If you love a man who has been sexually abused, please read this book.
THIS BOOK IS FOR MEN TOO. It touches on the areas that need to be addressed, by men that have suffered sexual abuse, to reclaim their lives. It’s an inside peek of the male’s psyche and emotions. It’s not a `fix-it’ book, but instead helps men realize they aren’t alone or crazy and that healing can be reached.
For women, with men in their lives that have been abused, this book will help you help him through the healing process. Addressing how to be there for him and how to encourage him in the areas in which he struggles.
I became a serious Christian in my early twenties. Months after my conversion, I met Shirley, and we later married. We had five or six problem-free years before a single event changed our marriage. I had been gone for nearly two weeks. When I came home, Shirley lay in bed, and I thought she was asleep. I climbed in beside her, and in the dark, she turned over and touched me.
Feelings of anger and revulsion spread through me. I’d never before had those feelings in our marriage. I didn’t understand what was going on inside me. I couldn’t respond to her, and I didn’t understand the reason. I pushed her arm away and mumbled something about being exhausted.
She rolled over, and although she tried to cover up her tears, I heard the soft sobs. Her pain made me feel worse. Why had I done such a cruel thing? Why had I pushed her away?
I lay awake a long time trying to figure it out. What’s wrong with me? I asked myself repeatedly. No matter how much I prayed, I couldn’t understand my angry reaction.
Over the next several years, occasionally I had similar reactions. Looking back, I realize that when she initiated any affection that I hadn’t anticipated, especially in the dark, I froze. Each time it happened, I felt guilty and silently begged God to show me what was wrong with me. Slowly my seemingly irrational feelings decreased, and life seemed to resume a loving normalcy.
The next event happened during a long run. I’d been a runner for at least a decade and usually did six or seven miles a day. That morning in the early fall, I decided to do a twelve-mile run, the longest I had ever done. About the tenth mile, sadness came over me—a deep, depressive melancholy. The tears began to flow and I couldn’t figure out why. I was sobbing so hard that I had to walk the last half mile.
The painful past had finally broken through. I remembered. The images were vague and unclear, but a memory nonetheless: The old man undressed me and fondled me. I also remembered the female relative who assaulted me.
I didn’t want to believe such memories. Some days I convinced myself that I had conjured up terrible thoughts about innocent adults. Most of the time, however, I knew. It wasn’t my imagination, and it had happened. If that was so, why hadn’t I remembered it before? Why now?
After that, crying became almost a daily routine. I usually ran for about an hour very early in the mornings. On many of those runs, tears would stream down my face before I finished. A few mornings I sat on the curb in the dark and cried until I was able to get up and run again.
Over the next few weeks, other childhood memories crowded into my consciousness. Those remembrances hurt, and each one brought about feelings of grief. I had never before experienced such inner pain. Even though engulfed by shame, embarrassment, guilt, and a sense of utter worthlessness, I decided I had to talk to someone. Haltingly, nervously, I told Shirley. Once she got beyond the initial shock, she said exactly what I needed to hear. “I don’t understand this, but I’m with you.”
Of course she didn’t understand. How could she? I didn’t even understand myself.
A few days later, my friend David Morgan came over to my house. I told him as much as I remembered of my past. He held me, and my tears flowed again. I don’t recall anything he said, but I knew he was with me in spirit and would be at my side as I slew the dragons of my past.
The Effects of Unconditional Love
Because of the purpose of this book, I want to point out why I think my healing began when it did. Shirley had been the first person in my life who I felt loved me without reservation. I didn’t have to be good, act nice, or behave in a particular way to win her acceptance. I had grown up in a family where I was the good boy. I remained the good boy because I did the right things. If I had stopped performing, I was sure the family would hate me.
That probably wasn’t true, but that’s how I felt. Shirley made the difference simply because she loved me. Although it took me a number of years to trust that love, I know I couldn’t have faced my childhood assaults if she hadn’t been there to encourage me and to hold my hand.
David was the second person who I felt accepted me unconditionally. We had been friends for eight years before my memories began to return. When I tentatively opened up, he didn’t push for information or try to fix me. Although I can’t explain how, he enabled me to trust him and to share the fragmented memories.
From Shirley and then from David, I slowly began to trust others. I couldn’t have done it without that supportive love behind me.
Over the next three years, I shared my abusive childhood with a few others. One of them, Stephen, had led the small group at Oglethorpe. He lived several hundred miles away, but we regularly phoned, wrote, and later e-mailed. Five times, he and I met for a weekend just to talk about our childhoods and to open ourselves to further healing. During those early years, some events were so overpowering, I cried more than I talked. More than once I wished I were dead.
The Cost of Unconditional Love
At the time, I was so filled with my own pain I had no realization of Shirley’s pain. She hurt, and had been hurting for years. Whenever one of my odd acts of behavior occurred, she blamed herself for doing something wrong, even if she couldn’t figure out what it was. Both of us were victims of my childhood abuse.
Once I crept out of the morass, I realized three important facts. First, I was safe and no longer had to fear the terrors of childhood. Second, Shirley understood—as much as anyone who hasn’t had the same type of experience could understand. Third—and the most important—Shirley was the first person in my life who had loved me without demands or conditions. Because of her, I had finally found a safe place grounded in reality. When I wanted to deny that the abuse had really happened, she infused me with courage. When I wanted to quit striving for wholeness, Shirley affirmed me by little things, such as holding my hand or letting me see the tears in her own eyes. Shirley’s unconditional love enabled me to go through the stages from shame to anger to acceptance, and eventually to forgive my perpetrators, both long dead.
I’m thankful for David’s loving friendship, but Shirley was the person I lived with, and the one individual with the most power to hurt me. When I behaved in ways that were not particularly lovable, not once did she reproach me or lash out, and I’m thankful for that. The quality of that love enabled me to accept God’s unconditional love. Because of my wife’s support, I slowly moved forward until I could say, “I know that God loves me, that I’m worthwhile, loved, and accepted by my heavenly Father.”
Through the years, Shirley suffered because of the effects of my abuse. Even now I sometimes feel sad because of the pain she had to go through, especially during those dark years when she had no idea why I behaved as I did. She silently accepted blame and wrestled with her own issues of self-esteem and failure. It was unfair, and I owe her so much for simply sticking with me, for being God’s instrument, and most of all for being the human link that joined my hand with that of a loving Father.
AUTHOR: Cecil Murphey – I am a male survivor of childhood sexual assault. I want to tell my story so you’ll know why this book is important to me.
BOOK: When a Man You Love Was Abused: A Woman’s Guide to Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation.