Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"I'm Afraid"

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

Those were Evan's first words to me when he talked about his abuse. He had been in a support group through Celebrate Recovery and had come a long way in less than a year.

He was afraid, he said, that he might become an abuser and perpetrate what had been done to him. Because I didn't know what to say, I let him talk.

He had talked to his former pastor and the man said, "You be careful now. Most molesters were once abused as children."

"You mean you're afraid because of what the pastor said and not because of any urges or desires?"

"I wouldn't want to hurt kids. Why would I bring such pain on them after what I've gone through?"

Probably I could have said, "Your fears are unfounded," or "Your former pastor is a jerk." Instead I said, "As long as that troubles you, it may be a good sign that you don't want to molest others."

Evan stared at me for what seemed like a long time. Then he smiled. "You know, that feels right. If I wanted to hurt kids I wouldn't be afraid, would I?"

I think Evan understood a powerful lesson about life.

Friday, October 25, 2013

"I Struggle with Same-sex Attractions"

(This amazingly transparent comment comes from a man named Mark, and he has given me permission to print it. Cec.)

I read your post, "Something is wrong with me," Throughout my entire childhood, the memories of my abuse were pleasurable in my mind. They represented acceptance from my teenaged abuser at a level that I never found elsewhere.

I struggle with same-sex attractions. In recent days I am finally seeing that every time I meet a man—whether at church, at my favorite coffee bar, my recovery meetings, or just passing on the street—I look to see if there's something that will attract me.

My friends are godly men, married, and with families. At times, I've been attracted to them physically and emotionally—craving their touch, attention, and approval.

Even though I know it's wrong, if I were to put myself in the wrong situation, I could choose homosexual activity with a man. By God's grace and protection, I have not made that choice in more than 10 years. But it continues to happen in my mind.

I'm entering a point in my journey where those around me cannot walk with me. Their responses to their own abuse have been different. I know God is always with me. But I long for more than Him. I long for strong arms to hold me. I long for strong fingers to brush away my tears and for a strong chest to lay my head against.

When I'm completely honest, I know that none of my longings are about homosexuality. I'm longing for what I've always yearned for—which my father was unable or unwilling to provide. I long for the expressions of intimacy that were withheld from me, and which, in turn, made my sexual abuse seem so good.

I'm really hurting. And yes, only God can touch this place. Is He good enough? Is He God enough, to touch this place? My years of "church training" make me want to automatically answer, "Of course."

I may be wrong, but out of respect for the lonely, hurt child within, I am not going to answer that question. I'm going to allow it to stand, unanswered: "Is God good enough to touch this place I've been afraid to let go of, since I was 5 years old?"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"Something Is Wrong with Me"

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

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.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Defending Our Abusers

(an encore post from Cecil Murphey)

The first time I ever heard an abuser defended was in a small group of men. All of us were survivors. One of them, who was quite handsome, said, "If I hadn't been so good looking, he wouldn't have done that to me."

The rest of us were quick to protest. His looks may have attracted the abuser, but the man wronged him. The abuser knew what he was doing.

"That's what he always told me," the survivor said.

I've heard survivors excuse the abuser because he was lonely or misunderstood. They'll say. "He just tried to prove he loved me." Another excuse is, "He was sexually abused when he was a child."

Regardless of the excuses made for them, they are only excuses. They wounded us. They destroyed the innocence of our childhood.

There is no excuse for anyone who sexually abused us. We were children, usually much younger than our perpetrators. The abuser hurt us. It's good to forgive them, but not because of such an excuse. We forgive because we've been healed and are able to move on with our lives.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"I'm Angry."

(an encore post from Cecil Murphey)

I met him at a writers' conference and he showed me a book he had written. The writing wasn't good but as I read it, I said, "Why are you so enraged? You seem to be against everything."

He said nothing at first, but the tightness of his jaw had already told me. "I'm angry a lot," he finally said.

"It shows in your writing."

We talked and finally the tears flowed. He told me about his childhood abuse. He wouldn't give me permission to use his name, but I've met other men like him. They tend to focus their anger in three different ways. The most obvious one is toward the person who abused them. They're angry at themselves—because they let it happen. A third target is the adults who didn't protect him from the predator.

I've met a few men who are just generally angry at the world. They don't focus on any of those three. Sometimes they live a long time in denial of the abuse or they sublimate it. It's as if the anger goes underground and comes to the surface in an area where it's safe to be mad.

Many of us male survivors know about anger. We haven't always known why we were angry, but we know the feeling. As healing takes place, the anger usually subsides—at least it did with me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

There Is Nothing Wrong with Us

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"There is nothing wrong with us; something wrong was done to us."

I don't remember where I read those words, but they have stayed with me.

Like a lot of other men, I felt I was defective or flawed. I didn't think much about God because I thought God only liked good people, and I certainly didn't qualify. I felt ashamed; I felt worthless.

"There is nothing wrong with me; something wrong was done to me." That's how I say it now.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Keep Going

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

At a time I was going through a particularly painful period in my own inner healing, I read John Bunyon's classic allegory Pilgrim's Progress. Near the end of book one, the pilgrim, Christian, must cross the river (death) to enter into the celestial city. He's terrified, cries out, and wants to turn back. One of his companions says, "You must go through, or you cannot come into the gate."[1]

Christian's other companion, Hopeful, stays with him and urges him on, telling him that even though it seems as if he might drown, he won't. "Be of good cheer, my brother; I feel the bottom, and it is good,"[2] he says. Because of Hopeful, Christian makes it to the other side safely. When he gets there, he realizes he was not in any real danger, but that fear had made him want to turn back.

I understood. I had been at the place of despair. I hurt. As I daily opened myself to those painful memories of childhood I wanted to give up. I prayed, "God, is it worth the pain?" Some days I didn't feel I could keep going.

That section of Bunyon's book gave me courage to keep going. I felt as if God whispered, "Don't give up. Keep going forward." I stayed with the pain and I discovered, as Bunyon's character did, that it was solid on the bottom and I wouldn't drown.
[1]London: Thomas Nelson, undated, p.165.
[2] ibid

Friday, October 4, 2013

Lasting Effects

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

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.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"This Is Hell."

(This is another transparent, courageous email from Lee Willis.)

I've read the posts and could feel a connection. It was reassuring to read that I am not alone in my struggles and feelings. I walk this journey by myself since there is really no one to talk to.

I noticed the other day how church is very difficult. I look at the men in the church and I feel like a freak and an outcast. I know I don’t fit in because I haven’t acknowledged my own sexuality and gender.

Being sexually abused by men, I shut off that part of me. I didn’t relate when I was growing up. I thought when I became an adult that it would go away, but I still feel like I’m the nothing on the playground. So I question my own masculinity and wonder who I am and what I am.

This isn’t life. This isn’t joy. This is hell. How do I endure each day? I realized that I have shut off my feelings. I put on an act for everyone so I can fit in, but it’s not me. Sometimes when I get brave, I say a little something about being abused, but no one wants to know. I don’t think they know how to respond.

Some people know I suffer from PTSD, but they are not interested in how and why. So the lonely kid on the playground grows up to still be the lonely kid on the playground still wanting to be like all the other guys, but knowing something is really wrong. Knowing I’m just a freak.