Todd Essig, Contributor
My beat is mental health, mental wealth, and making the most of living
3/28/2012 @ 1:44PM |340 views
Mets Pitcher Joins Winning Team Of The Candid Sexually Abused
Maybe if they won the Series more often, we Mets fans would not spend so much time hating the Yankees, wondering how much Madoff money went into Citi Field, and talking about off-the-field exploits. One exception would be ace knuckleballer R. A. Dickey’s just published memoir in which he recounts having been sexually abused as a child. Regardless of post-season success, that deserves the significant attention it is receiving. His candid disclosures would be amazing even if it were 1986 all over again.
Male sexual abuse is no small problem, either in scope or depth. A 2005 study in American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported 16% of men (that’s 1 in 6) have histories of childhood sexual abuse. And for those in the 1 in 6, there are often deep emotional wounds too often left to fester in silence, a silence enforced by stigma and dangerous myths.
Dickey’s memoir, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball, will help fight the festering silence. His narrative can reduce stigma and dispel dangerous myths, most central of which is the mistaken notion that all sex is good sex and Dickey should consider himself lucky rather than abused.
Here’s how Sports Illustrated reported his disclosure,
In the summer of 1983, when Dickey was eight, he was sexually abused on multiple occasions by a female baby-sitter and, separately, by a male teenager in a nearby town where Dickey was visiting family. “There is no helping me or my shame,” Dickey writes of his emotional state at the time. “It feels as though it is choking me to death.” He banished the memory to some deep recess of his mind, leaving it unaddressed for more than two decades.
And here’s a short exerpt from the book quoted over at ESPN:
Downstairs in the living room, the babysitter’s mother and my mom and a group of friends are having drinks and talking before they go out. The babysitter chucks the pillows and stuffed animals out of the way. She looks at me and says, Get in the bed. I am confused and afraid. I am trembling. The babysitter has her way with me four or five more times that summer, and into the fall, and each time feels more wicked than the time before. Every time that I know I’m going back over there, the sweat starts to come back. I sit in the front seat of the car, next to my mother, anxiety surging. I never tell her why I am so afraid. I never tell anyone until I am 31 years old.
When it comes to male sexual abuse the go-to guy is Dr. Richard Gartner, who is both my friend and a colleague at the William Alanson Alanson White Institute. He is widely acknowledged to be a pioneer in the treatment of sexually abused men and one of the country’s leading experts on topic. Like many clinicians, I frequently recommend his book “Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse” and he also one the founders of MaleSurvivor (malesurvivor.org), an online resource for sexually abused men and their loved ones.
I wanted to know what he thought about the idea that any male, even an 8 year old, should be grateful for the sexual attention of a 13 year old girl. I mean isn’t the “baby sitter” a sex fantasy that everyone has? Isn’t he lucky that he got to live his, and so early on in life? So, I asked, what do you say to people who might say he wasn’t abused, he was lucky:
“I tell them it is a lot easier for a middle aged man to believe that he would enjoy sex with a baby-sitter than for an uncertain boy to be used by his trusted caretaker. A boy like that has no support for being anxious about what happened, and if he did not feel good about it he is likely to bury that feeling because he has bought into the idea that “real” boys and men are in charge of sex and accept it whenever it is offered by a woman. I also sometimes note that middle aged men say a boy with a beautiful female babysitter is lucky but are repelled by a woman the man considers homely, too overweight, or otherwise undesirable.
“While many men remember their own fantasies and crushes as boys, the reality is often a lot harsher. For example, one young man told me at age 20 that he now realized he had given up his whole adolescence as a teenager, always meeting secretly with his female teacher, never dating, dropping out of sports, hiding his life from his family, then dropping out of school. At the time he had thought it was worth it, but now his life was a shambles.”
So much for the myth of getting lucky.
Dr. Gartner continued: “Each time a celebrity comes forward with a story of his sexual abuse he empowers many others to do the same. This was true with filmmaker Tyler Perry, CNN anchor Don Lemon, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Senator Scott Brown, 3-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, former Stanley Cup champion Theoren Fleury, NFL player Laveranues Coles, Olympic diver Greg Louganis, NBC anchor Thomas Roberts, and on and on.”
And now Dickey has joined those who, as I was told, are “bravely going against our culture’s socialized norms for masculinity and declaring that they suffered as victims of sexual abuse. When they do so, others who have remained silent are more likely to get the courage to disclose their own experiences and, most importantly, get help for it.”
Of course, not every abused boy grows to be a man who pitches in the majors and then lands a major book contract. Most suffer in the silence of everyday lives. But that doesn’t mean the suffering is any less in need of redemption. So, if you’re a silent member of the 1 in 6, let me encourage you not to be silent. Speak your history. There are people who will listen and understand. Too much talent, too much life gets lost in the desert of unvoiced pain. Being a man sexually abused as a child no longer has to trap you in silence. So, if you share a similar history of silent suffering, perhaps Dickey’s story will help you to take a similar step towards healing. Also, if you know someone who has been sexually abused perhaps his story will help you surround him with love, support, and kindness.
And if you’re kind of surprised by the whole thing, maybe still believing the myth that he got lucky rather than having been abused, then please remember, as Dr. Gartner said, “a child prematurely pulled into sexual experiences ends up surrendering a piece of his or her childhood, often with long term grave consequences.”
For more information go to malesurvivor.org.