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.

I'm a Sexual Being

All of us are sexual. That’s part of being human. When others abuse us sexually, they touch the core of our being. Everything becomes skewed and produces a ripple effect that spreads through our entire personhood. The molestation alters the way we view ourselves, others, God, and life itself.

More troubling is that our minds become distracted with lustful or sensuous thoughts, fantasies, and desires. We struggle with keeping those feelings contained, but are they ever fully checked?

How could healing not be difficult, excruciating, and time-consuming?

I wish I could say that I never have lustful thoughts, but I do. And they’ll probably jump into my consciousness as long as I’m alive.

I’m still relentlessly sifting through behavioral patterns and ways of thinking that are victim-inspired and fear-focused. I’m determined not to give up. I will fight. And in fighting this evil, I will learn, and I will heal.

How do you handle such thoughts?

The Ongoing Process (Part 3 of 3)

My friend and fellow survivor Gary Roe once talked about his sexual assault and added, “As a result, I have certain struggles or handicaps. I’m convinced that learning to deal with those handicaps and to heal is a lifelong process.”

Not only is healing an ongoing process, but it demands courageous vigilance to survive the barrages of hurt, sorrow, and self-accusation. The more we trudge forward, the stronger we become. The scars are subterranean and insidious, but there is healing.

At the beginning, we probably assume full healing is imminent—which I did—because we’re unaware how severely we were damaged or didn’t understand that our wounds had been festering for years.

For many, the abuse itself took place during a short period. It could have been a one-time assault, or something that happened repeatedly for three or four years. Regardless of whether once or forty-six times, the molestation worked like an undetected virus that invaded our souls, went systemic, and infected every part of our psyche. Among other things, abuse destroyed our ability to see ourselves as we are.

I hope you read that previous sentence correctly. We’re born with the need to be whole. Or another way to say it is maturity and wholeness means being able to see ourselves as we are. Many of us still don’t see clearly.

This morning I read his post. While ostensibly responding to a question, he wrote a 300-word self-promotion piece. He does it every time. A few years ago I gently commented on one of his sales pitches.

The shock on his face made me know he had no idea what I meant. I don’t know if Tony was sexually assaulted (and I never asked), but his behavior is like that of many of us who lack self-awareness. He can’t see in himself what is so obvious to many of us.

Our journey is a search to know ourselves.

For the Rest of Our Lives? (Part 2 of 3)

In my previous blog I quoted this maxim: Murder victims feel no pain; abuse survivors feel pain for the rest of their lives.

“For the rest of their lives?”

Challenge that statement, and I can only say I believe it’s true. Over time the effects are blunted and less severe.

Terrible things were done to us and it takes a long time to work through the process and undo the damage. The injury is deep, painful, and we lived with our wound for a long, long time. As we grow, we continue to uncover layers of our inner lives that were tainted by the abuse.

For example, trust has been an issue for me—and probably for most men. It usually means we can’t believe others. I have some of that, but mostly I’ve gone the other way—I’ve been gullible. At least ten years into my healing, I realized that if people treated me as special and showered me with attention they could manipulate me and take advantage of me. Particularly, I loaned out a lot of money that was never repaid.

Whenever I heard sad, traumatic stories, I felt honored that they would trust me with their secrets. Sometimes they lied; sometimes they exaggerated, but they took me in. Only later was I able to say, “I’ve been had.”

That realization about trust came from facing my deep, painful memories.

Deep. Painful.
Those two words express why this is such a long journey.

Why Is It So Hard? (Part 1 of 3)

Healing from any kind of abuse isn’t easy. And those who imply it’s just a matter as simple as saying, “Yeah, it happened to me, but it was no big deal,” are deceiving themselves. This isn’t to castigate them, but only to stress that pain comes before we win over the past.

As I’ve thought about healing and why it’s so difficult, I’ve come up with a few ideas.

First, we need to realize that sexuality involves our total selves—mind, body, emotions, and spirit. God created us that way, and sexuality is a powerful force in our lives for good or for evil.

Second, our abuse took place in secret, and it happened when we were young and innocent. We lived with our hidden anguish for years. I turned 51 before memories flooded over me and forced me to learn to struggle with my painful childhood.

I wish I were totally free, and the best I can say is, “I’m almost healed.”

Murder victims feel no pain;
abuse survivors feel pain for the rest of their lives.

The Cost of Healing

I understand the desire for complete emotional healing. But there’s a price we pay if we want victory.

Courage is the first word that springs to mind. It’s not easy to face our pain and say, “Enough! I’m determined to be free.”

Time is the second word. We can’t rush healing. An old joke in psychological circles is about the client who was told he would need at least two years of counseling if he came in once a week. “If I come in four times a week, can I get cured in six months?”

It doesn’t work that way. Our abuse took place decades ago. We need to think of healing as stripping away not only painful memories but discarding our coping methods. It helped me to think of my life having a regime change.

Healing entails unwrapping the pain, re-living it when necessary, and then learning how to live without it. We need to absorb the truths we learn about ourselves and use them to help us change our behavior.

It is a process—and process implies it doesn’t happen quickly.

Healing from abuse is a process and not an event.

“I’m Totally Free”

In the fall of 2011, I participated in a two-day conference for male survivors of sexual assault. At a plenary session, one man spoke of his abuse and that it had once made him afraid to allow anyone to get close. He said God had healed him. “Now I’m totally free.”

As I listened, this thought raced through my brain: He’s still not going to let people get close. Then I thought I was being judgmental and silently chastised myself.

A few weeks later, Tom Scales and I had coffee together. He had also spoken during the conference. Without my bringing up the topic, Tom referred to that man. “He shouldn’t have been up there speaking,” he said. “He’s not healed enough himself.”

How did both of us—independently—come to that same conclusion? I can’t give you reasons or a concrete analysis, yet both of us sensed he spoke more about his hopes than his reality.

That’s the positive side. The negative side is that the man was still in denial. He has issues he must yet face if he truly wants to be healed and free.

I’m learning the difference between hope and reality.

I Hate These Feelings

We all despise those painful memories that won’t let go. For most of us, the mourning begins as grief over being molested, of living in secret shame, and hiding our pain from others. That grief morphs into helplessness.

A friend, going through a lengthy period of despair, said, “I hate these feelings. I don’t want them.”

Before I could respond, he added, “But I need them. I have to face those losses and betrayals and grieve.”

Not many of us are that insightful. Even when we’re aware, we still run from them.

Healing begins when we face our pain.

Triggers

When I began to cope with my childhood molestation, the word trigger was a new concept for me.

As I learned, triggers can be internal or external, but they’re reminders of unresolved emotional issues. We often say that something happens to bring about what we call the knee-jerk reaction to negative experiences that haunt us.

Years before I got in touch with my abuse, one thing startled me, and I now see it as a trigger.

I’m one of those individuals who would eat anything and never said, “I don’t like . . .” A group of my co-workers and I had breakfast together in a home, and someone passed me a large jar of raspberry preserves.

I hurriedly handed it to my wife. “I don’t like raspberry preserves.”

Shirley stared at me. “But, honey, you like everything.”

I shook my head, and just staring at the jar nauseated me.

Years later, I understood. Mr. Lee enticed me to come into his room by offering me raspberry jam on saltines.

All of us survivors probably have triggers—even now—little things, ordinary events, or words.

Another trigger for me was the word special. When anyone said I was special, I became angry, but I couldn’t figure out the reason. Until later.

Mr. Lee used that word several times as he started patting my head and fondling me.

I rarely have those triggers disrupt my life today, but when I have a negative response to a neutral act, it says I still have unresolved issues. And by recognizing them, I can find healing.

Triggers alert me to
the still unhealed parts of myself.

Why Now?

A few years ago, a student wrote her master’s thesis about adult men facing their childhood abuse. Her research concluded that many males are into their forties or fifties before they cope with their childhood assault.

“Why then? Why so late in life?” I asked. Those were important questions for me because I was 51 years old before my memories broke through. In the midst of my pain I called out, “Why now?”

And then I laughed at my own question. No matter when I dealt with the pain, I probably would have said it was bad timing or not convenient.

But then, trauma never is convenient.

Instead, I examined my life and came up with my own answer: Because I was ready. That may sound strange because of the pain, and the tears didn’t stop for a long time. I hadn’t cried for myself since I was 11 years old because I learned not to feel pain when my father beat me. But the summer of my fifty-first year, the torture and agony broke through.

Even so, I was ready.

That is, as excruciating as it was, I was able to cope. It says to me that had the memories erupted earlier, I probably wasn’t emotionally strong enough.

I faced my pain because I could—finally.

If I’m feeling pain now,
it’s because I’m able to cope with it.


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Are there questions or specific topics you'd like Cec to address in upcoming blog entries? If so, please send an email to his assistant at the following address: cecilmurphey(at)mchsi(dot)com.