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.

Honoring or Protecting?

My friend Paula said her husband asked, “Are you honoring your mother or protecting your abuser?”

In my writings I refer to my first abuser as a female relative—which is true. I’ve not identified her even though she’s now dead. I’ve held back because she has still-living children and grandchildren. I also learned that she, herself, was a survivor of sexual abuse.

I chose not to state her relationship to me—not to protect her and certainly not to honor her. My reason was to avoid tainting her memory in the minds of her children and grandchildren.

Was I right? She died before I faced my childhood and I never had to face whether to confront her. But I’ve chosen to protect her memory in their lives.

More than that, I realized my not revealing her relationship means I’ve forgiven her. That’s what’s important. Even so, occasionally I ask the question: “Are you honoring or protecting your abuser?” I’m learning to say, “It’s neither. I don’t want to destroy others’ faith in her.”

How would you answer the question?


Andrew Schmutzer said...

The question needs to be asked, for sure. For me, healing was LEARNING TO NAME what had happened. This meant learning to name a WHO. I chose to name the person, initially, for the safety of my own children. In the ensuing years, I 'updated' the story for them. Because I spent so many years covering for the rest of my family, my healing required a calibrated naming that was appropriate to my children--whom I now could love without distraction.

Cecil Murphey said...

Andrew as usual, that was a powerful and insightful comment. Thank you for your comment.


Mark Cooper said...

Tough and important question!

I have a two people with whom I have very specially named my abusers. Giving myself that liberty is crucial to my healing.

I have hinted at my relationship with one abuser - he is deceased. But there are others in my family who would either not believe me or rise to his defense were I to name him. That would harm my healing. At least for now.

Abusers that are living - again I am not ready to name them. Maybe that is cowardice on my part. Fear of facing denial, anger. I'm protecting myself. I'm protecting them, and those who love them. Yet is it really protecting them to help them not face the truth?

Cecil Murphey said...

Mark, thank you. First, I appreciated your statement: Giving myself that liberty [to name my abusers] is crucial to my healing. Yes! It's a powerful, significant step forward.

Second, Love/kindness/compassion come first. Your freedom is important. I agree with you that you also need wisdom in who you tell, when you tell, and how much you tell.


Larry Clemson said...

My abuser was a neighbor - he is still in the area & friends on facebook with one of my friends. I don't think I will tell this mutual friend. I was 5-6 & he was about 17 when it happened. I'm not sure what you call it by not telling. What would it help by sharing this with this friend?

Cecil Murphey said...

Larry, each of us has to figure out how much and to whom we tell. But you asked, What would it help by sharing it with a friend?

Here's what you have to decide. It can help YOU to tell. Each time you speak up, you're healing from the experience. The more open you are, the easier it gets, and the freer you become.

However, as Mark commented, you need to chose those you tell.


Roger Mann said...

This is a tough one for me. Before my father died and took my mother with him, I had a chance to tell her that it was he who "touched me inappropriately". That was a huge understatement and did not cover half of what happened but I was trying to be gentle with her. She was being unusually vulnerable with me at that moment concerning her problems with my dad. I think one has to consider how others might receive this information especially if they are close family.

After he killed himself over allegations of molesting another very young family member, there still appeared some who were doubting the story. I chose to offer my highly edited history at that time to help remove any doubt and settle the question of whether they did the right thing in confronting him. This was my immediate family who were all involved. I did not speak of it to other family of which there was plenty around or to anyone else at that time.

I've often struggled with the bible's command of honoring your parents given my circumstances. I can remember as a teen sitting in church watching my dad preach and wondering if I'm doing the right thing in keeping quiet. There were times I wanted to scream it out but I would never have said anything to anyone probably if he were still alive.

My father was supposedly very respected in his religious and secular circles. Even at the memorial service there was much talk of what a man of God he was. He apparently inspired a lot of people. So would shouting this from the rooftops accomplish anything positive? Or would it just make me look like a loon? IDK

I've begun twice now to write a book about my life. Both times I've stopped. I want to tell it all, get it all out and yet I know it would hurt a lot of people and is it selfish to do that? Especially now that he is dead and cannot respond?

So yeah this is a hard question. My rational answer is this: If there is a good chance the abuser is still abusing victims you have a responsibility to speak. If you believe the abuse has ceased and will not continue then the question is how will this help? It will definitely help you. Will it help anyone else?

Since I've told my story in Celebrate Recovery programs and online I can say others have told me it has helped them. Telling my aunts, uncles cousins etc. may only cause pain and confusion. I just don't know and so probably will not.

Just my thoughts