Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Making Amends

(by Angie)

I was raised by a man who suffered unthinkable abuse at the hands of a male authority figure in his life. No one knew my dad had been abused. He is incredibly masculine, gifted in many ways, and wise in the ways of the world. There was another side of him, the side that only we in the family got to see. He shared his pain with us.

As I grew into an adult, I hated him for sharing his pain. The verbal barrages, the paranoia, the compulsive infidelity in my parent’s marriage, and the shattered dreams of childhood when my parents divorced. Life seemed tragic to me, especially once I started having children and realized the horror that my father had endured and shared with me. I used to be so angry that while mopping the floor in my home, I felt as if the tiles would break under the weight of my hurt and sorrow. I cried out to God: "How could You let this happen to my dad? How do You choose?"

I got an answer to my question but not one I expected. Other people’s sin toward us is not what God wants for us. But it does happen and when it does the pain serves a purpose in our lives. It shapes us and teaches us. Many of us get stuck in a place of fear and bitterness. I've been there.

Making amends for me has been a journey of healing. I wrote letters to those who hurt me, sharing openly how I felt. Although I didn't send them, it was cathartic for me to allow myself to feel. I have learned to set healthy boundaries in relationships, including with my dad. I accept what is, instead of trying to change everything.

The easiest thing to change is me. That is the point of making amends, the change in us. The pain of abuse in my family is still there, but now I see it as a gift. It has given me strength and wisdom and shows me my need for something bigger than myself and for authentic relationships where I can be who I am.

Cecil’s book When a Man You Love Was Abused was so helpful to me in the process of making amends because it allowed me to know I am not alone and neither are you. We are all on a journey of making amends, and I am grateful to God for this truth.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Carla's Question

Carla wrote that life is difficult for her because her boyfriend keeps telling her the things that are wrong with her.

Because this blog revolves around male sexual abuse, I assume he is a survivor.

When someone persists in telling me what's wrong with me, something is wrong with the other person. Think of his criticism of you as his inability to accept those qualities in himself. So he throws the problem on you as if you are defective.

I'd also ask why he remains your boyfriend? What kind of relationship is it in which he continues to hammer your unacceptable qualities into your head?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More on Forgiveness

I can only speak about forgiving my perpetrators from my own view of life. I'm a serious Christian and I try to obey what the Bible teaches me. Jesus taught what we call "The Lord's Prayer" and that includes a plea for God to forgive us, "As we forgive." (See Matthew 6:19-13.)

Many people don't go on to read the next verse: "If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins" (verses 14–15 NLT).

The process begins with my sense of being forgiven, just as in the Lord's Prayer we ask God to do that. The next step is that we forgive others. Here's how I see it: The more I appreciate unearned forgiveness by God—and I call that grace—the more I am able to focus on others who haven't earned the right to have their sins taken away. The proof of my being forgiven is that I can then forgive.

It doesn't have to happen immediately and it may take weeks or months (as it did with me), but if we grasp even a glimmer of the grace given to us, we're ready to offer it to others.

This may not work for everyone, but it has worked for me.

Perhaps one of you would like to share your process of forgiving.
Or share your struggle that prevents your forgiving.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"I Know I Need to Forgive, But When Should I?"

That's the wrong way to ask. Should implies being pushed or forced to forgive. And well-meaning friends tend to push us to forgive those who hurt us.

My answer is simple: Forgive when you are ready. Until a man is able to lay aside the anger and pain, he may say, "I forgive," but he doesn't let it go.

Here's how I did it. I prayed daily for my two perpetrators. I prayed for God to help me want to forgive them. I struggled so much over what they had done to me, I felt a kind of justification in despising them.

I must have prayed as I did for a few weeks, and one day I thought of the two people. Although both were now dead, I tried to think how they must have felt. I'm sure they knew what they did was immoral. Wrong. Sinful. Horrible.

So why did they do it? Not everyone agrees with me, but I think they were compelled—I call it an addiction—and molesting a child was a kind of temporary fix for their overwhelming need.

But to call it an addiction of compulsion seemed to de-humanize them. I thought of their inner suffering. I wondered if they hated themselves for what they did. How could they not?

I was finally able to grasp they were hurting people, individuals who knew they were doing wrong but seemed unable to stop themselves.

That's when I was able to forgive them.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Testimony from Graham Bell

The following testimony is from Graham M. Bell, West Yorkshire, UK (and I've retained his British spellings).

I'm almost 47. When I was 9 or 10, then from the ages of 11 to 14, I was groomed and used systematically for the sexual gratification of three men. One was a neighbour, another his lodger, and the third, a teacher whose school I'd started a term late. Hence, I was the new boy.

My recovery has begun in earnest of late. How I've not ended my life—directly or indirectly—already, I have no idea. I pray lots. I've made a Christian commitment. I hold back...but I'm closer than ever to purging the wounds, and I'm still reluctant to trust even God.

I never realised how numbed I'd made myself. Then, suddenly (after 35 years!) I found Cec's book. My wife wept through it. I did, too.

I'm giving up alcohol for Lent. My promise to God is to use my gifts to create something—something in return for Him having spared my almost-suicidal life.

If I do finish the book, it won't usurp Cec's!

Thank God for humour.

Love to Cec, and his bloggers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Questions and Answers (Part 7 of 7)

"Can Women Rape Boys?"

Being abused by women happens—more than we'd like to think. Sometimes it's a female relative (including mothers). Too many adults can't believe that a woman would do such a thing. But they do.

A female relative molested me. On this blog we have Jason Rovenstine's story of a female babysitter who raped him when he was eight years old. There are others. The story of then 34-year-old schoolteacher Mary Kay LeTourneau had sexual relationships with Villie Fualaau, who was then 13. That made national news. A jury found her guilty of sexual assault.

Abuse is terrible and it seems even worse when the perp is female. The most horrendous abuse is when the mother is the perpetrator. As the boy learns about masculinity and maleness, he can't understand what is normal. Something terrible (and often unwanted) was done to him by a woman, and society says he's to love women.

That female molestation becomes his initiation into adult manhood. It will scar him in some way such as making him hate women or believe that the only role for women is sexual.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Questions and Answers (Part 6 of 7)

"Why should I forgive my perpetrator?"

You don't have to forgive. Ever. You can hold the anger and bitterness inside as long as you like. Or you can decide that you don't want to live with such negative emotions eating away.

Today most people know that holding grudges, remaining angry for a prolonged period, and unwillingness to forgive means we—the one who holds on—suffer.

Is it worth it?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Questions and Answers (Part 5 of 7)

"Should I confront my perpetrator?"

A man needs to decide that for himself. One female and one male abused me and both of them are dead. Even if they were alive, I doubt that I would confront them.

If you feel you want to confront, ask yourself one significant question: What do I want to accomplish? If you want the person to confess, that probably won't happen. Perpetrators usually molested more than one boy and he's probably become an expert in denial. "I would never do such a thing to you. I loved you, but I never did anything wrong."

Or worse, he may turn it around and say, "You asked for it. You were always clinging to me and demanding love."

If you feel you must confront, I urge you to take someone with you—someone who can stop your second victimization by accusing you or twisting the reality. Remind yourself that the person deceived you once and stole your innocence. He can't do that again, but he can confuse you or bring doubts.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Questions and Answers (Part 4 of 7)

"If I was abused by a man and it felt good, does that make me gay?"

This is the question most men don't ask aloud. I want to mention that it's natural for sexual abuse to feel good. When someone stimulates our sexual organs, that feels good—that's a natural phenomenon. Tyler Perry, speaking of his abuse, said, "My body betrayed me."

One authority said that sexual identity is established around age 2 or 3—and I pass that on because I'm not a psychologist. But there seems to be no research to prove that being abused makes the victim a homosexual.

Some men become sexually compulsive with women—which I see as part of their unresolved issues. That's a way of shouting, "See! I'm not gay."

One abuse survivor has only one wife but nine children. He said, "If anyone tried to call me gay, I could point to my kids and prove them wrong."

Most of the abused men I've met are heterosexual. My guess is that the therapist was probably right about the formation of sexual identity.