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I don't know how he got my telephone number and he never told me his name. As soon as I identified myself, he blurted: "Why should a man tell anyone about his abuse?"
"He doesn't need to tell anyone. He can keep it a secret until he dies," I said.
"But talking is just talking—just mere words."
Certain he was referring to himself, I asked, "Have you ever told anyone?"
After a long silence, he mumbled, "No."
I remember the interview like it was yesterday. The year was 1984, and I was a oh-so-young, oh-so-green social work student conducting an interview with a veteran gay activist at our local GLBTQ center. (Mind you, many of those letters weren’t spoken of back then). I was 24 years-old, straight-define, and I literally quivered with nervousness at being, for the first time in my life, in queer-defined space. My purpose of the meeting—to research the history and advocacy of the centre for my studies in community development—belied my internal emotional state.
In conversation with my friend Beth, I mentioned that even though I knew the molestation in childhood wasn't my fault, I still felt shame and guilt over my abuse as if I had failed in some way. "I keep thinking that only if I—"
"You shouldn't feel that way," Beth said.
Before I could respond, she listed my achievements (as if I didn't know them) and told me how much she admired me for the way I had dealt with my painful childhood.
"You don't deserve to feel that way."
About three years ago, I made a gut-wrenching decision that would alter my life forever. At that time, I was in the middle of a breakdown of sorts. I wasn’t sure why I was in the middle of a breakdown—and for that I was confused—but since I couldn’t manage my anger and emotions, I decided to quit my job in advertising, a job that many people would kill for.
When 1in6’s founding Board member, Dr. David Lisak, and I were talking with a group of students and staff at Brown University recently, someone asked for ideas about how to best support a friend or family member who is coming to terms with unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood.