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.

Courage to Heal

(By John Joseph*)

The recovery process is an active one that demands a lot from me. It isn’t a passive progression that happens on its own—I must be a daily, and often aggressive, participant. I don’t like that, but it is true.

To deny my responsibility to pursue wholeness in the areas of my broken soul is to give my past power to destroy me through addiction, depression, and shame.

Am I going to let that happen?

The terrible truth is that there’s something in me that works against me. Call it my “addict," my “disease,” my “inner child,” or the “devil." Its name doesn’t matter. It's still out to take me down in any way it can.

John Mayer wrote some poignant lyrics about this in his song Gravity:
Gravity is working against me
And gravity wants to bring me down
Oh I'll never know what makes this man
With all the love that his heart can stand
Dream of ways to throw it all away[1]
How many of us survivors have found ourselves on the edge of the emotional cliff, ready to jump off again? How many times have we acted out the same demeaning behavior only to go down the shame spiral again? Why do we feel the constant weight of what Mayer calls gravity in our bones that brings us to the brink, again and again, of throwing it all away?

Our various faith traditions may call it karma, fate, fortune, or sin. Whatever it is, it will gain the upper hand and destroy me if I am lazy or unmindful of it.

To recover is to have the courage to heal every day.

(*John Joseph is a pseudonym of a pastor. He's a regular contributor to this blog.)

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[1] Writer(s): John Mayer
Copyright: Reach Music Publishing-digital O.B.O. Goodium Music, Specific Harm Music, Sony/ATV Tunes LLC

Codependency

(By John Joseph*)

I’m the kind of guy that, if I saw you first thing one day, I would say, “Good morning! How am I today?” Yes, I am a codependent. What is a codependent? It is someone who is dependent on another person to define his or her feelings about themselves. It is a psychological term that came into use a few decades back to describe the behavior of family members living with an alcoholic.

Far too many wives and children become codependents, sentenced to the hell of merely reacting to the dependent behaviors of the alcoholic. They’ve been forced to define themselves based on the addictive behavior of another. Although they aren’t the addicted person, they are co-dependents and much of their lives are wrecked by the addiction and the addictive person.

Thus I’m a codependent. Maybe you are one, too. The sad truth is that someone else’s addiction to sexual abuse has affected our ability to live normal lives and to define ourselves in the healthiest ways.

What do we do now? How do we untangle the wreckage of the past? How do we cease living as codependents and find emotional health?

The first step is to move out of a dependent relationship. If someone in your life is abusive or addicted, leave them. Get out. Then get good counseling and enter a recovery program. It’s only when we rise up to reclaim our personhood that we cease to be dependent on others, no matter who they might be.

(*John Joseph is a pseudonym of a pastor. He's a regular contributor to this blog.)

Trusting the Right Person

(By Gary Roe)

Trusting that you will make things right,If I surrender to your will,So that I may be reasonably happy in this lifeAnd supremely happy with you forever in the next.
This is the conclusion to Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. Trust is huge. Without trust, there can be no serenity. Without serenity, there can be no real happiness.

As a sexual abuse survivor, trust is difficult for me. Yet God designed me to trust him. He planned me, created me, and included me in his love story. I want to live my destiny and be "reasonably happy" in my day-to-day living.

Happy? That's a word I don't allow myself to think of too often. Perhaps I think it’s beyond my reach. If happy means pleased, content, joyful, and peaceful, I long for happiness. I want to be loved and be more loving toward others. I would like to be transparently real and surrender to God more fully.

He will make all things right. Things are not simply what they appear. There is far more going on than I’m aware. Can I trust that the one in authority, my Creator and Savior, will work out all things for my good, even when those in power when I was a child chose to abuse me?

Yes. He is teaching me. I can heal. I might actually become reasonably happy.

As I trust God loves me and works for my good
I can begin to experience more real happiness.

(This post is adapted from Not Quite Healed, by Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe)

Making Healing a Priority

(By Gary Roe)

God, give us the grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
the courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
This is part of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. I like the word serenity. Peace. A sense of inner calm. I tend to be up and down. I need steadiness. My soul longs to be more settled.

To experience serenity, I need to accept what happened. I was sexually abused. Many times. And that abuse had drastic, lifelong effects. I didn’t get what I needed growing up. I cannot change these things. I need grace to accept them.

But there are things I can change. I am not stuck; I can make choices. I need supernatural courage for this. I can resolve to make my healing a priority—not just for my sake, but also out of love for those around me.

I can't change what happened, but I can heal. I can grow in serenity.

If I want to experience serenity,
I must make healing a priority.

(This post is adapted from Not Quite Healed, by Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe.)

Accepting the Past, Enjoying the Present

(By Gary Roe)

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it….
This is part of The Serenity Prayer penned by Reinhold Niebuhr. I have real difficulty living in and enjoying the moment. I worry about what’s next. I get stuck on what happened yesterday.

In order to survive the repeated abuse, I had to go somewhere else in my mind. This strategy worked then, but it doesn’t serve me well now. It’s time to move on and begin to embrace the present. As I do, I accept hardship more readily and experience more of God’s peace.

Serenity comes when I begin to take the world as it is. The past is what it was. Words, behavior, and relationships are what they are now. I could wish things were different, but that doesn't change the facts. I need to see the world as it is and engage with it. This will happen as I heal, and I can begin to really enjoy each moment.

Won’t that be wonderful?

As I accept the past
I can heal and begin to enjoy the present.

(This post is adapted from Not Quite Healed, by Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe.)

Secondary Survivors

(By Cecil Murphey)

My friend Steve introduced me to the term Secondary Survivor. Those two words say it well for those of us who have significant people in our lives.

We're survivors, and the people who truly love us have also endured. I used to refer to them as the "other victims" of abuse. While that's true, survivor is a stronger, more positive term. All too often, however, we’re so caught up in our own turmoil we fail to realize that they also hurt—not in the same way, but the pain isn't less real.

Perhaps the most difficult thing for secondary survivors to understand is that the effects of abuse are long lasting. Our perpetrators were probably individuals we trusted and believed they loved us.

We were young when they betrayed us. And because those once-trusted people victimized us, many of us find it difficult to believe we're worth being loved or that anyone could truly care for us. We question others' motives or lash out at them when they deserve to be embraced.

It's sad, but the secondary survivors have the demanding role of proving to us that they love us. Too often it appears as if healing must flow in one direction—our loved ones reach out to us, and in some marvelous way, they heal the anguish and the torture of our past.

Their responsibility isn't to heal us. They can't remove our agony or rub out our pasts. They can encourage and support us as we struggle through our own issues. They love us and are aware of our past and that makes them the other survivors of abuse.

What is our responsibility to them? Their anguish is often as perplexing as ours, especially when they can't understand our attitude or behavior. As we become aware of what they suffer, it also acts as another level of healing for ourselves.

Here's a lesson I've learned: I tried to appreciate the secondary survivor (my wife) for sticking with me, and I slowly learned to accept her love as genuine. She doesn't need to prove her commitment to me; I need to show my love for her.

(This post first appeared at Joyful Heart Foundation.)

Victimized Again

(By Cecil Murphey)

I heard comments on TV after the sentencing of Jerry Sandusky for sexually molesting ten boys—and most people know there were far, far more. At his sentencing, one of the survivors said "You had the chance to plead guilty and spare us the testimony. Rather than take the accountability, you decided to try to attack us as if we had done something wrong."

As I listened to that statement and the rest of the report, two words hit me: Victimized again.

To his great credit, Judge Cleland said to Sandusky, "The crime is not only what you did to their bodies but to their psyches and their souls and the assault to the well-being of the larger community in which we all live."

Sexual molestation shatters our lives. Even after we begin to heal, we still face being misunderstood, questioned, and even contradicted. That victimizes us again. Cleland and the jurors understood; the "larger community" doesn't seem to grasp the meaning—or perhaps they're too uncomfortable to ponder the message.

When we need compassion, we feel accused; when we speak, others tell us to be quiet; when we need to be believed, they question our integrity.

I doubt that any of us expected an apology from Sandusky. But he not only maintained his innocence and made a horrible statement, "I would cherish the opportunity to be a little candle for others as my life goes on as they have been a huge light to me."

(This post first appeared at Joyful Heart Foundation.)

"Why Tell Anybody?"

(By Cecil Murphey)

I don't know how he got my telephone number and he never told me his name. As soon as I identified myself, he blurted: "Why should a man tell anyone about his abuse?"

"He doesn't need to tell anyone. He can keep it a secret until he dies," I said.

"But talking is just talking—just mere words."

Certain he referred to himself, I asked, "Have you ever told anyone?"

After a long silence, he mumbled, "No."

"Suppose I had a tumor inside my body," I said. "I could live with that a long time as it slowly grew. But I'd be aware and have some discomfort or even a lot of pain. And suppose the tumor wasn't operable. Then what?"

He didn't respond so I said, “You might use medication to shrink that tumor. It would likely take place over a period of time, but you could do it."

"So you think that's what talking does?"

"It worked for me," I said, "and for many men who've talked with me."

Before we hung up. I gave him one of my original maxims: I know of myself only what I say of myself.

By that I meant, we have to speak the words of our pain to someone else for the healing to begin. "Survivors need other people," I told him. "If you don't want to start with a spouse or a good male friend, go to a professional.

"Once you can start talking about it, you become an instrument of your own healing. You enlist others. Each time you're able to talk about it—"

"The more effective, right?"

I tried to explain that we've been created to connect with other humans. And with a basic need to be understood by others. I'm convinced that as I enable others to understand me, I also learn to understand myself.

(This entry was originally posted at Joyful Heart Foundation.)

Did It Really Happen?

(By Cecil Murphey)

I "forgot" (that's denial) about my abuse until I was 51 years old. For several months after the memories began seeping back into my consciousness, I kept trying to convince myself that the abuse hadn't happened.

I hadn't gone to a counselor or therapist, but that happened around the time we heard so much about the false-memory syndrome. Therapists had inadvertently planted false memories in some of their clients.

I wanted mine to be false memories.

But they weren't.

I was molested. 
Because I can accept that fact, I can overcome the pain.

(This post was adapted from Not Quite Healed, written by Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe.)