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.

The Worst Abuse

The worst abuse to any boy can be stated in one word: incest. My online dictionary defines incest as the crime of sexual acts with a parent, child, sibling, or grandparent. I’ve never heard of any culture that affirms incest.

Family members, especially parents and grandparents, are those we naturally trust. We turn to them for love, understanding, and comfort. And if they violate our trust, they confuse us and do irreparable damage to our souls.

Every authority I’ve read says that incest has more far-reaching negative consequences than any other because it occurs within the family system. It’s particularly true when the perpetrator is a parent, because the child grows up trapped in a twisted primary relationship.

Long before I faced my own incestuous abuse, another writer named Mark* told me that when he was a teen his mother raped him. Nearly 40 years later, we met at a conference last year and renewed our relationship.

Mark has now been married four times. His present marriage is rocky, but he’s determined to hold it together. He’s also aware of what his mother did to him. He tried to get closure and peace a few months before she died, but she denied any wrongdoing.

“My head knows all the reasons and explanations for my problems,” Mark said, “but I can’t get my emotions to adapt.” Because of his mother’s actions, Mark has never been able to sustain a relationship with a woman. He and his present wife are getting counseling, but he says, “I can’t open up to her. No matter how hard I try, the trust just isn’t there.” And then he admits, “It’s not because she’s done or said anything. It’s just hard for me to trust any woman.”

“Or impossible,” I said.

He started to disagree, closed his mouth, and stared into space for a minute or so. “Yes, that’s right.”

This is again a plea with incest survivors to get help—a friend, a minister, a therapist. It is possible to overcome the devastating effects of incest.

I know.


Andrew Schmutzer said...

Powerful topic, Cec! The incest-wound--like Frodo's wound--never goes away. In fact, of all the incest survivors I know, none are soldiers who "came back home."

Incest deeply damaged me. Facing it, radically changed me. I exercise, write, teach, speak, and still ache. I'm a healthier person, but the battlefield has left shrapnel in me, too. I don't "skip" any more, I just want to survive well: with my faith, with my wife, with my job, and with children who still know and love me. But all these relationships have had to change, too. They grieve for me from afar.

I've faced the fact that key metaphors for God have also, understandably, been cut. As a believer, this has plunged me deeply into the Psalms and on-going study of trauma theory. I'm so glad the abuse conversation had moved beyond the Island-Individual. The reality of how trauma affects one's relationships (see post above!) and even one's DNA(!) has helped me keep struggling to transform, lest I transfer unhealthy patterns.

But healing has also brought a loneliness for family and siblings I no longer have. At 51, I realize that I struggle mightily to trust, especially men. I long for a sister I've never had to take me to places I've never been. Poetry and persistence are some of my best friends. Poetry and lament have allowed me to create new metaphors for God.

My greatest fulfillment has been raising children who love me. They don't have my fears and limps. But the same children have also highlighted the many things I never had (so didn't know how to give!). God has been so patient!

Yup, painful topic. So Needed!

Mark Cooper said...

Andrew, I am especially challenged by 5 words in your post, "Facing it radically changed me." Thank you.

Anonymous said...

yeah - for years i did not realize - or unconsciously denied - that what i experienced was incest. it couldn't have been because he wasn't related to me by blood. he was a step-father, not a real father. then a counselor told me - and a book by a leading expert on male child abuse confirmed - that because he held that relational position - even as a surrogate, it was incest. that realization hit me just as hard as admitting that i had been abused to begin with.

there has been huge fallout from this violation of trust.

the lack of a real father and the perversion of the father role by the step-father has made it nearly impossible to relateto God as a Father. only becoming a father myself has begun to clarify and correct that concept for me.

fear of men and a simultaneous attraction to the ideal of a good/strong/loving man has haunted me all my life.

he has died and that has been both a blessing and a curse. i could now visit my mom without enduring his presence. i grieved at the funeral - but not for his passing - but for the death of a dream of a father-son relationship that never was and now could never be.

i have been in counseling twice - for nearly two years each - yet thie part of my trauma has not fully healed. i can function again - but the sadness and ache is always there. Father's Day with my own children is always bitter-sweet.


Cecil Murphey said...

Andrew, Lee, and Mark have written powerful responses.
Lee, I was especially touched when you you wrote,"but for the death of a dream of a father-son relationship that never was and now could never be."
My father didn't touch me sexually, but he beat me regularly. I couldn't cry at his funeral. Four or five years later I visited his grave and then the tears flowed. I realized I could never have a healthy relationship with him. Thank you.

Admitting that my mother was my abused was extremely painful. My three older sisters understood what she had done to me. I promised them that until our mother died, I would say only that it was a female relative.
In January of this year, my third sister died, and now I can say aloud--shout it if I want--my mother not only sexually assaulted me but set me for pain and difficulty in trusting women.

Mark Cooper said...

Lee, the same phrase that touched Cec, touched me. Except it was the first part that got me... "I grieved at the funeral - but not for his passing...."
When my dad died, I anticipated the funeral, thinking I could finally grieve. But I couldn't. I was trying to grieve who dad was not, by grieving his physical death. True grieving has not been possible until I've started to face the truth that dad raped me.
I too have a hard time using the word "incest." But incest was woven into the tapestry of my family.

Cec, thanks for sharing about your mom. I had noticed a change in recent months about your talking about your "female abuser." Now I know why you made that change. It would be interesting if you ever chose to write about the difference having the freedom to "shout it" if you want, has made for you.

Roger Mann said...

I have read this posting twice. I know full well the damage incest can do. I have attempted all kinds of mental gymnastics in my attempts to deal with what happened to me all those years. I left home at 18 and never looked back. I had been on my own emotionally since puberty and so being on my own away from home was not so much different.

Incest is a trap, a prison of sorts. No matter what happened I knew I was dependent on my parents and so there was no where to go and no one to tell. We moved around a lot so I never really found another adult I trusted. Perhaps that was the idea IDK.

So with no hope of rescue, I coped as best I could. I came for a while to believe that it was an act of love of sorts. I wanted, needed, to believe he loved me. Later on in my teens I realized it was just stuff we did and it meant nothing. That left a pain, an ache and I began looking elsewhere for those three A's that we all need.

I still have a lot of issues even though he is dead now over 20 years. I cried at the funeral, mostly for mom whom he took while she slept. But like others for the father/son healthy bonding that I would, could never have. Even up to the year before he died I would find myself still trying to impress him, get his approval, affection, acceptance. It was hopeless and I guess I knew it deep down but there was always something saying 'maybe this time' in my head.

This kind of situation messes up a guy's relationships with both men and women. My relationship with my father was all about sex. All of my other relationships all my life to one degree or another were tainted by that perspective.

This whole post makes me sad. I don't like to think about what happened and didn't for many years telling myself I had a great childhood and loving family. Truth hurts and when you have avoided it for decades it can kill you to finally accept it and it almost did three times.

I am better now even though this post may not reflect that. My relationships are more stable and I function fairly normally in most social situations. But the pain of it all is like a dark cloud in the back of my mind that I have to resist forcefully from time to time. It whispers, damaged goods, unworthy of what you have, faker, sicko. At least it's no longer telling me you're not a man, you're a thing. I no longer believe that at all. Baby steps.


Cecil Murphey said...

Roger, thank you and all of you. It's time we brought this into the open and made others aware of incest and give hope to survivors like us.

Cecil Murphey said...

This is one of the comments that came to personally. She asked me not to use her name.
It is so sad...your post about the worst abuse that can happen to a man is incest. It truly is, for all the reasons you give. It is so horrific, that people are even afraid to like the post, for fear of people will wonder WHY they liked the post. My husband was sexually abused by his mother. He can't trust, and love terrifies him. He doesn't understand either of those concepts. I love him deeply, but he hears the words "I love you " differently. He has had counseling, but he needs more. He is haunted inside constantly, but high performing in the outside. Heartbreaking. I have your book, thank you for writing it.

Dann Youle said...

I have sometimes felt like the word "incest" was a little too strong. It was my grandfather and I didn't remember until he'd been dead and gone for 15 years-(it's now been 32). It was only after I realized it happened and the details that I realized how extremely devastating it was. My dad was an only child, I was his oldest son. Even though I'm 1 of 4 children, I still held the same position with my dad as he did with his. Sad to say, since my father and I were quite different I didn't see that the incest's effects were yet an additional wedge between myself and him. Fortunately for the last 5-10 years of my dad's life our relationship grew and became what I believe was much closer to what we both desired. However, due to various circumstances during the last few years of his life, (distance after he retired; my illness-cancer in 2009; and his own continual illnesses/declining health the last few years of his life; etc), things didn't progress as smoothly or go as deep as they might have given different circumstances. We were definitely friends when he passed away, but incest took SO much that will never be regained. It just makes me sad when I think about it, however, I'm grateful for restoration that God worked in my relationship with my dad this side of heaven. Still, incest steals in ways that cause nothing but pain and devastation unlike anything those who've never "been there" can imagine.

Cecil Murphey said...

Dann, Thank you for opening your heart once again. I felt especially tocuhed by your final sentence: incest steals in ways that cause nothing but pain and devastation unlike anything those who've never "been there" can imagine.

Anonymous said...

To all the men above, thank you for being open and courageously sharing. After reading your posts, I don't feel so alone and isolated. I really appreciate that you had the courage to use your name and picture. It confirms in my mind that what happened was real. I have always doubted myself because most of my abuse happened in the middle of the night. I have always battled - was it real or was it a bad dream. I'm gradually beginning to accept that it was real. When you are sexually abused by your father - the abuse causes an internal split. I had and still have a love for my father, but at the same time I still have a deep burning anger toward him. For me, it is easier to not think about him at all. To act as if he never existed. Does anybody else have these same feelings?

Dann Youle said...

Hey Anonymous-yes, it was my grandfather who abused me and since he was already gone before I recovered my heart. I wanted to just forget he ever existed however, I think that because he was so broken I realized over time that I can remember good things about him even 32 years after his passing and 17 years after my first memories of the abuse. Also, it helped me understand my dad and desire a good relationship with him even though we're nothing alike. We got the chance to have that closer relationship for at least the last few years of his life.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for replying

Mark Cooper said...

Anonymous - you nailed it on the head when you describe a dad's abuse as causing a split inside of us. I have often felt divided internally, At times I feel like I have split off from my own body. Thankfully, this split is healing, just not as quickly as I want.

I have fought against myself for years to accept that dad abused me. I was really young, my memories are fragmented. I have finally reached a point of giving myself permission to accept what my memories, dreams, and flashbacks have been telling me.

Again, as you, I both love and feel anger, even hatred, towards my dad. (He's deceased now.) I think the mixture of love and anger / hate is actually appropriate for those of us victimized by incest. It is natural to feel love towards a father. And it is natural and right to feel anger and hatred for the evil of the abuse committed against us.

Here is my biggest battle these days; almost every time I enjoy a good memory of him, I feel that I am betraying the little boy who was raped. And when I think about dad abusing me, I feel like I am betraying and dishonoring his memory. I guess that is another way that I am still split, divided.

Thanks for sharing with us Anonymous!