Friday, June 27, 2014

Control Issues

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

Every person I know who was sexually assaulted struggles with control issues. Or perhaps power issues is the better term. We tend to have to be in charge (in control) of things or we surrender and give up any self-assertion. Some vacillate between the two extremes.

I am a controller, although many people don't recognize it. For instance, recently I was at a dinner meeting and five of us were at one table. I started the conversation going and kept it moving. One woman was largely silent while the rest of us laughed and joked. When there was a pause, I turned to her, a woman I didn't know well, and said, "You've been quiet. So tell us five things about yourself that you don't want anyone to know."

Everyone laughed. I was in control. She responded in a joking manner and entered the conversation. That's what I call benevolent control. There have been other times when my assertiveness (or aggression) has been more self-centered, such as my need to protect or defend myself. In the past, if a conversation tended to go in an unwelcome or dangerous way I cracked a joke or changed the topic.

I rarely need to do that these days.

I'm learning to give up unhealthy power—the kind of control that belittles or hurts others. I want to submit gracefully to those who still need to assert themselves. I recently spoke at a conference and the leader did a few things I didn't personally like, but I thought about her actions and said to myself, so what? Who'll remember? Who will care?

In that instance, I knowingly and consciously gave up control and it was all right.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

When It's Time to Forgive

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

One anonymous reader castigated me for pushing people to forgive. I don't push anyone to forgive, but that's how he perceived the tone of the blog.

For those of us who were molested, the time comes during our healing journey when it's exactly the right time to forgive.

Forget about forgiving—until you're ready, until you feel the need to forgive. When that happens, that is the right time to forgive.

Although I can't remember exactly when I forgave my two perpetrators, I know it occurred several months, perhaps a full year, after I began to heal. That day I ran seven or eight times around a small lake in a park. (The circumference was about half a mile.) No one else was in the area, and I yelled at my long-dead abusers. I screamed at them for the pain they had caused me. Just before I started my final loop, I was able to say, "I forgive you." I had spewed out my anger and, to my surprise, it was gone. I was ready to release my pain.

If anyone had pushed me to forgive earlier, I would have gotten angry and felt guilty. Angry because I didn't want to forgive; guilty because I would have felt I should forgive. And I've received the should message several times in my life. For me, forgiving and "letting go of the pain" mean the same thing. When I'm ready to walk away and leave the pain behind, then it's time to forgive.

The important fact is that each of us must determine when it's time. Some of us forgive quickly; others need longer to process through the pain. Regardless, no one has the right to push anyone to forgive.

Forgiveness is always a choice. 
And it's sad but some people are never able to forgive.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Easy Answers

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"Your blog is full of crap." That was the subject line of an email from someone who called himself J A. He used a number of obscene words (and I was familiar with them). About the third paragraph, he wrote, "Your blog makes it sound so easy. Just do certain things and you're home free."

The only defense I can offer is that he read words that I didn't put in my blog. Thus I wrote an email with the following information to state my position:

* It's not easy to overcome childhood sexual abuse. It will probably take years.

* You have to accept the fresh pain of facing your old pain before you experience any level of healing.

* You have to be strong and determined to persevere if you want to overcome the effects of abuse.

* You'll probably never be completely healed—but you can get close.

* There are no easy solutions and there is never one answer that applies to everyone. Each of us has to find our own path to healing.

* Our abuse was personal and individual; our healing is personal and individual.

J A didn't respond to my email. I'm sorry J A didn't grasp what this blog has been saying from the beginning.

There are no easy solutions, 
but there is hope for those who are courageous.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


(This is a letter Philip wrote to Cecil Murphey.)

I read your book and it gave me great encouragement through a very tough time last year with flashbacks that I was getting through the abuse that I went through as a child. You answer questions that no psychologist or counselor (I have seen a few over they years) have given me. No doubt because you relate it all back to God, and that is how we can get meaning through this madness. God did not do this to us, was crying when we went through it, and he rejoices when we see his plan through this even though the acts we suffered was evil.

I am 42, and I'm not sure when the abuse started, maybe when I was 6, and it continued through my teenage years. It was mainly women, though men were also involved. I didn't remember the abuse. I knew there were gaps of time, and I had lots of questions about these gaps.

My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was young and I did not want to be mad like her, and I didn't ask the questions about what was going on.

I blocked people out and kept to myself. I haven't been in relationship because of a fear that for a long time I did not know that was there, I just accepted that I was strange.

Since 2005, I have experienced flashbacks off and on, and I've been on different medication to help me cope. I hide away and don't talk to anyone, or return calls, or develop close friendships.

I have accepted the flashbacks. It's in the long term past so that I can deal with because these gaps of time don't occur any more.

Now my question: How recent in the past do the events that produces does flashback, intense memories and emotions of sexual experiences need to be?

Right now I'm as scared as I have ever been because of intense memories and feelings of sexual experiences that I have no memory of. I have zero memory of those events and as a result I seriously think I am going mad. I take no drugs and very rarely drink alcohol.

I don't know what to do with this, and I restarted taking medication because I am struggling to concentrate and to be happy. All I seem to do this week is to have the memory in my head while I talk to people and this is full on because it involves both men and women. I know the medication is not going to fix it, but I need a break from this. It's getting difficult to drive a car because I get distracted so easily.

The two people that I can trust to talk about this, a close friend and a psychologist, are both overseas and will be back at the end of July. I feel shattered and running on empty.

If this memory is true or not it has such huge impacts for me either way and both of them are scary. I yell to God that I want life to be easy like it was and it is far from that.

(Here is Cec's response. We welcome your comments.)

Thanks for writing to me. Flashbacks are normal.

I'm not a therapist, but I have a theory. Those long-hidden memories start to return when we're equipped to cope with them. (I realize you're having trouble coping.) Many of us unconsciously developed a form of amnesia, which is a form of denial. That was our method of surviving childhood. I was almost ten years older than you are when my memories started to return. And they hurt. Deeply.

The only advice I can offer is, "Don't fight them. Accept those flashbacks." Because you sound like a praying man, here is where you learn to rely on divine help.

The flashbacks rarely come in complete form, but usually in fragments. Or as you say, you have gaps. I still have them. Even today, I can't give you details of my sexual assault, but I know the events happened.

Be kind to yourself, Philip. I don't know if this will help, but when I went through the worst of my flashbacks, I said to myself repeatedly, "This is the best I can do at this stage of my development." Some days I wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn't. I kept on.

The really good news is that eventually the flashbacks go away.

Friday, June 13, 2014

He Thought He Was Gay

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

Brian told me about his abuse as a child and said, "For years I thought I was a homosexual." Because he seemed to be a rather well-adjusted heterosexual, I asked, "Any idea what made you feel that way?"

Without hesitation he said, "Because I enjoyed it. From the first time I had an erection and it felt good." When he was a little older, he ejaculated. "If it was that awful, why did I enjoy it? I thought I was gay."

Until he was in his early twenties and after Brian "tried sex with a man once," he spoke of enjoying it and hating it at the same time. He didn't try it again and found it revolting to think about.

"Am I gay or not?" he asked himself.

Shortly after that, Brian visited a group that focused on male survivors of sexual abuse. "The penis responds to stimulation," the leader says. "That feels good, and that's absolutely natural to get aroused. But it doesn't mean you're gay. It means you have responded in a normal, natural way."

That was the day Brian started to say, "I'm a healthy, heterosexual male." It was also the beginning of a new life for him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

More Emotional Confusion (Part 2 of 2)

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

It's not easy for most of us to turn against someone we love and whom we thought loved us. Too often the abuser was someone within our family or our circle of relationships.

How is it possible to forget that relative or religious leader? Such people will continue to be part of our lives. Even if we avoid the perpetrator, others will speak of him. If the abuse isn't known, they'll likely speak well of him and wonder why we don't like that person. "He was always so nice to you," someone will say. "He really loved and admired you," another might say. We don't know how to respond and mistakenly feel it's too late to say anything.

Our perpetrator is rarely some stranger who assaults us. Most of the time it's a person for whom we retain good memories. The old man who assaulted me had always treated me warmly and kindly. He lured me into his room by giving me snacks. (And only in retrospect could I use the word lured.)

One of my friends told of his confused feelings. "What did I have to gain if I told on my stepfather?" By telling about the sexual assault, he not only felt he would lose his stepfather but the whole family. "And so I never did."

By speaking up, too often the victims get punished. They're not believed, or they feel they're blamed for "ruining" the family.

We're the victims of the abuse, 
and sometimes we're also victims of the ruined family.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Emotional Confusion (Part 1 of 2)

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

When a close relative abuses us, many of us experience emotional confusion. We love our aggressor—whether it's a parent, a sibling, or a brother-in-law. That person showed us attention and seemingly gave us the interest and affection we didn't receive from the rest of the family.

And yet we also hate that person. We detest him because he used our body for his own gratification, he violated the trust we put in him, and he destroyed our innocence.

As a result, we became confused and are unable to sort our contradictory feelings. How can we love someone we hate? How can we hate someone we love?

We deal with it in several ways, and the most common (in my opinion) is that we blame ourselves for the abuse. We don't know how to feel about our perpetrator so we turn on ourselves.

Here's part of my story. An old man rented a room from us, abused my sister and me, and my sister told. Dad beat him and threw him and his possessions out of the house. I was perhaps seven years old.

A few weeks later I was on a different street and saw my perpetrator sitting on a porch and yelled a greeting. He got up, turned his back on me, and went inside the house.

I wondered what I had done wrong. I didn't understand then what he had done to me and I felt some affection. And yet, because Dad threw him out of the house, I realized he had done something bad.

That's emotional confusion.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"I Hate My Body"

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

When someone makes a statement like that, the words disturb me. It's not natural to hate our bodies. Even if we're too fat, too short, or too anything, we still like our bodies. If we take care of them, they serve us well.

I read a report recently by a therapist who specialized in helping survivors of male sexual abuse. He said that slightly more than one-third of his patients reported that they had seriously considered suicide. Several of them had made at least one serious attempt. Aside from the mental anguish, some of them spoke about detesting their bodies.

The lengthy article went on to say that when questioned they said they couldn't live with the memories of their molestation. "The only way to get rid of the memories was to get rid of the body." That's the essence of several men's words.

They still bore the emotional scars, and suicide seemed to be the only way to free themselves.

I don't know if this is true but the therapist's conclusion was that the more frequently a boy was abused or the larger the number of abusers, the greater his tendency to take his own life.

If you're one of those individuals who feels there's no other way out, please get help. I was suicidal once, so I understand the feeling. At the last moment I couldn't go through it. I'm glad I didn't take my own life.

Get help. Please. And one day perhaps you'll also say, "I'm glad I didn't take my own life." And perhaps you can add, "I like my body."