Friday, September 28, 2012

Separation Anxiety

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

Sexual abuse began so early in my life that I missed the chance to become my own person in the way that I should have at an early age. My initial identity was formed as someone who existed to bring another a sick pleasure.

The secret use of my body to satisfy someone older and bigger was the first place that I felt valued as a human being and that identity stuck to me like hot glue. Fortunately for me, I have come to know that that was only a false identity and not the real me.

Babies and small children often suffer through what we know as separation anxiety. Having been so close to the mother in the womb and at the breast results in fear and anxiety when infants experience separation. I have experienced a different form of separation anxiety as I have faced the reality that the early identity formed in me on was the wrong one. Or worse, that it was forced on me by my abusers. I became an object and not a human to them and then to myself.

My abuse stretched out over many years, and I was acting it out in multiple bisexual relationships primarily as the sex-slave of others. I lived to pleasure others and took that role because it was the only thing I knew. I was the powerless one and the partner always the strong one. It was sheer hell in so many ways, even though I thought I wanted this. I didn’t know that I was living out the wrong identity for many years after the abuse. Eventually, truth broke through.

I've spent many years untangling the effects of abuse. I've made great strides in separating myself from the false identity forced on me and in developing the real me, the man who has power over my own mind and body. This causes anxiety at times when I seem to fall back into old patterns of thinking. Like a baby, I don’t know who I am apart from the abuse that "mothered" me in many ways. But with each day I find that I won’t die becoming the real me.

I will live and I will live well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shadow Boxing

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

One of the strange things about surviving sexual abuse is that it never quite feels like I’ve survived it. I have to remind myself quite often that the abuse was in the past and isn't happening to me today. However, having suffered so much in my childhood resulted in a nasty case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that went undiagnosed for more than thirty years. I’ve realized that this is why I keep shadow boxing with the memories and feelings of being abused long into adulthood.

Someone older and bigger abused me. The size and age differential were massive and caused me to live my life in fear of other men. When I walked into a room or drove down the street, any man I saw was bigger and more powerful than I was, even if they really weren’t.

In business meetings the other men had advantages over me because I thought of myself as weaker than them. Even women were stronger and more powerful, especially if they seemed to be "together" or strong-minded.

One of the most difficult things I've wrestled with as an abuse survivor is realizing that these thoughts and feelings are irrational. They're the shadows of the past, the specters of abuse that rendered me powerless and feeling that I'm less than the man I really am. I struggle with continually giving my power away to other people, especially men, even if they have no advantage over me.

There's no way to win at shadow boxing. The shadows are real; they have no real power. As I continue to overcome my abuse, one of my greatest strengths is to realize that shadow boxing is useless. When I realize that I am caught up in an irrational thought pattern or feeling, I stop, surrender to God, and claim for myself the true freedom of who I am at this moment.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Long Road to Forgiveness

(This post comes from Anonymous.)

I was ten years past the physical abuse before a therapist explained that I had been abused. I thought all little boys did the kinds of things I did with family members in secret times and hidden places. It never dawned on me that what was happening to me was wrong, though somewhere deep inside me I felt dirty and knew I couldn’t talk about it to anyone. I actually thought that was normal.

Now thirty years beyond the abusive behavior of my relatives, I realize that the struggle to forgive them is like a giant mountain I can’t imagine being able to climb.

They abused me.

They should have known better; they shouldn't have done it. I've paid an enormous price in my life for their horrible actions. There are times I have hated them for what they did.

The big problem is that resentment and hatred fueled my emotional distress, addiction, and dysfunction. Carrie Fisher once said, "Resentment is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die."

Forgiveness means so much more for me than it does for my abusers, but it seems so counterintuitive to do it and almost impossible considering the damage they did to me.

For now, I take it a day at a time. Two of my abusers have passed away, and that releases me from the fear of having to see them again in this life. I sometimes try to imagine them standing before God as the men they should have been all along.

I know they have to reckon with him one way or another. I am responsible only for myself and for the kind of life I choose to lead. Forgiveness for me is like traveling on a giant mountain or a long road. I can live successfully by taking it one step at a time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lasting Effects

The impact of sexual abuse can be devastating and it is long lasting. Because you were a child, and you were victimized by someone—and most of the time it was someone you trusted.

The first thing you need to know is this: The sexual abuse was not your fault. You may even be told that you did something wrong, but that person lied. You were a victim; you were an innocent child.

Most of the adult survivors with whom I've talked told me that they grew up feeling something was wrong with them. They believed they caused the abuse and blamed themselves.

You may have tried to talk about the molestation and no one listened. Until recent years, too many adults refused to acknowledge that such things occurred. If that happened to you, you have probably felt inadequate, embarrassed, isolated, guilty, shameful, and powerless. Then you probably reacted by suppressing this as a shameful secret.

For example, I was once involved with a men's group. One member, Greg, said that when he was seven, he wanted to tell his mother that his own father was sexually abusing him. One night at dinner, he said, "Daddy has been pulling down my pants and doing bad things to me."

"Eat your dinner," his mother said.

His two siblings said nothing; Dad continued to eat. That was the last time Greg opened his mouth about his abuse until he was thirty-one years old. That's when he joined a group of survivors of male sexual assault.

Research now affirms the link between the abuse and the effects. Each of us needs to be able to admit that the long-term effects are powerful and include poor self-esteem, difficulty trusting others, anxiety, feelings of isolation, self-injury and self-mutilation, eating disorders, sleep problems, depression, self-destructive tendencies, sexual maladjustment, and substance abuse.

(This post comes from the Shattering the Silence archives, 5/7/10.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moving Beyond the Abuse

"It's the past. Forget it and move on," my youngest brother, Chuck, said to me. We had both been sexually assaulted by the same person. He didn't admit being sexually molested, but he didn't deny it either. On the few occasions when I tried to talk to him about it, his answer was, (1) "You can't undo the past," (2) "We don't have to think about those things," or (3) "That stuff happened back then." His words implied that we need only to forget the past, leave it behind, and it's gone.

If only it were that simple.

Chuck died after years of trying to cure his pain through alcohol. I don't know if the pain he tried to medicate was the abuse, but I suspect it was. On rare occasions when he was drunk, he made oblique references to "that mess in childhood."

Outwardly, Chuck wanted to get past the sexual molestation and get on with his life. So why didn't he "move on" with his life?

I had a second brother named Mel, also an alcoholic. He was married five times and died of cirrhosis at age 48. Unlike Chuck, Mel wouldn't talk about our childhood. "There's nothing back there to talk about," was the most he ever said.

I write about my two brothers because both of them seemed determined to get past the abuse of childhood by forgetting, denying, or ignoring. That approach doesn't work.

We don't forget—not really. We don't forget because childhood abuse affects our lives and shapes our attitudes about people and relationships. Some guys want to hurry and get over it, but it's not something to get over and to move on.

Abuse happened to us. Until we accept it and face what it has done to our lives, we don't really move forward. We only live unhealed lives.

(This post comes from the Shattering the Silence archives, 5/4/10)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


(This blog post comes from Bill Christman.)

The priest raped me and I couldn't do anything about it. After that, unconsciously, I decided I wouldn't ever allow anyone to control me again. For example, my mom's new husband, a captain in the military, told my brother and me to use sir or ma'am when addressing them. That resulted in my negative responses such as swearing, yelling, or obvious indifference—whatever it took to stop it and give me control. Throughout my life, whenever I perceived being controlled in any way, I reacted angrily. Verbally at first, physically if that didn't work.

Many times it was my mistaken perception of what someone was doing or saying, such as a man's friendly gesture of touching me on the shoulder and saying hello. My fear of being controlled brought out my dark side.

Bill Christman is the author of Forgiving the Catholic Church: Finding Justice for the Abused and Abusers (WinePress Publishing, 2012).

Friday, September 7, 2012

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 8 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

Guilt often triggers shame in my life. 

Shame has been debilitating. For a long time, it kept me imprisoned by firing the same, crushing messages through my brain and heart.

"You’re worthless," Shame said. "You caused the abuse. You deserved it. You’re damaged goods. You’re the problem. You’ll never be a real man."

Shame whispers, "So what hope have you today? Really, none. You’ll go through the motions, hoping for something better. But it’ll never get better, because you’re the problem. It’s your fault."

"Really?" I say back to Shame. "I think not. You will not rule my thoughts, my motives, my actions, or my relationships. I’ll confront you whenever I sense your presence.

"You came from outside me and through the abuse. You’re not mine. I don’t want you. Take a hike. Yeah, I know you’ll keep coming back, but I’ll be right here, ready to stand against you. I’ll outlast you, and eventually you’ll have to go."

I can stand firm against shame’s onslaught. 
This is a battle I’m determined to win.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Battling the Guilt Monster (Part 7 of 8)

(This blog post comes from Gary Roe.)

Guilt is like an octopus, thrusting forth its tentacles to snatch and destroy. In my life, one of the most powerful tentacles has been shame.

Shame. The abuse planted that emotion deep inside my heart. People and events weren't at fault. I was wrong; the problem was me. That's what I learned from shame.

Like a microchip implanted inside my brain, shame fired up at the slightest stimulus. Something went wrong and the abuse happened again, or I made a mistake and was punished. I was the problem.

I fled inside myself. When I couldn’t hide, I tried to justify my existence with achievements. All the time, shame was there, whispering its lies into my ears. Shame also isolated me from healthy relationships.

I’m done with shame. It didn't originate with me. It’s not mine. Shame belongs to my perpetrators.

I return shame to where it belongs. I no longer allow it roam my mind and heart unchallenged. I call it out. "Shame, that’s your voice speaking, not mine. No thanks."

As I challenge shame’s power over me, 
 I can experience freedom and connect with others.