Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Male survivors

At the risk of being socially and politically incorrect, I want to say a few things about male survivors. I feel as if society treats sexual abuse differently, depending on the victim's gender. Take the recent stories you've heard on the news of female teachers having relationships with male students. That is abuse, but many times society is sending the wrong message to those young boys. I can't tell you how many times I've heard an older man chuckle about how he wishes he'd had a teacher like that. Or how a boy must be gay if he doesn't want to have sexual relations with a grown woman. And I can only imagine how many boys have questioned their own sexuality after having been abused by a man, thinking something along the lines of, "I must be gay if Coach Bob is doing this to me."

There seems to be more freedom for a female victim to talk about sexual abuse - less judgment, less shame, less disbelief. Although, all of those are reasons why victims both male and female do not report, and ALL unreported crimes are a tragedy. I'm just saying that it seems like it is even harder for a male to talk about such things.

My husband has had very little go wrong in his life, certainly no history of any kind of abuse or maltreatment. That said, I know the burden he carries everyday in being the provider and leader of our household. That is the way God designed family and my husband takes it seriously. He constantly strives to keep a good balance of fun, love and tenderness with the kids, while also being consistent with training and discipline. He's the one who's in charge of our finances, paying the bills and working outside the home. He sets aside alone time for just the two of us, keeping our marriage about us and not merely revolving around the kids and work. He's involved in our church and serving the Lord. None of this is easy for him (or anyone, for that matter). But, I cannot imagine how much harder it would be if he were also carrying around the shame and isolation of sexual abuse because there aren't many safe places for a man to talk about it.

I want to encourage everyone to be mindful of your attitudes towards sex, and the words that come out of your mouth. You never know when a survivor may be sitting beside you, looking for a soft place to land. It could certainly be very uncomfortable if your buddy turns to you and unexpectedly tells you that he was sexually abused as a child, but your friend needs you. He chose to tell you because you're trustworthy. So, friend, honor that and give him the support he needs.

Guys, there is no shame in what has happened to you. You are not at fault, you are not to blame, you do not have to be defined by this. This is someone else's sin, for which THEY should be ashamed! Be encouraged to find a counselor or friend and begin processing through the pain.

2 comments:

Keith Smith said...

The following survivor story was written by Keith Smith, who is breaking his 34-year silence with his book, Men in My Town, available now on Amazon.com.

***

I was abducted, beaten and raped by a stranger. It wasn’t a neighbor, a coach, a relative, a family friend or teacher. It was a recidivist pedophile predator who spent time in prison for previous sex crimes; an animal hunting for victims in the quiet, bucolic, suburban neighborhoods of Lincoln, Rhode Island.

I was able to identify the guy and the car he was driving. Although he was arrested that night and indicted a few months later, he never went to trial. His trial never took place because he was brutally beaten to death in Providence before his court date. 34 years later, no one has ever been charged with the crime.

In the time between the night of my assault and the night he was murdered, I lived in fear. I was afraid he was still around town. Afraid he was looking for me. Afraid he would track me down and kill me. The fear didn’t go away when he was murdered. Although he was no longer a threat, the simple life and innocence of a 14-year-old boy was gone forever. Carefree childhood thoughts replaced with the unrelenting realization that my world wasn’t a safe place. My peace shattered by a horrific criminal act of sexual violence.

Over the past 34 years, I’ve been haunted by horrible, recurring memories of what he did to me. He visits me in my sleep. There have been dreams–nightmares actually–dozens of them, sweat inducing, yelling-in-my-sleep nightmares filled with images and emotions as real as they were when it actually happened. It doesn’t get easier over time. Long dead, he still visits me, silently sneaking up from out of nowhere when I least expect it. From the grave, he sits by my side on the couch every time the evening news reports a child abduction or sex crime. I don’t watch America’s Most Wanted or Law and Order SVU, because the stories are a catalyst, triggering long suppressed emotions, feelings, memories, fear and horror. Real life horror stories rip painful suppressed memories out from where they hide, from that recessed place in my brain that stores dark, dangerous, horrible memories. It happened when William Bonin confessed to abducting, raping and murdering 14 boys in California; when Jesse Timmendequas raped and murdered Megan Kanka in New Jersey; when Ben Ownby, missing for four days, and Shawn Hornbeck, missing for four years, were recovered in Missouri.

Despite what happened that night and the constant reminders that continue to haunt me years later, I wouldn’t change what happened. The animal that attacked me was a serial predator, a violent pedophile trolling my neighborhood in Lincoln, Rhode Island looking for young boys. He beat me, raped me, and I stayed alive. I lived to see him arrested, indicted and murdered. It might not have turned out this way if he had grabbed one of my friends or another kid from my neighborhood. Perhaps he’d still be alive. Perhaps there would be dozens of more victims and perhaps he would have progressed to the point of silencing his victims by murdering them.

Out of fear, shame and guilt, I’ve been silent for over three decades, not sharing with anyone the story of what happened to me. No more. The silence has to end. The fear, the shame, the guilt have to go. It’s time to stop keeping this secret from the people closest to me, people I care about, people I love, my long-time friends and my family. It’s time to speak out to raise public awareness of male sexual assault, to let other victims know that they’re not alone and to help victims of rape and violent crime understand that the emotion, fear and memories that may still haunt them are not uncommon to those of us who have shared a similar experience. For those who suffer in silence, I hope my story brings some comfort, peace and hope.

Email the author, Keith Smith, at MenInMyTown@aol.com

grammygail said...

As I was looking over your site today, I just wanted to share the following information with you. I don't know how your former pastor Dave is doing, but I hope he has been able to get the help he needed to work through his abuse. Please share this information with anyone you know who may need it. And thank you for using your pain to help ease other's.
Thomas Edward knows first-hand the emotional and physical pain associated with sexual abuse and neglect. He understands what it’s like to suffer in silence with nowhere to turn. And he’s passionate about helping other male survivors heal from the aftermath of their abuse and move from surviving to thriving.

Tom wrote Healing a Man’s Heart, a workbook designed to help Christian men face, admit, and deal with their abuse. He says, “I wrote this workbook for men who are stuck just like I used to be—men whose hearts long to be set free, but fear dampens and steals any ray of hope.” His goal is for men to become comfortable addressing the issues within them and eventually arrive to a point of breaking the silence.

Tom also conducts “Healing Broken Men” workshop retreats, which are great for participants to start or continue their healing in a safe, private, and supportive environment. Workshop sessions include losing the victim status, removing the fear factor, destroying lies and myths, repainting your picture with truth, and reclaiming God’s identity for you.

For more information about Thomas Edward, the Healing a Man’s Heart workbook, or the Healing Broken Men workshops, visit www.healingbrokenmen.com.

Gail Smith