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.

The Long Road to Forgiveness

(This is an encore post from an anonymous reader.)

I was ten years past the physical abuse before a therapist explained that I had been abused. I thought all little boys did the kinds of things I did with family members in secret times and hidden places. It never dawned on me that what was happening to me was wrong, though somewhere deep inside me I felt dirty and knew I couldn’t talk about it to anyone. I actually thought that was normal.

Now thirty years beyond the abusive behavior of my relatives, I realize that the struggle to forgive them is like a giant mountain I can’t imagine being able to climb.

They abused me.

They should have known better; they shouldn't have done it. I've paid an enormous price in my life for their horrible actions. There are times I have hated them for what they did.

The big problem is that resentment and hatred fueled my emotional distress, addiction, and dysfunction. Carrie Fisher once said, "Resentment is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die."

Forgiveness means so much more for me than it does for my abusers, but it seems so counter intuitive to do it and almost impossible considering the damage they did to me.

For now, I take it a day at a time. Two of my abusers have passed away, and that releases me from the fear of having to see them again in this life. I sometimes try to imagine them standing before God as the men they should have been all along.

I know they have to reckon with him one way or another. I am responsible only for myself and for the kind of life I choose to lead. Forgiveness for me is like traveling on a giant mountain or a long road. I can live successfully by taking it one step at a time.

Lasting Effects

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

The impact of sexual abuse can be devastating and it is long lasting. Because you were a child, and you were victimized by someone—and most of the time it was someone you trusted.

The first thing you need to know is this: The sexual abuse was not your fault. You may even be told that you did something wrong, but that person lied. You were a victim; you were an innocent child.

Most of the adult survivors with whom I've talked told me that they grew up feeling something was wrong with them. They believed they caused the abuse and blamed themselves.

You may have tried to talk about the molestation and no one listened. Until recent years, too many adults refused to acknowledge that such things occurred. If that happened to you, you have probably felt inadequate, embarrassed, isolated, guilty, shameful, and powerless. Then you probably reacted by suppressing this as a shameful secret.

For example, I was once involved with a men's group. One member, Greg, said that when he was seven, he wanted to tell his mother that his own father was sexually abusing him. One night at dinner, he said, "Daddy has been pulling down my pants and doing bad things to me."

"Eat your dinner," his mother said.

His two siblings said nothing; Dad continued to eat. That was the last time Greg opened his mouth about his abuse until he was thirty-one years old. That's when he joined a group of survivors of male sexual assault.

Research now affirms the link between the abuse and the effects. Each of us needs to be able to admit that the long-term effects are powerful and include poor self-esteem, difficulty trusting others, anxiety, feelings of isolation, self-injury and self-mutilation, eating disorders, sleep problems, depression, self-destructive tendencies, sexual maladjustment, and substance abuse.

Moving Beyond the Abuse

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"It's the past. Forget it and move on," my youngest brother, Chuck, said to me. We had both been sexually assaulted by the same person. He didn't admit being sexually molested, but he didn't deny it either. On the few occasions when I tried to talk to him about it, his answer was, (1) "You can't undo the past," (2) "We don't have to think about those things," or (3) "That stuff happened back then." His words implied that we need only to forget the past, leave it behind, and it's gone.

If only it were that simple.

Chuck died after years of trying to cure his pain through alcohol. I don't know if the pain he tried to medicate was the abuse, but I suspect it was. On rare occasions when he was drunk, he made oblique references to "that mess in childhood."

Outwardly, Chuck wanted to get past the sexual molestation and get on with his life. So why didn't he "move on" with his life?

I had a second brother named Mel, also an alcoholic. He was married five times and died of cirrhosis at age 48. Unlike Chuck, Mel wouldn't talk about our childhood. "There's nothing back there to talk about," was the most he ever said.

I write about my two brothers because both of them seemed determined to get past the abuse of childhood by forgetting, denying, or ignoring. That approach doesn't work.

We don't forget—not really. We don't forget because childhood abuse affects our lives and shapes our attitudes about people and relationships. Some guys want to hurry and get over it, but it's not something to get over and to move on.

Abuse happened to us. Until we accept it and face what it has done to our lives, we don't really move forward. We only live unhealed lives.

The Room

(This post comes from a reader named Mark.)

I realized it was time to ask my Celebrate Recovery sponsor to visit the room where I was abused as a child. I wanted him to see that room. I needed him to see it.

"The room" is a bathroom. It’s remote, mostly unused, unseen. It appears as if it is in a house that has been long abandoned. For me, that room has been the family secret.

As I led the way, I cried. I was shocked, anxious, and relieved with the choice to allow someone to see the room.

My sponsor stood in the middle of that place and said something I was unprepared for. "So tell me what happened here."

"This is where I was raped."

The room doesn’t hold as much power now. By exposing that room, I’m not as afraid of my memories. I don’t need to cower in shame from the abandonment that the room represents. The room is no longer my secret.

"Who Would Believe Kids?"

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"Who would believe kids?"

I read those words in the newspaper as part of the testimony of a then-12-year-old boy who testified in the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse trial.

Since then, I've pondered those words.

It's strange how it works with parents. We know those overly protective parents who believe anything their children say and become angry over the slightest injustice they suspect someone has done to their precious child.

It's the other kind of family that troubles me. "Who would believe kids?" That's the cry of a child in pain, a boy who knew he wouldn't be believed and didn't have an adult to stand up for him.

Why wouldn't he ask that question?

His words haunt me because it's a question I might have asked. It didn't occur to me to tell an adult—any adult. I didn't feel anyone cared enough so why would I consider telling? I felt totally alone.

I wonder how many molested kids have asked, "Who would believe kids?"

Isolation Is Emotional Solitary Confinement

(This post comes from a reader named Roger and is used with his permission.)

Isolation is where I've lived most of my life. That's why I felt alone and sad much of the time. Even when I was in a crowd or with a group of friends I felt out of step with everyone, just not quite connecting on the level everyone else seemed to.

Abuse immediately isolated me. At first, the need for secrecy and knowing I was sharing in something no one else could know about gave me a sense of superiority. I felt special, privileged (for a while anyway). Later I felt used and eventually worthless.

At first we can feel pretty special, but later we realize we've taken on a burden we can't seem to throw off. I ended up feeling different and weird, and thinking no one else could possibly have those kinds of thoughts, feelings, or desires. After that came the longing to be normal—whatever that was supposed to mean. I was left outside, stealing glances at other families who seemed happy and normal.

That led to a lot of overcompensating and arrogance and not a little amount of anger, which I tried to repress unsuccessfully. I felt trapped, alone, and unable to break free to interact with my closest friends. There was always a wall there that I couldn't tear down.

With God's help and those who love me and understand, I'm learning new ways to break through the barriers. I appreciate their patience because the trust thing is difficult for me to navigate after all these years.

That turmoil began when I was very young. When young, we're like clean slates; everything that happens to us is written on those slates in capital letters and indelible ink. We don't have the experiences and maturity of adults to dilute the impact. I suspect that's why things can become more deeply ingrained and why, as adults, we have such a difficult time recovering from them.

It's also why I wish I could have received help when I was younger—before the cement dried.

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."