Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feeling Loved

A woman posted this comment on an older blog entry. It’s significant enough that I wanted to share it with you.


My husband never heard "I love you" or "I am proud of you" from his father.

He is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I want him to know healing and freedom. He has addiction issues that I am sure are directly related to the abuse he suffered.

Children need to hear that they are loved by their parents, especially their
fathers! By the grace of God my husband tells our kids he loves them, spends time with them, tells them he is proud of them, and tries to connect with them.

I am also a survivor. We have struggled together for 25 years, endured a 1 1/2 yr. separation, emotional breakdown, loss of home and job, multiple hospitalizations, 2 very near death experiences due to surgery related infections, waiting over 2 years to resolve a disability claim, and trying to raise 5 kids in the midst of it all. The abuse wreaks havoc in every area of life.


This is another sad instance of what happens when kids don’t feel loved. The account of this man reads like the story of most of us who were molested as children. We didn’t hear those wonderful affection statements such as, “I love you” and “I’m proud of you.”

It’s not only the missing words, however, but the warmth and affection from parents that every child needs. Some parents may say the right things, but unless the children believe those words, they mean nothing.

Not to feel loved by parents means kids will reach out for it—unconsciously—and that makes them obvious targets.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Name Is Max

(By Max from Nashville)

My name is Max. I am 65 and consider myself one of the lucky ones.

I was in my mid-40s when I first officially had the words sexual abuse applied to my therapy journey. My body had instructed me since I was young, but I could not understand all my thrashing about meant having been sexually abused. I went to many therapists for 30 plus years before anyone asked me if I had ever been sexually abused.

I said no, of course not.

But things began to come together and eventually I recognized what my body had been trying to tell me for decades. Yes, I indeed had been sexually abused at age 4. I did not have what Alice Miller calls an Enlightened Witness—a term she uses to refer to people who have understood and recognized the consequences of child abuse.

Slowly and with tenacity my life moved toward healing. I am one of the lucky ones, in that I have experienced much healing and indeed much thriving. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I have leaned into the healing journey sufficiently to discover serenity and thriving.

I remember the first moment I felt understood and simultaneously felt safe for the first time. I was in my first Survivors of Incest Anonymous (SIA) meeting in the 1980s.

There were so few of us openly trying to heal in those days. But we continued and it was wonderful to have understanding Enlightened Witnesses for each other. I no longer felt alone, and no longer felt weird. I had brothers in healing. We helped each other tell the stories and to share the respect of truth telling.

I began to heal. I encourage people to look up SIA on the internet. On their home page, SIA states: We Define Incest Very Broadly. The SIA literature is gentle, honorable, and accurate.

I honor Cecil Murphey for his leadership in opening doors for truth telling. I honor him for his energy to encourage us to break the silence. My hope is that as we learn to break the silence, we do so in honorable and safe environments such as SIA 12 step meetings. We are brothers of healing and we can learn to thrive beyond just healing.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Defined by Abuse

"Sexual abuse doesn’t define me, but it does define what happened to me."

I hope you'll ponder that statement. Too many have suffered and built their lives around abuse. Some run from the thought of it or try to deny that it happened. Others put themselves in situations where they're victimized repeatedly (or they might say taken advantage of). Or they go out of their way to protect other boys from sexual assault. They often don't say it in words, but their message is, "I want to be there for other boys because no one was there for me."

And some victims of abuse become perpetrators themselves. This is a complicated topic and I don't feel qualified to talk about it except to say it happens.

Regardless of who you are, say these words to yourself: "Sexual abuse doesn’t define me, but it does define what happened to me."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Does It Mean to Be a Man?

That's a frequent question from men who were sexually molested in childhood. "What does it mean to be a man—a real man?"

We have cultural attitudes and expectations within our own social communities about masculinity. But no matter how it's said, most of us survivors face uncertainty about our manhood. Many of us feel challenged and unsure about our masculinity. We say to ourselves, "If I were a real man, I would (or I wouldn't). . ."

For example, he was a victim of sexual abuse, so he can't be a real man, because true men are never victims. If he thinks of the word victim when he thinks of himself, he may struggle or be aware of something he says that will make others think he's not a real male.

If he cries, his friends may laugh at him, imply that's he's a sissy or behaves like a girl. Maybe he's not athletic or doesn't enjoy watching football. Or perhaps he's too thin or too fat—almost anything can cause him to struggle with deeper issues.

It's sad but too often it's a silent, inner battle he can't share with others. He feels that to talk freely opens him to further criticism.

Years ago my friend Charlie said he played with paper dolls. He was an only child and the dolls entertained him. One day he was with a friend and they saw two girls playing with paper dolls. "Only girls play with real dolls or paper dolls."

"After that," Charlie said, "I played only in my room and made sure no one else would find them." He later said that he started dating girls at age sixteen, and even though he liked girls, later married, and was never involved in any homosexual relationships, he still wonders if he's really a man.

"How do I know if I'm a real man?" he asked.

What would you say to Charlie or to any man like him? Please email me at cec_haraka (at) msn.com if you'd like to respond, and I'll post all the comments at one time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Response from Another Listener of the Janet Parshall Show

A note from Cec: I received permission to use this testimony provided I alter it enough so that no one would recognize the woman's son. This is one of the many, many sad stories without a happy ending—so far.

Thank you for talking about this problem that nobody seems to want to touch on. I wish there was more awareness and more help for the victims and their parents.

My son was abused by a pedophile in Europe when I sent him to visit with my family and his father. He didn't tell anybody what happened to him until he came back home.

This happened when he was nine years old. I must have cried ever since for him. I was a single mom without insurance and there was absolutely no help for him that I could afford.

When he was 18 he was raped again. He is now 24 years old and has a hard time holding a job and is often homeless. He has tried to escape his pain with drugs and alcohol and just today he told me that none of that helped him to get rid of that feeling of filth.

He was a very intelligent child, great in math and he spoke three languages fluent by the age of six, but he is not using any of it to his advantage.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"My Inner Dialogue"

A therapist on the third segment of the Oprah Winfrey show on male sexual abuse brought out something I've done, but I haven't written about. He spoke about the wounded inner child. My friend David refers to it as "my little kid."

A few months after I began my healing journey, I had several dreams one night. In the first, I saw myself as an adult and I held an infant in my arms. I knew it was myself and I said to him, "I'm Cec and you're little Cecil. I'm sorry I wasn't able to take care of you in childhood, but I'm here now."

In the second, little Cecil was a toddler and sitting in a high chair. I stroked his cheek and said, "I couldn't help you then, but I'm here now."

In each dream the little child was older. In the final dream, Cecil must have been a teen, although he was still shorter than Cec. I took his hand and we walked down the street together. "You were so brave," I told him. "You survived and you're healthy. Your brothers didn't make it, but you did. I'm proud of you."

I stopped, turned to him, and hugged him. Then I awakened.

The meaning was obvious, but it started an inner dialogue with me. Even today, probably 20 years after that dream, I still talk to the boy. I remind him of his survival and thank him for not committing suicide (which he tried to do once).

"I like who I am now. I like who I am because you were brave and kept fighting. You didn't let Dad or others defeat you. You were alone and had no one but you kept on. I'm strong today because you were strong then."

Years ago I read something by Marsha Sinetar in which she wrote about the "invulnerables," whom she referred to as those who survived an oppressive childhood and by every law of human behavior should have failed.

I'm an invulnerable.

And I'm grateful to little Cecil, who showed his courage and refused to quit.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Killing the Inner Child?"

I watched the third show about male sexual abuse in childhood on Oprah Winfrey. I can't speak more highly of the program and hope it will come out on DVD for others.

One thing did bother me. Near the end, a dark-complexioned man stood and said that the abuser had killed the boy inside him. One guest said that the child hadn't died, but had been so hurt he couldn't be what he might have been.

I don't agree. Perhaps it's because of my strong Christian theology, but here's how I see this. I was abused by a female relative and later by an old man who lived with us. My father beat me often and brutally.

I'm a survivor—but I'm more than a survivor. I hate what happened to me. Not only did I live in pain for years, but I caused pain to others by my confusion and silence. But today, I'm a stronger, healthier person for having gone through the abuse. St. Paul said it far better than I could: "God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us" (2 Corinthians 1:3–4, New Living Translation).