Friday, July 30, 2010

"Something Is Wrong with Me"

One of the saddest, most painful meetings I had with a group of men who had been sexually abused was when I heard Ron say, "Something is wrong with me."

In the past, I had said those words to myself many times. I had learned that such a statement wasn't true, and I didn't want another man to repeat such a self-indictment.

"No, you aren't wrong or bad!" I probably shouted those words. "Something wrong and bad was done to you!"

The others nodded but Ron shook his head. The tears began to fall as he said, "I liked what he did. I hated it but I liked it."

George, the therapist in the group, leaned toward him. "You mean it was pleasurable? That you responded with an erection or that it felt good when you were abused?"

Ron nodded and more tears came.

Slowly and softly George explained, "It's a physiological response and it's automatic. You stimulate the penis and you get an erection."

I marveled at the compassion in his voice as he tried to make Ron realize that his reaction had been normal.

And he spoke healing words for several of us.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wearing Masks (Part 2 of 2)

"I feel like I'm so many different people," Albert said. It was the second meeting of a state-sponsored group of men who had survived sexual abuse in childhood. He went on to explain that he behaved a certain way with close friends, differently with casual acquaintances. "At work I don't act like I do when I'm with friends."

"Maybe you have a handful of masks to choose from," one man said.

We discussed Albert's situation and we finally realized that all of us wear masks. Like Albert, we relate to people in a social setting differently than we do to people who don't know us well.

"So who is the real me?" Albert asked. "I don't know."

"Probably all of them," I said. Not everyone agreed with me, but I believe we show only parts of ourselves at any one time. Another way to say it is that we wear safe masks when we need to do so. That is, we may be friendly, even outgoing, but we choose how much we want to self-reveal.

I also admitted that sometimes our masks show who we'd like to be—that may be a form of hypocrisy, but it's also a mask to hide behind.

The less we trust, the more we feel the need to wear masks and convince people we're who we purport to be. It's safe. And it's actually not difficult.

But it's not freedom. We have to size up the situation and the safe side of us breaks out. For me, it's not whether to wear masks—because we all do at certain times—but we need to be aware that they are masks. Or better still, why don't we get rid of the masks and decide to show select parts of ourselves?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wearing Masks (Part 1 of 2)

Some experts talk about the masks we wear around others. We don’t consciously wear masks, but we submerge our true feelings behind a smile that makes life safer. We can hide behind a grin and say to the world, “I’m happy. I’m happy.”

Or we hide behind the glare that silently says, “Don’t get too close.” The man who always has a joke and never gets serious may be afraid that you'll make him vulnerable and he's not ready for that.

Our masks reveal a glimpse of who we are. Another way to say it is that the masks often show who we'd like to be. Before I dealt with my abuse, others referred to me as a happy person. That was true—sometimes. I wanted to be happy and to enjoy my life. Our masks aren't intentional deception and we may not be aware that we wear them.

The masks aren't about relating to or impressing others. Think of them as protection. We weren't aware of not being our true selves as much as it was our way to retreat from our pain.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the Woods

(By J.B. Mahugh)

Those woods were as much mine as anybody's. A few hundred yards from the house where I grew up was a small, forested vacant lot. It led to a large clearing, encircled by a few fallen timbers that started to decay years before my family and I arrived in the area.

With the advantage of time and distance, I've started to see those woods more clearly for what they are, a simple stand of trees. But that spring day in 1968, I wasn't quite five years old. They were still a place of enchantment.

Was it boredom or curiosity that lured me on? I can't say. Whatever it was, I followed four older boys I'd never met. When they looked back, they laughed at my trying to tag along. But they didn't stop me.

I was soon with them in the seclusion of the clearing. One boy ordered me to take down my pants and to lie on my back in the dirt. It didn't feel right but I did what I was told. As I lay there for what felt like a long time, pine needles pressed against my bare bottom and the back of my legs as they thrust pointed sticks into my private parts. Laughter intensified and increased as the voices jeered and belittled my small shivering body.

An intruder entered the woods. "What are you doing to him? You leave him alone!" It was my mother.

They scattered. She told me to pull my pants up. I did and we walked home.
That was the last anybody spoke of what happened that day in those woods for another twenty-eight years.

It took me nearly three decades to recall what occurred in those woods when I was small and those woods were still mine as much as anybody's. After that day they became something else too.

They became my woods of shame. And it would be years more before I'd clear out the debris left behind, rotting away inside my head.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Three Thoughts

(By Tom Edward)

Unresolved childhood sexual abuse, or any type of issue, doesn't disappear just because you grow up or ignore it.

Past troubles are manifested in your adult life in different ways whether you realize it or not.

Coping mechanisms may have helped us as children, but they can be destructive and damaging in adulthood.

--Tom Edward is the founder of Healing Broken Men. For more information, visit

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Telling His Story in a Safe Place

One thing I think is absolutely true: When the abused are in a place of safety--most of us use the term "safe place"--we can face our pain and forgive ourselves. A safe place is where an individual or a group listens to what we need to say about ourselves. They believe us--because they understand our pain.

I'm convinced that telling his story is one of the major steps in an adult survivor's recovery. But the listener has to be someone who is supportive, who encourages him to press on past the pain, who loves him, and who has already established a trusting relationship with him. Simply telling his story may sound easy, but for many men that's difficult. When he learns he can trust another person, he's ready to reveal his experiences and to begin his healing journey.

He needs someone to listen without directing him. He needs to speak without being interrupted, questioned skeptically, or battling arguments. As he feels stronger, he needs to widen his circle of trust and intimacy. It's a good idea for him to pray about talking to others he can trust. There are self-help groups in most cities, usually built on the Alcoholics Anonymous principle. I'm always quick to recommend Christians in Recovery and Celebrate Recovery groups. There are also a number of on-line groups to which he can safely and anonymously respond.

Whenever he speaks to anyone about his abuse and the information is held in confidence, it's easier for him to open up even more. Each time he feels safe with another person, he is steps farther down the healing path.

--excerpted from When a Man You Love Was Abused by Cecil Murphey, Kregel Publications, 2010, pages 144-145

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gary Roe's Story

As a result of early childhood abuse, I have struggled deeply with feelings of being alone. The abuse was revealed to me through a series of flashbacks over several years. It was a time of deep pain, confusion, grief, and anger.

In the midst of these flashbacks, I attended the annual Northwest Christian Writer's Association Conference in Seattle. I was walking through the conference bookstore, waiting for the first main session, when I noticed a postcard on the floor at my feet. I picked it up and read about an online ministry for male survivors of sexual abuse begun by Cecil Murphey. And Cec was the keynote speaker for the conference.

I stood there and stared at the postcard. I felt myself tearing up. I turned and walked outside, whipped out my cell phone, and called my wife, Sharon. I could hardly talk. Even though I was in counseling, and had shared with close friends and my congregation about my background, I still felt alone. One of the reasons I felt so alone was that I had yet to meet another man who had been through similar horrors (or at least, no man who admitted it). Now, this evening, I was going to meet a fellow male survivor.

That evening, after Cec spoke, I got in line to meet him. I had no idea what I was going to say. I tried rehearsing it repeatedly in my mind. When I got to him, all I could do was hold up the postcard. A sudden look of recognition passed across his face, and he hugged me. I felt myself tearing up again. He looked directly into my eyes and said something like, "I thank God for you. You're an answer to my prayers." (He had prayed to connect with other abuse victims.)

Over the next two days, Cec and I spent several hours together. Each moment was crucial for me. Here was someone who understood, who could relate, and who knew. As we shared our stories, I was blown away by the similarities of our experiences. I was so amazed that he could tell what I was thinking and feeling. I had found not only a brother, but a fellow soldier in this fight for freedom and healing. He knew.

Since then, every conversation I have had with Cec has been important to me. Yet I am still slow to reach out and initiate with him sometimes, even though I love him dearly. The shame and fear attached to the abuse is great. The power of abuse lies in its secrecy. Every time I tell my story, every time I call Cec, it is like coming out of hiding, and I feel freer afterward.

My interactions with Cec actually led us to begin a ministry in our church for survivors of sexual abuse and those who love us. It is called Oasis. We must come out of hiding. We need each other to heal and to grow. By coming together, we begin to stand against this great evil. I am far from alone.

--excerpted from When a Man You Love Was Abused by Cecil Murphey, Kregel Publications, 2010, pages 155-156

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When Is Healing Complete?

Is any man totally healed from childhood molestation? I don't know. I can speak for myself and say, "Not quite." I no longer feel the pain. Occasionally--and less frequently as time goes by--I have a flashback of an episode from my childhood. Even when I have one, it comes more like a memory of something that happened in the past with no heavy emotion tangled up with it. Despite that, I can sincerely say I've been healed....

First, I can usually talk about my sexual abuse without tearing up. I don't feel strange or odd when talking about the experience. To the contrary, speaking about male sexual assault, and especially when I tell about my own, strengthens me.

Second--and some men never make this stage--I look back and thank God. I'm not thankful for the abuse, but I am thankful for the good things that have come out of my dealing with it.

--excerpted from When A Man You Love Was Abused by Cecil Murphey, Kregel Publications, 2010, page 162.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Michael's Story

NOTE: Michael was neglected by both parents and terrorized by an alcoholic father. He was physically and emotionally abused by his mother. Michael started to drink at age 11 and became an alcoholic until he was 28 years old. In early 2010, he almost died of acute liver failure because of the abuse of prescription drugs. Here's the rest of his story:

My elderly grandparents lived with us when I was young. My parents seemed too busy or detached to nurture me and show me affection, so I often went downstairs to sit in my Granny’s lap. She was my comfort, sang songs for me, and made me laugh. Granny told scary stories and took me for walks.

Granny is also the one who sexually molested me when she gave me my baths. How could I face that? The only one who thought I was worth spending time with, who took time to enjoy me for who I was—her loveable grandchild— wasn't who I thought she was. She robbed me of my innocence.

Through those days in the hospital, when I suffered from acute liver failure, my wife stuck with me. That's when I finally realized that nothing I could do would make her emotionally abandon me or leave me. I was able to tell my wife what Granny did. Then I told a counselor. I broke down and wept and he told me it was okay to cry. He was compassionate and he understood, just as my wife had understood.

I am beginning to realize how much abuse has affected my life. I'm grateful to be alive and have opportunity to heal. I'm grateful to courageous survivors who have dared to tell their stories so that I could gain the courage to tell mine.