About four years into my healing journey, I began to hear men speak about not wanting to be touched. I heard it the first time after I became a member of the Men's Gathering in Louisville, Kentucky.
We met on alternating Saturday mornings. To help newcomers feel comfortable, two or three of us stood in front of the building and welcomed them. Don hugged every man that came his way. I'm a hugger, but once in a while it didn't feel right for me to embrace someone I didn't know.
"Don't touch me!" one man yelled at Don and started to turn away. I stopped him and said, "It's all right. Not everyone here is a hugger."
"I hate being touched," he said, but he allowed me to escort him to our meeting room.
He was the first man I met who said those words aloud. I had encountered others who allowed themselves to be embraced but their bodies grew stiff. I assume physical touch—any kind of touch—thrusts them back into the painful memories of abuse.
I told Don (the hugger) and I've since told others, "Trust your guts. If you sense the other person is open to a hug, give it. But if you intuit resistance or you're unsure, don't touch."
The wrong touch can cause great damage.