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.

Guilt

"I feel so guilty," George said.

When I asked him for specifics, he could only mumble, "I don't know . . . it's just this nagging feeling." Finally he said, "If only I had . . ." and he mentioned several things he wished he'd done.

"That kind of thinking is more common than you know." I stared right at him as I added, "You were a kid; you didn't understand and couldn't reason the way you do today. You've had more than thirty years to live with that pain. Don't punish that little boy for being vulnerable."

Apparently shocked by my response, tears filled his eyes. "I—I never thought of it that way. I've been tough on myself because I didn't tell or fight him off—"

"And he's still abusing you today, isn't he? As long as you focus on what you didn't do, he'll keep hurting you."

He nodded.

"George, each time you feel guilty, say these words aloud to yourself: 'I am not guilty. I was a child.'"

Why Is It So Hard?

About six months after I first dealt with my sexual assault, I made progress, but the process seemed to go on and on. "Why is it so hard?" I asked Steven Grubmann, a fellow survivor.

"The deeper the wound, the slower the healing." Those aren't Steve's exact words, but I knew what he meant. We were naïve, innocent kids and they turned our world upside down.

If the violation had been only somebody beating us up on the playground that probably wouldn't change our entire life. But sexual assault permeates every part of us.

The question makes me think of a situation I encounter professionally. I'm a ghostwriter-collaborator and have made my living at this craft for thirty years. Perhaps twenty times a year someone wants help in learning to write a book, and comes to me.

I hardly know how to answer except to point out that the art or craft of writing takes time—years—of hard work and serious commitment. One reason most would-be writers fail is because they stop trying. They often pout, "Nobody will take first-time writers." "No one cares." The excuses pile up, and I heard all of them when I first started. But I persevered and it paid off.

Perseverance. Persistence. It's not a one-month rehab course.

The wound is deep. The healing is slow, but the result is worth it.

Where Do We Find Safe People?

That's difficult to answer because we were kids who trusted the wrong individuals. Some of us have grown up distrustful and fearful of being vulnerable again.

For must of us, safe people are available. We're afraid to approach them and focus on all the harsh, judgmental things they will say to us. And that might happen.

To heal means to encounter risks. Look at the people in your circle at work or church or wherever you're with others. Then trust your instincts. That's the only way I know how to say it. We were violated and victimized as children, and we may be afraid. Despite that, don't we sense those who deserve our trust? Those who care? Whom we can trust?

I believe that opening up to others is an absolute in healing, and I also point out that the first steps are the most difficult and painful. You know the people who listen—really listen when you talk. You also know they don't spread gossip or speak ill of others. Trust them.

Same-sex Attraction (SSA)

(This post comes from a reader named Ron.)

Am I always going to be like this? When I get around my Wednesday night group who are trying to help me, I feel like running away. I would just like to hide. That's the way I've been most of my life. I'm so lonely and long for male contact. I am afraid just to let the chips fall.

As I am writing this I'm listening to music and there is a song talking about running into the arms of Jesus. I would like to, but I feel he is going to reject me, find something wrong with me, and not really be my friend.

I am afraid of that because I feel I will fall back and have an affair. I've fought this feeling for years. To make things more complicated, I now suffer from emotional ED now. And I'm going to see a sex therapist.

From the day I got molested and learned to masturbate, sex has been a good thing for me because I didn't have many friends, and it was the one thing that made me feel good.

I am so lost and lonely even though I am still with my wife and I have three wonderful children. I have everything you can possibly want and yet still I'm still lonely.

I don't know how to have compassion toward myself and help this little boy who has grown up inside of me. I feel like I am living in a new world, and I am a little kid all by myself.

"I Need to Find Safe People"

That's how his email began, and it ended with, "Who are they? How do I find them?"

Those of us in the healing process from sexual assault use the term safe. By that we mean those people who accept us as we are and make no effort to change us or correct our behavior.

Another way to look at it is to say that they don't give us advice unless we ask for it. And even if we ask for it, safe people hesitate. Sometimes when people ask, they really mean, "Help me find a person who will do the hard work for me."

The safest people I've met are those who have known failure, rejection, pain, and other hardships life throws at us—but they haven't given up. They still believe that we can triumph over tragedy and abandonment.

Those people have done the hard work on themselves—that's why they're safe. They're usually wise enough to know that they can't provide shortcuts and methods to jump over the pain.

But most of all, those safe people are willing to be by your side while you re-experience the pain.

It's Real

One of the earliest blog entries came from Dann Youle, who kept struggling with whether his experience was real. I've thought of his words many times—and so have other survivors.

For the first two or three years on my healing journey, I wanted to believe they were false memories or exaggerations. I think that, in the beginning, if I could convince myself that the sexual rape hadn't taken place, I wouldn't have to endure such pain.

A Response to "Be Kind"

(This post comes from Roger.)

I discovered at some point in my recovery I was actually angry at my younger self for not resisting, not standing up to my dad and for just going along with what I knew was wrong for the sake of what I could get out of it. I had held that resentment for decades without realizing it. Every time I thought about my young or teen self I would get angry, resentful, and found myself irritable for reasons I could not quite grasp.

Then one day a counselor pointed out that every time I spoke about my youth I would sound harsh or resentful. I would make joking derogatory comments all the time. I was kind of shocked.

He helped me to see that my young self did what he could to survive. He was a boy. I was a man and I was judging him as a man and not seeing him as a kid who was clueless and did what he had to do to stay sane and get me to adulthood. Sure, I understood all of this now. I could see the mistakes, bad decisions and poor judgment from my perspective as an adult but back then I was just a kid. It was time I began to cut that kid some slack.

I am doing pretty good right now but I am here because my young self made some decisions no kid should ever have to make. I am here because my young self allowed things that no boy should ever have to allow. That boy had no one but himself to rely on and yes as an adult I would never allow such things in my life but I was not an adult back then with money, friends, and the power to leave and go be somewhere else. As a boy I was stuck where I was and knew nothing else.

That boy is my hero. I love that boy. When I think of that boy now I give him a mental hug and kiss and tell him it's ok we made it, we survived. I thank him for his ingenuity in keeping me together during and very not-together time in my life. I am proud of him and I tell him so.

There is a peace that has come to my past. I am whole now or more so than before because I stopped beating up emotionally on a small abused boy I knew a long time ago for something that was NOT HIS FAULT.