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.

No Response to Love Expressed

(This post comes from Mark.) 

Over the weekend I had a childhood memory of trying to express love toward my dad by giving him Father's Day and Birthday Cards.

I would sign those cards "Love Mark". Our family never spoke the word "love". Yet, I used it in his cards. I remember struggling to get the courage to give him my cards. I usually would end up leaving them someplace where I knew he'd find it. Then I'd watch him as he opened and read it.

He did not respond. Did not express thanks.

That gave me the message that my love wasn't good enough. My love didn't matter.

I still struggle with wondering if my love is good enough to be accepted by others. To be accepted by God.

I am realizing that for a parent to consistently not acknowledge his child's attempts at expressing love is not natural. It's a rejection that boggles my mind. Men (and women) who live openly wicked and evil lives will respond to a child's innocent expressions of love.

My dad's lack of response to my love was not natural. My desire to love my dad and to express love to him, was natural.

The wound from that rejection of my love is yet something else that I need to forgive. And without God's help, I can't.

The Real Me

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

The real me is the me I choose to be as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I cannot change my history. It happened to me. I was abused. This abuse was horrific, criminal, and damaging to me emotionally. It affected my entire life. Even though it is true that I was abused, the abuse doesn’t have to define who I am. Now I choose to rise above it and to live my life as a triumphant survivor.

I once heard a Jewish survivor of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz say, “The only real revenge is to live.” I resonate with those words. The memories of my abuse and the devastating effects on my life, especially in the area of emotions and relationships, never go away.

Each morning I wake to remember that I was abused. But I cannot afford to let my mind stop there. I have to take the next step into the conscious choice to live above the abuse.

Living above the abuse is never easy. When I think of the people who abused me or when I stumble into momentary fear or anxiety based in the abuse, I often react by shutting down emotionally (which only leads to medicating myself in destructive behaviors). Sometimes the only remedy is to do the next right thing. Often I pray. Reading something that brings me joy can help break me out of the downward spiral. Calling a friend who understands or writing in my journal can work. Whatever helps me out of the funk is how I choose to live above the memories and to remember the real me.

The real me is fearless. The real me is filled with joy and peace. The real me is creative and artistic. The real me is in love with life and with the goodness that it brings. The real me is a helper, a healer, and a friend. The real me is committed to meaningful relationships. The real me is the authentic person I am in spite of the abuse. The real me is triumphant and someone who, like the concentration camp survivor, reeks revenge on the enemies of my soul’s peace by living today.

Redeeming the Pain

(This is an encore post from John Joseph.)

A Zen aphorism says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I’m not Buddhist and I can’t vouch for the ultimate truth of the aphorism. People die from horrible diseases like cancer or AIDS. People lose loved ones or endure separation and divorce. Our entire society feels the pain of financial crises, violence, terrorism, and corruption. And those of us who have been sexually abused have suffered emotional torment for years, even decades, all the while trying to find a way to stop the misery we feel.

While many religions throughout the ages have sought to solve the problem of pain, it’s still with us. Affliction is the lot of the human race no matter how we try to explain it, conquer it, or ignore it.

As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’ve tried to explain my exploitation, but there’s no reasonable explanation. I’ve tried to conquer the hurt, but the hurt never surrenders. I’ve even tried to ignore the awful memories I own, but they resurface in my mind at the worst times and in the worst ways. The only way I find to deal with the wounds of my abuse is to make them work for me, to redeem them in some meaningful way.

To redeem something so dreadfully unthinkable as child abuse is a tall order. The snatching away of childhood innocence by being lured into unspeakable sex acts with an adult seems beyond our capacity to turn into anything redeemable.

There are two options here. I can let the overwhelming effects of abuse kill me or I can choose to let the scars teach me how to be a better person.

When I take a few moments each day to recognize that my abusers no longer have any power over me, I redeem the abuse a little more. When I realize that I am no longer a helpless child victimized by someone older and stronger, I take back the power I lost to them. When I recognize the irrational nature of my fear and anxiety, I rob the memories of their hold on me. When I look myself in the mirror and reclaim my dignity, I take a bold step to end my suffering.

Maybe the Zen aphorism is right, after all.

Porn

(This is an encore post from "J".)

An addiction to pornography was one of the effects of my early childhood sexual abuse. The women in the pictures were fascinating, though I had no clue why they were unclothed. My brother would “show me” what the women did as we looked at the pictures. The natural result was a strong sexual confusion on my part. For years, I thought I was a woman.

I now live a heterosexual lifestyle and have been married for three decades. But through these years I have found myself struggling with this addiction. Of course, I felt the typical shame and self-loathing after indulging. The more I watched the more I want to do it.

I have come to understand many things about the roots of my addiction. The primary root is the yearning to feel needed. The abuse scarred me deeply and has manifested itself in me at times as an irrational compulsion for gay porn. This is what is called “acting out” for me. I acted out the early homosexual abuse through porn, compulsive masturbation, and a few gay encounters.

 Acting out in any way is destructive emotionally and spiritually, but especially to my marriage and to my work. When I sense a temptation to indulge in porn, I try to remember that this feeling is strong, but irrational. The porn will never satisfy me in the deepest way and it can never heal what hurts the most—my broken heart.

Owning the Pain

(This is an encore post from "J".)

One of the things that has kept me in the pain of my abuse is not owning it. So much of my life was spent avoiding the pain of my childhood abuse that it didn't have a chance to be felt and ultimately healed.

No one wants to feel pain. We're wired to seek pleasure and to avoid pain. The truth about abuse, however, is that it can't be processed and healed without acknowledging it, feeling it, and processing it.

I didn’t know that I had been abused. I was grown when I was driven into counseling through addictive and compulsive sexual behavior. I was out of control and close to losing my marriage. I hadn’t acknowledged the depths of the pain of my childhood; the molesting at four years old; the odd encounters with older boys in my family; what I now understand as a rape when I was ten; and the fact that I was criminally abused by an older man and woman when I was 15 to 18 years old. It was like I was a magnet for abuse.

My pain flooded in when I came to understand that my hyper-sexualized appetites weren’t appetites for sex but an insatiable yearning for acceptance and healing. I'm thankful that the pain isn’t experienced and processed all at once.

I've experienced the pain in doses, some large and some small. There have been seasons of pain and reckoning with it. There have been good times and bad, but I'm continually amazed that owning the pain of it is the only way to process and get it out of the way.

Lies I Believed

(This is an encore post from "J".)

Among the worst of the many lies I have believed about myself is that the abuse in my childhood was my fault. It's common among victims to believe they brought the abuse on themselves or caused it to happen. I've learned that the abuse was the sick choice of the abuser and not my doing.

I was about 16 before I understood that men had sex with women and not just with other men or boys. I knew that men liked to look at women, but the abuse was so pervasive in my life that I didn’t understand the basic physiology of the human body.

Gender confusion and identity struggles haunt me to this day. A therapist had to tell me I had been abused. It didn't occur to me that something was wrong with the people who touched me and used me.

The lie that I caused those broken people to have sexual contact with me has affected me throughout my life. The sexual confusion alone is devastating, but there are many more consequences that victims experience because of that distorted belief. Here are a few of mine:

* A sense of chronic failure; 
* The feeling that I have no control over my emotions or my body; 
* Problems making decisions;
* Compulsive behavior.

The best thing that has happened is gaining the understanding that I did not cause the abuse—not any of it. I participated at some level because I didn’t know that it was abuse or that I was being taken advantage of.

I was a child. I didn’t understand what was happening. It was not my fault.

Waiting to Exhale

(This post comes from an anonymous reader.)

One of the effects of my abuse has been the feeling of holding my breath inside. Because sexual addiction was a huge result of abuse in my life, I didn’t think I could breathe unless I was acting out the brokenness inflicted upon me through sexual molestation. I found my deepest worth in being used by a man. When that wasn’t happening, I didn’t feel I was breathing.

A therapist related my need to be abused to people who cut themselves. I’m not an expert on cutting, but my therapist said that cutters seem to feel as I did, existing miserably between periods of cutting themselves. He indicated they feel like they can’t breathe until they cut. Once they cut, they feel temporary relief, then all the self-loathing returns. That described me.

I lived for years holding my breath between acting out sexually online or with others as a result of my abuse. If I wasn’t engaging in my addiction I was thinking about it. My life revolved around secrets and shame, knowing that I wasn’t being the man I should be or wanted to be. I understand men who are living a double life and who often become suicidal because of the depths of pain and shame.

Yet the more I've come to understand that abuse wasn’t my fault and that I was victimized by older men, the closer I come to finding wholeness in my life.

I'm learning to breathe on my own and not just exist until acting out my addiction. I understand that my thoughts and feelings are often irrational and overwhelming and that I have to have safety precautions built into my life to help me to overcome them.

Learning to breathe emotionally is a function of the knowledge of being part of a caring community. Knowing I am a survivor is a great step, but I need support and understanding to overcome the abuse.

One day at a time I learn to take a breath, exhale, take a breath, and then exhale. I no longer have to act out my brokenness in order to breathe.

I’m no longer waiting to exhale.