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.

Same Sex Attraction

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

Aside from all arguments on either side over the origins and morality of homosexuality, one of the primary remnants of my abuse is a strong sexual attraction to men. I don’t consider myself gay and I don’t live that lifestyle. I am a husband and a father and I choose to live in a loving marriage with my wife of now thirty-two years. Still, this unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) shows up in my life often and always in the form of compulsion.

I have come to understand a few things about SSA in my life. First, it is an irrational state of mind. I never decide to have an attraction to a guy and it is never a romantic thing for me. I don’t dream about getting flowers from a man or of being taken to exotic destinations for a getaway with him. For me, SSA is more about feeling insecure or rejected. It happens most often when I am dealing with stress or something uncomfortable in my circumstances.

SSA generally starts with a feeling of discomfort in my mind. It is like a pot on the stove with a lid on it. As the water inside heats up the steam needs an escape valve. If things inside me are heating up, the escape valve can be triggered when I visualize or see an attractive man. I immediately size him up and compare myself with him. If he seems to be bigger, stronger, more successful, or more “together” in his personality I can become attracted. Fantasy takes over and eventually I’m caught up in an irrational state of mind.

The end of this irrational fantasy can be a foray into gay pornography and masturbation, leaving me shamed and depleted. Obviously, SSA is an unhealthy response to life’s normal stresses for me. Part of my recovery work is to recognize that it is irrational and to learn how to interrupt the cycle as soon as I recognize it.

The Lenses of Abuse

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

I had dinner with a friend the other night and started sharing the history of my abuse with him. His reaction was kind, but his words belied a simplistic view of my pain. “Just let it go,” he urged, over and over. I gently pushed back on his premise, trying to help him see that I am a person who carries deep pain and one who is doing all I can to process it with the help of my therapist, my friends, journaling, and spirituality. I’m not sure he ever “got it” though he finally stopped telling me to “get over it.”

This experience reminded me that I see life through the lenses of my abuse. I cannot completely explain why the pain is still so present in my daily life. I cannot totally tease out every reason that life seems so sexualized and that it taints all with an off-color hue of sadness. I cannot fully explain the lingering effects of violation, or the lies that still hover in my mind that I am “damaged goods.” I can’t explain why I still feel that the abuse was my fault and that no one would love me if they really knew me. I just know that these are the things I still feel deeply.

My recovery doesn’t seem to progress in a linear pattern. It doesn’t always seem to move from Point A to Point B. It zigs. It zags. I feel great one day then BAM! It hits me square between the eyes. I heard someone say in a recovery meeting, “While you’re trying to get better the devil is doing pushups.” Maybe there’s some truth to that. Whether you believe in a personal devil or not isn’t the point. Abuse and the residual effects of it are devils enough. 

 I hope to take these abuse-colored glasses off someday. Or, I hope to at least be able to adjust them enough to realize that there are some fantastic things in my life despite the abuse. I am healed more than I was a few years ago, so I know there is some progress. Maybe in a way these lenses help me to see the wounds in others and to know that the last thing I need to tell them is to just “let it go” or to “get over it.” Healing takes time.

Who You Ain’t

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

An old saying goes, “Be who you is, because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.” As funny as it sounds this axiom is packed with meaning for me. I’ve struggled deeply to know who I am as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I’ve spent years being who I ain’t. My task as a survivor is to learn to live from the authentic center of my being. But where is it?

Finding the center of myself is no easy thing. The millions of messages flying all around me every day, the voices of the culture, news, fashion, and social media mixed with my base of emotional distress confuse me. Seeing the beautiful people on commercials doesn’t help me. Watching the Kardashians or Modern Family or reality shows doesn’t heal me. I’ve become convinced that the only way I’m going to find the real center of me is to work at it within a context of an authentic, grace-filled community.

Grace is a lot more than forgiving someone or saying a prayer before a meal. True grace is a structure that forgives, but it also provides a way to heal and to grow. It’s like having a friend who doesn’t just say that you should work out and lose weight. This friend actually shows up every other day at your house to walk or jog with you to help you get healthy. We all need friends like that.

I’ve realized that I need to live as who I am. If that’s to happen, I need a safe place to be who I am now in order to grow into the person I want to become. We all need a structure, a community of grace, to find the true center of ourselves and to learn to be who we is.

Laughter and Tears

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

There’s often a thin distinction for me between laughter and tears. Folk singer Joni Mitchell pined years ago that “laughin’ and crying/You know it’s the same release” (People’s Parties, from the album Court and Spark, 1974). I’ve thought about that lyric many times. I’ve remembered it especially in moments of laughter that seemed to strike something deep in me, some sad feeling that could just as easily have come out as tears as easily as laughter. Emotions are funny things sometimes.

As an abuse survivor I often experience confusion around my emotions. I question myself when I feel something deeply and I tend to censure myself. As a child I had to “stuff” my emotions down inside because they weren’t acceptable in our family system. We didn’t deal well with anger or with any topic that was “embarrassing”. In this way I learned that my feelings were suspect, at best, and unacceptable, at worst. I grew up distrusting my emotions and never knowing what to do with them.

As I have matured in my recovery I have come to see my emotions as a gift. I have them for a reason and they point me to greater realities in life as I come to understand them. Someone has said that, “emotions are terrific servants and terrible masters”. This is true for everyone, but how much more for those of us who have been violated to the point of rejecting our healthy feelings and who have been forced to bury them deep inside of our shattered hearts.


Porn

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

An addiction to pornography was one of the effects of my early childhood sexual abuse. The women in the pictures were fascinating, though I had no clue why they were unclothed. My brother would “show me” what the women did as we looked at the pictures. The natural result was a strong sexual confusion on my part. For years I thought I was a woman.

I now live a heterosexual lifestyle and have been married for three decades. But through these years I have found myself struggling with this addiction. Of course I feel the typical shame and self-loathing after indulging. The more I watch the more I want to do it. As an adult, the people I see in the pornography still elicit in me the same feelings of being needed that I felt as a child.

I have come to understand many things about the roots of my addiction. The primary root is the yearning to feel needed. The abuse scarred me deeply and has manifested itself in me at times as an irrational compulsion for gay porn. This is what is called “acting out” for me. I acted out the early homosexual abuse through porn, compulsive masturbation, and a few gay encounters.

Acting out in any way is destructive emotionally and spiritually, but especially to my marriage and to my work. When I sense a temptation to indulge in porn, I try to remember that this feeling is strong, but irrational. The porn will never satisfy me in the deepest way and it can never heal what hurts the most—my broken heart.

Self Loathing

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

One effect of my early childhood sexual abuse has been self-loathing. For the longest time I didn’t understand that was what I was dealing with. I thought I was just so messed up that I didn’t deserve the air I was breathing. I constantly compared myself to others, especially men, and I never measured up. The problem with that perspective is that it kept me from being the best me that I could be.

Self-loathing is an emotional habit rooted in envy. As a child my body was never as big as the men who abused me. They were taller, stronger, and their genitalia were bigger. I could never measure up. I can see clearly now that my lifetime of irrational comparisons was founded in those moments of abuse in which I was weaker and the abusers stronger. It wasn’t a fair fight. I was a child.

My continuum of self-loathing ran from a minor comparison of hair or height to athleticism or financial status. At best, it caused an irritation. At worst, it caused deep anxiety and self-destructive behavior such as addiction or depression. A few times I was so distressed by not being like someone else that I despaired and could have taken my life.

The cure for self-loathing I have found, is to recognize that envy hurts me. I am learning to celebrate myself—my body, and my lot in life. What I have is what I have. Comparing myself to others causes me to devalue myself. As I grow in recovery my goal is to love and appreciate who I am and to resist falling into the abyss of self-loathing.

The Real Me

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

The real me is the me I choose to be as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I cannot change my history. It happened to me. I was abused. This abuse was horrific, criminal, and damaging to me emotionally. It affected my entire life. Even though it is true that I was abused, the abuse doesn’t have to define who I am. Now I choose to rise above it and to live my life as a triumphant survivor.

I once heard a Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz say, “the only real revenge is to live.” I resonate with those words. The memories of my abuse and the devastating effects on my life, especially in the area of emotions and relationships, never go away.

Each morning I wake to remember that I was abused. But I cannot afford to let my mind stop there. I have to take the next step into the conscious choice to live above the abuse.

Living above the abuse is never easy. When I think of the people who abused me or when I stumble into momentary fear or anxiety based in the abuse, I often react by shutting down emotionally (which only leads to medicating myself in destructive behaviors). Sometimes the only remedy is to do the next right thing. Often I pray. Reading something that brings me joy can help break me out of the downward spiral. Calling a friend who understands or writing in my journal can work. Whatever helps me out of the funk is how I choose to live above the memories and to remember the real me.

The real me is fearless. The real me is filled with joy and peace. The real me is creative and artistic. The real me is in love with life and with the goodness that it brings. The real me is a helper, a healer, and a friend. The real me is committed to meaningful relationships. The real me is the authentic person I am in spite of the abuse. The real me is triumphant and someone who, like the concentration camp survivor, reeks revenge on the enemies of my soul’s peace by living today.

Redeeming the Pain

(This post comes from John Joseph.)

A Zen aphorism says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I’m not Buddhist and I can’t vouch for the ultimate truth of the aphorism. People die from horrible diseases like cancer or AIDS. People lose loved ones or endure separation and divorce. Our entire society feels the pain of financial crises, violence, terrorism, and corruption. And those of us who have been sexually abused have suffered emotional torment for years, even decades, all the while trying to find a way to stop the misery we feel.

While many religions throughout the ages have sought to solve the problem of pain, it’s still with us. Affliction is the lot of the human race no matter how we try to explain it, conquer it, or ignore it.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’ve tried to explain my exploitation, but there’s no reasonable explanation. I’ve tried to conquer the hurt, but the hurt never surrenders. I’ve even tried to ignore the awful memories I own, but they resurface in my mind at the worst times and in the worst ways. The only way I find to deal with the wounds of my abuse is to make them work for me, to redeem them in some meaningful way.

To redeem something so dreadfully unthinkable as child abuse is a tall order. The snatching away of childhood innocence by being lured into unspeakable sex acts with an adult seems beyond our capacity to turn into anything redeemable.

There are two options here. I can let the overwhelming effects of abuse kill me or I can choose to let the scars teach me how to be a better person.

When I take a few moments each day to recognize that my abusers no longer have any power over me, I redeem the abuse a little more. When I realize that I am no longer a helpless child victimized by someone older and stronger, I take back the power I lost to them. When I recognize the irrational nature of my fear and anxiety, I rob the memories of their hold on me. When I look myself in the mirror and reclaim my dignity, I take a bold step to end my suffering.

Maybe the Zen aphorism is right, after all.

15 Seconds

(This post comes from Eric Wagenmaker.)

I grew up in a small town and live here still today. About twice a year, I inadvertently see my perpetrator. Whether it’s at the mall, a community event, or seeing him in his car at a stoplight, I see him.

Because of my abuse, I have learned how to wear masks. If people are with me they can't tell that my blood was boiling or that everything inside of me had gone numb. When I see him, for about 15 seconds or so, I am brought back to the high school locker room where my abuser abducted me.

Once the 15 seconds are over and my emotions are normal, I'm reminded of how far I have come.

I've experienced substantial healing in the last year and a half since I first shared about my abuse publicly for the first time. I've been able to share my story freely with person after person. Each time I share, a new layer peels back and the more freedom I experience.

Every time I see my perpetrator it allows me another opportunity to forgive him. That is truly where the healing started for me. I pray for the day I can see him and my emotions won't miss a beat.

Perspective (Part 2 of 2)

(This post comes from Dann Youle.)

While writing about the perspective that I now have of my abuse, the thought occurred to me that stories of how my perspective has changed would be helpful. I want to share one that is the most powerful to me.

On October 28, 2000, my friend Mark and I drove to my abuser’s grave in Wisconsin. I remember it feeling like there was something exciting but terrifying that would happen that day. We arrived at the cemetery and found it was much how I remembered it, yet strange and different at the same time.

After we searched for about 30 minutes, I saw it. Walking up to the grave I was visibly shaking, and more scared than I remembered being in my life. With Mark giving me my space, but also keeping watch, tears flowed as I said what I needed to say, released forgiveness, and, as I sat there, the change started happening.

As I spoke forgiveness toward my abuser, healing flowed. I felt pity for him. I realized he had probably not known he could heal. His generation wouldn't talk about something like this, especially not in a redemptive way. I realized he may have been abused himself. He was probably unable to forgive himself.

Yet from the moment I remembered he abused me, I wanted to get to the point where I could forgive him and myself. My abuser gave me a gift that day, in spite of all the pain he brought to my life and perhaps to the lives of others. He allowed me to see that I could make peace. Peace with him, peace with God, peace with myself, and peace with life.

I could and did walk forward from that day, October 28, 2000, knowing that life is a gift. Each day I can truly live and I don’t have to allow something horrific that someone did to me and over which I had no control. Now I have control over this moment, this day, or all the stuff that makes up my life.

That’s a perspective change that I couldn't have learned any other way.

Perspective (Part 1 of 2)

(This post comes from Dann Youle.)

I felt my sexual abuse caused pain that had no resolution. It seemed like the more I tried to get rid of the pain, the more my heart ached. I felt once again like that "little boy lost." Each time it was if I were feeling it for the first time. That continued to be the way I felt each time I was aware of it; it’s the way I still feel when I remember.

Something changed over time, though, and that’s been my perspective on the pain.

For the past 13 years, I’ve been aware that I was abused after my conscious mind had buried it for almost 30 years. I didn’t have a very good perspective on the pain or know what to do with it. Being a person who very much believes that God can use anything in our lives to make us stronger, I still found that this anything didn’t seem to have much use in mine or anyone else’s life.

It seemed to be this monster that would rear its big, ugly head from time to time. I don’t know when the change took place, but I remember the first time I realized my perspective was changing.

I work for an organization that takes care of people at the end of life, and I do direct patient care. If anyone talks about pain, these people have it: physical, emotional, and spiritual. I wondered what was different about the way patients dealt with their multi-faceted pain. Once I started on my journey of discovery, I realized that those who had made their peace with whomever or whatever they needed to, their pain lessened. There was much more acceptance of what they were facing. However, those who hadn’t made their peace were generally bitter, and had a much harder time accepting the reality of their situation.

The lesson for me has been that sometimes I still let the pain of my abuse make me bitter. When that happens I can’t make peace with anyone. I’m miserable and everybody around me knows it. More often, however, I focus on trying to let it make me better.

When that happens, I’m more at peace and I can fully engage and enjoy life in ways that, even as an almost-50-year-old man, I have never experienced before. And that's definitely a better perspective.

Porn

(This post comes from "J".)

An addiction to pornography was one of the effects of my early childhood sexual abuse. The women in the pictures were fascinating, though I had no clue why they were unclothed. My brother would “show me” what the women did as we looked at the pictures. The natural result was a strong sexual confusion on my part. For years, I thought I was a woman.

I now live a heterosexual lifestyle and have been married for three decades. But through these years I have found myself struggling with this addiction. Of course, I felt the typical shame and self-loathing after indulging. The more I watched the more I want to do it.

I have come to understand many things about the roots of my addiction. The primary root is the yearning to feel needed. The abuse scarred me deeply and has manifested itself in me at times as an irrational compulsion for gay porn. This is what is called “acting out” for me. I acted out the early homosexual abuse through porn, compulsive masturbation, and a few gay encounters. 

 Acting out in any way is destructive emotionally and spiritually, but especially to my marriage and to my work. When I sense a temptation to indulge in porn, I try to remember that this feeling is strong, but irrational. The porn will never satisfy me in the deepest way and it can never heal what hurts the most—my broken heart.

Owning the Pain

(This post comes from "J".)

One of the things that has kept me in the pain of my abuse is not owning it. So much of my life was spent avoiding the pain of my childhood abuse that it didn't have a chance to be felt and ultimately healed.

No one wants to feel pain. We're wired to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. The truth about abuse, however, is that it can't be processed and healed without acknowledging it, feeling it, and processing it.

I didn’t know that I had been abused. I was grown when I was driven into counseling through addictive and compulsive sexual behavior. I was out of control and close to losing my marriage. I hadn’t acknowledged the depths of the pain of my childhood; the molesting at four years old; the odd encounters with older boys in my family; what I now understand as a rape when I was ten; and the fact that I was criminally abused by an older man and woman when I was 15 to 18 years old. It was like I was a magnet for abuse.

My pain flooded in when I came to understand that my hyper-sexualized appetites weren’t appetites for sex but an insatiable yearning for acceptance and healing. I'm thankful that the pain isn’t experienced and processed all at once.

I've experienced the pain in doses, some large and some small. There have been seasons of pain and reckoning with it. There have been good times and bad, but I'm continually amazed that owning the pain of it is the only way to process and get it out of the way.

Lies I’ve Believed

(This post comes from "J".)

Among the worst of the many lies I have believed about myself is that the abuse in my childhood was my fault. It's common among victims to believe they brought the abuse on themselves or caused it to happen. I've learned that the abuse was the sick choice of the abuser and not my doing.

I was about 16 before I understood that men had sex with women and not just with other men or boys. I knew that men liked to look at women, but the abuse was so pervasive in my life that I didn’t understand the basic physiology of the human body.

Gender confusion and identity struggles haunt me to this day. A therapist had to tell me I had been abused. It didn't occur to me that something was wrong with the people who touched me and used me.

The lie that I caused those broken people to have sexual contact with me has affected me throughout my life. The sexual confusion alone is devastating, but there are many more consequences that victims experience because of that distorted belief. Here are a few of mine:

* A sense of chronic failure; 
* The feeling that I have no control over my emotions or my body; 
* Problems making decisions;
* Compulsive behavior.

The best thing that has happened is gaining the understanding that I did not cause the abuse—not any of it. I participated at some level because I didn’t know that it was abuse or that I was being taken advantage of.

I was a child. I didn’t understand what was happening. It was not my fault.

Managing Our Triggers (Part 8 of 8)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

"How does my speaking up help others?"

We’ve talked about triggers and how they work; we’ve learned to trace our triggers back to their root using a 4-question process; we’re learning to manage our triggers rather than allowing them to control us.

We can use our growth to help other survivors. As we make ourselves known, we encourage other men to say, "Me, too."

We need to become sensitive to opportunities. We also need courage in the midst of a conversation to say, "I’m an abuse survivor, and I’ve learned . . ." "My childhood was terrible." "I come from an abusive past." "I was deeply damaged as a child." "I’m learning to overcome the abuse in my childhood."

Each time we speak, the abuse has less hold on us.

If I let others know I’m an abuse survivor, 
I might open the door for others to say, "Me too."


Managing Our Triggers (Part 7 of 8)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

"Can I help others manage their triggers?"

We can’t give away what we don’t have. As we manage our triggers by tracing them back to their origins, we can lead others through the process we’ve learned.

As we learn to manage, we need to help others. With 1 in 6 males (possibly 1 in 3) having been sexually abused before the age of 18, we won’t have to look very far. However, most of those survivors are locked in silence. Although unaware, they're still trapped in the abuse.

We need to give them the courage to open up, to let us know who they are. We speak to them. If we're courageous, we shatter their silence.

As we practice managing our triggers (going through the 4-question process), our courage increases. We sense victory and a new level of healing, and we help others by speaking up.

Speaking up is a powerful way I can fight against the evil of sexual abuse. 

Research Help Needed


My name is Angela Komar and I am working on my bachelor's thesis. I am looking for adult male survivors of female-perpetrated childhood sexual abuse; if you would be interested in being interviewed either by email, phone, instant message, face-to-face, or Skype please contact me at AKomarCASA@gmail.com and I will provide the letter of consent and answer any questions. This project has been approved by the Colorado College IRB. Feel free to visit my blog: http://adultmalecsa.blogspot.com/

Managing Our Triggers (Part 6 of 8)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

"How do I get better at identifying my triggers?"

Memorize and use the four questions. Think of a time you felt fearful or anxious. Work your way back to the original trigger-producing incident. Sometimes you can’t get back to the origin, but go as far back as you can. Pick another instance and go through the process again. Then again. Try it with emotions such as guilt and shame.

You can also do it with positive experiences. Think of an occasion when you felt extremely happy. Ask the four questions and see if you can get back to the first time you felt that way. Similar experiences may produce happy feelings in you. Try it with other emotions such as feeling excited, thrilled, peaceful, content, or satisfied.

A friend says, "Practice makes permanent." If we practice identifying what we’re feeling, and we trace our triggers backward, we can manage those triggers rather than allow them to manage us.

The more I practice tracing my triggers back to their origins, 
the better I’ll become at identifying triggers when they occur.

Managing Our Triggers (Part 5 of 8)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

"Can I really discover the root of that trigger?"

It takes practice. The more you practice asking the four questions, the better you are at stopping your thoughts after the initial emotional reflex.

Let's say I’m at a party and I’ve been introduced to someone. I feel uncomfortable. The stranger seems pleasant, but my anxiety expands. I excuse myself. The fear subsides.

What am I feeling and what just happened? I’m afraid. I met a stranger. When have I felt that way before? It happens occasionally when I meet someone new. When do I remember that first feeling? In early childhood when I met one of my perpetrators.

The person at the party reminded me of the perpetrator. That could also be a warning. The person might be dangerous, perhaps an abuser.

We can manage our triggers; If we don’t they’ll manage us.

If I continue to work at it, 
I may be able to trace a trigger back to its origin.

Managing Our Triggers (Part 4 of 8)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

"Once I know my triggers, how do I deal with them?"

When we're triggered, our reactions are automatic. We can’t stop reflex reactions, but we can learn to manage what happens next.

For example, I walk into a room filled with people I haven't met. I become self-conscious, because I feel as if everyone is staring at me.

What am I feeling and what just happened? I’m feeling nervous. I walked into a room where I didn’t know anyone. When have I felt this way before? When I entered a new environment. When was the first time I felt that way? I was about four years old at a department store with a female perpetrator. What happened the first time I felt that way? She knelt down beside me and said, "The world isn't a safe place. Stay close to me. I’ll protect you."

What was the trigger? Entering a place where I don’t know anyone. When I am triggered that way, I still hear my perpetrator’s message again. If I realize that, I can learn to see things from a different perspective. Being able to identify the trigger can derail the emotion train.

I don’t have to let my triggers rule and force me to relive my abuse. 
I can learn to unplug the "trigger train."

Goliath Won

After his sentence on October 9, 2012, Jerry Sandusky wrote a letter to Judge Cleland in which he compared his court trial with the biblical encounter of David and Goliath. "I was supposed to be David but failed to pick up the slingshot. Goliath won . . . "

He's right—Goliath won.

However, Sandusky was Goliath—a giant—when he abused those small boys, who didn't have slingshots and stones with which to fight. He won again when he denied his guilt. A third win was the re-victimizing of those boys in court when they were forced to recount their molestation in front of strangers and doubters.

No one knows how many little Davids suffered because of that one overpowering giant. But a few finally picked up slingshots. With tears and deep-seated anguish, those brave Davids testified about their abuse. And the jury believed them. The words at the sentencing make it clear that Judge Cleland believed it was time to punish Goliath.

For a few of us, there is justice.

But what about the cost to those once-innocent children? Those survivors again faced shame, rejection, pain, as well as criticism and denial for justice to prevail.

Managing Our Triggers (Part 3 of 8)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

"How do I discover my triggers?"

I suggest we ask ourselves these 4 questions: 

1. What am I feeling and what just happened?

2. When have I felt this way before?

3. When was the first time I felt that way?

4. What happened the first time I felt that way?

Here’s how this plays out. At a restaurant, an older man stares at me. Immediately I drop my head. Suddenly I feel nervous or anxious. I’ve been triggered, but if I’m not aware, I may feel uneasy for hours.

What am I feeling and what just happened? I’m feeling anxious and scared. An older man stared at me.

When have I felt this way before? I felt that way when an older man stared at me.

When was the first time I felt that way? When I was inside an older man’s house.

What happened the first time I felt that way? This older man called me to the back of the house and stared at me. Then he abused me.

Isolating how I feel and tracing it back to the first time I felt that way 
can help me identify the trigger.

Managing Our Triggers (Part 2 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

"How do I discover my triggers?" 

A definition of the word trigger from dictionary.com reads: Anything as an act or event that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions.

The definition says anything can become a trigger—a look, word, situation, a scene from a movie or TV show, a song, noise, smell, or the tone of voice.

". . . initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions." It’s not the initial reaction, but the subsequent ones that create the problem. If we don’t know we’ve been triggered, our emotions spiral downward and take us into depression or despair.

When we experience sudden, strong anger, anxiety, sadness, or fear that is out of proportion with what is happening, we’ve likely been triggered.

If my emotions are out of proportion with the circumstances, 
I may have been triggered.

Managing Our Triggers (Part 1 of 8)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

"What is a trigger?"

I was sexually abused between the ages of 3 and 6. It profoundly affected me by skewing my view of self, the world, and God. The abuse conditioned me to feel a certain way when certain things happened.

Here is an example. One of my perpetrators was female. She sometimes became angry and violent during the abuse. To this day, when a woman gets angry, I react strongly. Fear, or sometimes terror, instantly wells up in me. Anxiety isn't far behind. Those emotions control my mind and behavior.

The fear response operates like a reflex—involuntary and immediate—because a woman's anger originally triggered it.

As abuse survivors, it’s important we understand our triggers and how they work. As we become more aware of our abuse-victim-reflexes, we can respond differently when the reflex hits. Knowing what triggers us can aid greatly in our healing.

As I discover what triggers me, I can choose to respond differently.

Waiting to Exhale

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

One of the effects of my abuse has been the feeling of holding my breath inside. Because sexual addiction was a huge result of abuse in my life, I didn’t think I could breathe unless I was acting out the brokenness inflicted upon me through sexual molestation. I found my deepest worth in being used by a man. When that wasn’t happening, I didn’t feel I was breathing.

A therapist related my need to be abused to people who cut themselves. I’m not an expert on cutting, but my therapist said that cutters seem to feel as I did, existing miserably between periods of cutting themselves. He indicated they feel like they can’t breathe until they cut. Once they cut, they feel temporary relief, then all the self-loathing returns. That described me.

I lived for years holding my breath between acting out sexually online or with others as a result of my abuse. If I wasn’t engaging in my addiction I was thinking about it. My life revolved around secrets and shame, knowing that I wasn’t being the man I should be or wanted to be. I understand men who are living a double life and who often become suicidal because of the depths of pain and shame.

Yet the more I've come to understand that abuse wasn’t my fault and that I was victimized by older men, the closer I come to finding wholeness in my life.

I'm learning to breathe on my own and not just exist until acting out my addiction. I understand that my thoughts and feelings are often irrational and overwhelming and that I have to have safety precautions built into my life to help me to overcome them.

Learning to breathe emotionally is a function of the knowledge of being part of a caring community. Knowing I am a survivor is a great step, but I need support and understanding to overcome the abuse.

One day at a time I learn to take a breath, exhale, take a breath, and then exhale. I no longer have to act out my brokenness in order to breathe.

I’m no longer waiting to exhale.

Separation Anxiety

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

Sexual abuse began so early in my life that I missed the chance to become my own person in the way that I should have at an early age. My initial identity was formed as someone who existed to bring another a sick pleasure.

The secret use of my body to satisfy someone older and bigger was the first place that I felt valued as a human being and that identity stuck to me like hot glue. Fortunately for me, I have come to know that that was only a false identity and not the real me.

Babies and small children often suffer through what we know as separation anxiety. Having been so close to the mother in the womb and at the breast results in fear and anxiety when infants experience separation. I have experienced a different form of separation anxiety as I have faced the reality that the early identity formed in me on was the wrong one. Or worse, that it was forced on me by my abusers. I became an object and not a human to them and then to myself.

My abuse stretched out over many years, and I was acting it out in multiple bisexual relationships primarily as the sex-slave of others. I lived to pleasure others and took that role because it was the only thing I knew. I was the powerless one and the partner always the strong one. It was sheer hell in so many ways, even though I thought I wanted this. I didn’t know that I was living out the wrong identity for many years after the abuse. Eventually, truth broke through.

I've spent many years untangling the effects of abuse. I've made great strides in separating myself from the false identity forced on me and in developing the real me, the man who has power over my own mind and body. This causes anxiety at times when I seem to fall back into old patterns of thinking. Like a baby, I don’t know who I am apart from the abuse that "mothered" me in many ways. But with each day I find that I won’t die becoming the real me.

I will live and I will live well.

Shadow Boxing

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

One of the strange things about surviving sexual abuse is that it never quite feels like I’ve survived it. I have to remind myself quite often that the abuse was in the past and isn't happening to me today. However, having suffered so much in my childhood resulted in a nasty case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that went undiagnosed for more than thirty years. I’ve realized that this is why I keep shadow boxing with the memories and feelings of being abused long into adulthood.

Someone older and bigger abused me. The size and age differential were massive and caused me to live my life in fear of other men. When I walked into a room or drove down the street, any man I saw was bigger and more powerful than I was, even if they really weren’t.

In business meetings the other men had advantages over me because I thought of myself as weaker than them. Even women were stronger and more powerful, especially if they seemed to be "together" or strong-minded.

One of the most difficult things I've wrestled with as an abuse survivor is realizing that these thoughts and feelings are irrational. They're the shadows of the past, the specters of abuse that rendered me powerless and feeling that I'm less than the man I really am. I struggle with continually giving my power away to other people, especially men, even if they have no advantage over me.

There's no way to win at shadow boxing. The shadows are real; they have no real power. As I continue to overcome my abuse, one of my greatest strengths is to realize that shadow boxing is useless. When I realize that I am caught up in an irrational thought pattern or feeling, I stop, surrender to God, and claim for myself the true freedom of who I am at this moment.

The Long Road to Forgiveness

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

I was ten years past the physical abuse before a therapist explained that I had been abused. I thought all little boys did the kinds of things I did with family members in secret times and hidden places. It never dawned on me that what was happening to me was wrong, though somewhere deep inside me I felt dirty and knew I couldn’t talk about it to anyone. I actually thought that was normal.

Now thirty years beyond the abusive behavior of my relatives, I realize that the struggle to forgive them is like a giant mountain I can’t imagine being able to climb.

They abused me.

They should have known better; they shouldn't have done it. I've paid an enormous price in my life for their horrible actions. There are times I have hated them for what they did.

The big problem is that resentment and hatred fueled my emotional distress, addiction, and dysfunction. Carrie Fisher once said, "Resentment is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die."

Forgiveness means so much more for me than it does for my abusers, but it seems so counterintuitive to do it and almost impossible considering the damage they did to me.

For now, I take it a day at a time. Two of my abusers have passed away, and that releases me from the fear of having to see them again in this life. I sometimes try to imagine them standing before God as the men they should have been all along.

I know they have to reckon with him one way or another. I am responsible only for myself and for the kind of life I choose to lead. Forgiveness for me is like traveling on a giant mountain or a long road. I can live successfully by taking it one step at a time.

Lasting Effects


The impact of sexual abuse can be devastating and it is long lasting. Because you were a child, and you were victimized by someone—and most of the time it was someone you trusted.

The first thing you need to know is this: The sexual abuse was not your fault. You may even be told that you did something wrong, but that person lied. You were a victim; you were an innocent child.

Most of the adult survivors with whom I've talked told me that they grew up feeling something was wrong with them. They believed they caused the abuse and blamed themselves.

You may have tried to talk about the molestation and no one listened. Until recent years, too many adults refused to acknowledge that such things occurred. If that happened to you, you have probably felt inadequate, embarrassed, isolated, guilty, shameful, and powerless. Then you probably reacted by suppressing this as a shameful secret.

For example, I was once involved with a men's group. One member, Greg, said that when he was seven, he wanted to tell his mother that his own father was sexually abusing him. One night at dinner, he said, "Daddy has been pulling down my pants and doing bad things to me."

"Eat your dinner," his mother said.

His two siblings said nothing; Dad continued to eat. That was the last time Greg opened his mouth about his abuse until he was thirty-one years old. That's when he joined a group of survivors of male sexual assault.

Research now affirms the link between the abuse and the effects. Each of us needs to be able to admit that the long-term effects are powerful and include poor self-esteem, difficulty trusting others, anxiety, feelings of isolation, self-injury and self-mutilation, eating disorders, sleep problems, depression, self-destructive tendencies, sexual maladjustment, and substance abuse.

(This post comes from the Shattering the Silence archives, 5/7/10.)

Moving Beyond the Abuse


"It's the past. Forget it and move on," my youngest brother, Chuck, said to me. We had both been sexually assaulted by the same person. He didn't admit being sexually molested, but he didn't deny it either. On the few occasions when I tried to talk to him about it, his answer was, (1) "You can't undo the past," (2) "We don't have to think about those things," or (3) "That stuff happened back then." His words implied that we need only to forget the past, leave it behind, and it's gone.

If only it were that simple.

Chuck died after years of trying to cure his pain through alcohol. I don't know if the pain he tried to medicate was the abuse, but I suspect it was. On rare occasions when he was drunk, he made oblique references to "that mess in childhood."

Outwardly, Chuck wanted to get past the sexual molestation and get on with his life. So why didn't he "move on" with his life?

I had a second brother named Mel, also an alcoholic. He was married five times and died of cirrhosis at age 48. Unlike Chuck, Mel wouldn't talk about our childhood. "There's nothing back there to talk about," was the most he ever said.

I write about my two brothers because both of them seemed determined to get past the abuse of childhood by forgetting, denying, or ignoring. That approach doesn't work.

We don't forget—not really. We don't forget because childhood abuse affects our lives and shapes our attitudes about people and relationships. Some guys want to hurry and get over it, but it's not something to get over and to move on.

Abuse happened to us. Until we accept it and face what it has done to our lives, we don't really move forward. We only live unhealed lives.

(This post comes from the Shattering the Silence archives, 5/4/10)

Control

(This blog post comes from Bill Christman.)

The priest raped me and I couldn't do anything about it. After that, unconsciously, I decided I wouldn't ever allow anyone to control me again. For example, my mom's new husband, a captain in the military, told my brother and me to use sir or ma'am when addressing them. That resulted in my negative responses such as swearing, yelling, or obvious indifference—whatever it took to stop it and give me control. Throughout my life, whenever I perceived being controlled in any way, I reacted angrily. Verbally at first, physically if that didn't work.

Many times it was my mistaken perception of what someone was doing or saying, such as a man's friendly gesture of touching me on the shoulder and saying hello. My fear of being controlled brought out my dark side.

Bill Christman is the author of Forgiving the Catholic Church: Finding Justice for the Abused and Abusers (WinePress Publishing, 2012).

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 8 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

Guilt often triggers shame in my life. 

Shame has been debilitating. For a long time, it kept me imprisoned by firing the same, crushing messages through my brain and heart.

"You’re worthless," Shame said. "You caused the abuse. You deserved it. You’re damaged goods. You’re the problem. You’ll never be a real man."

Shame whispers, "So what hope have you today? Really, none. You’ll go through the motions, hoping for something better. But it’ll never get better, because you’re the problem. It’s your fault."

"Really?" I say back to Shame. "I think not. You will not rule my thoughts, my motives, my actions, or my relationships. I’ll confront you whenever I sense your presence.

"You came from outside me and through the abuse. You’re not mine. I don’t want you. Take a hike. Yeah, I know you’ll keep coming back, but I’ll be right here, ready to stand against you. I’ll outlast you, and eventually you’ll have to go."

I can stand firm against shame’s onslaught. 
This is a battle I’m determined to win.

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 7 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

Guilt is like an octopus, thrusting forth its tentacles to snatch and destroy. In my life, one of the most powerful tentacles has been shame.

Shame. The abuse planted that emotion deep inside my heart. People and events weren't at fault. I was wrong; the problem was me. That's what I learned from shame.

Like a microchip implanted inside my brain, shame fired up at the slightest stimulus. Something went wrong and the abuse happened again, or I made a mistake and was punished. I was the problem.

I fled inside myself. When I couldn’t hide, I tried to justify my existence with achievements. All the time, shame was there, whispering its lies into my ears. Shame also isolated me from healthy relationships.

I’m done with shame. It didn't originate with me. It’s not mine. Shame belongs to my perpetrators.

I return shame to where it belongs. I no longer allow it roam my mind and heart unchallenged. I call it out. "Shame, that’s your voice speaking, not mine. No thanks."

As I challenge shame’s power over me, 
 I can experience freedom and connect with others. 

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 6 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

In my life, the guilt monster will often succeed through fear. Fear is all around me. The sexual abuse injected it deep into my being. Fear speaks to me in many ways.

* "Ah, here's another day. You can count on me. I’ll be with you every step."

* "Come on. Get it right. Make sure nothing bad happens. Be prepared. Protect yourself."

* "You know what can happen if you don’t fix the problems and the people who have them."

* "It might happen again."

Fear is a natural reflex for me and is one of the major lenses through which I see life. No wonder. Given what happened, it makes sense.

But to let fear rule is to stay stuck with the effects of the abuse. I refuse to do that. Owning up to my fears and feeling them helps. When I can name my fears, I begin to recognize them in daily life. If I can see them as they surface, I can move forward and refuse to allow them to determine my decisions.

If I can name my fears, I can learn to recognize them. 
If exposed, they have less hold on me.

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 5 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

In a previous post, I described guilt as an octopus, seeking to capture and choke me. It has many tentacles. Anger is one. Fear is another.

As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, fear became my frequent companion. It skewed my world.

Fear became a strong influencer of my thoughts and the prime motivator of my behavior. I tried to become invisible whenever I could by not calling attention to myself or withdrawing from the crowds. When that wasn’t possible, I turned into a performing circus animal, trying desperately either to please or prove my right to exist through flawless achievement.

I couldn't rest. I couldn't have fun. I was hyper-alert, waiting for the next blow. I was a prisoner.

Is there a way out? I’m not sure. But I do believe strongly there is a way through. I can’t stop fear from coming, but I no longer have to let it rule unchallenged.

I can’t stop fear from coming, but I don't have to let it rule my heart.

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 4 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

In my case, guilt can lead to anger. Anger is powerful. It often lurks unnoticed deep inside me. If I can learn to feel it, it will have less power over me.

Here is what anger says to me:

* "Don’t worry about me. I’m not really here. You feel down today. You’re irritable. You’re never content. You never will be."

* "Yep, it’s your fault. And whatever’s not your fault is someone else’s fault."

* "Keep driving. Keep working. Never rest. Never, ever be completely alone with your thoughts. Run. Stuff me inside."

* "Yes, you were abused, a victim of an evil crime. But don’t think about that, and don’t feel it. Above all, remember, I’m not here."

Oh, no. Anger, I know you’re here. I choose to accept you, and not be controlled by you. Perhaps I’ll learn from you some things I need to know. Maybe I can turn you around and use you to help me heal.

My anger is real. I can learn to accept it, and heal.

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 3 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

Guilt is a monster. I like to think of it as an octopus. The problem is guilt, but it has many tentacles that seek to attach and squeeze the life out of me. For me, one of those tentacles is anger.

Why did this happen to me? At times, the anger boils in me. But often I don’t allow myself to feel it.

I have reason to be angry. No adult should do such a thing to a child, especially family members who are supposed to be trustworthy. I wasn’t allowed to get angry. Severe punishment was promised if I did. So I stuffed it.

And I kept on stuffing it.

I stuffed the anger leaks. I withdrew deep inside myself. I drove myself relentlessly in school and athletics. I turned my angst inward—on myself.

I couldn’t hold anger in all the time. I blamed myself when I couldn’t hold any more inside. Or I blamed others. Too often, I didn’t know I was angry and needed to feel it.

The abuse happened. It was wrong. A crime. Evil. Anger is a natural, appropriate response. If I can learn to feel it in healthy ways, it will have less hold on me.

Anger is a natural response to abuse. 
I can learn to feel my anger and deal with it.

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 2 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

I know the abuse wasn't my fault. At least, I think it wasn’t. See, there I go again because I’ve been conditioned to feel guilty.

In the morning Guilt says, "Time to get going, you slouch. Yeah, you work hard, but you never seem to get it right, do you? If you were okay, things would go smoothly. Now get out and there and be perfect."

Guilt speaks throughout the day: "You failed again. You messed up here. You missed it there. If you would get it right, I would go away and you could enjoy peace."

At bedtime Guilt proclaims, "You’ve done it again, buddy. I hope you still feel me sitting on your shoulder, because I’m here. Better luck tomorrow. I’ll be waiting for you."

Guilt was thrust upon me by my perpetrators. I couldn’t resist it at the time, but I can now. I can tell Guilt to take a hike. I can’t stop it from knocking, but I don’t have to let it unpack its lethal suitcase.

Guilt is a liar. I don’t have to believe him.

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 1 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I find myself constantly battling with guilt. I know the abuse was not my fault. So why did I still feel guilty?

At the time, I was a young child. I couldn’t stop what was happening to me. I wasn’t mature enough to reason it out and make sense of it. Actually, it didn’t make sense. The only thing I knew to do was take responsibility. Surely, this must be my fault. I must have messed up and caused this. I could have stopped this, or prevented it if I had only. . ..

That's not true. I was powerless. Adults exercised their power and took advantage of me. I was a victim.

Part of the evil, insidious nature of abuse is that it conditioned me to take responsibility for the feelings and actions of others. I still find myself apologizing for things that weren't my fault. It’s hard for me to detach my emotions and say, "That’s his decision. That’s about him. It’s not about me."

Abuse was the decision of my perpetrators. 
It was not my choice.

I Survived

(This blog post comes from Dr. Loren Due.)

My journey from childhood sexual abuse hasn't been easy. I survived, but more important, I am thriving. By sharing with others, others can learn that change and victorious living are possible. I thrive because I am inspired to help others make the changes necessary to experience the joy of doing what they were placed on this planet to do.

For most of my life, I was suspicious and isolated. I was shy, and even though people would say I was "cute," I never felt attractive. Even today when people say I don't look my age, I sometimes have trouble accepting the compliment. Although they say I'm handsome, I believe they're interested only in the money I earn. They only reason I look the way I do is because through all the drugs and sex I've experienced in my lifetime, God has kept me; I'm blessed to be alive.

—excerpted by permission from Teddy Bear: Stolen Innocence! by Dr. Loren Due, (Dr. Due Books, 2009), page 50.

My Past

(This post comes from Dr. Loren Due. He is a survivor of sexual abuse and this is his reflection on his life.)

One of the key lessons I learned is that the negative experiences of the past were turned into seeds of benefit that continue to bless me.

I decided early on that I would not be like my father, no matter what. . . .

While raising my son, I made the decision to support him and be strategically involved in all he did. I was active in my son's school life, making sure his teachers and administrators knew me. I volunteered my time for school activities and made sure I attended his games (basketball, football, and soccer) from elementary school through college no matter what was happening in my life. I missed only two games in sixteen years.

The kindest comment my son made to my current wife was that he felt I was the best dad he could ever ask for. It's such a joy when I give him a big hug and he responds. Through all my foolishness, he always knew I loved him.

—excerpted by permission from Teddy Bear: Stolen Innocence! by Dr. Loren Due, (Dr. Due Books, 2009), pages 46–47.

The Victim Is Never at Fault

(This blog post comes from Dr. Loren Due.)

Often the abuser will blame the victim for the abuse, but the victim is never at fault. This is particularly true for victims between birth and age 18.

When sexual perversion is unwanted physical or mental activity, enjoyed by the abuser but not consented to by the abused, how can the victim possibly be at fault?

The reasons for incest may seem different when we view each specific case, but let us not forget that the underlying reason for any sexual perversion is that the perpetrator's flesh has overwhelmed his spirit.

The most common reason for incest is that abuser—a parent or peer for the victim—more than likely was also a victim of sexual perversion. He or she did not find the healing and deliverance needed.

Parents who have not recovered from sexual abuse in their own lives are unable to provide healthy guidance within the family.

—excerpted by permission from Shhh . . . Don't Say a Word About This! by Dr. Loren Due, (Dr. Due Books, 2009), page 18.

Hope for the Perpetrator

(This blog post comes from Dr. Loren Due.)

Often people who have sexually assaulted another person live in great fear: not recognizing why they do ugly, vicious, hateful things but realizing that they cannot control themselves . . . .

Perpetrators, too, deal with pain of loss because until exposed, they must live in a make-believe world of being normal, when they know they are not behaving normally. As a result, they lose their self-respect. When they are exposed they stand to lose their freedom, their livelihood, and their future. They bear an underlying guilt and shame, often when they make excuses, cast blame, or try to live in denial of their horrific thoughts and deeds.

Nevertheless, there is hope for those individuals as well, if they are willing to acknowledge their lack of self-control and face up to the consequences of their actions.

—excerpted by permission from Shhh . . . Don't Say a Word About This! by Dr. Loren Due, (Dr. Due Books, 2009), pages 13.

Freedom

(This post comes from Dr. Loren Due.)

A victim of sexual abuse often is held captive by a myriad of negative reactions that, left unchanged, can ruin his life.

These entrapments can include:

* fear (that the victim is now painted as a target for further abuse),

* anger and bitterness (unforgiving anger that seeds a bitterness that will grow to be devastating if not dealt with),

* pain of loss (the anguish of knowing that something pure and precious has been taken from him,

* unfounded guilt (blaming oneself, or having others blame the victim, for what he had no control over),

* hopelessness (that the victim will never again be normal, pure or worthy to live a healthy life), or

* actual guilt (because the victim believes that his behavior, manner of dress, body language, or spoken comments may have contributed to his victimization).

· —excerpted by permission from Shhh . . . Don't Say a Word About This! by Dr. Loren Due, (Dr. Due Books, 2009), page 11.

Role Reversal

(This post comes from Dr. Loren Due.)

Too often in sexual abuse, the roles reverse and the abused is considered the guilty party, while the abuser blames the victim. One reason for this ambiguity is that people who exhibit perverted behavior do not necessarily become perpetrators by choice but because of being victimized in the past.

I cannot stress enough the following statement on this absolute truth: The abused is never the reason for the abuse, no matter how much the abuser blames the victim.

—excerpted by permission from Shhh . . . Don't Say a Word About This! by Dr. Loren Due, (Dr. Due Books, 2009), page 10.

Innocence Lost

(This post comes from Dann Youle.)

I've always wondered why the victim feels responsible for the damage done by sexual abuse. I felt responsible because I had no control over my innocence being taken from me. It wasn’t something I gave up freely.

In my own story and in the stories I know of other men who have been sexually abused, the guilt seems to come from realizing we suddenly "know too much!" The guilt that I accepted kept me from talking to anyone, or realizing that there were possibly safe adults I could talk to.

A key which helped me overcome my sense of guilt was to realize that I wasn’t the one who was tempted to do something that went against the laws of nature or God’s laws; something abusive was done to me. By realizing that truth in my journey of seeking healing from the damage of the abuse over the past 12 years, it’s easier and easier to believe that it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done differently.

A huge defining moment, back in October 2000, was when visiting my grandfather’s grave. As I wept and spoke words of forgiveness and healing (for my benefit), I had a new ache in my heart considering the pain he had probably endured in his life, pain that very well could’ve originated from his own loss of innocence.

I’ve also considered how my own abuse isn’t an excuse for actions that I’ve taken because of my own brokenness and need for healing—actions that were abusive and hurtful to others. While I’ve never sexually abused anyone, I know I’ve acted out of my own pain and I have hurt those I love the most.

In spite of my lost innocence, there is healing and restoration that comes from accepting the truth that we all have hurt. The pain in our lives is that we lost our innocence, whether given or taken away. If people can still love me in spite of that, who am I to withhold love, grace, and forgiveness when I’ve been wronged?

In that knowledge and strength, I find my own innocence restored because I extend grace to others.

"I Just Dealt with It."

The eighth young man, a recent high-school graduate, was the last prosecution witness to testify in the Jerry Sandusky trial. When questioned by the defense lawyer, he said, "I just dealt with it."

I doubt it.

Or maybe he did—the way many of us dealt with our molestation. We struggled inwardly. We tried to deny it happened. We determined not to talk about it and thus we'd forget. None of those strategies worked.

So we didn't deal with it. But we tried.

And we tried.

And too many are "just dealing with it" even now.

It takes courage to speak up about our abuse and to let the world see that we were victimized by older, larger people. We didn't expect to be believed as children; why should we expect to be believed after 10 or 40 years?

But some—like that 18-year-old boy and the others who have testified in the trial—have come into the open. They've told their story.

And many of us believed them.

"I just dealt with it."

I hope I never have to hear another survivor say those words.

"I Wish I Were Dead."

"I wish I were dead."

An investigator in the Jerry Sandusky trial claims he overheard those words as well as statements about being sorry.

Those words didn't come from an accuser; they came from the mouth of Sandusky himself. The statements ring true. As a survivor, I believe the testimonies of the boys who have spoken against the one-time hero and humanitarian.

The investigator stated Sandusky also said he was sorry, but in the news flash on CNN, there were no details. I truly hope the accused man said—and meant—those words.

Why wouldn't the former coach hate himself? Why wouldn't he wish to be dead instead of facing up to his crimes? This is the day of reckoning to fit the words of Moses, who cried out, "Be sure your sin will find you out."

What must it feel like to be faced with the accusing voices of several boys whose lives he ruined? No matter how self-deceptive he may be or how many lies he's told himself, why wouldn't he want to be dead? Why would he want to be publicly maligned?

Sandusky's reputation is gone and he's lost fame and respect. He'll probably face civil suits as well. Who will remember the good things he did and the people he helped? Because I believe he is guilty, I also believe he deserves punishment.

Despite that, I feel sorry for Sandusky—and I may be one of the few survivors who does. Like many predators, he must despise himself for the damage, self-hatred, and shame he brought to those young boys. How must it feel to be so addicted to children that he did it year after year after year? Even after authorities attempted to intervene in 1998.

So he continued and everybody loses. Those boys—now adults—will probably spend the rest of their lives trying to heal. For some of those survivors, this is a long-yearned for opportunity for help.

I hope Sandusky will spend his remaining years repenting over his actions.

He probably does wish he were dead.

"Who Would Believe Kids?"

"Who would believe kids?"

I read those words in the newspaper as part of the testimony of a then-12-year-old boy who testified in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial.

Since then, I've pondered those words.

It's strange how it works with parents. We know those overly protective parents who believe anything their children say and become angry over the slightest injustice they suspect someone has done to their precious child.

It's the other kind of family that troubles me. "Who would believe kids?" That's the cry of a child in pain, a boy who knew he wouldn't be believed and didn't have an adult to stand up for him.

Why wouldn't he ask that question?

His words haunt me because it's a question I might have asked. It didn't occur to me to tell an adult—any adult. I didn't feel anyone cared enough so why would I consider telling? I felt totally alone.

I wonder how many molested kids have asked, "Who would believe kids?"

The Funeral of My Abuser

(This post comes from an anonymous reader.)

My eyes were red and swollen even before we arrived at the church. I had already been crying in the car, not so much for him, but for all that I knew had happened between us so many years before this day. My older brother was just one of four primary abusers in my childhood, but in many ways he was the most damaging to me. And now he was dead.

The swirling emotions I felt as I entered the church were toxic and overwhelming. Family members greeted me with saddened, concerned faces, yet no one seemed as broken as I was, including his widow and children. No one else seemed to be struggling to hold back scalding tears, even though I know that many were genuinely sad that a friend, son, husband, and father they loved was now gone. I had known a completely different person than they had.

Music played softly on the sound system. I tried to put on a nice smile and talk with family members and friends, but as I saw the black and white photographs of our childhood years scroll by on the screen in the front of the church I ran down the hall to hide in the kitchen as I sobbed uncontrollably.

Mercifully, the service was brief. I managed to stand and read his obituary and to sing The Lord’s Prayer at the end. I don’t know how I made it through, but I did. It was my “gift” to him, even though I don’t believe God’s will was done “on earth as it is in heaven” in our lives in any way. I don’t believe that big brothers were made to abuse their little brothers.

As the service ended, the tears sprang up again from deep inside. While others dabbed at the corners of their eyes, I sobbed again. My wife stood there and wept with me. She held onto me and whispered, “No one knows. No one knows. You’ve done the hard work. It’s over now.”

I shook a few hands, hugged a few necks, offered a few platitudes, and exited the building. My wife offered to drive but I refused. A few moments later, as I was backing out of the parking space, the sobbing returned—even harder. We changed places and she drove us away from the church. I had said goodbye.

"Why Did He Do That to Me?" (Part 7 of 7)

I can't explain or justify the behavior of those who abused us. I know two former perpetrators and the response I've received from both is that they acted out of an overwhelming need. I'd call it an addiction (many may disagree), but the urge was so compelling they felt powerless to resist.

If that's correct, they struggle with greater internal monsters than we do. Generally, perpetrators are victim-survivors of sexual abuse and carry the pain most of us have experienced. On top of that, they also become victimizers.

I believe our abusers are tormented by their actions. Even though they feel they can't help themselves and find excuses for what they did, they also know they did something terrible. They stole our childhood innocence and brought immeasurable pain into our lives. Consequently, I see them as people in even greater pain than the rest of us.

It took me years to feel that way, but now I've learned compassion toward myself but also toward the abusers. I had to move beyond my own pain before I could understand that those who hurt me were also living in agony.

I don't understand the actions of my abusers; 
I do know they need my compassion.

"Why Didn't God Stop the Abuse?" (Part 6 of 7)

Sometimes the question comes, "Where was God?"

When we ask such questions, we imply that if God is good, nothing bad should happen to us—or at least nothing bad to the innocent. Life just doesn't work that way. I've been reading the Bible for more than 50 years and the promises of God are to be with us in our pain and not to shield us. For example, "Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me" (Psalm 23:4, New Living Translation).

I wish God had protected me during childhood. I hate the pain I've had to go through. Now—after dealing with my issues for years—I can look back and thank God for taking me through those terrible times. He didn't let me give up, and I'm healthier today. However, that's not all: I care about others in their pain because I can feel what they feel.

Too often we forget the purpose of our ordeals. We come out stronger and more sensitive to the needs of others. We can wrap our arms around the hurting because we know how it feels to be hurt.

I don't know why God didn't intervene. 
I do know that I can intervene when others are in pain.

"Why Should I Forgive Those Who Hurt Me?” (Part 5 of 7)

This question comes up regularly, and I could give many answers, but here's one: I forgive because I want to move forward in my healing. That probably sounds like a selfish answer, and it is—but it's also a necessary one.

If I don't forgive, I hold on to my pain and won't let go. As long as I refuse to forgive, I will feel anger, rage, or some kind of negative emotion toward another. Holding on to those feelings holds me back.

I want to make it clear: This is not a demand to forgive. We forgive when we're ready. We are the only ones who can decide on the right time.

I want to forgive my perpetrators 
because I want to be free from my painful past.

"Why Am I Not Healed by Now?" (Part 4 of 7)

After we've been treading up the painful winding path toward wholeness, we look ahead and see how far we have yet to go. It's like hiking up a mountain, and just as we reach the summit, we stare ahead and realize that to reach the destination means we have to keep going to another summit.

"There's always another mountain to climb," I groaned after about a year. Then I remembered the testimonies I used to hear from members of AA. After they told their stories of debauchery and agony, they went on to express the peace and joy they had experienced since their sobriety. Their presentations made it sound as if they had been totally healed.

They weren't healed. Some of them hold up their tokens to proclaim their sobriety. And many of them didn't go back to alcohol. None of them had everything figured out. The best members of AA would say to me that the journey was still one day at a time. The most victorious were able to say they were closer to a healthier life. None of them ever talked about arrival.

If you're agonizing over the journey yet ahead, perhaps you need to pause and look backward.

I can look at how far I've already come. 
I can say, "I haven't arrived, but I'm on the way."

"Why Does It Hurt So Much?" (Part 3 of 7)

Early in my healing process, I asked that question repeatedly. I was hurting and I couldn't understand the reason for the intense pain. I wanted to face the reality of my traumatic childhood, learn from the experience, and move on with my life. But I didn't want the pain, or at least I wanted less of it.

My real question didn't involve why as much as it did how. "How do I get rid of the torment, the painful memories and re-experiencing my childhood trauma?" Like thousands of other survivors, I learned to say those now-clichéd words, "I had to feel the pain to move beyond the pain." As memories trickled back (some exploded), I faced each one. In private, I cried often in those early days; I raged and I yelled at my perpetrators.

In the midst of those rants and tears, I wanted relief. And it did help to vent, but it helped even more to talk to the two people who loved me enough to stay with me in my pain—my wife and my friend David.

What worked for me may not be the path for everyone. We have different temperaments and see life through our personal, unique experiences. If we want healing, each of us needs to find our own way.

I don't want to feel the pain; 
 I remind myself that it won't last. 
The more I heal, the less the pain lingers.

"Why Me? What Did I Do to Deserve This?" (Part 2 of 7)

"Why not you?" I've heard people say. That response lacks compassion.

None of us survivors deserved to be molested. It wasn't our fault; something dreadful was done to us. (The previous sentence is important and I say it often.)

We were needy—but again, that wasn't our fault. We didn't receive the love and affection we deserved and should have had. Our parents may have loved us but they didn't express it or we didn't feel their love.

If we didn't get what we needed from them, we became vulnerable and open to predators who treated us lovingly and gave us attention—but only as a means to take care of their own lust.

Here's an answer that helps me. I was a needy kid and was abused, but now that I'm well into my healing journey, I can help others on their path to wholeness.

I didn't deserve the abuse; 
it wasn't my fault.

The Why Questions (Part 1 of 7)

Many of the emails that come to my personal box ask why in some form. Here's my answer: I don't know. I'm not sure anyone can fully give the reasons behind the queries about pain, injustice, healing, and anguish.

Instead of asking for the reason something happens, it's more healthful to focus on the deeper, perhaps-unasked question.

Here's my major reason for suggesting this: When we ask why, the natural answer is logical and analytical. We may gain information, but we rarely find help because our issues come from multi-layered pain and we want satisfying, emotional responses.

When you want to ask why, 
ask yourself, "What do I really want?"

Lies I've Believed (Part 5 of 5)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

Lie #5: “It’s All My Fault”

Childhood sexual abuse implanted the lie I’m alone deeply into my heart. That lie brought other companions with it: I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, I’m in control, and It’s all my fault.

My perpetrators were adults. They were supposed to know what they were doing. Something must be wrong with me. Maybe I deserved this. I must be to blame. It’s all my fault.

I felt responsible. That exaggerated sense of responsibility spread to other areas of my life. If anything went wrong, I assumed it was my fault and I didn’t do it right.

The truth? The abuse was their fault. I had no part in it and I was the victim.

It’s all my fault? I’m not that powerful. I’m not in control. I’m not God. When something goes wrong, I can consider if I had a part in it, confess, ask forgiveness, and then forgive myself.

I might feel like it’s all my fault, but feelings are not facts.

Now, I believe I’m responsible for some things, but not everything. I’m learning to live that way.

Lies I've Believed (Part 4 of 5)

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)


Lie #4: "I’m in Control"

Because of sexual abuse in early childhood, I grew up infected with a number of lies. The most basic one was I’m alone. Following closely behind were I’m unlovable and I’m a failure. I bought I’m a failure because I believed I’m in control.

The people who should have protected me were my abusers. That left things up to me. If it was going to stop, I had to act. I set out to control my situation and the people around me.

I tried to become very small—invisible, or not attracting notice. When being ignored didn’t work, I was compliant, doing exactly what I was told. If that failed, I’d perform to distract them–sing, dance, or act silly.

I believed it was up to me to keep bad stuff from happening. But I knew that was impossible and that unpleasant things were going to happen. That left me with a sense of despair and failure.

The truth? Only God is in control. I’m in control of what I do with the thoughts that come into my mind. I’m not in control of circumstances, people, or my own instinctual, automatic reactions. I’m not that powerful, but I am very significant.

I might feel that I’m in control, that I’m the man. I’m glad I’m not the man. Feelings are not facts.

I now believe God is in control, not me. I’m learning to live that out.

Lies I've Believed (Part 3 of 5)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

Lie #3: “I’m a Failure.”

As a result of childhood sexual abuse, I bought the lie that I’m alone. That led to another lie: I’m unlovable. Right on the heels of #2 is the lie I’m a failure.

“You’re nothing, boy,” one of my perpetrators said. “You’ll never amount to anything.”

My translation? I’m no good. I’m nothing and less than nothing. I’ll never really succeed (no matter what it looks like). I’m a failure.

Perhaps that's why I became an overachieving student and athlete. I had great success in a number of areas. But I never felt like a success. The performance was never perfect, and there was always the next accomplishment out there waiting.

I believed I’d never really succeed at anything, but thought I must succeed at everything. I believed I was a failure, yet failure was not an option. That’s a vicious cycle, isn't it?

The truth? Only God can define true success. All real success comes from trusting Him. I’ll succeed sometimes. I’ll fail other times. I can learn from those failures and grow.

I may feel like a failure here and there. I’m glad feelings are not facts.

Now I believe I’m a success. I’m learning to live that out.

Lies I've Believed (Part 2 of 5)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

Lie #2: "I'm Unlovable."

The basic lie I believed as a result of my abuse was I’m alone. Following closely is the companion lie, I’m unlovable.

I’m alone. Nobody loves me. Nobody really cares. If they really cared, they wouldn’t have abused me. Because they abused me, there must be something deeply wrong with me. I’m wrong. I’m unlovable. That’s why it happened.

This bothers me because I have the expectation that everyone should like me. Everybody should love me. I’m shocked when they don’t. So I unconsciously set myself up to feel rejected. When someone doesn’t like me, it proves the lie is actually the truth. When I get criticized, rejected, or ignored, see there, it’s just like I thought. Nobody loves me because I’m unlovable.

The truth? God loves me perfectly. People love me imperfectly. And there are people who love me. Not everyone will love or like me. To expect this is to invite disappointment.

At times, I may feel like no one loves me—like I’m unlovable. But if God loves me, that means I’m lovable. I’m glad feelings are not facts.

I now believe I’m lovable. I’m learning to live that out. 

Lies I've Believed

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)


Lie #1: "I'm Alone."

We all have lies we believe, some as a result of the sexual abuse we endured. In my case, the most powerful and basic one is that I’m alone.

The abuse happened in early childhood. My only sibling was already in college. I had no friends my age. Some of the people designated to nurture and protect me were perpetrators. Secrecy was the name of the game. I was isolated. Alone.

I felt alone, and I bought the lie. I created a rich, internal fantasy world in order to survive. I grew quiet and compliant. I began to live out I’m alone.

The truth, of course, is that I’m not alone. God is always with me. There are people who are very involved in my life and want to be. I’m far from alone.

But it’s also true that I feel alone at times. I may feel like no one understands or cares. I’m glad feelings are not facts.

I have a constant companion who wants to be with me. He defines me, not the abuse I endured. I’m victorious when I live the truth I’m not alone.

I no longer believe I’m alone. I’m learning to live that way.

As Sick as Our Secrets

(This post comes from Gary Roe.)

A mentor once told me, “We’re as sick as our secrets.”

Sexual abuse wasn’t the only secret in my family. Deception was also an everyday affair. One of the main goals in our family was to appear better, smarter, and more talented than we really were. We put on a show, but we were fakes.

Fear caused me to pull deep within myself. I was terrified of people. I hardly ever said anything. I began hiding. Keeping secrets became a way of life.

I created my own little world to live in and I was the hero, the rock star, the savior.

It didn’t help that I wasn’t allowed to play with other kids my age. The adult controlled the outside influences. I got used to my rich inner world where I was in control.

The message I was living was clear. When in pain, trust no one. I’m fundamentally alone. My secret life was keeping me from real life.

I repressed the sexual abuse for 40 years. Then the flashbacks started. That secret made me sick. When the silence was shattered, the healing began.

I still wrongly keep some things secret, at times without knowing it. I withhold myself out of fear. I’m tired of faking it. I’m ready to live more in the real world.

Self-Promises

(This comes from Tom Scales, Executive Director of Voice Today.)

While enduring the sexual attacks, many of us made promises to ourselves. That was our way to comfort ourselves. The sad part is that the promises were made when we were too young to understand the true implications.

Our self-promises reflect the invasion of our boundaries and our inability to protect ourselves. They also echo the violation of trust that took place.

What are your promises? Here are common ones.

* I'll never trust anyone.

* I'll never love another person.

* I'll never share my feelings.

* I'll never be vulnerable to anyone.

* I'll use masks to protect my true persona and never take them off.

* I won't let anyone see me cry.

* I'll be in control in every situation.

* I'll be perfect so no one sees the damage in me.

* I'll constantly wear a smile, so no one suspects the depression I hide.

As we heal, we can learn to understand the promises we made to ourselves in the agony and rage of sexual violation. It's not healthy to carry those self-promises because they distort relationships and leave us with impoverished lives.

Intentionally abandoning our self-promises will usually be difficult, but results are worth it. We open ourselves to love, happiness, and intimacy. 

Ring the Bell

(This comes from Tom Scales, Executive Director of Voice Today.)

A friend sent me this quote by Leonard Cohen: "Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I've viewed myself as damaged—not scratched, but seriously life-threateningly damaged. I spent most of my energy covering over the cracks that symbolized the damage. I labored endlessly to hide the cracks and hoped they would disappear. Most times, I was more willing to allow the internal pain, suffering, and anxiety to build to a bursting point rather than allow others to see the cracks in my façade.

The Cohen quote gave me a new perspective. While I was hiding, I didn't realize I was blocking out the sunlight that brings joy into life and makes me a person others desire to be around. By patching over the cracks, I lost the opportunity for the real me to ring out with joyful, healing sounds.

Today, I accept the cracks, large and small, and I feel joy in the resonance my life has in my ability to encourage and support others. Sometimes there are harsh tones that represent the mistakes of life. I pray to learn from them, and not allow them to silence my ring. My tone is distinctive, because I embrace the uniqueness of my own bell. 

I Was Driven

"What drives you?" my editor asked.

I thought it was a strange question and I said, "That's just the way I am." That was as true as I knew how to answer then.

Today I would say, "I was driven by the pain of my abuse. I thought I was worthless. I worked extremely hard—constantly—to prove that I was as good as anyone else."

As of this writing, I have published 126 books in 36 years. That's the evidence of being driven. Was I conscious of that compulsion? Absolutely not. In retrospect I realize that I didn't allow myself to feel tired. For me, to be tired implied that I was lazy because only lazy people complained of being tired.

I still write a great deal, but there is now a difference. Now it's an ingrained habit and I still have a lot of ideas and energy. But I do it from a different place. In the past, it was lazima—a Swahili word. An obligation. Something I had to do.

These days, it's not as much what I do, but the part of me that does it. I love to write. I enjoy the hours in front of my computer. But I can also stop working at 4:00 in the afternoon or take off Saturday and Sunday without guilt—something I couldn't do a decade ago.

I was driven; 

today I do the driving and enjoy the scenery.

The Tormenting Effects

(This came "from R who hails from West Texas.")

Sexual abuse is one of the worst torments any male can undergo. Abuse attacks us physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

Someone called us the emotionally dead who are trying to resurrect ourselves, which is impossible.

We're still learning the effects and repercussions of our abuse. Every time I think I'm almost healed, I learn something new about myself—something connected with my abuse.

I want to rid myself of all the hurts and the pains.

Maybe someday I will.

Maybe. Even if I don't, I'll be healthier and stronger.

Effects of Abuse

I watched the second half of a TV program on sexual abuse and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Here are a few of the facts I remember:

* Sexually molested boys are four times more at risk for injecting themselves with drugs.

* Abused boys have more sexual relations with anal penetration—without protection against STDs.

* They're more likely to prostitute themselves than nonabused boys.

* They contract STDs twice as often as nonabused.

The TV program referred to them as a subgroup who were highly at risk for HIV and AIDS.

As I watched, I thanked God that I wasn't part of that subgroup. I also thought of the well-known proverb, "But for the grace of God, there go I."

Trying to Remember

"I keep trying to remember," he said. "I know something happened, but I can't remember exactly what it was." That's not uncommon.

I've written a number of times about my abuse from an old man named Mr. Lee. I know he abused me. I remember his inviting me into his room, putting me on his lap, and laying my hands on his hairy chest. But I can't tell you what happened after that.

For a time I tried hard to recall the details, but they didn't come. I finally decided that they were too horrendous for me to accept. That sounds simple to me now, but it was frustrating then. I wanted to know.

Or did I?

What I truly wanted to know was the certainty that I had been molested. Because I couldn't recapture the intimate details, for a time doubts filled my mind. Am I making this up? Is this my imagination at work?

So much has happened since those days but two things stand out. First, even though I didn't have the so-called smoking gun of full, intact memories, I had the effects of the abuse. Second, when I finally talked to my three sisters, they confirmed several facts about the abuse.

If I don't remember details, 

it's because I probably can't handle the details.

Trying to Forget

"I just wanted to forget," Mal said. "But it didn't work. Even when I tried to push everything away, my memories insisted on remembering."

We don't forget. Not really. We don't remember everything—and blot out the most horrendous events. But something remains to remind us.

Sometimes trying to forget causes us emotional pain by re-experiencing abuse, or we have difficulty in sleeping. Some speak of frequent nightmares. We become hyper-vigilant. We're anxious or we become sexually dysfunctional. The list is probably endless and certainly varies among us.

We're not meant to forget by pushing away from the memories. The only way I know to truly get beyond the pain of our past is to face what happened. Accept it, and find ways to move on.

I'm a serious Christian and, for me, prayer has been my best therapy. I prayed daily to face whatever I needed to know and to have the courage not to deny my pain.

I've largely forgotten my pain—not the memories themselves—but the deep, searing hurt of those experiences. It's like the time I had serious dental surgery. I know the needle shooting me with Novocain hurt, but I endured that because I wanted the results.

I remember sitting in the dental chair and can tell you many details, but I don't feel pain. That's what we strive for in our healing from sexual abuse.

We don't ever want to forget that it happened to us; 
we do want to forget the pain of the abuse.