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“Healing” from Boyhood Abuse

…Continuing to articulate my boyhood betrayal.

Although I’ve been dealing with this nearly my entire life, I’ve only just begun.

26 years ago, starting at age 8, I was sexually abused by someone close to me for a number of years. By my late teens I downplayed my abuse as a way to cope. It was reassuring to later learn that many survivors of childhood abuse do this. Sometimes we change our recollection into something less toxic, in an attempt to reassure ourselves that we still have control of our lives. This is a feeble attempt at a making a negative situation somewhat manageable, which only delays the possibility for early healing, and in my case set me up for further victimization.

In my twenties, I found solace and comfort in distractions, people, work, and travel. And of course, I continued to ignore and mislabel what happened to me. But in my thirties, it became apparent that I needed to start dealing with the realities of my boyhood abuse in order to stop self-destructive behaviors and patterns.

I discovered the hard way that denying, ignoring, or soothing my pain through compulsions and addictions just didn’t work….it was time to face the pain.¬†I started writing. 65,000 words later and I nearly have a book. I went into therapy. Told family and friends. And thus, began the road to my recovery.

Recovery calls on you to forgive yourself for your failures, accept your progress, and find ways to voice what’s been silenced.¬†Being able to articulate your experience, whether by speaking about it with friends and family, writing about it, or even through art is a powerful tool.

Can you say “video”?

And while it may be embarrassing for others, or even difficult for them to understand, many sexually betrayed boys who become men find power in telling our stories. In doing so we take dissociated pieces of our history and give them their proper places and names. I also found it empowering to finally confront my 1st abuser. To make him accountable for the impact he had on my life, to finally stand up for that little 8 year old self and demand an apology for not only him, but the man he would eventually become.

Thankfully, after some time my abuser did just that. He acknowledged. He apologized…I’m still working on the forgiveness part. The hope was that we both would find some closure… in the end unfortunately that didn’t happen. These past few months since the disclosure to family and friends, the confrontation between my 1st abuser and myself, not to mention his typical absence from my life during this emotional and gutwrenching time has shown me sadly that he just doesn’t care. Maybe he never did. All these years I had to tell myself that he must have really loved me to do those things to me, and now I can’t even get a phone call. ¬†Abandoned twice by him. In my childhood when he was done and now all these years later during my healing process.

“Healing process.” What a load of garbage.¬†I’ll continue to deal…alone. ¬†Sorry for the negativity, but how the hell do you heal from being used and abandoned? Hm? Not once but twice. Throw in my second abuser and other abusive type personlities that I just can’t seem to shake and we may as well use both hands to count on. Ugh…whatever.

In the meantime…let’s get the hell out of here. Want to? C’mon, let’s go travel down that open highway – The MOTO Road. Whadda ya say? ¬†You know, where bedroom walls, hypocritical Christians, and people who are closest to you can’t hurt you? ¬†It’ll be fun.

Don’t “Cry Out”

It’s not only what you did, it’s everything that came after.

By age 16, as many as one in six boys in America has had unwanted sex with an adult or older child. Millions of men, abused as children, continue to live with the debilitating effects of shattered trust.

It’s disturbing to think about what it means to a boy when he’s sexually abused by someone he trusts. Uncomfortable as we feel, however, we must either talk about the reality of his experience or continue to live in silence, with devastating consequences.

Abusers use their age or authority to satisfy their own needs without regard to those of their victims. Seemingly unbreakable bonds are broken when treachery is introduced into these relationships. Consequently, many sexually abused boys grow up distrustful, considering people dishonest, malevolent, and undependable. They often become frightened of emotional connection and isolate themselves. This may alternate with merging with loved ones so they hardly know where they end and others begin.

Confusing affection with abuse, desire with tenderness, sexually abused boys often become men who have difficulty distinguishing among sex, love, nurturance, affection, and abuse. They may experience friendly interpersonal approaches as seductive and manipulative. On the other hand, they may not notice when exploitative demands are made on them – they’ve learned to see these as normal and acceptable.

Believing sexual closeness is the way to feel loved but experiencing love as abuse, some of these men solve their dilemma by engaging in frequent, indiscriminate, and compulsive sexual encounters. These are not free, joyous expressions of erotic passion. Sex is pursued incessantly, but with little chance for intimacy. Although strongly desiring love, these men have no sense of feeling loved once the sex act is concluded. They’re left feeling empty and lonely, while the idea of fully pursuing relationships fills them with dread.

Finally, when the abuser is male (and even sometimes when she is female), many boys – whether straight or gay – develop fears and concerns about sexual orientation. Conventional wisdomsays sexual abuse turns boys gay, although there’s no persuasive evidence that premature sexual activity fundamentally changes sexual orientation. Nevertheless, a heterosexual boy is likely to doubt himself, wondering why he was chosen by a man for sex. A homosexual boy may feel rushed into considering himself gay, or may hate his homosexuality because he believes it was caused by his abuse. Whether boys are gay or straight, these manipulative introductions to sexuality can set lifetime patterns of exploitation and self-destructive behavior.

These aftereffects are ugly. They’re not only painful for victims but also costly to our society. Boys who grow up without coming to terms with their childhoodabuse often struggle as men with addictions, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide as well as the inability to develop or maintain relationships.

The good news: healing is possible. 

A first step is acknowledging that abuse occurred and articulating what has been silenced. Putting the experience into words is freeing for many men, whether they tell a loved one, a professional, a confidant, or simply write in a journal. Beyond that, there are several options. Knowledgeable professionals can help, as can healing retreats, some 12-Step programs, and men’s groups focused on victimization and masculinity.”

Paraphrased from
Richard Gartner, PhD, Training and Supervising Analyst, faculty and Founding Director of the Sexual Abuse Program at the William Alanson White Institute. He wrote Betrayed as Boys: Psychodynamic Treatment of Sexually Abused Men, for professionals, and Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse, for the general public.