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.

Being Ignored

As a child I was beaten by my father, sexually assaulted by a female relative, and verbally abused by both parents. The worst part of my childhood, or so it seems to me now, was being ignored.

Mel was two years younger and died from alcohol abuse at age 48, but he was clearly my parents’ favorite child and we other 6 siblings knew and accepted it. Mel did no wrong. Ever. When he got into trouble—with regularity—they didn’t punish or rebuke him.

The result for me was being ignored. I’ve tried to think of one rule my parents gave me such as when to go to bed, get up in the morning, what subjects to take in school, or restrictions about behavior or friends. None. I learned to make all those decisions on my own. As a boy I decided to be in bed at night by 9:00 and Mel sometimes stayed up until midnight (and was regularly “too sick” to go to school the next day).

The time I contemplated suicide (mentioned in my previous blog), I did think about being missed. I distinctly recall thinking, my mother would cry a little, but within days everyone would have forgotten me. I truly believed that.

Perhaps because I was the good boy—the one who didn’t get into trouble, who did well in school, and didn’t demand attention—it was easy to ignore me.

I didn’t ask for attention, probably because I didn’t think it would do any good. That reality helps me understand why I was such a prime target for a pedophile. Whenever anyone showed me attention or interest, they had me. I was a ready-to-be-victimized child.

That was a long time ago, but those memories aren’t gone. I don’t need to be the center of attention; but I do need to be cared about and loved.

Like any normal person.

I’m grateful for those special people in my life who expressed genuine love and affection for me. They (with God’s help) enabled me to be who I am today.


Jay said...

My backstory is far less dramatic. I didn't suffer parental abuse or neglect. I didn't have siblings. But I also was the 'good boy', I was meek and shy, and I was desperate for acceptance and approval. Even now, well into adulthood, I can easily lapse into default reactions of feeling abandoned or rejected, or fearful that if I were truly known, I would be rejected. God is faithful, and is taking me on a journey of healing. Slowly reading through 'Not Quite Healed' -usually just a chapter or two a week with time to process- has been huge in my life. -Jay

Cecil Murphey said...

Jay, Your statement sounded so much like those of many of us.
"I can easily lapse into default reactions of feeling abandoned or rejected, or fearful that if I were truly known, I would be rejected."

I couldn't count the number of times survivors had said, "If people really knew me..." They were self-programmed to e rejected. One of the best lessons I've learned (and it wasn't easy) is that people are more open and compassionate than I imagined. In turned, they've helped me to be more and compassionate.

Andrew Schmutzer said...

The description(s) of the "lost" child is helpful. I think there's also something to the birth order of children in abusing families. As the youngest, I NEVER made any trouble or drama for my parents. In fact, I was extremely loyal, hardworking, and trusting...too trusting!

Two observations from this: (1) When I did talk about my abuse by my father, I was ignored. My message fell on deaf ears. No one spoke or intervened for me. So many years later, I believe my family did not know how to listen to the quiet child who never demanded any attention. My older sibling even called me "compliant," at one point. Further pain. (2) When I entered my healing journey, I crawled out from the dysfunctional roles, found a voice of my own, and learned to use true names for trauma. Now they can't relate to the youngest at all. Abusing families want the "shell-child" back, not the healed one.

Cecil Murphey said...

Andrew, thank you. My story isn't the same, but I understood. Like many of you I was the good kid and quiet. Years later, my mother did say, "I never had to worry about you." If only she had known. If only she had shown me compassion back then.

I appreciate your guys opening up and sharing your pain with the rest of us. You are courageous.

Zale Dowlen said...

Thank you. I was the "good" and only child. I am coming to terms with the issues from my childhood, which include incest, sexual abuse by a male pastor, the distantness and inability to cope of my parents.

I did not think about how much being the "good child" also means that it was easy for our needs to be overlooked. We didn't cause trouble, so we must not need help. Mix in the pridefulness of my family, so getting help meant you were somehow defective and that was simply unacceptable.

I thought these issues were "dealt with" until my wife and I started experiencing difficulties after 13 years of marriage. We are both survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We both thought we "had it togeter" until an "intimacy bomb" went off in our marriage and the Lord lead us to seeking deeper levels of healing.

Thanks again.

Andrew Schmutzer said...

Zale, thanks for your observations on healing and marriage. Many, abused and non-abused, have adopted some form of "victory theology" that sells better in the era of the marketed-church. In other words, they just don't want to revisit the old wounds or face their need for "deeper levels of healing." Unfortunately, this is another barrier to healing, and proves why being a survivor in the faith community can be such a gauntlet of obstacles.

Hang in there...both of you!