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.

My Name Is Louis

My name is Louis and I'm a therapist.

I deal largely with sexually abused men and women. I'm writing this because I used their experiences to help me heal from my own abuse. As they talked and I listened, I faced my painful past. Funny, but I followed the advice I gave them: "Face the demons of the past and they'll go away."

I'm also doing that. As others open up to me, I find myself opening up to myself and discovering deeper layers of pain. At times I feel like I've used them, but I also know that I helped them as well as myself.

The important thing I've learned during the past seven years is this: the healing is never fully completed.

"I Lost My Faith"

"I lost my faith, if I really had any, when I was nine," Nick's email began. He said the youth pastor of his church befriended him. "That was cool because my dad and mom were always working or lying in front of the TV. My pastor took me to ball games and taught me wrestling techniques."

One evening after everyone else had left the church gym, Nick and the youth pastor went to the showers. He hugged Nick, held him, and began to fondle him.

"I was scared and didn't know what to do. He was supposed to be like my best friend." Nick did nothing. "But I hated myself and I hated God for letting that sicko do that to me."

He stopped going to church.

Nick hasn't returned to God, but he has started to attend a charismatic church in Ohio. "I think I'm sneaking back into the faith," were his closing words.

A Former Addict

One former addict wrote me, "I stayed zapped and blocked from my feelings for nine years. When I decided to face my issues, my therapist said, "Your drug addiction probably saved your life."

He went on to say that he was convinced the only reason he didn't kill himself was that the street drugs made the pain bearable.

"A guy I grew up with invited me to Celebrate Recovery. He had been on booze but got sober and stayed that way."

The writer said he went to his first CR meeting and didn't like it very much but he promised his friend he would go back at least once more. Here's his comment about his second visit: "In the small group, one man spoke about being abused by a neighbor. As I listened, I felt he was talking about me. I started to cry."

The anonymous writer went on to say he hasn't been on drugs for nearly two years. "I'm happy to be alive. I guess I'm also lucky to be alive."

Numbing

In a previous post I wrote about numbing out when I felt overwhelmed by emotion. It almost happened again recently. My wife had two serious accidents in an eight-day period. Although I was aware of her pain and I could see it in her eyes, I hardly knew what to say.

In the past, I wouldn’t have understood, but this time I wasn't numbed as fully as I had been long ago, yet I was aware of a struggle going on inside me.

For me, it was an involuntary numbing. I can now look back and realize that my wise, inner self used the frozen emotions to protect me from feeling my pain.

There's another kind of numbing, and it's done so often that the people are hardly aware of what they do. We say they self-medicate. Their medication can be stuffing themselves with food. Why wouldn't they? While they were still infants, parents stopped them from crying by thrusting a bottle into their mouths. Food soothed any ills. So for some, food addiction is a natural reaction to abuse.

I know a woman who was sexually abused and after each abuse, her step-father bought her a gift. I overheard her say to a group, "I'm a shopaholic and sometimes I wonder why I buy so much."

Maybe she knows the reason. Or perhaps she knows it's her way to stifle the pain. By shopping she can self-medicate and numb her emotions.

What kind of numbing devices have you used—or still use? What is your "drug of choice" to cover your raw emotions? Why don't you write to me at Cec_Haraka (at) msn (dot) com and share it with us? (You don't have to reveal your identity.)

Logic vs. Emotion

I once mentioned in a keynote at a conference that I had been sexually molested. I didn't dwell on the issue, but said it affected the way I saw life.

Afterward a woman who identified herself as a pastor-therapist said to me, "You didn't do anything to cause the assault. It was your perpetrator's fault."

I tried to tell her that I knew, but she didn't seem to hear me. She talked for another minute or two, but her words and her attitude seemed to say to me, "I've explained the logic of the situation and you're free."

I agreed with her reasoning. I had been a child, and of course I didn't do anything to bring on the molestation. It was the fault of my perpetrators. If acknowledging the truth were all I needed, I would have been free much earlier.

She didn't seem to grasp that my emotions hadn't caught up with my cognitive perceptions. I could make the same statements she made—and I did—but they hadn't set me free. It was a long time before I could feel free.

And, sad to say, some men never feel fault-free.

"You Don't Need to Feel Ashamed"

Some statements irritate me. "You don't need to feel guilty," or "You have no reason to feel ashamed" are two of them. I wonder about the people who say those things. How can they speak so glibly?

Of course we need to feel ashamed or guilty—it's a natural reaction to what happened to us. No one explained to us that it was something bad done to us. Consequently, we felt bad. We weren't mature enough to grasp that we were innocent, so shame and guilt invaded our souls.

If I could have disrobed myself of those two emotions, I would have done it long ago. Instead it took me many, many years before I knew the freedom from those enslavements. I don't think I'm unusual.

I'd like to say to those glib-speaking know-it-alls, "Don't tell anyone how he should or shouldn’t feel. That advice helps no one."

But we can say, "I'm sorry you're hurting." As we accept them and express compassion they can slowly free themselves.

But until then, they have valid reasons for feeling ashamed or guilty.

"I Should Be Healed"

I've heard several men say, "I should be healed by now." When they do, I smile. I smile for two reasons. First, I had made the same statement to myself.
Second, I smile because I think, that's a typical male response. We want to know how long it's going to take, want a time table, and expect it to be over by a certain date on the calendar.

I think of the old joke about a man who talked to a therapist about his depression. He asked how long he would have to undergo treatment. The therapist tried to avoid answering but the patient persisted, so finally the therapist said, "If you come weekly, about a year."

"If I come twice a week," the man asked, "can I do it in six months?"
Because many of us expect healing to have taken place within a certain period of time, we want results—and as soon as possible.

A better response to the statement, "I should be healed by now," is that inner healing doesn't understand time demands or deadlines. Healing happens as it happens.

Instead of thinking what should be, isn't it better to say to yourself, "I'm much healthier right now than I was when I started this journey"?

My Name Is Jamie

My name is Jamie.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

The little boy I was became an injured, confused & fearful soul.

Authority no longer deserved my respect.

Trust no longer seemed possible.

My dreams and goals no longer appeared attainable, washed away with the tears.

For 30 years I have struggled and fought to live despite the pain.

I have let failure become a habit, and chaos an addiction.

The experience has stunted my growth as a man, as a whole person.

I sit in gatherings feeling like an alien, an outsider.

I listen to others speak and am overcome with feelings of inadequacy.

I wonder if I’ll ever fit in, ever become a true part of society.

Wonder if I can ever be someone who experiences the true meaning of the word, ‘success’.

I am trying to build a bridge to the little boy I was, so that I can know him again.

I am trying to heal. I am trying to rise above. I am trying to live again.

I am more than my emotions, my fear, my disappointment.

I am a man full of talent, humour and kindness.

I am a caring, intimate boyfriend, a supportive and encouraging friend.

I am their son, her brother, their teacher and your neighbour.

When you see me on the subway, you don’t see the turmoil inside.

When you hear my laughter, you don’t see the private tears.

Step by step, day by day, little by little, I am trying to improve my circumstance.

I am trying not to let the past prevent a bright future.

I am fighting for more peace, less anger. More joy, less sadness. More love, less pain.

With more courage than I could’ve ever imagined, I am pushing forward into a new, fulfilling life where the difficult memories stop pulling me down. Where the smile is genuine, the laughter hearty, the embrace confident.

A new year. A new path. A new challenge.

I’m ending my silence, continuing my healing journey.

I’m scared. I’m anxious. I’m ready.