Here are the brave, heart-wrenching stories of three men who were assaulted and abused, physically, verbally, and sexually, throughout their childhoods and continuing into their adult relationships. Their stories of male sexual abuse will challenge your assumptions of what sexual assault is, how it happens, and who the victims are. They are the stories of men who courageously faced their stark realities and paved the way to a place of healing and hope.
Assault or violence – in any form – is never short-lived for the victim. Children often carry the memories, burdens and scars of the trauma into their adult life. Men are expected to be hardened to the reality and simply put it aside. We may believe that men are stronger and more dominant, but that does not mean the pain goes away as they get older. And sometimes neither does the pattern of being abused.
The fundamental element of my work as a Men’s Coach is the healing process associated with uncovering the secrets of their pasts through shared stories. The release of the debilitating emotions of shame and guilt associated with such traumas makes way for restoring a powerful sense of self worth in men. Each story shared is very different and no one of them is any less painful or more powerful than the other.
I hear many stories such as these, but these three clients invited me to share their stories with the hope that they would reach, and offer renewed hope to others who have similar stories and who are seeking healing.
The Story Of Mat
Mat is a 47-year-old Personal Trainer from Michigan. He meets regular people in their every day life. And he feels their pain. He is an empathetic soul who absorbs the untold stories of others. He describes himself as a lone wolf and a warrior. He stands apart from the crowd, because there is safety in the power of one. According to his own memory, Mat was first sexually abused at the age of three. At the age of four, he began to endure further pain and conflict in the form of emotional and physical assault, which he endured for the remainder of his childhood.
“I was dragged into a dark room and I was told to sit on the bed and not to move. Then he closed the door. A few minutes later the door opened and closed just as quickly. Then I heard that sound that every young man fears… a belt being pulled from around the waist. The next thing I felt was searing white-hot pain.”
At age six, he encountered his second sexual assault in the locker room after swimming practice. He noticed a young man watching him undress, and then the other boy approached and initiated oral sex with him.
“I did not know WTF was going on.”
Mat describes himself in his early 20’s as a man who spent most of his time alone, in a city of millions. He was angry at the world for not seeing his pain, and angry toward others for their happiness and frivolous approach to life. A happiness he felt should also have been his but which was absent from his life.
At age 24 Mat was starting to live his life like most young men. He was in a relationship, holding down a job and getting on with things. A woman then raped him, while he slept.
“At first I did not know what was going on. I told her NO!”
It defies our logic to think that a woman can rape a man. Yet it happens. It is normal to associate arousal with pleasure and therefore the assumption that any fear or dislike from a man would result in lack of erection however this is not the true of our physiology. Physical touch to the genitals stimulates arousal in both men and women. It is not an indication of desire. The lack of knowledge, understanding and acceptance of Female to Male sexual assault contributes to a great amount of confusion and shame for it’s victims, leaving it unreported, and largely unspoken about.
The lack of knowledge, understanding and acceptance of Male to Female sexual assault contributes to a great amount of confusion and shame for it’s victims, leaving it unreported, and largely unspoken about.
In his late 20’s Mat endured Sexual Harassment in two places of employment. On each occasion he was threatened that if he did not perform sex with a superior he would lose his job. He chose to risk his job by saying no, and was not fired, but eventually chose to leave both places of employment. When attempting to discuss this with friends, they just laughed at him.
“You like sex, what are you complaining about?”
Mat began the journey of much soul searching, seeking answers and guidance from others. He knew there had to be a path to stop the self-destructive relationships, and to put aside the anger and grief that he felt around his upbringing. So began a journey through a succession of counselors before he finally met one who he says knew how to speak to him, one who understood his story, who led him to the method of ‘re-parenting’ where he was able to retell the stories of his childhood.
“I told my little self that I was going to be fine. That no one else will ever hurt me like that again.”
Still unfulfilled and seeking more answers, Mat moved toward a more spiritual path, of studying and adopting Buddhist philosophies. He views his path now as both an internal and external journey.
“I forgave everyone for everything. It seemed the right thing to do.”
Mat’s early and most formative years were embittered with aggression, assault and abuse. He remembers little of the happy times. Yet he is grateful for the path that led him to this place. He has control of his emotions, his relationships, and his spiritual connectivity.
“I would not desire to change my life one bit. I would want to live it exactly the same way. I was given a gift and the ability to handle it and defeat it. I now control it and embrace it.”
Mat now identifies with an ideal life of past civilizations. He offers his innermost thoughts, his dreams and deepest desires to those that follow him.
“I am an Elder, not because of my age, but my wisdom and understanding. It is my duty to educate Men and Women… on the virtues of allowing a Man to be a Man.”
The Story of Michael
He describes himself as being born out of the wounds inflicted from feeling unworthy of love, belonging, and most importantly, acceptance as a child. Michael is 51 and living in Sydney. He is a man of rich and deep connections, but they are few. He is a father figure, a confidant and dependable friend to those in his inner circles. Yet, they are all removed from him geographically.
His story begins in very early childhood, growing up in an environment of strong verbal abuse, manipulation and aggression from both parents. He describes himself as being born out of the wounds inflicted from feeling unworthy of love, belonging, and most importantly, acceptance as a child.
The fundamental birthright of every child is unconditional love. We are hardwired for connection, deep in the core of our mammalian brain. Without connection, we are put into a place of threat, leaving us feeling isolated and alone. We instinctively strive to create bonds, but without nurturing care in formative years, we are often misguided in where those bonds should be formed.
Michael never felt connection from his parents. His father was abusive and his mother manipulative and controlling. Neither showed him compassion.
“I believe that dynamic is what saw me as ‘ripe for the picking’ at age 8, when it all got sexual.”
Michael, hungry for love and belonging found the vital connection he was seeking at age eight. He encountered his first sexual experience with Robert, an older boy of twelve. While sexual exploration of children happens, this was not a one off encounter. The sexual engagement continued for four more years.
“To have an older male approving of me and making me feel good was beyond belief.”
Like many victims of boyhood sexual abuse, Michael questioned his sexual orientation and his connectedness to other men. Regardless of willingness to participate, any sexual engagement between children, where one child has authority over another is still abuse. Furthermore, once the elder boy turned 16 the sex between them is considered Statutory Rape by the prevailing legal system had a case been filed. Sometime during Robert’s sixteenth year the relationship came to a sudden close as he was sent away to boarding school.
“I felt like I was being punished.”
Michael was devastated, and no one learned of this story for another 30 years. Like many victims of boyhood sexual abuse, Michael questioned his sexual orientation and his connectedness to other men. He was confused about his early experiences and how they caused him arousal, even though he knew he was attracted to women. In some way, he knew that the male/male experience, although he craved the attention, left him feeling empty.
After many troubled years, he recognized a more energetic, deeper connection with the male/female sexual experience was what he truly desired and eventually he met a woman and was married. But marriage was not all it was meant to be for Michael. He married a dominant woman who was controlling and manipulative. She picked up where his mother had left off.
“I had to be on call sexually. I couldn’t do anything right, I was reprimanded and belittled and many times felt violated.”
Michael was aware for many years that this was a dysfunctional arrangement, and that his chosen wife was not beneficial for his mental, emotional and spiritual health. Yet he felt powerless to make changes. Financially tied, and attempting to raise children in a balanced environment, he bore the brunt of his marital abuse silently. Eventually, aged 40, he recognized that enough was enough
His path to healing came from recognizing a desire for a positive male role model in his life. He started to seek an elder, someone to look up to, to guide him and comfort him when needed. He participated in workshops and started to awaken to the possibilities within. He discovered that healing was possible and available to him.
Now a Healer and Practitioner, Michael says:
“I don’t feel that men are connected to each other, or anything else for that matter, as they should be. We are as a result disconnected as a sub-race. I believe that most men get that, some of them consciously. This has huge ramifications, drug abuse & suicide among them. My role is to change that somehow. To teach my boys, and any others who need it, how to be more connected with themselves and all that is around them.”
The Story of Wayne
Wayne is 61 and from Arizona. He is a man of abundance, giving his time and love generously those in need. He has consciously surrounded himself with the presence and relative safety of women.
Wayne’s memories of much of his first 15 years are vivid. From his earliest memory his father, both in public and in private, sexually and physically abused him. His mother, fully aware of what was being done to him, offered only disdain, saying that he should try not to be so deserving of the punishment handed down to him.
“You have to stop triggering your father.”
Wayne’s punishment came in the form of being stripped from the waist down and beaten physically while sexually manhandled. This treatment was delivered publically in car parks, privately in his bedroom, and even in the presence of guests in the family home. The unbearable humiliation was seemingly his right of passage for being the eldest child. The small compensation was that his siblings were left alone. He wondered if he deserved it in some way, yet he also knew he didn’t. The conflict between guilt and victimhood was tumultuous. Because he often ejaculated during the beatings, sex and sexual pleasure became an area of much confusion for Wayne and he began to question his sexual orientation.
“I knew I liked women and I was worried this would change me. I was so confused at the association of violence and the erotic sensation that came with that.”
Wayne forgives his father, but not the violent and humiliating acts against him. Wayne chose to spend time in the presence of women because they felt safer to him, but always in the ‘friend-zone’. The internal conflict caused him to avoid deep long term sexual relationships throughout his early 20’s and he had difficulty making male friends and associations. Eventually he met and married a woman in his mid 30’s who provided a level of sexual safety to him.
“I was in a relationship with a woman who probably has the lowest sex drive and sexual confidence of any woman I have ever met. She actually changed in the bathroom and came to bed with the lights off and slipped under the covers with her nightie on and then took it off.”
After a difficult journey to overcome his anxiety-related conditions that resulted in up to 37 prescription medications, Wayne’s path to healing began in the hands of alternate therapists, such as Massage, Yoga and Reiki. All the practitioners were women with whom he felt comfortable.
Still, they were not able to reach and repair the depth of his unbearable pain, so his journey continued into many years of pursuing deeper level healing through Heart Integration work and ultimately Tantra. Wayne forgives his father, but not the violent and humiliating acts against him.
“I know he loved me.”
As Wayne surrendered to the process of healing, he also learned to share his gift with others.
“I see my role as a man to support people, all genders, in their life path. To hold space for people and be a force of unity between people. I see my role as one of providing and promoting education and interaction without pre-set boundaries or conditions. Empowering people!”
Statistically, one out of every six boys has reported being a victim of sexual abuse. This defies what must surely be the truth for those that have not found their voice to report their story. These statistics also fail to include those who have spoken out and not been believed because of the overwhelming majority of people who believe that rape and abuse does not happen to men.
The current generation of children is being raised in a culture of awareness of sexual abuse, how to prevent it and how to report it. Tragically, it won’t stop it.
The burden is on us to be vigilant, compassionate and caring men and women. Not only as protectors of this generation of children and generations to come, but also as supporters and protectors of those who have already suffered and continue to suffer, in silence.
It is time to lift the taboos and create conversations with men to facilitate their way for seeking help with the safety and guidance of others that have gone From Hurt to Healing.
– BY Jasmin Newman
First published on Good Men Project