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.

"It Happened Only Once."

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

Occasionally a survivor of sexual assault says, "It happened only one time," as if that made the offense and agony less important.

To that, I answer, "It's not whether molestation happened one time or fifty times, you were still molested." Here's a good first question to ask: How did the abuse affect you?

I've talked with a few men who say they were abused and not damaged by the assault. That may be denial or their words may be true. Some individuals just don't hurt as easily or as deeply as others.

Regardless, many men who say it didn't happen a second time were so traumatized, they struggled with the same issues as those who reported abuse that went on for years.

We need to remind ourselves that our innocence was destroyed the first time someone assaulted us. And assault is the right word. We were defenseless children and someone usually bigger and older did something to us without our consent or our being old enough to know they were harming us.

There doesn't have to be a second or tenth time. The damage occurred and our innocence was shattered.

"How did the molestation change your life?" is a good second question. Most of us struggle with the issue of not being able to trust others. If a person we should have been able to trust betrayed us, how can we trust anyone else?

To heal from that abuse means we finally must take a risk. We have to trust someone enough to tell our story. The healing happens when we relate what happened to us and sense the listener understands. That exchange validates us and the healing process begins.

One time. Five hundred times. Ignore that, and focus on the hurt so the healing can take place.


Mark Cooper said...

This is such a good point... focusing on what damage was done rather than focus on number of times.

For years I minimized what was done to me by saying "it wasn't that bad". When I stopped saying that I was able to start to accept that the damage was serious. Very serious.

In my case, when I stopped the "it wasn't that bad" routine, I believe it became easier to accept additional abuse memories that then surfaced.

"It wasn't that bad" would not have allowed me to deal with the truth of new memories.

Roger Mann said...

My abuse went on for years till I left for College right after HS. It took years after that before I realized the damage that had been done to me.

That said, I've had the occasion to share notes with quite a few other survivors whose abuse was only once or twice and I was astonished to realize how similar our symptoms were.

They had the same shame, anger, feeling of worthlessness or 'less than' other men. I saw some of the same paranoia, lack of trust, confused sexuality, PTSD and much more. This actually shocked me and I sometimes felt I got off kind of lucky as some seemed even more broken than me.

I totally agree with you. It doesn't seem to matter the frequency, the damage is extensive whether we realize it or not. The stolen innocence is something that is felt deeply and can never be recovered. It can only be healed but leaves a permanent scar.

I bear my scars well these days. I've healed a great deal from my assault and they remind me of not only the loss, but the fact that I've survived and thrived.

There is life after such an assault and I find I cherish it all the more.

Anonymous said...

I was abused once as a child; I "forgot" - but fear drove trust from me, shame blackened my self-image, and after years of pain my unconscious efforts to escape and numb myself drove me to self-destructive habits. Their consequences finally left me no choice but to get help.

Anonymous said...

It happened once as an adult a few years ago by a family member. I hate myself stiff over it and I'm.still trying to heal from it. I have good days and I have bad days but I just get told to let it go and it just hurts at times and I've become so much more angry with it. Like I'm not the same person anymore.