I'm a male survivor of childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. That's not all that I am, but that's a big part of me, and regardless of where I go or what I do with my life, my identity as a survivor of abuse will always follow.
My Story: An Annotated Version from 2002
I was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by my brother from the time I was about 5 until I was about 12 years old. The youngest of two brothers, I guess I was easy prey. Still, all these years later, I can remember it like it was yesterday. My brother would come into my room late at night and wake me after my parents had fallen asleep.. He would tell me that he wanted to have some fun . Then he would tell me what I needed to do and how I should do it. It happened nightly for the first few years. Sometimes there were gaps, and it wouldn't happen for weeks or months at a time and all of the sudden, it would start again.
My brother often told me that we were going to play a game or pretended that we were ninjas to lure me out of my room. Then after we'd played for awhile, he would ask me if I was ready to have some real fun . Then he would use whatever means necessary to lure my into his room--threats, promises, lies.
The physical and emotional abuse was an everyday occurrence in my life until my brother left home. Baseball bats, dog leashes, arrows, my fathers' tools, or my very own toys--he would use anything he could find to hurt me. I've never figured out what motivated him, who had hurt him, why he was so angry, but I was his pin cushion. During the day, he locked me in my room if there wasn't school. He would make me do his chores, stick my head in the toilet, hit me, beat me with whatever he could find, throw me, body slam me, and force me to do whatever else he wanted me to do. He would hang me off our two story deck by my feet until I couldn't scream any longer, all the time telling me "want me to let go? huh? You'd better stop crying then." Despite injuries sustained and the effects on my health, no one did anything. I spent most of my days running. Sometimes I fear I'm still running, that I'm still that person that's not able to defeat his demons. I was his slave and prisoner. Bruises, cuts, and injuries all ignored or just blown off as expected between two brothers.
My brother's friends came over nearly every afternoon (even though they weren't supposed to be there) and did drugs, smoked, and all used me as a sextoy and a punching bag. If I tried to defend myself, he would only use more force, only hit harder, only abuse me longer. The drugs and alcohol made the abuse worse. At ten years old, I made a promise to myself never to drink or do any sort of drugs whatsoever after witnessing their effects.
He beat me a with a metal dog leash, using it as a whip. He used to tell me that I was stupid, worthless, retarded, gay, pathetic, a loser, a faggot, a freak, an idiot, a pussy, and not worthy of scratching his balls. I guess at some point in my life that affected me and I eventually ended up with the self-esteem of a worm. Something that I've worked for the past 8 years to rebuild, but while it has gotten better, the self-esteem of someone who has not been abused still eludes me. Maybe it will always elude me.
The memories come in patches, and at the oddest of times. They come back during sex, classes, work, and play. No area of my life is immune to the abuse's effects. Holidays have never been an easy time for me. As the memories came back, I saw less and less to celebrate....
I remember one Christmas night I went downstairs to play a board game that I'd just gotten with him and he molested me instead. He told me to put his penis in his mouth, and then said I would like it because it tasted good. He went as far as to say it was flavored. Anything to get what he wanted. He told me that this [the abuse] would be good for me. He used to have intercourse with me and keep going regardless of my crying. He didn't stop regardless of my crying and screaming. Because of our size difference I was helpless no matter how hard I fought. He used to tell me that this would help me make people happy. He told me that it was normal--all the kids were doing it. As he molested me, I stared at the colored wrapping paper on the floor and the new board game I'd just unwrapped. The pieces of the game were scattered on the floor. The print still stands out in my mind and haunts me each year when decorations are put out. I can still remember how the board had been tossed to the side. I screamed with each penetration, but no one came.
If I refused, he would threaten me. He would try to coerce me into believing that it would be fun for me. He told me that if I ever told anyone, he would kill me. He told me that he would hire someone to sit outside of my window and they would shoot me in my sleep. I went to sleep for seven years looking out that window, crying myself to sleep as I imagined the killer was probably going to be out there tonight. I remember that I told someone once when he was there that "my brother made me stick his penis in his mouth." They laughed. He told them that there was something wrong with me, and the stigma that I would face the rest of my life as a male survivor had begun.
From there I told several teachers, none of whom did anything. I told all of my friends, one of whom decided to take me in when he could so that I wouldn't have to go back home any more, but most of whom just thought that I was making something up. And I began to sense just how "different" I was.
I grew up being called faggot. I would have to face people telling me that I might have provoked it. I would even have to face people telling me that it was just normal exploration. I don't know what I would've done if I would've known then that I can really never escape this. I don't know if I would have kept trying all those years to ignore it. I don't know if I could've tried harder or escaped.
For years I was ashamed of who I was. I never viewed myself as being on the same plane as other guys. I thought that something was wrong with me. Somehow the abuse had made me an outcast. I really don't understand why guys aren't supposed to show emotion, but I think it's crap. I care about people and I'm sensitive and compassionate because of my experiences.What's wrong with that? What's wrong with a man showing emotion and being (heaven forbid) weak? Ever since I started dealing with this, all I've wanted to do is help others.
When I have someone be truly kind to me and pat me on the back or put their arm around me, it makes me feel awkward. I don't know how to react seeing how the love that I've recieved in the past was kind of fraudulent. It feels good, but at the same time it scares me. I feel almost ashamed that I don't live up to society's standards of the perfect man--perfect body, strong, indifferent to emotion, etc. I've tried many times to just forget about it. I've tried to live my life in spite of it. I've tried to ignore the feelings that are pursued by it, but it's just not possible.
The images still haunt me. The fears still persist. Shakespeare wrote, "I could be bounded in a nutshell and call myself king......were it not that I had bad dreams." I couldn't agree more. It's been over ten years and they're still there--the dreams, the thoughts, the constant reminders of something that was totally out of my control and is still beyond my understanding.
But I refuse to live my life in secrecy.
In 2002, I started therapy. My therapist remarked that I must've been ready to talk about what happened because she'd had few survivors--male or female--work so hard to overcome what they'd been through.
In lieu of college, grades, friendhsips, etc, I put my focus on therapy and spent the next two years working on my abuse issues. Somehow I found my voice, which had been buried deep within from fear of being discovered or being humiliated, and I started to speak up. Working with some of my closest friends, I not only attended therapy, but discussed memories and flashbacks with my peers, living every moment for the next two years fully facing what had happened to me. Maybe they're right. Maybe it's when your'e weakest that you're strongest. Somehow, as I was flooded with memories, faced with nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety, I found my strength.
"I am trying my hardest to let down my guard now. I've built so many walls, and it's taking me longer than I could've imagined to tear them all down. For years I was focused on protecting myself. I wanted nothing more than to be safe and happy. Maybe I'm the only survivor who's ever struggled with this, but I sometimes feel vulnerable and guilty if I laugh or act happy around people. I can remember growing up, my brother would always ask me 'what are you smiling at?' or 'What are you laughing at?' I knew that if I didn't stop quickly, I would regret it. Now I'm challenging myself to laugh daily, to be more outgoing, to make attempts to do things with friends that are "just for fun." As stupid as it is, I don't always know what's 'fun.' Fun was what the kids who weren't getting abused had. I'm always asking myself,'is it ok to laugh at this?' I'm way too cautious sometimes. I think that if I can somehow relax, I'll do much better. I guess years of thinking about this has taken its toll on me, aside from the toll of the actual abuse. I'd love to just relax and laugh and do something fun once in awhile. I think that it would be good for me. Perhaps in time I won't have to actually try any more.
One year after treatment started:
Faced with some issues popping back up, as well as new issues rising, I have had to choose whether or not I would allow this back into my life--the fear, the abuse, the memories. I refused this time. The choice was mine, and I will not allow this to control me. I choose to be free of this horror. Sure it's going to affect me in ways that I don't realize, or ways that I do realize but don't want to. However, it's going to be a long time before it ever has any control over me. I've fought too long to give up or go back to where I started. I've also fought too long and too hard to keep being silent about it. I want so badly to say something to some people around here, but I've always chickened out. I've always avoided the possibility of talking to them. For the past five to seven years, I have searched for the answers about my past. I've tried to understand it. I've tried to explain it. I've tried to fix it. I've tried to analyze it. For awhile I tried to ignore it. I've even tried to capture some sort of a childhood. I choose to be who I am now in the present. I don't want the past to control me, and I won't allow it to. The only answers that matter have been found:
(A) it happened--I accept it
(B) it was and is real--I know it and believe it
(C) it had some effects on me--they don't have to be permanent
(D) It wasn't my fault
(E) I couldn't stop it--I was a kid--I didn't know
(F) I didn't deserve it
(G) It only controls me if I let it
(H) A negative past doesn't mean I can't have a positive present or future
(I) Laughter eases the pain
(J) It's ok to laugh and feel good--I shouldn't feel guilty about it--I deserve it
(K) I am a whole person even without the abuse--it's only a microscopic part of who I am
(L) Sometimes crying helps--that's ok too
(M)Crying shouldn't go on forever--grief and regret have to stop eventually
(N) It's ok to ask for help
(O) It's ok to feel good about myself
(P) I don't have to hide who I am
(Q) I shouldn't feel ashamed over something that someone else did
(R) Life goes on
(S) To focus on memories will only cause hurt
(T) There are good people in the world--people who care, understand, and accept
(U) I can fight back instead of rolling over and dying
(V) I will learn to trust and to be a better, fuller person in time
(W) Things do get better
(X) I am stronger than I think--there are all kinds of strengths
(Y) It's never too late to begin again
(Z) I survived--I should act like it
It's scary looking back at where I was just a little while ago, although it feels like an eternity. I'm glad that I've made some changes to my life. One of them is that I am no longer a victim. No longer do I look at myself as just an abused person. Rather, I look at myself as a whole person with that just being a tiny part of me. In fact, it's one of the smallest parts of me. It no longer holds me back.
My favorite thing about therapy is that I often hear these positive things about myself that I don't hear from a lot of other people. Things like "It's interesting how you've handled this. I think that you had some very creative coping mechanisms." or "You're just a normal person who has been through a traumatic experience." or "What I like about working with you is that whenever we talk about something you go out and do something about it." It has really been helpful in keeping me in tact and keeping me going. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity.
I'm stronger now, and this isn't able to beat me the way it used to.
There will be fluctuations for a short time, but for the most part, this is over. I've conquered it again. I can feel it. The memories aren't coming back and the flashbacks have remained dormant. If they do come back, I will fight them. Because I've accepted this as part of me, it can no longer control me. I acknowledge that it's there, and now I control it. I can decide whether or not it will affect me. There will be times when I have to fight again, but for now I can relax and just live life. I say this with great hope and expectations: It would appear that I'm in the final stage of recovery.
From documentation on abuse survivors and all the treatments I've looked at, my actions and experiences now match those in the final stage of dealing with trauma. Even in the social settings, I'm meeting the criteria. I'm changing stages. Instead of giving up and relying on others, I'm fighting back. Instead of running to some other means of coping, I'm trusting myself and everything that I value. Instead of staying the same and being completely stubborn, I'm changing--I'm trying something different. In this stage, I fight, I win, I feel confident in my identity, I move on, and I carry on stable and healthy relationships. I've dealt with this for a long time, and a week or two weeks is the fastest that I've ever been able to conquer it in. It's over. I have every reason to be confident and secure--every reason.