I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Why Am I So Hard on Myself?

My friends used to say to me that I was too tough on myself. I smiled and said something innocuous like, "Maybe you're right." I didn't believe them, but that was my way to avoid any discussion.

Why couldn't they grasp that I knew my responsibilities and my standards? If I didn't live up to them, why shouldn't I castigate myself? I knew the right thing to do and I didn't do it.

Like many men who were assaulted in childhood, I grew up with unrealistic self-expectations. (I didn't realize they were unrealistic.) I suppose I needed to prove to myself that I was a moral and caring person. Too often, after I failed to live up to my exacting standards, I sank into a pitiful state, rebuking myself for failing. I had no idea how to show myself mercy—let alone think I deserved it. How could I show myself kindness when I had received so little of it as a child?

As I look back, I'm aware that I'm slowly—very slowly—able to believe that I am worthwhile and don't have to be perfect. My friend Jeff wrote a maxim that helped me: "Demand perfect; accept excellent."

The odd thing—at least to myself—was that I didn't hold others to the exacting standards. I often made excuses for them or reminded myself, "She did the best she could."

Trust

(This post comes from a reader named Roger.)

Trust has always been a huge issue for me. My father was very strict, very harsh at times, and I would become self-protective. Then at night he would sneak into my room and be so touching and caressing. I opened up and welcomed his advances like the starving child I was, only to find him distant and angry again the next day.

It became such a part of my life not to trust that I didn't even notice it until others began to tell me of how they dealt with it in their lives. It was like, oh man I do that too! For instance, I would walk into any room and gravitate immediately toward the corner or seat facing the door, back to the wall. Until a friend spoke about his realizing why he was doing it, I was totally unconscious of it myself.

Or the matter of personal space--being stopped in a hallway to chat and putting my back to the wall. And a thousand other odd things like assuming when someone said they wanted to speak to me it meant something bad. Assuming all compliments were preemptive for someone wanting something.

At the same time, being so gullible that when a compliment seemed to be sincere, I would fall for some kind of rip-off scheme because I desperately wanted to believe this person liked me. I know that sounds paradoxical but there was always this waiting for the other shoe to drop and yet wanting desperately to believe this time it would be something different.

I was so untrusting, yet desperately wanting to trust, needing to believe I was worthy of another’s kindness and becoming an easy mark. I suspended rational thought because of that need and fear of trusting. That was an area of my life that was invisible to me until I talked with other survivors. Our stories are different, but our wounds are familiar.

Sometimes when reading others’ stories I can’t help but wonder what other areas of my life, personality, behavior, and character are the real me or which came as the results of my abuser.

The healing must still continue.

Who Am I?

(This is a guest post from a reader named Roger.)

The assaults I suffered in childhood and as an adult left me confused as to who I was. I read a lot of science fiction in middle school and high school and thought I would like to be a physicist and study the nature of our universe. I was fascinated by science and I wanted to be part of that.

But that wasn’t to be. After high school, Dad insisted I go to Bible college, probably hoping God could undo the mess my father’s incest had made of my life. But I was a lost soul at that point. No vision. No more dream and emotionally too messed up to focus on any goal. I settled to just go from one day to the next, trying to keep it together so no one would see how totally messed up my thinking and attitudes were.

I became a social chameleon. I became whomever I was with. I desperately wanted to fit in somewhere, but deep down knew I couldn’t. So I faked it, and in doing that I lost whatever sense of who I was.

I lived that way for decades, and it wasn’t until I came back to my faith in God that I began to heal. God has helped me see that regardless of what happened to me, I’m still His creation. God can’t undo all that has happened, but He can make something beautiful out of it if I allow Him and give up trying to change myself into something I’m not.

I don’t have to be like everyone else or what others think I should.

The Archaeologist

(The author of this post has given permission to print it but chooses to remain anonymous.)

You are an archaeologist. You're digging through the past, sifting through everything oh-so carefully. Reverently even.

Like an archaeologist, you need to be outfitted with the proper tools. Rather than a shovel, trowel, and sifter, you've equipped yourself with godly counsel, accountability partners, and the armor of God.

There are times when you're actively seeking something. You know it's there! You're digging intently until blisters form on your palms. There are other times when your shovel unexpectedly collides with a foreign object. Sometimes you come upon skeletons. Sometimes only fragments of skeletons. When that happens, you have to dig deeper—yet carefully—to find the missing pieces. Only then are you able to fit the whole structure together into something that makes sense.

Like an archaeologist, you also uncover some priceless treasures as you're digging. You discover good memories, positive moments, experiences that have helped form your character. You unearth long-buried gifts and find new pleasure in exploring them once again. You share these treasures with the world, and the world is richer for it.

While the skeletons may not seem as valuable as the hidden jewels, they themselves are priceless treasures. These bones reveal important information about the past. However, like the artifacts collected by an archaeologist, the memories that you dig up don't define the present. Like dinosaur bones or shards of ancient pottery, the memories you're discovering explain what life was like in the past. They fill in the gaps and answer lingering questions.

Specimens from excavation sites aren't cataloged and analyzed overnight. The process takes time, research, patience. Sometimes the archaeologist must collaborate with other scientists. He needs their input to make sense of his discoveries. As an archaeologist curates a collection of his artifacts, guiding others through his finds, you will also have an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience. As your discoveries equip you to truly live, you are also learning how to guide others.


Grieving

From Cec: Roger sent me a personal email and, with his permission, I'm posting this. It's probably the saddest story I've read. It's hard for me to realize how much some males suffered.

I am reading your book, Not Quite Healed. So much of it reads like my life. That said, the chapter on grieving really tore me up. As I read it, I realized that I'd never grieved what happened to me and the subsequent effects and their impact on my life.

It wasn't just the molestation. That in itself was bad and went on for decades. It wasn't just the lies I was told, or came to believe, or even those I told myself. It was also the person of my father.

He was a Bible-thumping, legalistic, fire-and-brimstone preacher, teacher, evangelist and pastor—the essence of God incarnate to me. I believed every word he preached. When his words didn't add up in his actions, it caused great confusion in my immature young mind. I felt betrayed not only by him, but by God Himself.

For decades I lived full of contradictions and conflict and in dreaded fear that I would turn out like him. I was a man of two minds and very unstable. Then he had the nerve to die and leave me that way.

And not just die, he had to get himself caught with another child relative. In his fear and despair, he killed my mother in her sleep then took his own life, leaving me a note and the mess to deal with.

In having to deal with everything, I had to keep it together and get things done because everyone else, except my wife, was a basket case. I had no time to grieve. For the next two years, I blamed myself for not saying something sooner, not warning people sooner, not confronting him, and for not saving my mother's life.

Even now I sit here writing this with no emotion. My irritability, anger, rage—all inappropriate to the circumstances I see now as evidence that I have not dealt with this. For years, I didn't understand why I couldn't control my anger. Now I see that I can't go on like this. I need to process all the pain that I have suppressed.

Day One of a New Season

(This post comes from Mark.)

This is day one of a new season. Yesterday I accepted that the word “raped” is “my” word for what was done to me. An email communication with Cec confirmed that for me.

Last night I had a long face-to-face talk with the man who has been my closest and best friend during my recovery journey.

As he and I talked, (I cried of course), and prayed, I took what once would have been a devastating leap. Last night it was a very small and simple (although not easy) step:
My name is Mark I don’t know when, where, or how But I know that I was raped. And I know my rapist’s name.His name was Dad.
For over three years I’ve had various flashbacks, dreams, vague memories, and body impressions that implicated him. But I wasn’t ready to accept that truth until the pain of denial finally outweighed the fear of accepting it.

When I was young and didn’t want to be around my dad, my mom “corrected” me and told me how I should feel about my dad. She did not explore why I was so set against him. I grew up experiencing tremendous guilt for not liking him, for not wanting to be around him, even as I tried to make myself feel love toward him.

As an adult, I developed a relationship of sorts with him. I ended up being his full-time caregiver. While he lived, I loved and honored him the best that I knew how. After his death, I wrestled with feeling that I was betraying his memory by considering him as an abuser.

But the preponderance of evidence speaks that he raped me.

There’s a scripture that says “the truth shall set you free." The truth that my dad raped me is ugly. But even an ugly truth brings freedom, whereas a pleasant lie keeps me in denial and bondage. I no longer feel the responsibility to defend him. I’m allowed to be truthful. In speaking truth, I am honoring God, myself, and in a strange way, I am honoring Dad.

This is day one of my new season.

Rape? Abuse?

A friend who also reads this blog wrote me recently because he was having trouble using the word rape. I responded by saying that I had struggled using the word assault. I chose assault because it's closer to the reality of what happened to me.

Both my friend and I were children, and we were raped or assaulted by someone bigger and older. We were too naïve to realize the implications or the meaning of what happened to us. We were lonely, love-starved kids, who yearned for attention. When they assaulted us, we believed we were being cared about and the affection was genuine. And it felt good.

Now that we're older, some of us have trouble using the right word to describe the secretive attack (and it was a deliberate, planned attack).

The trouble is facing words like rape because our understanding of that term carries many violent implications. TV has filled our minds with brutal and vicious actions. My rapists were gentle, spoke softly, and made me feel special. How could that be rape or assault? And yet it was.

When we can use such strong words, we face the reality of what was done to us. My use of assault has pushed me a little farther down the healing path.