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.

Why Now?

(This post from Cec Murphey first appeared at 1in6.org.)

Recently, I read an in-progress master's thesis on male sexual abuse. The writer's research said that most men don't deal with their abuse until they're middle-aged—late 30s to early 50s. She provided no rationale, only the figures. Maybe that's well-known in therapeutic practice, but it was new to me.

Although a few children are able to ask for help while young, some of us (and perhaps that word should be many) aren't ready until we're hitting our middle years. I was one of those.

Men like me "forgot" about our experiences. That is, the trauma was so severe we couldn't face it and lived in denial until the truth resurfaced. The descriptive term is Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD).

"But why did it surface now?" I asked myself that question many times during the first year of my struggle with the molestation. The easiest thing to say is that it happened when I was able to cope with the pain. I was secure enough as a person—that is, I liked myself well enough—that I was willing to risk the shame and embarrassment.

One day, without ever seeing a therapist or being in any encounter groups, the memories started to flow. I cried—the first real crying since I was 11 years old. The intense agony disrupted my work habits and my sleep for weeks. My wife and my best friend comforted me. Their love and kindness enabled me to move ahead.

But the question still haunted me: Why now? I've concluded that my unconscious, inner wisdom kept the information hidden from me. I had focused on my education, career, marriage, and fatherhood. By the time I was ready, our third and last child had left home.

I still can't give a definitive answer on the timing except that I know I was ready. Because I had dealt with the major traumas of living, I had grown comfortable with myself. And realizing the certainty of my wife's love and commitment helped me know that I could face anything and she would be with me.

Every man needs someone to trust—implicitly—whether it's a spouse, a friend, or a therapist. He needs that safety to divulge and know he'll be heard and not rejected.

Maybe that is the answer: Once we're ready, we can face our pain—even if we feel at times that we can't suffer any more.

4 comments:

Roger Mann said...

My situation was only similar in that it was in my late 40s early 50s that I began to deal with it. It cost me my marriage because my wife was not willing to be supportive but I survived with the help and encouragement of friends.

My father was my abuser, and a pastor of a church and very well known in a small community that included many of my mom's relatives. I simply could not bring myself to explode that bomb publicly among all the people I loved and cared about.

It was my father who finally came unraveled and got caught that dropped that bomb. When that happened I was not prepared. I really lost it for several years after that. It was in the midst of my grief and shame that I finally started to deal with my past. I was literally forced into it.

I guess that is why it was so traumatic and took so long to accept and begin real recovery. If not for that I would probably have not dealt with it for another decade or till he died of old age.

I just didn't want to believe what happened. I did not want to believe my father was that man. And to be painfully honest, I did not want to believe there were others.

I had romanticized it all as a boy and believed this was the way he was showing he loved me; that I was special in some way to him. It really hurt me to accept I was just more available to him.

I guess as long as I believed what he did was because we had something secret and special between us I could accept it and not see it for what it was. When he died and I found out about all the others I was crushed and had no one really to talk to about it. My father was not the man I longed to believe he was. For any boy that is devastating.

Finding a group of men with similar stories helped me to see reality and face the truth about what happened and begin to heal from the lies, pain, humiliation and anger.

It actually scares me to think what my life would have been like had I not had the truth exposed and faced it. Reality is so much healthier.

Robert said...

I didn't really seriously face my past until age 52. I knew I had experienced some abuse, but I always felt it was my fault as it was with a male baby sitter and older male friend..not some stranger. I started having dreams and thinking more about it, and then God led me to your book Cec, which really did change my life. I now know why I felt like I did all growing up and that something was taken from me, my sense of belonging to my brothers and others and a profound loneliness. There is something more for me to remember, because I am recalling very disturbing behaviors that I did as a very young child, before the teen age baby sitter, so I know for certain someone else got to me before him, but I can't see it or remember it right now, and I accept that because I trust God will reveal it to me someday when I am ready, or He may be protecting me from some awful truth He knows will make things worse for me. I feel better having processed this for a year, but know that I have more to process as I am ready. Thanks Cec for this blog, it is helpful for sure!

Joseph said...

I blocked it out and built walls and wrapped chains around myself and left them for 60 years. It was an interview I heard on a James Dobson program. Dobson was interview Allender who wrote The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse, and Allender said something, and it clicked: That happened to me! For the first time in my life I connected what I was blocking out with sexual abuse. It was a gradual process and I didn't really face the issues until after my wife died and I was alone at the age of 72. Gradually I fell into grief, not only of my wife's death, but 60 years of built up childhood grief. I found a counselor and began to unload. Chains were unlock, walls began to come tumbling down, and I walked in sunlight. Yes, there are dark days yet and lapses of feeling restored, but life is better and I am a joyful of man most of the time. As I have shared with others, a few men at church have confided in me, and I have shared hope and tried to assure them that abuse does not start with the child, it starts with the abuser.

Cec Murphey said...

You three guys rock! Thank you for your transparency. The more open you are, the more you enable other survivors to speak up.
As I read your experiences, in so many ways, they soundrf like mine.