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.

Walls and Perceptions

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)
Sometimes I have trouble being around other men because we tend to get close after a while. That makes me uncomfortable, and I have a tendency to sabotage the relationship at some point. The walls stay up no matter what.

On the surface, I’m very approachable. I’m friendly, chatty, and easy going to all appearances. In public, I laugh and smile a lot. Joke around a bit too. But if I feel someone is getting too friendly, I tend to become unavailable. “I’m married, have kids, and am a busy man, you know.” They usually get the message and back off into the acquaintance mode.

After all these years and being pretty lonely, I hoped the walls that protected me so well when I was young would rot away and fall down. I’d love to have a best bud, a pal, a confidant with whom I could share my thoughts and fears and hopes. But that will probably never happen. The walls are too strong now even for me to share normal husband/wife things at home. I know this hurts my wife, and she feels shut out, but it’s hard. At the least resistance or misunderstanding, I close down. Why am I so fragile?

I know this is not normal. It’s not right. I see other guys with best friends who are very close and protective of each other.

Part of my mistrust comes from feeling that because I’m attractive, I fear being set up like I was in my younger and even more attractive days. I could never tell if a guy liked me because I was a good person or just a good-looking piece of meat. And it’s not just the guys either. I’ve been seduced by both sexes. I hate the way I, too, look at others. It’s warped. We’re attracted to attractive people. That’s normal and a part of reality. But I suspect most people leave it at that and see the person as just a person. For me, it takes a while to move past the initial assessment.

The kind of childhood I had has affected so much of my life. I’ve learned to pray for people I see. I ask my Maker to let me see them as He sees them. That’s helped a lot, even though I need to work at making it a habit.

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 9 of 9)

“Some victimized children later initiate sexual abuse,” an article said, “so they can predict when it’s coming.” Those words from a well-known psychologist shocked me.

Some of us may have initiated abuse—after we became victimized. I question the reason was because we’d know what was coming. For me, I see it as habitual, learned behavior. We weren’t mature enough to know the difference between our need for love and the perp’s lust.

We help ourselves by remembering and focusing on our youth and innocence. Someone older groomed us and exploited us. Even if we sensed there was something wrong with what was happening, we had been carefully chosen and were easily convinced of the other’s love for us.

The analogy that comes to mind was my aversion to many vegetables when I was first married. My wife got me to eat a few Brussels sprouts. I didn’t like them. Over a period of weeks, she put one or two on my plate. Over time, I learned to enjoy them as well as cauliflower and other members of the cabbage family. Now they’re among my favorites.

Because we felt wanted and loved in our loneliness, why wouldn’t we sometimes initiate the abuse?

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I started this series by asking if sexual harassment was different for men. My answer: The emotional results are much the same—lack of trust, doubting our self-work, afraid to speak, and the list goes on.

Perhaps we can form our own #MeToo movement to encourage more victimized males to speak up.

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 8 of 9)

“It was my fault.”

That’s one of the most insidious lies of all. Too many of us believed we did something to arouse our perpetrators. Many women live with guilt over that same issue.

Years ago, I was part of a weekly group of adult males who had been sexually assaulted. In one of our early meetings, Al said, “If I hadn’t been so good looking, he wouldn’t have molested me.”

“No! That’s not true,” George yelled out. “He wasn’t looking at your face when he came on to you. You could have been the ugliest kid in town, and he would have done the same thing.”

Hank turned to Al. “I’ll bet your perp said that you were so handsome or cute he couldn’t resist you. Didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“It’s like the bungling bank robber declaring, ‘The money was there, or I wouldn’t have tried to take it.’ That’s an example of the guilty blaming the innocent.”

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men (Part 7 of 9)

Another argument used to silence women who claim to have been sexually harassed is, “She didn’t fight back.”

Yet when people are robbed or mugged, no one asks them, “Why didn’t you resist?” That argument assumes that any person who didn’t want to be fondled would struggle and try to overcome the advances. I smile (ruefully) when I read such arguments. Occasionally, I’ve heard male survivors blame themselves.

“If I were a real man, I wouldn’t have let it happen.” Or they say, “I must have wanted it,” and then blame themselves for the sexual assault. As with women, we were physically overpowered by someone bigger and stronger when we were boys. Most of those women who kept silent did it out of fear—fear of losing their jobs, fear of being laughed at, fear of not being believed.

With us, it means that, as adult males, we look back and assume our younger selves to have been strong enough to fight. What could we have done? Cried out? Screamed? Kicked? Perhaps, but there’s something else with us. Our perps targeted us. They knew we were vulnerable. They waited until they had won our trust.

We were the ignored, unloved, unwanted boys. All anyone had to do was show us love and affection. We were too immature to reason out that they were only satisfying themselves and not truly caring for us.

Research used to refer to the fight-or-flight response to danger. A better way to put it today is to refer to fight, flight, or freeze. Victims become paralyzed as their body's protective response. Too often we punish ourselves, believing we know how we should have reacted.

Instead, we need to be kind and loving to ourselves. We did the best we knew how.

And we survived.

Did you blame yourself for not fighting back?