died because of the embarrassment I caused them by being taken out of that house by the courts.

Those two lies still hurt.

But the biggest lie, the unspoken lie, was that I was not worthy of love. That no one could love me, not even God. I also thought all fathers were horrid, including God. It took time to trust in God the Father and turn my life over to the only safe Father there is.

Thanks for your blog. I find such encouragement in reading it.

Lies and More Lies

Most of us didn't have one single event that shattered our childhood. With some it was a prolonged abuse by one perpetrator. Others speak of multiple incidents. Regardless of the number of times, something happened and it damaged our lives.

Someone wrote me, "I felt as if I had been stamped with the word worthless on my heart." That's a lie he believed. He held on to it until he was 39 years old when he began a period of recovery.

Most of us were lied to or not believed, which made us appear as liars. We were exploited and sometimes perpetrators pulled us in with soothing words of love and tenderness. The worst lie is when a perpetrator no longer wants us around and yells, "You're only good for one thing."

What about you? What lies did you hear about yourself?

We were young and didn't know how to distinguish truth. We believed because they were bigger and older and we were small and young.

What about you? Will you write to me privately and tell me the lies you believed? How did you deal with them? How did you realize they were lies? I'd like to share them with our readers and I'll withhold your name if you like. Cec_Haraka@msn.com

The Pain Has No Teeth

The man wishes to remain anonymous but he gave me permission to post this. He said he had almost finished reading When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I think one of the things that's changed the past month is the pain. Every time the pain comes, I run away. Lately, the pain has been quite severe. However, I'm starting to see that the pain has no teeth. It cannot hurt me. I think that it may be a tool the Lord intends to use to bring needed change, freedom, and strength. I've already noticed a significant paradigm shift.

Things I used to run after to escape the pain are losing their appeal. I'm starting to see myself how others see me instead of through the lens of helplessness and inferiority. I'm sure there is still a ways to go, but it's nice to move beyond some roadblocks and live life with a little more breathing space.

Special Announcement from Cecil Murphey

Today I learned that the Kindle version of my book When a Man You Love Was Abused is available for $1.99 through Amazon. The special will run through next Wednesday, July 27. If you know someone who loves a man who was abused, or if you know a man who was abused, tell them about this offer.

This Saturday, July 23, in Grand Haven, Michigan, I will be involved in an important seminar to help those who have been abused and those who love people who have been abused.

Main sessions include: I Ought to Be Healed by Now and The Lies We Believe.

Breakout sessions include: When a Man You Love Was Abused, When a Woman You Love Was Abused, and Finding Hope in the Heartache.

For more details on the When Someone You Love Was Abused seminar, click here.

Learning New Things

Years have passed since I dealt with my abuse. I cried so much the first two years I wondered if I would ever stop. But I gained insights about my behavior. I realized there were times when I spoke angrily and wasn't even aware of the tone I conveyed.

It still surprises me to gain perspective about myself that stems from the abuse of childhood. I constantly see new ways in which my past changed the way I see the world and react to people.

The more those things happen, the more victorious I feel. And even better: The more I like who I have become.

Feeling My Feelings

My major coping method of survival from abuse was not to feel. When the emotional level got heavy, I went numb. I didn't do that consciously, but it was my way to handle the trauma of childhood. Once I became aware that numbing was what I did, I also realized that I needed to feel my pain—to re-experience the hurts of my past—if I wanted to be free from the past.

Here's how I did it and this may work for others. Each day I said, "I feel my feelings." I usually looked into the mirror and spoke to my image. I wanted that message to get into my core being.

Although I hadn't talked to a therapist or a pastor, I sensed that facing the hurts and feeling them once again was a step I had to take.

It took months before I became aware of how I felt; it took even longer before I fully accepted the abuse of my childhood. It took years before I knew I had been healed. It wasn't easy and it hurt. At times I felt alone, unloved, unwanted, unworthy—and many negative emotions flooded through my soul.

Each time I felt my emotions, the pain seemed to lessen a little. Now, years later, I can honestly feel my emotions.

Forgiving the Consequences (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I had taken the step to forgive my abusers. I thought I had the forgiveness part of my healing down pat, and then a friend came and asked a deeper question: “You say that you have forgiven your abusers for what they did. . . the rapes, the acts of abuse. But have you forgiven them for the results in your life of what they did to you?”

I stared in shock. I felt as if my soul were being ripped apart. And right there, in a chair on the deck behind my house, I began to cry. Soon I wept convulsively. It grew more and more intense. It was as if I were throwing up emotion in waves. It went on for almost two hours.

My eyes were closed, and I saw myself walking toward my perpetrators and I carried a large, heavy bucket of filth. When I reached them, I set the bucket down in front of them and said, “These are all the horrid, devastating results in my life of what you did to me. These things have affected my relationships and the people I love. I won't carry this any more. These things don't belong to me. I return them to you. I leave them here. I forgive you.” Then I saw myself leave the bucket and walk away.

When my sobs subsided, I knew God had broken through and enabled me to forgive at a new level.

It was devastating to think of all the results of the abuse in my life. It was the key event of my childhood and it affected everything. Everything. Forgiving my perpetrators of the consequences of the abuse, as well as the acts of abuse themselves, was like a sledgehammer that broke the back of my bondage.

Forgiveness Releases Me (by Gary Roe)

I asked Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

“I thought forgiveness was releasing my enemy," someone said to me, "but when I forgave him I discovered that the captive I released was me.” I've certainly experienced that in relation to my abusers.

When I made a frightening phone call to my closest friend and told him what happened to me as a child, he was silent for a long time before he asked, “Have you been able to forgive them?” This question surprised me. I knew that my friend asked because he loved me and was deeply concerned about me.

I suddenly knew that forgiveness was about my heart. Forgiveness was about not letting my heart be ruled by the abuse and the abusers any longer. Forgiveness was about separating my person from what happened to me. Forgiveness was about letting God heal me.

I wanted healing. Forgiveness was the road to it. So I began to forgive. I had to forgive repeatedly. I had to learn to practice forgiveness. And somewhere along the way I realized that I'd been holding myself captive by not forgiving. Sometimes I even imagined that I was releasing myself when forgiving my abusers.

I'm not saying that forgiving is easy. It was far from painless for me. I once screamed into a pillow repeatedly as I tried to forgive. I found forgiveness to be like physical therapy after surgery—excruciatingly painful at first, but strengthening and healing over time.

Forgiveness as a Process (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I used to think forgiveness was a simple one-time act of the will. Forgive. Let it go. Move on. When I found myself confronted with the same emotions again, I assumed I hadn't forgiven.

Forgiving my abusers has been a process. It certainly began, as all forgiveness does, with an act of the will. God led me to the point where I chose to forgive, trusting that over time the feelings would follow.

Then another trigger would get pulled. A flashback. Someone would do or say something that put me right back under that ugly, familiar cloud of anger, shame, and guilt. Instead of wondering if I had really forgiven, I voiced my forgiveness again.

I've repeated that process dozens of times. Each time seems to get a little easier. Each time, I feel a little freer. I'm learning that I have to practice forgiveness, and sometimes it seems like moment by moment. Whenever the trigger gets pulled or the cloud of shame descends, I'm learning to see it as an invitation to forgive.

Flashbacks (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I was young when it happened and it happened repeatedly. The perpetrators were close to me. I had no memory of the sexual abuse itself, but I grew up with a sense of deep terror and anger toward the perpetrators.

Years later, I began having flashbacks. They started slowly and increased in duration and intensity. Finally, they came in like a flood. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and experiencing. I thought I was going crazy.

These flashbacks were intense, just like I was there and it was happening all over again. It was unnerving, confusing, terrifying, and exhausting. They continued over a period of two years.

If it hadn't been for my wife, a counselor, and a few trustworthy friends, I don't know what I would have done. I knew I couldn't handle it alone. I also sensed that isolation was my worst enemy. I had to share, to talk, and to stay connected with those I knew loved me.

After two years, the flashbacks dissipated and my health began to deteriorate. At random times my adrenaline went crazy. The anxiety was terrible. I felt like a deer being chased by a tiger. My life felt small and dark. Those “flashback aftershocks,” as I called them, continued for another few years.

To say that I'm grateful now may sound inadequate, but I am grateful for the flashbacks and their aftershocks. I'm relieved to finally know what happened. My life makes sense now. I understand why things were the way they were and why I felt and thought the way I did.

I had to endure those flashbacks. Denial was survival in my childhood, but denial no longer served me well. It shackled me. I had to go back and see what happened so that I could heal. I really am grateful. Now I can grow.

"It's Easier to Look in the Mirror"

(This is an additional post from Anonymous.)

Last night I started When a Man You Love Was Abused. One of the things that's been helpful reading it so far is being able to have names for different effects. It takes things out of ambiguity and gives them concrete boundaries which make them much easier to sort through.

One of the things I saw on the blog that was great was something to the effect that it's not something that is wrong with us, it's that something wrong has been done to us. I've been rolling that over in my head a bit. It makes it easier to look in the mirror. :)

--Anonymous

"I Rarely Feel Like a Real Man"

(This blog post comes from an anonymous reader.)

I wanted to thank you for your Shattering the Silence blog. It has been a tremendous help reading others' stories.

Starting when I was five, and off and on for a couple of years after, my older cousin would rape and fondle me and have me perform oral sex on him. Thankfully, the Lord showed me how to forgive a decade ago. Before that, I was planning how I could get away with burning down the house that everything happened in. However, now at 31, I find myself still dealing with the effects of what happened.

I rarely feel like a real man, always plagued by inadequacy and not being masculine enough. I've struggled continually with same sex attraction since the abuse happened. It seems that all I crave is to have a guy I consider a real man, tell me that I am man enough - to be accepted as a guy. The only time I feel like a regular guy is when I'm working out at the gym. I spend almost all of my free time there. Although I've gotten bigger and stronger, when I look in the mirror, all I see is shameful weakness. The shame is suffocating at times.

I'm trying to convince myself to get your book as I know it will be of tremendous help. However, having the pain become even more raw through this process is daunting. The pain has gotten more acute lately, and I've retreated into sinful behaviors to buffer against the pain. The fun part is I work at a church, and if they ever found this out about me (my struggles, my sin), I'd be let go.

Your blog has provided great comfort. I was watching a Beth Moore clip last week, and she asked, "Have you ever let God touch those deep painful places in your life, or are you just quickly scabbing over them?" I asked God to touch the deep places in me, and that's when I found the link to your site. I think I will get the book.

Through it all, the Lord has been so merciful to me, so gentle. I fight against myself every day to trust Him.

--Anonymous

Living in My Own Head (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

Sometimes I'm amazed at how self-conscious I can be. Due to the abuse, I developed long antennae, and I'm constantly gauging what people might think or how they might feel about me. I talk and behave in a way that I think will insure that they like me.

As a result, I've lived a lot of my life inside my own head—thinking, posturing, wondering, planning, and controlling situations. Unknowingly, I fashioned a nice, acceptable, and thick mask for myself. Others got to know the mask and seemed pleased with it (just as I had planned).

Not only did I not know how to be me (I didn't know who I really was), I successfully walled myself off from love. If I couldn't take off the mask and be myself, then I also couldn't really engage with others and love them.

My mask was well liked. My mask received the love, and I went on feeling unloved.

Slowly God began to dissolve the glue that held that mask in place. He used my wife, life situations, counseling, and a few trusted friends over a number of years to help me discover who I am. I now like the mask less and less.

I can live more outside my own head now, being more present to the people around me. God is healing me. I know this. I feel it and I see it. He is maturing me into who He has made me to be.

Feeling Responsible (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several posts. He also shares his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.


One of the results of the sexual abuse in my life is that I often feel responsible for almost everything.

After all, my perpetrators told me I was responsible for what happened back there. And then I heaped further responsibility on myself: “If I had only. . . ,” “If I hadn’t. . .,” “If I only could. . .then maybe, just maybe. . .”

So I grew up believing that I was responsible for the feelings and behavior of others. If something went wrong, I blamed myself. If someone was angry, I had messed up. I became a man who desperately tried to control what happened, including the people around me. I was trying to protect myself, making sure what happened back there didn't happen again.

I tried to control with niceness and great performance. It was a miserable life. I didn't know I was carrying the weight of the abuse around with me.

With the help of people like Cec, I'm learning to separate myself from the abuse. I'm learning to appropriately detach from the emotions of those around me. I've finally set good boundaries.

For me, this has been a long, sometimes painful process. But it’s worth it.

A Sign of Total Trust

(This blog post comes from Anonymous.)

A few weeks ago I wrote that your book When a Man You Love Was Abused has helped me in my relationship with my friend. Don't know if I got the title right, but you know the one I mean. Anyway, I wanted to give you an update. I recently visited him and his family and got to know him a little bit better. This is something that I never thought would happen. For him to make a move of this magnitude is a sign of total trust on his part. Also, for the first time in the 3 years that I've known him, he told me that he loved me.

Thank you for writing this book and for helping us.
--Anonymous

An Emotional Roller Coaster

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

I'm halfway through reading your book, When a Man You Love Was Abused. After more than 25 years of marriage, my husband left me for his girlfriend.

Last year I met a man and he caught my eye right from the start, and I could say it was love at first sight. We started going out, and I knew there was something different about him.

We have been on an emotional roller coaster ride ever since. I thought there was something wrong with me. My husband hadn't wanted to have sex with me and this new man didn't want any form of intimacy. If I tried to get close to this new man, he pulled away. He showed no emotion and I didn't know if he had feelings for me or not.

I told him over and over that he lived in a shell and that if we were going to keep going out, he needed to tell me why. He finally told me he had been sexually abused as a child. His words shocked me.

I had about 100 reasons going through my mind, but that definitely wasn't one of them. So I went online because I wanted to understand. That's when I found your book.

I have told him, "I believe God wanted us to meet, because he knew we could both help each other heal." I want to stand beside him and help him.

I told him I loved him unconditionally and I asked nothing in return. I said I would help him if he wants me to. Most of all, I wanted him to know that I accept him for who he is.

He bought a copy of the book for himself and says he is ready to heal. I hope he is and I also hope he asks for my help.

In a lot of the ways he acts like the things you have outlined in your book. I just wanted to let you know and to thank you for your book. It's helping me see why he is who he is.

--Anonymous

The Silent Victims

This morning an email shocked me. It came from a woman I've known for 25 years although I haven't seen her in a long time. She learned about my book, When a Man You Love Was Abused. That prompted her to write me and tell me her story.

My brother molested me when we were teenagers, right in our family home. I felt I couldn't tell my parents because it would destroy the family. Instead, it ended up nearly destroying me, so I'm all for getting those things out in the open. I finally told my mother after my father died, and she admitted she wouldn't have known how to handle it.


As I read her story, I realized once again how normal most of us appear. I wasn't aware of my own abuse back then and certainly she gave no indication of anything wrong.

That's how it is with many of us—the silent victims. We're the ones who don't tell. Maybe we're afraid of not being believed or we want to "protect" the family. Sometimes it's because we feel the shame that our perpetrator ought to feel so we keep silent.

It's sad that many victims remain silent.

Adopt Healthy Coping Habits

In the previous blog I mentioned the book of 75 things men could do to help themselves survive and overcome childhood abuse. Number 73 read: "Adopt Healthy Coping Habits."

The author wrote eight paragraphs about how important it was to learn to cope and to do it in healthy ways. I had the same reaction on this as I did on self-love.

"Thank you for that advice," I wanted to shout at the author. "But tell me how to do that." I felt as if the author patronized me and pulverized perfectly healthy trees to have such a book published.

I'm a pragmatist. Don't simply tell me what, tell me how.

Most of us who've been abused have figured out that we survived by doing things that weren't helpful for recovery or for growth. My two younger brothers became alcoholics as their coping method. I coped by denial in the form of amnesia. When I began to face my painful childhood, my healthy coping method was to open myself to my own childhood pain. Instead of running from the memories of abuse, I began to do practical things to face them. (In my next blog I'll mention one of them.)

What I did wasn't easy, but it was powerful and life changing.

Love Yourself

I picked up a book a few weeks ago that proposed 75 things men could do to find healing from the pain of childhood abuse. Some of the actions and activities were practical. Some. But not many.

It wasn't that any of the suggestions were wrong; they were just too simplistic. For example, the title of number 17 was "Love Yourself."

I agree that's wonderful and much needed advice. What the author didn't say in the next two pages, however, was how to make self-love happen.

How do I learn to love myself? How does anyone?

Answer: I don't know.

The only answer I know comes from my own experience. Two people loved me without any demands on my behavior. The first was Shirley, my wife, and my friend David was the second.

They loved me and accepted me, even though I felt damaged and in pain. Neither of them insisted I go through a course of self-improvement or change my ways.

They simply loved me. That was the first half of the solution.

The second half was that I felt loved by them.

Once I sensed their irrefutable love, I was able to love that small, injured boy who lived inside me.

So it's true: If you want to be healed, love yourself. But don't tell anyone unless you're first willing to express that unrestricted love.

Tired (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several blogs. He also tells his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I am so tired. I work hard, all the time. I work as if my life depends on it each moment. It’s as if I create stress, or seek it. I perform well. I use my performance as a way to try to make sure that what happened to me as a child never ever happens again.

So I run through life, sometimes without noticing much. I live mostly inside my head, already on to the next thing before I even finish the one I'm working on. And I wonder why I am often angry, frustrated, and exhausted.

This hectic kind of life is as natural for me as breathing. I sometimes sigh at verses like “Be still and know that I am God.” It seems so far from my experience.

I get tired of running. I want to choose to rest and actually be able to do it. I want to go easier on myself, give myself grace. Maybe I need to realize that working harder will not keep it from happening again.

Maybe I need to forgive myself.

I would like to really live with energy and joy.

Small (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several blogs. He also tells his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I felt small growing up. I was told I was small. I was treated as if I were small. I was used like I was small. . .like I was nothing. . .like I was less than human.

I still feel small a lot. I feel small when I face conflict. I feel small when I don’t know what to do. I feel small when I sense others trying to take advantage of me. I was taught to feel small, so they could use me more easily.

Slowly, I am learning who I really am. God thought of me. God wanted me. Jesus Christ died and rose for me. He made me in my mother’s womb. He protected my life. He opened my heart to Him. He is preparing a place for me and me for that place. The life I live is a miracle.

I want to live big.

Purpose (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several blogs. He also tells his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

I believe that God placed me here on earth for a purpose. I believe that He orders all things for my good. That means He turns things around. He manages to bring good out of great evil.

It's one thing to say this, and quite another to feel it. Sometimes, my emotions are so powerful. I pray for the strength to deal in facts: It happened, it mattered, God delivered me, God loves me, God is healing me, and one day He will heal me completely.

When I am feeling out-of-control, confused, anxious, and fearful, Lord, give me the grace I need. Let me rest in the love that You have for me.

I have purpose today.

I have a grand and glorious purpose from You.

Shame (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several blogs. He also tells his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

Shame is a powerful thing. Sometimes I experience it as self-conscious embarrassment, as if I want to hide in the presence of other people. It comes powerfully upon me when I feel I've made a mistake—I feel I AM the mistake. Sometimes it just seems to overshadow me, following me around, painting everything gray.

The reality is my perpetrators were the shameful ones. They couldn't handle their shame, so they tried to wipe it off on me through the abuse. I don't want to let them succeed. They will not succeed.

At times, accepting myself is a very difficult thing for me to do. How could it not be difficult with what happened? I grew up feeling invisible, ugly, dirty, and unwanted. But that is not reality.

Reality is that God thought of me, created me in His image, and has a powerful destiny for my life.

I want to live more in reality.

Feeling Traumatized Again (by Gary Roe)

I invited Gary Roe to write several blogs. He also tells his story in my book When a Man You Love Was Abused.

Sometimes I get so scared. And I cannot seem to find a reason for this fear, except that fear was bred into me by what happened. I learned quickly, powerfully, that the world is not a safe place. If a parent and grandparent could do that to me, then nothing is safe.

Tonight I am up late. My fear response has been triggered again. My body is quietly shaking on the inside. I cannot sleep. When I feel this way, it seems as if my body is remembering—almost as if it's happening all over again. At times like these, I get frustrated, angry, and confused. I feel traumatized, again.

I "speak my fear." I say aloud what I'm thinking. I write it out in my journal. Jesus reminds me that I am safe, no matter what my emotions say.

He reminds me that it's not happening again. Perhaps this is part of His healing process. Perhaps this is part of His draining its debilitating power from my system.

Perhaps I am healing.

My Amnesia

In my book When a Man You Love Was Abused, I wrote about my amnesia (which is denial). One man wrote, "Denial was a powerful survival tool for me when I was a boy. Now I'm an adult and I struggle to be free. I wish I could forget but I know I need to face it."

I understand his situation. Denial worked for us when we needed it to survive. We had few resources and were innocent and naïve about life.

Here's how I think about amnesia for us survivors: In first grade I learned to count by using my fingers. I haven't had to count that way since I was a child. The method worked until I was mature enough to leave it behind.

As adults, we're more sophisticated and can reason out the issues. Most of all, we can feel. The pain was intense when I began recovery, but I reminded myself that I actually felt the pain. My amnesia taught me to deny my deepest feelings; my healing liberates my feelings.

An Offer You May Refuse

If you haven't read my book When a Man You Love Was Abused, and would like a free copy, please send your mailing address to me. My assistant and I are the only ones who will see your name/address. Send your request to: cec.murp@comcast.net. (We'll send it by media mail so it may take a few weeks to reach you.)

Want to Help?

Last summer, When a Man You Love Was Abused came off the press. Two months later, my editor asked me for a follow-up book. "I've written everything I know," I said.

That was before I started doing this twice-weekly blog. Since then, three things have changed my mind.

1. Several of you posted to the blog or emailed me. I marveled at your openness and you encouraged me to become even more transparent.

2. The book has gone into its second printing and I've heard from readers with concerns I didn't address or did so only briefly.

3. I've grown since I wrote the book. I've learned more about myself and faced issues of which I was unaware a year ago.

I've proposed a new book with the working title, Not Quite Healed.

Healing from sexual molestation is a process—a long, long process. I keep learning and so do many of you.

Will you help me?

If you struggle with areas I didn't address in the book or we haven't fully discussed on this blog, I'd like to know. What insights have you gained about yourself?

If the publisher accepts my second book and if I want to use your material, I'll ask your permission. If you agree, I'll use your name only with your permission.

Please email me privately at cec.murp@comcast.net.

More Comments from Heather

This came from Heather.

I had been seriously sexually abused as a child, my father raped me for years, and my mom had full knowledge of what was going on. There are those in our church who have a history of abuse and abusers, and I treat them nicely and accept them, but am prudent.

Right now I am working on a memoir about the abuse, so the feelings are raw, and God is working on healing those feelings in me. Healing is such a process--sort of like peeling the layers of an onion. I have even forgiven my abusers, but the posts on your blog have shown me there is more work to be done.

Comments from Heather

Heather wrote this after reading about the two men who were registered sex offenders.


I love your blog, Shattering the Silence, and a few posts have raised some questions in my mind, the posts where former abusers wonder at their reception in churches. I have been praying over this because I realize there are some unresolved issues in me that need work. I am going to put out some of the thoughts I've had since reading their posts so you can get an idea of what I have been thinking.

I do agree that a person can ask God for forgiveness, He forgives them and they are forgiven…

I also realize that those who are abused can end up being abusers, that the abuser is often a victim. My father, my abuser, had a tough childhood, and his rage underscored that.

If a thief comes to church and repents, they are forgiven. But a wise person doesn't leave an open, unattended basket of money near a thief. That would be tempting them before they could form enough spiritual muscles to be able to resist temptation.

If there was a known child molester in my church, I'm not going to put my teenage daughter alone in a room with him. While I would forgive the person, I also have to act with wisdom. As time goes by and behavior is proven, then things might change, but for the time being I would be nice, but careful.

My husband is faithful, but if he had been caught up in adultery, I would forgive him, but it would take time to rebuild trust. When trust is broken, it takes time to restore.

I am wondering what your thoughts are regarding what those men said regarding forgiven sexual abusers in the church.

I responded with these words:

Of course you have to be prudent and use common sense.

But if we accept others, it shows in the way we treat them; it also shows if we don't accept them.

Glad That He's Dead

Some of the emails and letters I receive come from people who still hurt and feel deep pain. The following from Ralph in South Dakota brought tears to my eyes.


He did "it" to me three different times. I told him I wouldn't let him do it to me again. He said he wouldn't but if I told anyone, he said he'd kill my baby brother.

That was more than 30 years ago and I'm sure he lied, but I believed the [expletives deleted]. I went to his funeral a few months ago. I thought I might go to hell for being glad that he was dead, but I'm glad the scumbag died. When I walked away from the funeral home, I said, "I'm glad you're finally dead. You won't hurt any more kids."

I want to forgive him and maybe I'll be able to do that one day. Right now I can only thank God that he's dead.

A Second Chance

He signed his email Tim T.

I have a second chance. Maybe I always had it but didn't know. I can now talk about what happened to me, and I have three friends who were also abused. We knew each other for maybe five years before I ever said anything. When I told them, I thought they might stop hanging with me, but they didn't. Ronnie said, "The same thing happened to me." The other two, who are twins, had been abused for years by an uncle.

That's why I have a second chance. I'm with others who know what it's like to hurt and have feelings that we can't talk about to other people.

Ronnie is one of the pastors in a large church. He wants to start a group for people like us.

Hyam's Comment

The post below came as a comment yesterday. It is powerful (and painful) and I felt it deserved to be read more widely and carefully.

I admire Hyam for not giving up. Despite the painful rejections from churches, clergy, and congregations, he has finally found people who accept him.


I've been in that boat. I had a public disclosure done in two small communities in which I lived. I have had people shuffle their kids to the other side of pews when I sat down beside them. I have had deacons shadow me whenever I was in the building.

When my wife (now ex) got a restraining order against me rather than talk about our issues, I had to return to my home province and thought I could find some measure of peace in a church that had known me for several years, and who often referred to me as a son.

I was mistaken, and a few weeks later, the pastor sat me down (at a mall food court) to tell me that I was no longer welcome because his first obligation was his congregation and I wasn't a part of it.

It wasn't the first church or religious organization to turn their back, but it hurt the most.

It took me a few more years to find another church. Even there, we had many meetings in the beginning... they asked me to stop coming for a while, and ironed out a bunch of rules and regulations that were supposedly for the "good of the community". The board discussed me like I wasn't really a person, but more of an issue that had to be "dealt with".

But things have changed. I have grown more humble in the situation, and they have grown more gracious. (it didn't hurt that the head pastor left, and a much more reasonable man took his place). Last Christmas, I was even a soloist in their choir...

Things can change, and some hearts (and some Christians) can learn, with time, to look past who you used to be and learn to see who you are. Don't give up. The body of Christ needs you just as much as it needs anyone else.

I'm a Registered Sex Offender

The following email came recently and I deleted the names and locations of the churches.


I'm a registered sex offender. I've been out of prison since December 7, 2009. I remind myself every day that if I could survive that hell hole, I can survive anywhere.

Because I'm registered, everyone knows about me. I tried to get involved in two different churches. In the first church they seemed warm and nice and I told the preacher and two other people about myself. I figured out that they'd find out anyway. After that, they wouldn't even talk to me. It was only a couple of weeks before everyone in the church acted the same way.

One day I came to church late and sat down in the back next to a woman I didn't know. She got up and moved.

In the second church, I didn't have to tell them. They found out after I had been there only a few times. They wrote me a letter and said they had had a special board meeting about me. They asked me not to come back.

I have a Bible and read it. I watch Sunday services on TV. I've given up on the church. I'm still a believer and I know God has forgiven me. I wish the people of God could do the same.