Voices on Healing from Male Survivors

 

 men healing from childhood sexual abuse

Photo by Susan Barbini


This summer we’ll be posting some words from friends we’ve been fortunate to meet along the way while producing
Boys and Men Healing. They don’t minimize the tremendous pain they faced from being sexually abused as boys, yet their words reveal the hope and triumph that comes with healing. Each man has reclaimed their lives and gone on to contribute in their communities to breaking silence and ending cycles of abuse. We’re so grateful for their courage and voices. We hope their words will shine some light on the darkness of male child sexual abuse, and offer well-deserved hope, insight and inspiration.

Scott Berube

Scott is an advocate for survivors and currently organizing a screening for Boys and Men Healing in Canada.

A few words from Scott about healing: For me healing is about being open. Open to my friends, open to my family and my “survivor” community, and now open to all who will listen. Most of all healing was about being open with myself. I started in September with a mini breakdown that I now view more as the scream I did not let out 35 years ago. Now there is no more pain. No more shame. No more confusion. I live real. I love real. I feel real.

Rick Goodwin, MSW RSW
Executive Director, The Men’s Project/Le Projet pour hommes

One can describe the process of healing for a male survivor relatively simply. Given that trauma overwhelms and disorganizes his experience of the abuse when he was a boy, he is left with a fragmented and disconnected sense of self. For example, he may have memory without the painful affect (feelings), or he may have the emotion without the memory. Hence, we see symptoms like nightmare, flashbacks, startle responses, and dissociative behaviours.

Now as a man, he needs to find and participate in a process of finding integration of his abuse. Easy to say, hard to do. Therapy, particularly group therapy, can be essential if it is male-centred, trauma-specific, of sufficient length, and competently delivered. Not easy to find, not a quick process, nor is it painless. Some guys describe this journey as hell. Thankfully, there are methods and treatment programs that are emerging that are proven to yield benefits for those men who commit to the process. I have met many men who have told me that treatment (here at The Men’s Project) has saved their lives. I not only believe them, I have witnessed this transformation happen.

In essence, a survivor can tell if his treatment is successful once his story becomes “boring” to him. In this regard, the relative parts of his memory – the images, the affect, the physiological sensations, his behaviour, and the meaning he derives from the recovery process – all become integrated. By doing so, the survivor can then, compassionately, find himself – who he truly is. With integrity, he can carry this forward in both himself as well as his roles as partner, father, and as a productive member of the community.

Healing takes hope, courage, and sustained commitment. The first step is the hardest. On behalf of the men I serve, I encourage all men to keep their eyes on the prize, and to walk this way. Visit The Men’s Project

Ken Followell, President, MaleSurvivor:

Healing from sexual abuse is a slow process. First you realize that there is something to heal from. That contrary to what the person who violated your body and your trust said, it wasn’t your fault. You are not to blame. There was a hurt done to you not by you. From there you try to find a new normal and a new way to trust people. If you are lucky, there are others in your life who truly understand the confusion you are trying to find your way through, if not you seek them out. Healing from this hurt must involve others. You need to learn to trust and love and to be trusted and loved again. This healing does not return to you to as you were before, that does not happen. But it does give you new strengthen, compassion and understanding. The innocence remains lost, but it is replaced by a new sense of joy and wonder.

John Mark Clubb, Author, Boys Cry Too:

My name is John Mark Clubb and as a 6 year old, I was brutally raped by my father, a former southern Baptist Minister one night after he beat my mother senseless as she tried to defend me. That started a 3 year cycle of rape and sodomy whose memories I suppressed until the age of 29 when the horror of those days and nights began to flood my consciousness and I began the long journey home through healing. The first part of my life was covered and bloodied by the anger that manifested itself almost daily in my life and whose origin I had no clue of.

The second part of my life was a mixture of pride and pain as I struggled with the self defeating shameful urges and behaviors that through his shame my father gave to me to bear. My father in his sadistic joy would rape me on my birthdays and on Christmas Day. Despite this, I became a Naval Aviator, Airline Pilot and Father. Through therapy and writing “boys cry too” the third part of my life has become hope, healing, redemption and acceptance.

As a man, the journey has been difficult. We are supposed to be braver, stronger and bear our pain in silence. We were supposed to be big enough to fight off our attackers. I have been looked at suspiciously that maybe I will become him because of what he did to me. I refused to stay silent. Women activists refuse to admit that men too could be sexually assaulted. It reminds them that no one is safe and it makes them afraid. We need the resources provided women with the additional effort that it takes to reassure us that it is OK to admit such heinous crimes are visited on us as boys. We are silenced and imprisoned by society’s judgments of us. The work of survival takes its toll.

Men can heal. Through their strengths and the things that make men who they are they can turn the pain of their experiences into the power of healing. When we eliminate the prejudices and filters that people look at male survivors through, the clarity of those strengths that men bring to this effort is clear. When men can say without fear, “I was raped”, we can all join energies together to move humankind upward and forward.

My 50th was the first birthday without fear. Sex abuse is as much a part of me as my eye color. I will not deny it because to deny it is to deny the part of me that was strong enough to survive. The strength that gave me the courage to heal. In the end, I want people, not just men to know that, “Abuse does not have to be a life sentence”. For all the boys who survived and for those of us who decided that the pain was too great to bear. Peace.

Mike Skinner-Singer/Songwriter/Advocate and Founder of Surviving Spirit

Mikes’ beautiful song, Brush Away Your Tears, a song he wrote for those hurt as children, is featured in Boys and Men Healing as the credits roll after the film. His live performance below is testimony to the transcendent power and beauty of his music, and the impact his music has in reaching millions of those abused as children.

Mike’s words below about healing, acceptance and love, convey the raw truth of the sexual abuse he experienced as a child. Yet, his creative voice, advocacy and music clearly tells another story–a story of hope, healing, reclaiming life, and going on to help others. Our belief is that silence, denying, or minimizing child sexual abuse is detrimental to the individual and society. Mike not only speaks boldly about what happened to him as a child, but as a phoenix rising from the ashes, he creates truly beautiful music that will endure and touch millions.

ACCEPTANCE, HEALING & LOVE by Mike Skinner

I think that most people in the world who have suffered through any kind of debilitating trauma and abuse would certainly welcome having Acceptance, Healing & Love in their respective lives. Unfortunately, for far too many, that is not the case; I know from my own experiences and that of so many others that all too often we are left on our own and for the most part we can be shunned, ostracized and cut off by society or the respective community we long to be a part of. Those who have known the pains and horrors of child abuse in all of its forms know this all too well. And should you have the misfortune to have been sexually abused as a child or a young teen – well…that only compounds the dilemma of trying to “fit in”.

My physical, emotional and sexual abuse coupled with psychological terror came at the hands of both of my parents and many of their perverted friends – male and female adults who did deplorable and despicable acts upon young children that they should have been arrested for. I think for myself though, the simple fact that my parents did not accept me as a human being, as their son who had so many bright and shining qualities and gifts to share with them and the world has done a number on my psyche that still is part of my very core. As a young boy the realization that my parents did not love me, but in fact hated me, left a profound mark upon me. Trying to find acceptance, healing and love has been a life-long journey for me because of that simple realization.

I have come to believe that we do need acceptance and love from those around us in order to heal – yes, we can do many things, good things to help facilitate the healing process from childhood traumas – but we really can’t do that in solitude. Sadly, for so many of us who are survivors, the trust that was broken repeatedly only makes the healing journey harder to embark upon – especially when the messages of not being accepted, whether overtly or subtlety and being told to stay quiet about our abuse; well….once again we learn the message that we don’t belong.

We have a long way to go in erasing the stigma and the discrimination that impacts the lives of those who have been sexually abused. It is indeed an uphill battle to get society to stop ignoring what is and has happened to children. That is one fight or battle we face – but within our own community we still have great areas of stigma, discrimination and non-acceptance from fellow survivors. There are indeed some wonderful people and organizations doing great things out there…but there are many who also shun & ostracize their fellow survivors. That non-acceptance needs to stop, because it is a shameful and crippling hurt upon those who have already suffered enough and it is wrong.

In my own little way of trying to be a part of the solution and not the problem, I decided many years ago to speak out and sing out publicly – there has been a price for that openness; it is what it is. You can learn some more about my advocacy endeavors by visiting the website of the Surviving Spirit, a nonprofit I have created to help those impacted by trauma, abuse and mental health concerns at Surviving Spirt. We also send out a monthly newsletter that shares information and resources on fellow survivors and organizations who are doing some wonderful things in their efforts to help others. And please visit my own website [soon to be upgraded & updated] Both of these sites share lots of great resources and information for hope, healing and help – and you can hear songs off of my three album releases.

Michael Skinner mikeskinner@comcast.net contact-us@SurvivingSpirit.com

Mark Crawford-Featured in Boys and Men Healing film:

A Shattered Life

Long ago during adolescent days
all you did was heap on praise

It was the world I thought of you
and my family as well, who knew?

You were a priest; holy indeed
I was just a child very much in need

You explained to me this is love and it’s okay
until you realized I was pulling away

Your obsession with me, it really grew
as you tried to isolate me from everyone I knew

You took me on trips and gave me nice things
all others were jealous of our ring

You often said without me you could not exist
I was so very afraid of this

Your temper, manipulation and absolute control
I felt I was dying, I was loosing my soul

When things were wrong you were very mad
yet in the end I was always “the bad”

Sad, angry and powerless I became
I wasn’t even sure if I was still sane

Should life go on, how can I know what is true?
It was the grace of GOD which saw me through

It was time to move on so I moved out
now it was my younger brother you were about

How could I tell them? What would I say?
after all it was my fault, that’s usually the way

No I couldn’t tell them I will not speak
or others will know that I am a freak

It was years of silence I had to endure
lest it bring my family shame for sure

I convinced myself I am fine, everything is okay
until memories came roaring back one day

Emotions ran wild, the depression was great
yet is was him, him I could not hate

I felt I was in the ocean sinking beneath each wave
what can I do, how will I be saved

Each night I lay awake soaked with sweat in my bed
buried memories running like a freight train through my head

Now I knew it was time to work this pain through
but who will I speak to, what shall I do?

I must tell my wife, Oh what will she think?
will this be it, is our marriage at the brink?

Years of anger, pain and confusion I endured
I felt like this many years before

Yet it was not for naught, this mental reeling
in truth it was my body healing

Yes like a shattered mirror I once felt
many splinters and pieces beyond hope for health

Healing is possible now I know it is true
with the help of others you can heal too!

For sure I am not alone, a boy robbed of my youth
it was not my fault and that is the truth

So now I say it is time to shed this shame
and to you ” Padre M” I return the blame!

Bo Budinsky

Delivered that in April at the RI State House to the Gov, Atty Gen, Dept of Justice among others in attendance to kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

As many as one in six men, that’s men, are victims of childhood sexual abuse. I am one of those men and my life has been profoundly affected. I was violated by three family members, two local businessmen, a neighbor, a family friend, and the psychiatrist I was taken to when I began acting out. They picked him because he was a highly regarded member of our church and supervised me and the other young acolytes. I’ll spare you any more details but rest assured that my childhood is the stuff books and movies are about..

As a result of the sexual abuse, the lens I look out of to see the world is stained with a deep sense of shame and worthlessness. I have struggled with addiction, shattered relationships, abandoned careers, the list goes on. I’d have to say that the worst is grief. Grief and sadness beyond words. You see, I’ve had to grieve the loss of this precious little boy and the life that could have been.

However, I am a survivor and as such I’ve worked very hard to develop tools and skills to deal with this. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve stumbled and fallen many times over the years, but there has always been a voice telling me to get back up. And so I have, always knowing that there was a reason, yet that reason had continued to elude me.

I finally got my answer last September . I found out Oprah was going to do a show on male survivors and wanted 200 men to appear on the show, so I submitted my story and was one of those selected. The important part about that is that as I was writing my story suddenly the lights came on. I got it. It suddenly became perfectly clear that my struggle all the years was about the business of preparing me to do exactly what I am doing as I (speak/write). To be the voice for those who have not found theirs, to show that there is hope, and more particular to my personal experience, to encourage others to never ever give up no matter how dark the journey gets, and above all, do not stop five minutes before the miracle.I didn’t stop and my life has been one miracle after another since then.

Miracles began happening on the plane coming back from taping the shows in Chicago. A very nice older lady was sitting next to me and I suppose she saw some of my paperwork with Harpo Productions on it. At any rate she finally asked me in the softest little voice “Were you on Oprah?” I said yes. Then she asked “Are you a star?”. I told her no and that I wouldn’t wish on anyone how I got to be on Oprah, then made a split second decision to tell her exactly what the show was about. Well there was dead silence for quite a while, and I was thinking “oh my God you’ve done it again, you shouldn’t have said anything”. Then, after another long while she looked at me sadly and said “Bo, I think that has been happening to my granddaughter. Maybe I can say something about that now”.

So I say to you that if that sweet little old lady can summons the strength and courage to say something about it, then you and I don’t really have an excuse, do we? What’s at risk here is the innocence of a precious child. I’m going to talk about it ! What are you going to do?

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