Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Deserving Forgiveness (Part 1 of 7)

“He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven,” my friend Neal said years ago. He added, “For a long time, I held in the anger and unforgiveness toward the perp who stole my innocence.”

My friend hadn’t been very open, but I remember saying one sentence: “There’s no one who can’t be forgiven.”

Nearly five years later, Neal and I were talking about his abuse. He reminded me of the words I had spoken. “You’re right. It’s more than just forgiving him, but it also means I can move on from my pain.”

Although glad for where he was, I wish I had also said, “When you’re ready to forgive or to release the hurt, you’ll see it differently.”

He smiled and nodded. “I felt that by not forgiving I was withholding something from him—giving him pain for his evil deeds. Perhaps that seems incredulous, but I wanted him to suffer.”

It’s sad, but that’s the confused reasoning of many. We want them to hurt; we want them to feel the agony they caused us.

Life just doesn’t work that way. We forgive for our own sake. As long as we hold on to the hurt they caused, healing doesn’t take place.

I need to forgive those who hurt me, 
and when I’ve hurt enough, I will.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"It's Not You, It's Me."

(This post is from Roger Mann.)

​"It’s not you, it’s me."

I know, it’s an old break-up line. That said, it’s one that has gone through my mind over the years in one form or another concerning my childhood abuse. The form it usually takes is, "Was there something about me?"

In my early years as a kid, I didn’t really articulate it like that. There was a feeling inside me that something about me screamed, "Play with me. I’m okay with it." I thought maybe it was the way I looked, or maybe the way I acted or looked at other people. I remember even as a young kid always looking at faces to see how they were looking at me. And every once in a while, there was someone with "the look" that silently signaled something that made me uncomfortable.

I can’t really explain it. It was just a look, along with a feeling I would get that either made me want to hide or later on look back knowingly. It’s said that abusers and victims sometimes seem drawn to each other unconsciously. That may be true. It’s as good an explanation as any, I guess.

Is there something in the face or the eyes that somehow notifies those who know how and where to look that you’re a victim? Even at my age, I find myself going out of my way to project self-assurance and anything else that would not identify me as weak, needy, or victimized. Maybe I overcompensate at times, and that too could be a signal if I’m not careful. It’s an armor I need to wear because it’s not just sexual predators that look for it. I’ve come to realize it’s also people who are selling things.

I know because I have a house full of stuff because my armor slipped and someone saw "prey" written all over me. I really hate that. Another legacy, in my opinion, of childhood victimization.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Issue of Grooming

Since the early days of this blog, I’ve limited the word count to 400 words. Sometimes I’ve cut pieces into 2 or even 3 entries. In the words below, Lee Boyd had such a good request that I decided to violate my own rule. It runs about 700 words. (Cec)

* * * * *

I have been a follower of your blog for a while and have read your books Not Quite Healed and More Than Surviving. I’ve benefited from all and have recommended them to others. However, there is one issue that has arisen several times as I was reading, and I would like to bring it to your attention. 

The stumbling block I have encountered is the issue of grooming. I realize from reading your story that grooming was a part of your experience. But the impression I get from reading your work is that grooming is an element of most, if not all, abuse scenarios. I am sure that you do not mean to alienate anyone, but this implication tends to make me feel excluded from the community of survivors you are addressing.

You see, I was never groomed.

I was abused by a stepdad from soon after he married my mom when I was 5½ until I left home at 18. From 5½ to 13, it was physical abuse, sexual abuse, and verbal abuse. From 13 to 18, the verbal abuse continued, but the violence and physically sexual aspects stopped.

Additionally, at school and in scouts, from age 11 to 13, I was bullied and sexually harassed and assaulted under the guise of “initiation” by a gang of peers and older boys. I became a recreational scapegoat for them.

Finally, when I was about 15, I was molested in the fitting room of a menswear shop by a clerk who was “measuring” me for a pair of trousers.

In NONE of these instances was there a hint of grooming. Each was an instance of an infliction of power by the abuser(s) to work their will. They did not have to groom me. They were bigger, stronger, more numerous, and had more clout. In the case of the stepdad, it was not difficult because I was available, I was a mere child, and he had the authority of an adult and a parent. There was never a question that he would get what he wanted. With the bullies, they had the advantage of numbers, greater sexual knowledge, and the mob mentality. Both the bullies and the stepdad used physical restraint and greater strength. The clerk was also an adult that took advantage of my youth, his experience, and my “freeze” reaction when he began to touch me inappropriately, so no force was needed. I had already been conditioned to submit passively.

In talking with and reading of survivors who experienced grooming, I have recognized that there is a strong possibility that they may feel partially complicit in the abuse and that this may cause additional issues of guilt and shame. I have observed groomed survivors who suffer from feelings of betrayal and disillusionment, and have difficulty trusting others.

But in cases where force or intimidation is used instead of grooming, the survivor has other issues to deal with. I have identified my own feelings of helplessness and of total lack of control. Because I was repeatedly abused by multiple and unconnected perpetrators, I felt like a perpetual victim with a target on his back. There was not even the pretense of kindness or a personal relationship to temper the trauma. The bullies and stepfather wielded cold, calculated, and intentional cruelty. The store clerk took sudden advantage of circumstances impersonally and anonymously. All of the abuse events made me feel like a commodity to be used at their convenience, without regard for my personhood.

I know now that one method of abuse is not necessarily more or less harmful than the other. But when I was learning more about grooming, I actually wished that I had experienced it rather than abuse without grooming like I had. At least I would have had some temporary semblance of relationships and feeling special to someone instead of the isolation, loneliness, and scapegoating that were my lot. I now realize that it would have simply been a different variation of pain.

Anyway, what I am requesting is that you, as a spokesman for the male abuse survivor community, would include more acknowledgments that grooming is not always part of the experience and that many survivors are abruptly abused, without pretext or preamble, under application of physical force or threat or the power of authority or intimidation. I don’t know if there are any statistics available about the percentages of abuse with or without grooming, but I am sure that I am not alone in my experience. I am confident that including my demographic of non-groomed survivors would allow you to speak more effectively to a larger audience.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

On Forgiveness

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

Another abuse survivor wrote, “I have some people . . . from my past who I need to forgive. I have never been ready to and really have never wanted to.”

I struggled with forgiveness as well. Suppressed rage filled me a good part of my adult life. Initially, I believed it was aimed at my father. At times, I also sensed anger toward God. Then I suspected I was angry at my young self for letting it happen.

Later, I realized I was angry at me—an adult who wasn’t handling life well. I made excuses, blamed others for my circumstances, and blamed the abuse for all my mistakes and bad choices. I hated myself for not accepting responsibility.

I’ve learned that what happens to me isn’t as important as how I deal with it. God is developing character in me, and trials and hardship don’t build character; they reveal it. The Holy Spirit uses them to refine me, which usually involves pain. Apparently, I needed a lot of refining.

Understanding that has helped me to forgive. I started with myself, then the boy who was, and finally the father who was never a dad. It was a long and tortuous road but one I needed to travel.

Now, when things get ugly and I get frustrated, I step back and remind myself of why I’m here. Because I’ve been broken and angry, I can reach out to others who are broken and angry. When I recognize myself in others, God works in us both. It’s one of the ways God reveals Himself to me. His love for me, in spite of all that I am and have been, helps mitigate my anger and raises what I call my “stupidity threshold” back to a safe level.

That love followed me through all my flailing and attempts at finding myself. More than anything, it’s enabled me to finally forgive, and has released me from the ghost of my father’s touch. I’m free and at peace (as much as one can be these days) because I’m able to see that love as I look back through those years. It’s a journey, not a destination, and I have always had a faithful—though often unappreciated— companion with me.

Just my thoughts.