Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 2 of 9)

For their 2017 “Person of the Year,” Time magazine chose “The Silence Breakers”—women who triggered a #MeToo national outcry over sexual harassment. They showed photographs of four famous women and the intentionally obscured face of a fifth. She represented those who hadn’t yet gone public.

I applaud that—and wish there were more males speaking up, such as actor Anthony Rapp, who rang the bell on Kevin Spacey.

The public still seems stuck on the idea that sexual attacks are committed by strangers in dark alleys. Despite being told repeatedly through the media, most of us males (and the recent influx of females claiming sexual harassment) knew our perpetrators.

Our abuse came from people we trusted (or should have been able to trust). People can lie and make up things, and some individuals get caught in the false-memory syndrome of believing abuse when there was none. But, again, those are rare.

Think of what the victim must endure to go public. And many have horror stories to relate. Why would any of us want to subject ourselves to such painful scrutiny and unbelief? Why would we expect to be believed?

When you first spoke out, were you believed?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 1 of 9)

Most of us have been inundated with information about sexual misconduct in Hollywood, New York, and the political realm. As I’ve listened to TV news and read reports about the allegations and especially the responses, I’ve thought, That sounds like what many of us male survivors of childhood sexual abuse have gone through.

The July 26, 2017, issue of The New York Times included an article written by Shaila Dewan about the misguided reasons people doubt the report of victims. As I read the piece, so much of it hit home.

One psychologist who conducts law-enforcement training on sexual assault said, “There’s something . . . unique about sexual assault in the way we think about it, which is . . . upside down from the way it actually operates.”

She went on say that we tend to doubt the victims because of widespread misconceptions. “The public and the police vastly overestimate the evidence of false reports. The most solid, case-by-case examinations say that only 5 to 7 percent of sexual assault reports are false.”

The article stated that the reports are often viewed as unreliable because of the victims’ emotional paralysis or inability to recall timelines. To her credit, the author points out that such inability is common.

Yes, I thought, we males have the same issues.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when the sexual and physical abuse took place in my life, but I know it did. When I’ve been pressed for details, I blank out. I’ve tried to force myself to remember, but nothing productive jumps out. I’ve accepted that I’ll always have gaps in my memory.

Instead of being able to relate every detail, severe trauma works the other way. The more powerfully and painfully we’re affected, the less we remember. Others might not believe us—we can’t help that.

But we know.

Yes, we know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Loss of a Secret

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

In January 1995, I received a 2:30 a.m. phone call from my hysterical sister. “Dad shot Mother while she was sleeping. Then he shot himself in the front yard.”

Because she thought Mother to be alive, my wife and I got to the hospital as fast as we could. I was such a mess, all I could say was, “No, no, no.”

The rest of the month was a blur, and the next two or three years a roller coaster. Eventually, I settled into a working funk that slowly faded. Yet, at this time every year, I have an ache that won’t go away. I miss Mom and probably always will. I left so many things unsaid.

More than that, I grieve the loss of my secret. I kept it as a good boy should, but I cherished the fantasy I had made of it. In my mind I romanticized it as something other than abuse. It was a secret that was just for Dad and me and no one else. If I couldn’t have the healthy relationship I needed and wanted from a father, at least I could console myself that I had the secret of our “special times.”

After that January night, I had nothing but the truth. I wasn’t special—I was just more convenient. It wasn’t love—it was selfish, abusive, and damaging.

Along with my mother, Dad’s bullet took away everything I thought I had. I suspect I’ve been afraid to mourn Mom because I’d have to mourn all the rest. So, every January I just ache until I can push it back and move on to what the new year brings.

Some losses stick with us a long time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Be Kind

At the end of emails to good friends, I sometimes add these words: "Be kind to [their name] today." Occasionally I'll add, "[Their name] is someone I like very much and deserves your kindness."

Not everyone responds, and I don't write it to hear from them. I write the words because I mean them. I also write them because I've had to say them to myself many, many times to remind me. When I've messed up, said or done the wrong thing, feel low or lonely, that's when I decide to be kind to myself.

How do I show myself compassion?

My words go like this: "I like Cec; he needs me to support him and he deserves all the love and respect I can give him."

Be kind to yourself.

Say only positive, loving thoughts to yourself. If I occasionally hear myself bordering on negative and self-condemning words, here's what I say: "Cec, I'm sorry I felt that way. You don't deserve the harsh things I've said about you. I promise you that I'll be nicer."

Loving God, today help me be kind to myself.
And tomorrow. And the days after that.

This post is excerpted from Cec's book More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel, 2018).

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Abuse and Compartmentalization

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I talked to a friend who was in and out of same-sex relationships because of his abuse. We discussed that other victims speak of the emptiness of same-sex relationships, which leave them depressed and feeling miserable. But neither of us felt that way, and it caused us to wonder.

One thing we have in common is that riding off into the sunset with another male has never been a possibility. It’s not that we haven’t met anyone who’d be willing, but it’s because of the way we responded to our abusers.

Because of who they were, we never considered that what we had between us was anything more than a physical action. (For him, it was an older brother; for me, it was my dad.) It was a “thing” that involved connection and fondness, but also an understanding that it would eventually end. While I might have loved my dad, and my friend his older brother—and the closeness we each felt was great—life continued, and we grew up and moved on.

Part of our experience became a fixed pattern that repeated itself in similar types of sexual relationships. Because of preconditioned attitudes cemented in our impressionable years, our ability to commit intimately to anyone else was almost impossible.

We both knew men who wanted a more permanent situation with us, and while we felt genuine affection for them, a commitment was out of the question. Our idea of fidelity still included our wives.

The abuse rerouted our wiring and compartmentalized that area of our brains. I honestly believe my dad ruined any possibility of my having true fidelity with anyone. I can either love someone or have sex with them. For my wife, love and sex are a package deal—no compartmentalization. I struggle with that, and it’s hurt her.

Now that I’m older, it’s easier to be more faithful, but I fear it’s because of age rather than morality. With God’s help, and as revelation and understanding increase, I’m doing better.