Probably the most rewarding aspect of being an advocate is hearing from other survivors who are starting their healing journey. I hurt for the difficult times I know they will have, but I also know the joy they will experience as they learn to like themselves and open their lives to other people. In the last week three male survivors have reached out to me. One was going to meet with his congressional representative to ask for a federal law on child sex abuse with no statute of limitations. The state laws just aren’t cutting it, according to him. He was angry and I understand that. The next two wrote about my book Boys Don’t Tell: Ending the Silence of Abuse. One man had just bought the book and had this to say:
“I have pushed this trauma away for so long, through addiction, self hatred, low self esteem, medicated for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, ADD, Panic and Anxiety disorders and so forth……I can’t have a healthy relationship and my trust issues are enormous and the list goes on. I am looking forward to finding hope and recovery that I so desperately need.”
The next letter came with greetings from the Philippines. It was from a man who said he lives in poverty and does not have the means to buy the book, but feels he needs it and will put it to good use if I will send him a copy.
“I have been looking for reading material on male sexual abuse. It is difficult to find here in the Philippines. I am religious seminarian training for Catholic priesthood.
I am interested in your area of expertise and wonderful advocacy in life not just because I am working toward a professional practice in psychology but more on a personal level. I am trying to understand myself more…I am beginning to find some connection.”
I always look for the circles and how they come together, and these three certainly overlap with pain, shame, anger, lack of understanding of self, and more pain, unbearable pain. These men’s lives do not just intersect because of what they endured as children; they are in a similar place because they are all reaching out for support as they start their healing. Every survivor I have met who is in recovery will go to extremes to help another on their journey. It’s kind of like we are all Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors; if you are hurting we are there for you, day or night.
One of the significant issues with male survivors is that we generally believe we are alone, the only one. In fact, most of us are alone because of the walls of protection we build around ourselves. I have used the phrase “I felt like I was tied in that chair, while he touched my skin.” I think a lot of us felt as though we were tied with ropes because we had no control over what was done to us.
What I find interesting is that some of us, myself included, have lived for years or decades as though those ropes were still there. It is only when the pain becomes too great, or we are triggered in some way that we first reach out to another human being to share our burden. It is at this point that the ropes begin to unwind and we can breathe for what to many of us, feels like the first deep breath we have taken since before the abuse started. And as the oxygen travels our bodies, the tears begin to well up as we release the hurt.
At church last Sunday they sang a beautiful song by Pat Humphries, “We Are One” about Korea and their country divided by war. It made me think of all the men who have survived being sexually abused as children, only to live a life alone behind our walls at war with ourselves and the world. So as you take that first breath of air, remember there are 19 million men in this country who, in some form, have had similar experiences. You are not alone, and those who will help and support your healing journey are many. We are here to bear witness to your pain and celebrate your recovery.
So I want you all to know that I truly believe that we are one. Brothers. Together we can and will overcome. And yes, a book is on its way to the Philippines.