This goes back a long time, to the 50s. My parents were decent people if maybe a bit Victorian. (E.g. I can't remember being touched - cuddles probably stopped when I was about 4 or 5. And crying was virtually not allowed.) Anyway, I was pretty happy and outgoing, but maybe a little starved of affection. But one Saturday morning, when I was just 11, I was bored and wandered into the nearby village and was flattered to be invited in by a man who was a leading light in our church. And that started a period of what's now known as 'grooming,' followed by 'sexual abuse.' There were no words then to describe these activities. One of the freakiest things about it is that we were "doing God's Will." And one of the sad things is that it turned me into an expert liar. I don't mean that I was a saint before that, just a normal boy. But I had to invent reasons why I was late home from school sometimes, etc. - in fact I was terrified that my parents would find out.

One day I just couldn't stand it any longer and decided after a lot of agonising that I'd try to tell a teacher I trusted, which wasn't easy of course, not least because there was no sex education in those days, and I knew only the street names for 'penis,' etc. (My prudish parents used the phrase 'down there'!) But he didn't believe me & punished me for lying - black day! Since then I try always to have a Plan B, maybe C, in situations where I'm nervous, but then I didn't. And as the saying goes, I've kept my cards close to my chest since then. When I got home I said I was ill & went to bed and stone-cold refused to go back to school or church. This was in October, and I didn't go back until the following September. I can vaguely remember feeling very nervous at first in case anyone would ask searching questions, but nobody did. Of course my doctor examined me, and I was sent to a neurological hospital - don't know what the diagnosis was - 'schoolitis' maybe. I suppose it just shows how child abuse wasn't on the radar in those days.

I did have a lot of problems for the next 15 years or so, but I fairly quickly adopted the style by which I still live, of never showing discomfort, never displaying anger, just smiling always and appearing to be laid-back and in control. In some ways it's true - I'm a good guy to have in a crisis for I don't panic. But I've always had some emotional problems that I've hardly admitted to myself, like hating to touch or be touched, being unable at times to go to the dentist, being phobic about being criticised, etc.

I was pretty happy when I got married & started to raise a family, though I still had a few problems. For a while it felt as if I were walking on eggshells - I was frightened for a while that flashbacks would come back, but they didn't. I didn't tell my wife about the abuse but when our children were starting to leave home I gradually developed a strong desire to tell her, but didn't until 3 years ago when I was finding life pretty difficult, nightmares restarting, etc. So I 'came out' and searched for a therapist, etc. I'm still not sure what I expected from disclosure, and telling my wife hasn't been altogether successful. I guess she still feels that I was wrong not to tell her when we met, and I feel that, though she was very good at first, she hasn't always done/said what I'd like. We're not going to divorce or anything, but I'm finding myself sliding back into secretive mood - e.g. sometimes I wake up in a panic & cry out before I realise where I am. If she hears that, I now just say "Sorry, stubbed my toe," or something like that, to avoid an argument. (Another lifelong problem - hate arguments!)

Bits left out! - maybe some other time!

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A dog is a man's best therapist