Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"We Didn't Know."

(an encore post from Cecil Murphey)

"We didn't know," the civilians said when asked about the gas chambers after World War II.

"We didn't know," neighbors say when they learn that the man across the street had molested a boy.

"We didn't know," parents say when their adult children talk about their past sexual abuse.

When I began to deal with my abuse, I told my three older sisters. They said the same thing.

I don't think they were lying. I think they couldn't accept the enormity of the revelation. If they had known, perhaps they wouldn't have been able to face the personal guilt for doing nothing.

What about abused kids' point of view when they hear those responses? One of the witnesses against Jerry Sandusky said he never told anyone. Asked why, he repeated an answer that rang true to me and to many others, "Who would believe a kid?"

When the perpetrator is a prominent person in the community, leads a scout troop, teaches Sunday school, or runs a charitable organization for kids, who wants to hear such stories?

The answer: No one wants to hear such stories.

Perhaps the question should be, Who needs to hear such stories?

When asked that way, the answer is obvious. Parents, religious and civic leaders need to hear. But too often they don't.

Sandusky's wife said she never heard the boy screaming in the basement. Apparently, she also didn't know when their adopted son said Sandusky molested him repeatedly for several years.

When will they believe us?

When will the cries of bruised and raped boys be heard?

Until they are, the survivor on the witness stand has spoken for all of us who were abused in the past. He speaks for those who are or will be molested.

"Who would believe a kid?"

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Response to "Fractures"

(This post comes from Duane and was written in response to a post from John Joseph called "Fractures.")

My wife read this post and said, "I finally understand the part of your personality where you can be 3 different persons with 3 different ways you act out. At times you were that 5 year old boy again."

My wife has stood beside me but my problems are too much for my family of origin to understand as they don't want to admit that this could of happened. They're the reason I have had a hard time moving on with my life. There is the idea that if people would find out I would bring dishonor to my mother; my father has passed.

I didn't tell anyone until I told my wife. She could not believe I kept this from her for 30 years of our married life. I sometimes ask God, "Why did you let this happen to me?"

Now I feel if I can make it through this and have a family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. They're my true family that God has seen me through this and he is blessing me in my life.

The last 4 years in therapy have been what I needed, but about the time I think I'm healed and can stop seeing my therapist, I pull back another layer of problems that my abuse started.

The hardest thing I ever did was to talk to my children who are now grown and ask them, "Did I ever abuse you as a child or when you lived in our house?"

Thankfully, they all said no, but I had to be sure because I had learned to block things from my memory that were associated with my abuse. I am here to say that I realize that I am a survivor and that it was something I can't change from my past, but I can choose to rely on Jesus, my wife and children and the friends I have been able to tell. If you need something to help out I think CELEBRATE RECOVERY is a good place to start.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why Am I Still Not Healed?

(an encore post from Cecil Murphey)

"Why haven't I worked through all these issues? Why am I still not healed?" Most of us survivors ask ourselves that question many times. "I've been on this journey for five years. When does it end?" Those are the questions we ask on our worst days.

On our better days, we examine our lives and remember where we started. In those self-reflective times, we admit we've come a long way. A friend said to me, "In those depressing times when you tell yourself that you ought to be farther down the road, you're probably more healthy than you know."

Maybe he was correct, but it doesn't stop us from asking the question. Why not? Why not?

For myself, I can say this. I keep discovering the insidious consequences of my sexual abuse. It's a good thing I didn't recognize all the effects in the beginning, or it would most likely have overwhelmed and immobilized me. In my darkest moments, it seems as if the healing takes place one day at a time, or perhaps even slower—one small step a year.

I've jokingly said, "If I'd known in the beginning that this would be such a hard, painful journey, I probably wouldn't have started."

In my early days of grappling with the issue, I felt that way because the feelings were too intense and too brutal. But now I add, "I'm glad I struggled and fought. It's been worth re-experiencing the pain. I've learned more about myself. I've not only accepted who I am but I honestly like the person inside me."

Here's something I say to myself regularly: I am not quite healed; I am a healing-in-progress.

Friday, December 19, 2014


(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

In a recent session, my therapist and I discussed fractures in the psyche. Fractures often occur as coping mechanisms in children who are traumatized by abuse, violence, instability, or loss. A fracture is like splitting off part of the personality that “takes over” to help the child survive. Though not as extreme as multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia, those fractures and their functions are identifiable.

It didn’t take me long in that session to realize that my psyche is made up of the innocent little boy, the victim, the addict, and the self-actualized adult. Of course they're all me because I'm the sum of my experiences. I can chart the years in which one or the other has been the dominant expression of my personality. Until age four, I was the innocent little boy. Being abused at four moved me into the victim state that emerged into the addict from ten to eighteen years old. From age eighteen on, I've worked to become the self-actualized adult.

In that session, I came to understand that I still move in and out of the fractures, depending on my mood and circumstances. For instance, I was embarrassed in a business meeting the other day, and the victim side of me emerged.

I felt abused for several days afterward even though no real abuse occurred. If I’m not careful about recognizing when I've fallen into the victim mentality, it can drive me into the addict mode and my acting out behavior takes over. That progression helps me understand the years of compulsive sexual behavior I've suffered and gives me one more tool with which to overcome the effects of my abuse.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Same Sex Attraction

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

Aside from all arguments on either side over the origins and morality of homosexuality, one of the primary remnants of my abuse is a strong sexual attraction to men. I don’t consider myself gay and I don’t live that lifestyle. I am a husband and a father and I choose to live in a loving marriage with my wife of now thirty-two years. Still, this unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) shows up in my life often and always in the form of compulsion.

I have come to understand a few things about SSA in my life. First, it is an irrational state of mind. I never decide to have an attraction to a guy and it is never a romantic thing for me. I don’t dream about getting flowers from a man or of being taken to exotic destinations for a getaway with him. For me, SSA is more about feeling insecure or rejected. It happens most often when I am dealing with stress or something uncomfortable in my circumstances.

SSA generally starts with a feeling of discomfort in my mind. It is like a pot on the stove with a lid on it. As the water inside heats up the steam needs an escape valve. If things inside me are heating up, the escape valve can be triggered when I visualize or see an attractive man. I immediately size him up and compare myself with him. If he seems to be bigger, stronger, more successful, or more “together” in his personality I can become attracted. Fantasy takes over and eventually I’m caught up in an irrational state of mind.

The end of this irrational fantasy can be a foray into gay pornography and masturbation, leaving me shamed and depleted. Obviously, SSA is an unhealthy response to life’s normal stresses for me. Part of my recovery work is to recognize that it is irrational and to learn how to interrupt the cycle as soon as I recognize it.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"I Am a Survivor" (Part 2 of 2)

Cheryll Snow's article appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness. With permission, I've excerpted part of it, which is a letter to an uncle who molested her.

* * * * *

It was such a random, uneventful day as I pushed my shopping cart across the parking lot of our local supermarket. I've battled with my weight for most of my life, and I was feeling especially "unpretty" that day because I had stepped on the scale that morning to find I had gained back ten of the thirty pounds I had lost over the past few months. My self-esteem plummeted, and I decided it wasn't worth the effort to do my hair or put on make-up before I left the house.

After loading my groceries into my car, I got into the driver's seat and turned the key. I caught sight of my reflection in the rearview mirror and I stopped dead. I pulled off my sunglasses and stared at the unkempt hair beneath my husband's old baseball cap. I looked down at the sweatpants that felt a little tighter today and the ratty gardening sneakers I had on, and I felt that familiar wave of shame start to wash over me.

Then. . . before I realized what I was doing, I looked back at myself in the mirror and said, "God thinks you're beautiful."

I cried like a baby all the way home because, for the first time in my life, I truly knew what it felt like to be unconditionally loved. . . .

I am no longer a victim. I am a survivor. And God thinks I'm beautiful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"I Am a Survivor" (Part 1 of 2)

Cheryll Snow's article appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness. With permission, I've excerpted part of it, which is a letter to an uncle who molested her.

* * * * *

For many years I battled depression and anxiety. I tried various things to ease the pain, not knowing where all this emotional trauma was coming from. Then after recalling the abuse, enduring years of helpful but painful therapy, and seeking God's guidance . . . I can look back and say that most of my life has been . . . shame-based. And it's all because of you.

Ashamed as a child because no matter how hard I tried, I never felt good enough. Ashamed of my changing body during puberty, then later using my budding sexuality by acting out with boys, and beating myself up emotionally for years because of it. Even so, I still deal with issues concerning body image, intimacy, trust, inadequacy, and a profound fear of failure.

I give that shame back to you. It is not mine. It's yours.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Lenses of Abuse

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

I had dinner with a friend the other night and started sharing the history of my abuse with him. His reaction was kind, but his words belied a simplistic view of my pain. “Just let it go,” he urged, over and over. I gently pushed back on his premise, trying to help him see that I am a person who carries deep pain and one who is doing all I can to process it with the help of my therapist, my friends, journaling, and spirituality. I’m not sure he ever “got it” though he finally stopped telling me to “get over it.”

This experience reminded me that I see life through the lenses of my abuse. I cannot completely explain why the pain is still so present in my daily life. I cannot totally tease out every reason that life seems so sexualized and that it taints all with an off-color hue of sadness. I cannot fully explain the lingering effects of violation, or the lies that still hover in my mind that I am “damaged goods.” I can’t explain why I still feel that the abuse was my fault and that no one would love me if they really knew me. I just know that these are the things I still feel deeply.

My recovery doesn’t seem to progress in a linear pattern. It doesn’t always seem to move from Point A to Point B. It zigs. It zags. I feel great one day then BAM! It hits me square between the eyes. I heard someone say in a recovery meeting, “While you’re trying to get better the devil is doing pushups.” Maybe there’s some truth to that. Whether you believe in a personal devil or not isn’t the point. Abuse and the residual effects of it are devils enough. 

 I hope to take these abuse-colored glasses off someday. Or, I hope to at least be able to adjust them enough to realize that there are some fantastic things in my life despite the abuse. I am healed more than I was a few years ago, so I know there is some progress. Maybe in a way these lenses help me to see the wounds in others and to know that the last thing I need to tell them is to just “let it go” or to “get over it.” Healing takes time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Who You Ain't

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

An old saying goes, “Be who you is, because if you ain’t who you is, you is who you ain’t.” As funny as it sounds this axiom is packed with meaning for me. I’ve struggled deeply to know who I am as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I’ve spent years being who I ain’t. My task as a survivor is to learn to live from the authentic center of my being. But where is it?

Finding the center of myself is no easy thing. The millions of messages flying all around me every day, the voices of the culture, news, fashion, and social media mixed with my base of emotional distress confuse me. Seeing the beautiful people on commercials doesn’t help me. Watching the Kardashians or Modern Family or reality shows doesn’t heal me. I’ve become convinced that the only way I’m going to find the real center of me is to work at it within a context of an authentic, grace-filled community.

Grace is a lot more than forgiving someone or saying a prayer before a meal. True grace is a structure that forgives, but it also provides a way to heal and to grow. It’s like having a friend who doesn’t just say that you should work out and lose weight. This friend actually shows up every other day at your house to walk or jog with you to help you get healthy. We all need friends like that.

I’ve realized that I need to live as who I am. If that’s to happen, I need a safe place to be who I am now in order to grow into the person I want to become. We all need a structure, a community of grace, to find the true center of ourselves and to learn to be who we is.