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 Deserve Compassion

I can now say the words, “I deserve compassion,” but it took me a long time to admit that. For years, I tried to be self-loving and self-forgiving, but a voice in the back of my head whispered, “You know all the wrong things you did. You’ve earned your pain.”

In one sense, of course, none of us merits anything good in life. (That sentence reveals my theological basis of everyone being a sinner.) What I failed to understand is that God loved me and forgave me. Once I truly accepted divine forgiveness, that led me to forgive others and feel compassionate toward others. Why couldn’t I love and befriend Cec the same way?

Although the process I went through is too complex to relate, for me, it came down to this. I didn’t warrant compassion until I saw myself as a beloved child of God. If that was true, I didn’t have to prove anything or do anything to make myself lovable.

I have three children and I love them very much. If I look at their lives, I can easily point to their flaws or take note of the ways they disappointed me. Instead, I knew I loved them and thereby I accept each of them as they are.

The hardest words I recall saying to myself were these: “I am loveable.” Although I said them aloud to myself daily, for almost a month I wanted to add, “because I . . .” and list my good deeds. Or I’d have to fight myself by adding, “But look at . . .”

I know I’m loved and worth loving.

I’m loveable;
I can show myself compassion.

The Way to Heal

After I went public with my abusive childhood, many people reached out to me; I appreciated their concern and compassion. A few of them, however, weren’t helpful. I call them the right-way-to-heal people. They knew all the rules and emotions associated with grief and (even more important) knew exactly how I felt and what I needed to do for myself. (They told me so.)

Most of their advice came from their own experiences. Not only did I understand the agony they’d endured, I appreciated their willingness to share their pain and healing with me.

What they didn’t grasp was that I wasn’t like them—and no one else is either. We were both abused as children, but obviously no two people suffer in the same way. As obvious as that may be, too many of them had become the right-way-to-heal people.

“Talk about it. Tell anyone who’ll listen. The more you speak about it, the easier it gets.”

“Be extremely selective about whom you tell.”

“You need a therapist. They’re the only ones who can help you.”

“Don’t go to a professional. Find a friend or a small group—individuals who have recovered from abuse. They’re the only ones who can help.”

Yet they all knew.

I didn’t need a lot of advice; I did need a lot of compassion.

No one can tell us how to heal;
it’s something each of us must figure out.

Turning the Abuse Around

(By Gary Roe)

I’m inspired by the Old Testament story of Joseph. He came from a highly dysfunctional family. His father had two wives and was a deceiver who played favorites. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. Over the next 13 years he was carried off to a foreign land, mistreated, falsely accused, imprisoned, and forgotten.

Through a series of miraculous events, Joseph the Hebrew slave became second-in-command of the powerful nation of Egypt. Several years later, a famine struck the region and when Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt for food, they find themselves face-to-face with their long-lost brother.

Joseph could have done whatever he wanted with them. His brothers were terrified and expected death, but Joseph embraced and welcomed them. He chose to forgive. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good," Joseph said (Genesis 50:19).

Joseph believed evil could be turned around and used for good. He chose to look at the positives instead of dwelling on his brothers’ rejection and abuse. He refused to be controlled by the past. He forgave his brothers, and in doing so freed himself.

That story tells me I can shed the abuse of the past. I know it happened, and I accept that. Now I’m trying to turn it around and use it for good, in my life and in the lives of those around me.

I can find ways to turn the abuse around
and use it for good.

My Life Is a War of Obstacles

(By Gary Roe)

Sometimes I get upset and ruffled because I expect life to be smooth. That’s ironic considering my life since childhood has been a painful war.

Sexual abuse has all kinds of horrific aftereffects. We live with the results of the abuse and our lives are anything but smooth.

What if life is really about overcoming difficulty and obstacles? Maybe part of it is designed to bring me to the end of my own strength so I can begin to trust and experience the freedom that comes from not having to be in control. Instead of exhausting myself running from the pain, I can choose to turn around and embrace it.

As I allow myself to feel the pain, I begin to accept what happened. I’m less controlled by my past and live with more freedom. I am less self-conscious and engage more naturally with others.

Healing is not smooth or easy. It can be upsetting and painful. But it is good. Very good.

Life is not smooth and neither is healing,
but both can be very good.