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.

Adopt Healthy Coping Habits

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Yourself

(This is an encore post by Cecil Murphey.)

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

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

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

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

Answer: I don't know.

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

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

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

The second half was that I felt loved by them.

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

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

First Steps

Robert emailed me and I was so touched by it, I asked him for permission to share what he sent (with minor editing for his privacy). He agreed.

* * * * *

I am reading your book Not Quite Healed: 40 Truths for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. I can't tell you how this is emotionally impacting me today. I can't put it down, although I have felt like I was going to throw up while reading it this morning.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this book, I feel it is starting me on the long road to healing. I have a memory of being sexually abused by a male babysitter and older family friend sometime around age six, but I am certain there was another person who abused me as well earlier because I am having flashbacks now at age 52.

I don't see the person in my flashbacks, but I see how I did strange sexual things as a five year old which indicates I was very disturbed.

Your book has already helped me in just one day. I have never been able to tell anyone my awful secret, what I have been filled with shame about my entire life. I have an irrational sexual attraction to other men. There, I said this to another human being for the first time in 50 years.

I know this is just an email, but I am already feeling empowered by typing this to you. I have never engaged in sexual intercourse with a man, but I do have a temptation for what I call "soft porn," on the internet. I feel like I dance as close as possible to actually getting on a porn site and the urge is overpowering. I do well for a time, then it hits me hard.

It seems like in the last couple of years reaction to the abuse has gotten worse. I am emotionally off, make assumptions about people, and see myself negatively. My childhood was so dramatically affected by the abuse, and I am just now understanding it with the help of your book.

I have been happily married more than 30 years. We have three wonderful kids.

I loved the part of your book where it talks about this desire is "irrational." This email is my first step in recovery and I am so grateful to you and Gary for writing this book.

My Amnesia

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

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

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

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

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

Denny's Forgiveness Experience

In my previous blog, I asked if someone would write about their experience of forgiveness. This came from Denny.

* * * * *

From preschool to junior high I shared a bedroom with my brother who was four years older than I. I was a "late bloomer" and Matt delighted in ridiculing my sexual immaturity. He insisted that I was less than fully male.

Because of a disability from birth I never attended a gym class, was excused from military service, seldom experienced a locker room as an adolescent or adult. So I believed his words that I was unacceptable as a man. This perceived defect goes far beyond the physical. It has warped my emotional, mental, social, and spiritual view of myself.

Consequently, the relationship between my brother and me has been shallow and cool. We never discussed his abuses. He may have wondered why I remained distant. I think he knew.

About a year ago Matt was hospitalized. During the recovery from surgery an internal infection went undetected. There were several setbacks. After many weeks of hospitalization he was transferred to an inpatient facility where another problem was detected and he was hospitalized again. He eventually died.

I had seen counselors, dealing with impaired masculinity issues, depression, and other struggles. Through counseling and Celebrate Recovery, I realized that none of us deserves forgiveness.

While Matt was hospitalized following surgery I phoned his room. As our conversation neared an end I realized there was no guarantee that there would be more conversations. I told Matt that I loved him. It was the only time in my memory that I had ever said it.

There was a long pause, then he said, "I love you, too, Denny."

More on Forgiveness

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

I can only speak about forgiving my perpetrators from my own view of life. I'm a serious Christian and I try to obey what the Bible teaches me. Jesus taught what we call "The Lord's Prayer" and that includes a plea for God to forgive us, "As we forgive." (See Matthew 6:19-13.)

Many people don't go on to read the next verse: "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (verses 14–15 NLT).

The process begins with my sense of being forgiven, just as in the Lord's Prayer we ask God to do that. The next step is that we forgive others. Here's how I see it: The more I appreciate unearned forgiveness by God—and I call that grace—the more I am able to focus on others who haven't earned the right to have their sins taken away. The proof of my being forgiven is that I can then forgive.

It doesn't have to happen immediately and it may take weeks or months (as it did with me), but if we grasp even a glimmer of the grace given to us, we're ready to offer it to others.

This may not work for everyone, but it has worked for me.

Perhaps one of you would like to share your process of forgiving.
Or share your struggle that prevents your forgiving.

"I Know I Need to Forgive, But When Should I?"

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

That's the wrong way to ask. Should implies being pushed or forced to forgive. And well-meaning friends tend to push us to forgive those who hurt us.

My answer is simple: Forgive when you are ready. Until a man is able to lay aside the anger and pain, he may say, "I forgive," but he doesn't let it go.

Here's how I did it. I prayed daily for my two perpetrators. I prayed for God to help me want to forgive them. I struggled so much over what they had done to me, I felt a kind of justification in despising them.

I must have prayed as I did for a few weeks, and one day I thought of the two people. Although both were now dead, I tried to think how they must have felt. I'm sure they knew what they did was immoral. Wrong. Sinful. Horrible.

So why did they do it? Not everyone agrees with me, but I think they were compelled—I call it an addiction—and molesting a child was a kind of temporary fix for their overwhelming need.

But to call it an addiction of compulsion seemed to de-humanize them. I thought of their inner suffering. I wondered if they hated themselves for what they did. How could they not?

I was finally able to grasp they were hurting people, individuals who knew they were doing wrong but seemed unable to stop themselves.

That's when I was able to forgive them.

Questions and Answers (Part 7 of 7)

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"Can Women Rape Boys?"

Being abused by women happens—more than we'd like to think. Sometimes it's a female relative (including mothers). Too many adults can't believe that a woman would do such a thing. But they do.

A female relative molested me. On this blog we have Jason Rovenstine's story of a female babysitter who raped him when he was eight years old. There are others. The story of then 34-year-old schoolteacher Mary Kay LeTourneau had sexual relationships with Villie Fualaau, who was then 13. That made national news. A jury found her guilty of sexual assault.

Abuse is terrible and it seems even worse when the perp is female. The most horrendous abuse is when the mother is the perpetrator. As the boy learns about masculinity and maleness, he can't understand what is normal. Something terrible (and often unwanted) was done to him by a woman, and society says he's to love women.

That female molestation becomes his initiation into adult manhood. It will scar him in some way such as making him hate women or believe that the only role for women is sexual.

Questions and Answers (Part 6 of 7)

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"Why should I forgive my perpetrator?"

You don't have to forgive. Ever. You can hold the anger and bitterness inside as long as you like. Or you can decide that you don't want to live with such negative emotions eating away.

Today most people know that holding grudges, remaining angry for a prolonged period, and unwillingness to forgive means we—the one who holds on—suffer.

Is it worth it?