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.

Why the Memories and Flashbacks Now? (Part 1 of 3)

A few years ago I read a fascinating master’s thesis about men who faced their childhood abuse in what we call middle age—late 30s to early 50s.

Why then? I don’t know all the reasons, but I’m among those middle-aged types. At age 51, the reality of my childhood broke through—and it was a painful time for me. For days I couldn’t get past flashbacks and vivid memories.

Why did it take me so long to face the ordeal and the pain of those early years? The most satisfying answer I’ve found is that it didn’t happen until I felt safe. I’d been married to a caring woman for nearly 30 years. Although I use the term safe, another way to express it is that I finally understood I was loved for who I was and not for what I said or did.

For most of those years, I had been an ordained minister and heavily involved in others’ lives. On some kind of unconscious level, I believed that if I behaved kindly and warmly, I’d be loved and accepted. That may be true, but it also meant I worked to earn that kind of acceptance.

When I finally grasped that I was loved for who I was without conditions or qualifications, I was ready to face my past.

How about you?

When did you face your abusive past?

Questions, Questions, Questions

I’ve been writing this blog for nearly six years. I’ve never asked any of you to send in questions. I may not have answers, but I’d like to know what troubles you.

If you have a question (or more than one) please email me at
cec.murp@comcast.net—my private email address. I’ll respond to them on the blog.


Did You Tell?

I’ve lost count of the number of radio and TV interviews I’ve done on the topic of sexual assault. In the majority of them, they ask me to tell my story. Almost as soon as I finish, the next question becomes, “Did you tell anyone?”

“No, I didn’t.” If they ask why, I usually say, “I didn’t think anyone would believe me.” That answer is only partially true. Probably more accurately the answer should be, “I felt no one cared enough to listen.”

Like a lot of abused kids, I felt alone, unloved, and unwanted. Who would I have told? Who would have listened?

I haven’t posed such questions on this blog, but if you didn’t tell, I’d like to hear your answer. Use your own name or write anonymously.

If you didn’t tell, do you know why?

Timing

“The earlier the abuse took place, the deeper and more traumatic the impact on the survivor.” I read that statement by an authority on childhood abuse. He never presented any evidence, but he did say that came out of his “30 years of practice.”

He also wrote something to the effect that the more deviant the perpetrator’s behavior, the greater the detriment to the survivor’s recovery. He seemed to believe that, as adults, they had deeper issues to work through.

He added something about the wider the age difference, the more negative the result.

That’s when I stopped reading, although I’m no expert who can disprove what he wrote. But what he ignored was the personality of the child.

We all heal differently, and his statements didn’t reflect that. Some boys are more sensitive than others; some survivors never seem to overcome the effects.

Immediately I think of John, a member of a small group of six men I joined during the initial year of my coming to terms with my abuse.

In one of our first meetings, John told us about his painful childhood of abuse, and it sounded much like mine, except his was a single perpetrator. He had been seeing a therapist for 20 years. He ended by saying, “I feel like a bag of shit.”

Our group met every Thursday for four years until I moved out of the city. On the last meeting, John made the same statement about himself.

I haven’t seen John since, but I wonder how he feels about himself today. My guess is that he’s probably at about the same level as he was back when he was part of the group.

Why was John unable to recover after more than two decades of therapy? I don’t know. I’m hesitant to say it was because his abuse took place so early. Or blame the length of it. I could say the same things about mine. John knew his abuser was at least 25 years older. The old man who assaulted me was at least 55 years older than I was and the woman was 35 years older.

Why have I been able to achieve almost-but-not-quite healed status and John seemed stuck? I don’t know.

I’m grateful for the friends and loved ones who have stood with me and helped me. I’m even more grateful to a benevolent and compassionate God.

Why me?

Why have I moved so far down that road?

I have no idea, but I’m filled with gratitude at the growth and progress.

Excusing

“She couldn’t help it,” I once said of my female perpetrator. “Her father made her his sexual partner after the death of his wife.”

For a long time, I used that as a way to excuse her. “She couldn’t help it. It was behavior she learned as a child.” That’s true, but it doesn’t pardon her for sexually assaulting me.

I excused the old man who molested me. “He was such a lonely man.”

More than just excusing the culprits in my life, by defending them (and I was defending), I didn’t face my anger.

But one day that changed. I went out for a late afternoon run by a small lake and (fortunately for me) no one else was around. For at least an hour I raged at the two now-dead people. I was angry at myself for defending their actions. After the venom poured out, I allowed myself to grieve over my stolen childhood.

I finished my run, sank on a bench, and cried for a long time. “I’ll learn to forgive you,” I said to both culprits, “but right now I want to feel my anger. You hurt me and made my childhood sad and lonely. I didn’t deserve what you did to me!”

It was almost dark by the time I left the park. I didn’t feel vindicated or happy. At the time I was worn out, but deep within was the sense that I had faced reality. I had pronounced them both guilty of murdering the innocence of my childhood.

When I no longer defend the guilty,
I can have compassion on the innocent.