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.

Going It Alone

The great American tradition is to honor and applaud those who go it alone—the Clint-Eastwood-John-Wayne heroic types. They didn't need anyone and were able to do it all by themselves.

Really?

Maybe in books and films it works that way, but I don't know anyone like that who's truly happy. I believe God created us for companionship (and it doesn't have to be romantic). In recent years, a number of films have been labeled bromedy—where two men join together for a common goal.

I'll tell you why I haven't wanted to go it alone. I need people and have always been aware of that. I'm a highly emotional person and my late wife was my anchor. So many times I was ready to move on in various phases of my life, but she was the calm one. She didn't argue or yell, but she helped me realize I was making an emotional decision and not a careful or reasoned one.

More than anything else, Shirley taught me that I didn't have to take the lonesome road by myself. Until her death, she was always there to hold my hand.

I no longer have her, but I have friends I can call or visit. I don't have to take that road marked Alone.

Sideways Anger

Most of us struggle with anger on some level.

Anger that 

* we were molested; 

* no one stepped in to save us; 

* no one believed us;

* no one loved us.

Despite the obvious reasons for being irate, some of us don't even know we're incensed. Or I can speak for myself. I had no awareness that I was an angry person. Sometimes the ire popped out—temporarily—but I made no connection that I was an infuriated individual.

If we're angry, it will come out—directly or indirectly. A good way to look at our anger level is to eavesdrop on our own conversation. What do we say about other people? Do we blame the government? Others at work? Those expressions are what I call the sideways anger.

They flow out in unexpected and unrecognized forms such as sarcasm, criticism, speaking our piece, or "just being frank."

About a year after I started my healing journey, I finally admitted my anger. Part of acknowledgment was because I lived among conservative Christians who mistakenly thought it was sinful to be angry. And I believe they were wrong. The apostle Paul wrote, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you're still angry" (Ephesians 4:26 TNIV).

Merely to acknowledge my outrage was a release. I had held it inside for a long time, feeling that if I let go I might kill someone. When I confessed that to my best friend, David, he said, "You're more than 50 years old and you haven't killed anyone yet." That was a marvelous release for me.

Sometimes I need to be angry, but I also need to know what I'm disturbed about.

Why Then?

Why did I suddenly open up about my sexual assault at age 51? (And I've since learned that many men don't deal with their rapes until they're in their late 30s to early 50s.) I fit that pattern.

Perhaps it's because we reach a level of maturity that we no longer have to be afraid; maybe we're tired of being tortured with flashbacks and recurring dreams.

Early in my healing journey, I heard others speak about feeling safe. That's probably the best answer for me: I felt safe enough to open up to my wife and my best friend. Because they were safe—and expressed their loving support—that gave me the courage to speak out to others.

No matter when we open up and no matter how painful, it seems to be because of one of two reasons: We feel safe or we can't take the pain any longer. Or perhaps it's a combination.

And those of us who have taken the step of telling others are the ones who truly find acceptance, understanding, and love.

Friendship (Part 2 of 2)

In reviewing my life, which I do occasionally, friendship has always been a large factor. What I didn't get was that I was the good friend. I pursued relationships, reached out to others, and they responded, but I don't think of them as my true friends, let alone best friends.

That's not to speak against them—but to face the fact that I wasn't able to accept others or open myself to them. When a significant piece of our lives remains hidden from us, as mine was, we don't know how to receive such relationships. Even more, we didn't know how to recognize such relationships.

I reached out for something I didn't have and didn't know how to receive. Maybe that's why I surrounded myself with people—and I did that a lot. One thing I did realize, even during my teens, was that when I had a serious crisis in my life, I had no one to tell or ask.

I lived with that paradox: I had many friends, but I had no true, deep friendship. When I was still in high school, I read Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Alone" and memorized the first lines.

They read this way:
From childhood's hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;

And all I loved, I loved alone.
Why did that poem stay with me and touch me so deeply? I know the answer now. But it was an enigma then. And part of my tortured life was the secret I had told no one until I was 51 years old.

Like many other men, my sexual assault kept me isolated and unavailable.

These days I have a best friend and several good friends. I'm open to widening the circle.

Friendship (Part 1 of 2)

For the first years of my adult life, I considered friendship one of the greatest things in my life. I had friends—many of them—and spent time with them and enjoyed their company.

In 1978, however, after the third person said to me in less than a month, "You're my best friend," I didn't know how to process that information. The third person was the biggest shock because I hardly knew him. He was a member of our church, who was going through a serious career decision, and I spent time listening to him.

About that same time I met David, who became my best friend. Better, he became my first best friend. That's when I faced a startling reality: I had been "everybody's" best friend; I had no best friend.

I also realized that most of them knew things about me and saw me as open and transparent. I was—but only so far. Until I began to deal with my sexual molestation, I didn't know how to open the deeper part of myself.

I wasn't open to myself; how could I be open to others?

"Sometimes I Think I'm Crazy"

I've heard that statement from survivors several times, and I assume it's fairly common. They don't usually mean they think they're insane, but rather that their lives don't make sense. They're confused about values and behavior.

That doesn't make them crazy, even though it feels that way. They speak of conflicting emotions and often of not trusting their perceptions.

Why wouldn't we feel strange or odd? When we tried to tell the truth, we weren't believed. Or we were told we were wrong when we spoke up. I remember quite clearly that before the old man molested me, I said to my mother, "You like Mel more than you like me." Mel was two years younger.

"I love all of you the same," she said.

As young as I was, that statement didn't make sense to me, and I knew Mel was the favorite. Years later, my other siblings and I talked about Mel, and they all agreed he was the favorite.

Because I wasn't believed when I made a simple observation, why would I expect my parents to believe me on something like sexual assault?

We're not crazy; we're hurting or confused, but if we persist, life will make sense.

Grieving

Yes, we survivors need to grieve—grieve for our lost childhood, for our painful memories, for our exploitation. Years ago I read a proverb that went something like this: Those who hide their grief have no remedy for it.

In our healing journey, most of us go through a plethora of emotions, including anger and shame. And we can't neglect grief. By that I mean the anguish and heartache of our stolen childhoods. We need to mourn over the energy we expended trying to help ourselves out of something that wasn't our fault. It's all right to feel sad, miserable, or distressed.

We were victimized because we were young and defenseless. We wanted someone to care for us, to love us, and to accept us. What we received was none of those. And we suffered.

So grieve for that little boy. This may seem strange to some of you, but I've learned to talk to that little boy and say, "I'm here for you. I've suffered with you. We don't want to focus on what we might have been or what we've lost. Together we'll concentrate on what we're going to be."

Our revenge is to turn into happy, peaceful, and loving men.