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1in6 Thursday: "Why Do I Have to Talk About It?"
In 2012, I held a one-day seminar with writer-survivor, Sue Cameron, called, "When Someone You Love Was Abused." For the final segment of the seminar, Sue met with the women and I met with the men.
They had listened to several of us talk about our experiences and we had offered practical suggestions. This was a time for the men to ask questions, personal or general. One of the first questions was, "Why do I have to talk about it?"
"You don't have to talk about it. You don't have to do anything for yourself." I used a medical analogy. "If the doctor offered you a pill that would stop your physical pain, would you take it?"
"Probably," the man said. "I suppose that's why I went to him."
"Think of inner healing in the same way. If you want the right medication, it starts when you mention your disease. In your case, when you talk about your painful childhood. As long as you keep silent and guard the evil done to you, you won't be healed."
From my own experience I'm able to say, "The more I talked about what happened to me, the more I faced the reality. Each time I tell my story and another person grasps my pain, I bring in others who support me and help me carry my emotional load. I also make others aware of the heavy secrets so many men carry.
And for most of us, it's not easy to tell the dark secret of our pain and the terrible things done to us as children. Especially those of us who heard, "This is a secret just between us. Other people won't understand." By keeping those experiences inside, we continue to do exactly what our perpetrators wanted.
But it's also more than telling our stories, it's telling them to someone who will listen, who will feel our pain, and offer us support.
When I speak up, I am healing myself. The counselor, or whoever listens, enables me to explore more deeply and to deal with issues that arise out of my abusive childhood.
A few weeks ago, I did a book signing and a man waited until I finished and then asked that same question: "Why do I need to talk about this?"
"Because I want to hear." Those words slipped out of my mouth without any conscious thinking, and it was one of those times when it was exactly the right thing to say.
He stared at me for several seconds before the tears flowed. "I didn't think anyone would want to hear."
In my simple, unrehearsed words to the man, I believe I helped him. I gave him a gift—the willingness to listen. He felt he was important enough for me to care. And he was.
- By Cecil Murphey
Cecil Murphey wrote When a Man You Love Was Abused and Not Quite Healed with survivor Gary Roe. Murphey is the author or coauthor of more than 130 books including international best-sellers, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story.
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.
1in6′s mission also includes serving family members, friends and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the Joyful Heart Foundation or 1in6.