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Recently, I read an in-progress master's thesis on male sexual abuse. The writer's research said that most men don't deal with their abuse until they're middle-aged—late 30s to early 50s. She provided no rationale, only the figures. Maybe that's well-known in therapeutic practice, but it was new to me.
Although a few children are able to ask for help while young, some of us (and perhaps that word should be many) aren't ready until we're hitting our middle years. I was one of those.
Men like me "forgot" about our experiences. That is, the trauma was so severe we couldn't face it and lived in denial until the truth resurfaced. The descriptive term is Post-Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"But why did it surface now?" I asked myself that question many times during the first year of my struggle with the molestation. The easiest thing to say is that it happened when I was able to cope with the pain. I was secure enough as a person—that is, I liked myself well enough—that I was willing to risk the shame and embarrassment.
One day, without ever seeing a therapist or being in any encounter groups, the memories started to flow. I cried—the first real crying since I was 11 years old. The intense agony disrupted my work habits and my sleep for weeks. My wife and my best friend comforted me. Their love and kindness enabled me to move ahead.
But the question still haunted me: Why now? I've concluded that my unconscious, inner wisdom kept the information hidden from me. I had focused on my education, career, marriage and fatherhood. By the time I was ready, our third and last child had left home.
I still can't give a definitive answer on the timing except that I know I was ready. Because I had dealt with the major traumas of living, I had grown comfortable with myself. And realizing the certainty of my wife's love and commitment helped me know that I could face anything and she would be with me.
Every man needs someone to trust—implicitly—whether it's a spouse, a friend, or a therapist. He needs that safety to divulge and know he'll be heard and not rejected.
Maybe that is the answer: Once we're ready, we can face our pain—even if we feel at times that we can't suffer any more.
- By Cecil Murphey
Cecil Murphey has written two books on sexual abuse. The first was When a Man You Love Was Abused and Not Quite Healed. He is the author or co-author of several best-selling books including 90 Minutes in Heaven, which was on The New York Times’ best-seller list for five years and Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story.www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com
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.