TRIGGER WARNING for those survivors of sexual abuse/assault I talk about my childhood sexual abuse in detail. I also talk about sex in general, so if that makes you feel uncomfortable you might not want to read any further…
As I listen to Sia’s new song, “The Greatest.” I thought about how I felt yesterday. A prisoner of the sexual abuse. For too long I’ve been a prisoner of something that I didn’t do. It might have happened 30 years ago but I’m still chained to that cement block deep within the pits of hell. Stuck in the lion’s den waiting for it to clinch its sharp teeth into my flesh, ripping me from limb to limb.
I find myself in these situations where I do things that I don’t like. I force myself to do them. I wondered why that is? What is it about myself that I put myself in situations that are ugly or at least feel ugly. I’ve really tried to dissect the reasoning behind it. Yesterday was one of those days. It’s like I relive those days over and over. Am I trying to control the past? Do I think I can fix it? It’s not something you can fix. My mind knows this but my heart doesn’t.
Maybe the why’s don’t matter but I’d like some insight in order to gain will power. I don’t like to be in those situations. It’s pretty common for sexual abuse survivors to have a complicated and complex sexuality, especially if it happens when you’re a child and/or teenager. It’s especially complex if you’re in the middle of puberty. The abuse becomes hardwired into the person you’re blossoming into. So by the time you hit adulthood you’ve based your world on a lie. That you’re worthless and an object for men to use and abuse… however they see fit. You don’t matter. As an I adult I know that’s a lie but as a child I didn’t. I created a universe where I wasn’t worthy of love both platonic and romantic.
For a good thirty years I’ve let the abuse weigh me down. I’ve become a prisoner to it. The abuse metaphorises into various aspects of my left. I’ve settled so many times that I built a house upon that shaky foundation. A house filled with bars and no doors. A deep pit with no way out. Life has always been complicated for me. I’ve struggled more times than not. Until recently I was bogged down by it all. Tonight I started to go down that road by thinking something negative. This time it was I can’t do this but before I could even finish the sentence I stopped myself. Not today Satan I said. I can listen to those voices anymore. They’ve always led me wrong.
This certainly hasn’t been the first time in my life that I’ve struggled but I’ve noticed this conviction that I didn’t see before. A kind of fuck it attitude. When you stop giving a shit (about the bad stuff and the people hurt you) you release their control on you. So when a new hurdle is thrown at me I clear it easily. Each climb up the mountain I become stronger. Nothing or no one will keep me down. I haven’t always felt that way.
Coping skills are something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve always had the toolbox but I didn’t believe I deserved to use them. If you’ve been put through enough in your life you eventually have this WTF moment and say wait a minute. I don’t deserve this. It’s when you become so miserable that you can’t stand yourself. In the past when someone hurt me I would take it personal like it was reflection of who I was and my loveability.
The sexual abuse was the first time I personalized something that someone else did to me. It wasn’t my choice. Being gay and a sexual abuse survivor also presents many complications especially if you’re love life has mirrored that first violent act. Being a victim and an object became apart of my personality. It taught me to give myself to those who don’t deserve it. So it’s not surprising that I’ve gravitated towards those are unworthy of my love and attention.
Acting out sexually isn’t something new for me. I went through a very dark period of my life where I was very sexually promiscuous. Sex became a compulsion. I can remember exactly when I started to go down that dark path. I had fell in love with this man who just used me for sex and put me in harms way. I stayed with him even afterwards thinking I could get him to love me and it never happened. That act reinforced the abuse. When you’re gay and your abuser is also a male it really fucks you up. Love and sex are cemented together. You’re first rejection is your abuser, or at least it was for me. He groomed me to fall in love with him then when I was hooked he rejected me in a violent way. I still have the scars.
I was forced into puberty before I was ready. It was a violent non-violent act. I guess in a way I was raped. Wow, I had never thought about being forced into puberty. I was ten years old if that. I didn’t even know what sex was let alone an ejactulation. Back then parents didn’t have those kind of conversations about the birds and the bees or at least not that early. I didn’t have the luxury of time. I still remember the first night and the pain I felt. Becoming a man is a right of passage but when the first time is forced upon you then it becomes a nightmare. Prior to that night I never had any sexual feelings whatsoever.
You can imagine not knowing what was happening to your body. I thought I was dying. I wasn’t allowed to have self exploration to decide what I liked and didn’t. Actions turned into words, words into feelings. After he was done. I waited for him to fall asleep then I went into the shower and tried to scrub the dirtiness off. While I didn’t know what happened I knew it was wrong. There wasn’t enough soup in the world to wash away the shame. I finally gave up and went back into the lion’s den, the bed we were sharing.
You might be asking yourself why would he go back to that bed??? I’ve asked myself that a million times. After I got out of the shower I went towards the room my parents were sleeping. I even went up to their door to knock but I stopped myself. I thought they’d never believe me that my male cousin did what he did. I didn’t even know how to put into words what happen. My family had a tendency to not believe when I told them something, so I thought why would this be any different?
Actually I skipped a step. I didn’t go back into that room right away. I went to sleep on the couch in the cabin we were staying at. Every year my whole family would go on vacation up north in Michigan. Sometimes we would share a cabin. This summer was one of those occasions so that meant kids sharing beds. I can remember that cabin very distinctly like I was just there. Everything from the hallways to the kitchen. I can close my eyes and I’m there. The room especially I remember. It’s probably because that’s what I concentrated on when it was happening. I hid underneath my pillow praying for someone to rescue me but no one came to save me. I remember this small window with white sheer curtains. I can feel how rough the knotted wood walls were. I can see the upright small shower with my tears in the drain. I see it all.
I remember the color, pattern and feel of the couch I laid on until sunrise. As to not be suspicious I went back to the monster bed. I had no excuses to give whey I was sleeping on the couch. I woke up like nothing happened but it had. My soul was forever altered. While I remember everything about that night I don’t even remember what happened thereafter. Well until the next night when I had to go back into the lion’s den. I knew my parents would question why I didn’t want to sleep in that bed so I went back. I had thought maybe it won’t happen again but it did. It was like that night was on repeat. I would lay down pretending to sleep, hiding in my pillow and it would happen.
Again I’d wait until he was sound asleep. I would quietly sneak away like a mouse to try to shower off the filth so much that it burned. I would lay back down on that couch letting my tears turn into rain. Somehow I knew when to wake up in time to go back to that room. After that night I lost track of when the abuse stopped. Sometime in the week, as our vacations only lasted a week. Each night I would repeat the steps until they became an instructional manual of who I was.
I hid that secrets for over three years. I told a good friend when I was in 8th grade for the first time. I didn’t tell anyone else until I graduated High School in 1995, seven years later.
The bed is suppose to be a sanctuary of rest and relaxation but for a sexual abuse survivor who was assaulted in their bed that turns into hell.
Thirty years and it just dawned on me that I’m still doing the same thing. I keep going back into the lion’s den because that was what I was taught to do. Yesterday as I was in the middle of a sex act I looked at the person and thought this wasn’t what I wanted. I thought to myself what in the world was I doing. My mind knew this was harmful but I keep doing it. I would initiate the victimization that I was doing to myself. I’ve been reliving that night over and over for the past thirty years.
For the past four years I wanted very little to do with sex. I was rather repulsed by it most the time. I either go from not wanting to be touched to wanting to have sex all the time. There are no inbetweens. Now that I live in place where I can have people over I have the opportunity to act out. Loneliness leads to desperation which leads to sex and usually bad feelings. A good portion of my sexual experiences I’ve showered afterwards just like I did that week. Each time it would never wash away the shame, guilt or dirtiness of it all. More than half the sexual partners I’ve had I haven’t enjoyed nor found the person attractive. I would get myself in the situation and want out but didn’t feel obligated to end it. So I gave the person what they wanted. For a long while I was always in control with the sex but I was still the victim. Two tortured souls using each other. It was still doing the same thing. Repeating the abuse over and over until it resulted into bloodshed.
While I’m not in full sexual compulsion I’m on the outer edge and that frightens me. Those days were some of my darkest. During 2004-2005 most sex acts ended in me being suicidal, and in two circumstances ended with me being hospitalized. I was self destructing in the way of unprotected sex and useless sex. I was giving guys what they wanted. I thought if someone I love was going to use me I might as well be the one giving it away, then no one could take it away from me again but that’s just as harmful… giving it up.
I’m still giving it up. Giving the person what they wanted even if it means harm to me. It usually means giving the person what they wanted in them wanting to get used. I become the monster in their nightmare but they don’t even realize that it’s a nightmare as it masks itself as a wet dream. So many gay men have been hurt and are reliving it daily. So desperate for love that they resort to the next best thing which isn’t.
Love for a survivor is also complicated because at an early age you get an altered view of what love is. I became attached to my abuser so much that I would find myself trying to get myself in the same situation that caused me so much pain. So not only do you have the shame of the abuse happening but the shame of enjoying parts of it. The sexual abuse was all I knew about sex, so therefor I thought that’s what love was. So I wanted the attention and affection that went along with it. I went from complete agony from what happened for the first year to fantasizing about it when I truly hit puberty. I wasn’t allowed to fantasize about the things gay youth do both because of the abuse and being in a homophobic family. So all I had to go by what happened to me. So that just added to the shame. How could I fantasize about something that destroyed me.
I was a child I didn’t know better. I was groomed to behave the way I did. Even when I grew into my teenage years I still didn’t have sexual feelings for either of the opposite sex, other than my abuser. Each time I would you know what I would feel the same kind of shame and dirtiness I felt when the abuse happened. Each time I prayed to God saying I wouldn’t do it anymore and I would always fail. I took the blame right away when it wasn’t mine to carry. As I grew older the shame and guilt grew with me. It wasn’t until 2000 until I started to deal with the abuse deeply. It was during this time that I began to realize that I wasn’t to blame.
It wasn’t then that I came out about the second part of the abuse where I’d go out looking for it. That I had never told anyone. For many years I harbored so much shame and felt like I was the monster because I wanted it. The first time I tried to get in the same situation with my cousin was when we were a few years older. Our families were on vacation together, this time everyone had their own separate cabins. I desperately tried to find a reason to sleep in the same bed as him. I don’t know how I did it but I did. All I wanted was to be close to him. I wasn’t really prepared for what happened next. Again I woke to him pleasuring me but this time orally. Again I didn’t know what in the world he was doing. I didn’t know what oral sex was. I tried to get him off of me but he wouldn’t budge. Again I was scared until ejaculation happened then it was this intense pleasure.
The next day I felt the shame. I was for sure that I had AIDS, that’s how misinformed I was about sex. I mean I thought people had babies by touching feet for the longest time. I didn’t know any better. I would continue to get myself in similar situations the next year or so. Situations where he’d pretend to be sleeping and he’d perform oral on me. I didn’t realize until an adult that he wasn’t sleeping. All that time I thought I was forcing myself onto him. It wasn’t until my therapist told me that you can perform oral when you’re sleeping. I really thought he was. The first time it happened I didn’t initiate it at all, he did it all on his own doing but after that I was the pursuer. I held a great amount of shame and guilt for that part, I still do.
Once he started High School he was done with me. It was the first time I had my heart broken, how fucked up is that? He got me hooked then he threw me away as I was nothing. I was nothing. What pleasure I had went away very quickly, after the rejection. The personalization of the event grew deeper as I was forced to live in his shadow. Chad was the star of the family and our High School. All the girls wanted him and all the boys wanted to be like him. To my family he could do no wrong. He lived with my grandmother down the street from me. My grandmother didn’t drive so my Mom drove him to wherever he wanted to. It killed me seeing how my own parents were with him. I grew up thinking they loved him more than me. Eventually I believed they didn’t love me at all. That they’d rather have him as a son than me. I barely could get the attention I so desperately needed from my own Father yet my abuser earned it freely from my Father. I wasn’t like my Father at all. I didn’t hunt nor did I play sports but my he did. I cried myself so many nights feeling unloved.
Growing up I was always bullied, especially on the bus. It was like I was his property coming to my aid but then turning it back towards me. It was like he didn’t want anyone bullying me but him. He had this cocky, better than though attitude. I remember one day he noticed that my fingernails were growing out a bit and he scolded me for not cutting them. To this day if anyone says anything similiar to me I get triggered horribly. I always worry people are judging me on whether my fingernails or toenails are too long. Just yesterday I was hiding my feet from my neighbors as we sat besides the pool talking. They weren’t even that long but they were long enough for me to be embarrassed. That’s how an abuser gets inside your head. No matter how hard you try to untangle the wires inside your mind you always get trapped in them.
I had started to discover that I was gay in my junior year of High School. I didn’t know my attraction towards other men meant I was gay. I remember finding a straight porn advertisement pamphlet on the street and getting excited by the men in it. After then I would try to find anything with naked men in it. I would find the artistic male model magazines in bookstores like Barnes and Noble and stare at their bodies. I was fascinated with their figures and it wasn’t quite sexual feelings. I didn’t really start having those until I was in my 20’s. I would call these party chat lines and listen to the guys talk. I found comfort in hearing their voices and again it wasn’t sexual for me. I longed for the affection again.
Eventually I couldn’t take the lying, hiding and being something I wasn’t. My Mom found the numbers of the chat lines. I remember she confronted me about them before our trip to Disney. She asked me what the numbers were and I acted like I didn’t know. She dropped the issue and I had thought she had forgot about it until we got back from Disney. She confronted me and asked me if I was gay. At that time I didn’t even know that I was so I said no. I then pretended to be confused about girls, which I had never any thoughts about girls in that way but to get her off my back I acted like I was insecure with them. I remember one night pretending to go on a date with a female classmate as a cover. Instead I went to a 50’s restaurant by myself.
The following year my Mom would ask me about how things were going on the girl front and I pretended to like one of my good friends. When I graduated High School I used the money I received from my open house to buy a computer. Living in a rural area I wasn’t exposed to much culture or anyone like me. Being able to get online opened me to a brand new world full of people just like me. It was then when I realized that I was gay. I was also able to find support with other male survivors. I remember this one penpal I had who I had a huge crush on. I never saw his picture but I still remember how his letters made me feel. Finally I was talking with others who had experienced the same thing as me. Up until that time I thought I was alone.
Well my parents began to question why I was online all the time. Again I was confronted with questions this time more sternly. I couldn’t take it anymore and burst out that I was gay and had been molested. The dam had broke and the emotions flooded out. Well that didn’t go well at all. The abuse to a backseat to being gay. I had my internet took away, including my phone. I was forced into isolation and I was shut out of the new world. Shunned, scared and alone. That event just reinforced what I had felt the four years prior with my parents not loving me. I was treated horribly and shunned for who I loved. I was told the friends that I had made online weren’t going to be there for me when I was dying from AIDS in the hospital all alone. My father also told me that I had always wanted to lose weight and that I would by getting AIDS. I was called abnormal. Told I was going to hell. My mother cried for weeks.
If I hadn’t been fully broken that ripped me in half.
Originally I wouldn’t tell my Mom who it was that abused me. The next day she forced it out of me. While my Mom wasn’t supportive of me being gay she was finally with the abuse. My Father was a different story. The day after telling them what my cousin did my Father went hunting with him. When my Father returned he saw how upset I was and he told me that I needed to forgive and forget. I still remember that moment as it happened today. It still hurts me just the same. Twenty years and it still pierces my skin, cutting me to the core.
Coming out about the abuse I became an outcast in my extended family. I was the black sheep. In our family we didn’t talk about the sexual abuse that happened to most of the cousins in my family and we had a big family. The adults let the monster walk around in open like nothing had ever happened. My cousin wasn’t the monster. The mastermind of all the abuse was one of my older cousins. Who molested most of the cousins except me. Everyone knew what he did but they did nothing!!! They let him come to family functions and he paraded around like he was the shit. The one other time that someone spoke out about the abuse was my Mother years before I did. She confronted my Aunt (his mother) with what he did to my sister. My Aunt wouldn’t talk to my Mom for over a year afterwards.
Being gay was worse than being a child molester in my family. Now that’s fucked up but that was my reality but I couldn’t hide anymore so I had to live as lepar. It was my cross to bear and they nailed me to the cross. I was the monster for speaking out. How dare I bring shame to the family. I was suppose to be a good little boy and sweep it underneath the rug. My worst fears came true as many didn’t believe me. How could our poster boy for perfection do something like that. I must be lying. My relationship with my Grandmother ended as well and she cut me out. She was another person who was suppose to love me and treated me horribly. My Aunt laughed it off as boys will be boys, like we were playing in a fucking sandbox. What the fuck does that means??? I still can’t figure it out. Child Molesters are okay but being a democrat you’re the evil one to her. You should see her facebook wall littered with so much negativity it would turn Mother Teresa into a sinner.
I finally have the strength to realize that they’re the ones with the issue but it still hurts like hell. Even tonight I started to go down that road looking at her wall. I quickly closed out of the browser saying to myself that was all her, and had nothing to do with me. It felt good to be able to say that. My Father is the same way. It’s hate this and that. How can people live their lives like that. I don’t know how they sleep at night.
Whenever one of the hurt souls tries to swim to swim to the surface towards the light all the other hurt souls desperately try to pull you back under. They don’t want you opening your wound as they fear they will have to open theirs. That’s how my family treated me. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else. They had to suffer in silence so why couldn’t I?
I use to hate my cousin. I still don’t like hearing his name, nor do I like seeing it written out. I avoid anyone with that name. I don’t trust them. I’ve forgiven his boy self but I’ve struggled to figure who he is as an adult. I realize that he was groomed as well by the main perp. Who still to this day has never had to pay for his violent sins. He destroyed so many lives. I blame the adults of the family just as much. I now blame him for my pain. I still have so much anger. I’ve let go of a lot of it but it still poisoned my blood. Another thing I need to work through.
All these things just reinforced that I was worthless, unloveable and an object. It also told me that I didn’t deserve anything good or pure. They taught me that I deserved less. When you are forced to live in hell you believe that’s all that’s out there. Everything is scary.
So I continued to search for others like the ones who caused me harm. Dating was no different. I went for the guys who were emotionally unavailable who discarded me when they were done, much like my cousin. I was rejected by most of the gay population for being fat and those who did find me attractive only wanted me for my body. Neither wanted me for my heart and soul. It slowly ate away at my soul until I had very left to give. Just lay there and take it. That’s all you’re good for. So I gave the men what they wanted.
I still find myself falling into that trap both inside and outside the bedroom. I don’t think I ever had stability in my life. I can’t run any longer as I’m too old and worn out. I’m so desperate for stability I can taste it. I’m tired of settling but growth takes time. You don’t build a world on lies then expect the new world to grow overnight. It doesn’t work that way.
Lately my current living situation has mirrored many things in my life both with the sexual abuse and the dysfunctional dynamic at home. So much I’ve started to flashback about everything and I mean everything. It jars you, no matter how many times it happens. In a matter moments you’re transported back to that time and place. You can feel, hear and smell how everything was. Just a little bit ago I could smell the cologne my cousin use to wear. It was strong and unsettling.
You can’t control flashbacks, they just happen like dreams in the middle of the night. Last night was the worst flashback I’ve had in over ten years. The last time I had a flashback(s) this intense it sent me to the hospital. Thankfully this time it didn’t but it felt like I was close. I’m fearful that they’ll continue to grow. All I can do is wait at the battle line with my sword and shield. Flashbacks are very much like a battle in war. When the bomb is detonated you’re left to pick up the pieces and it can take days, sometimes weeks to adjust.
The sexual abuse hasn’t always affected me so deeply. I’ve gone periods where the beast was hibernating. While it didn’t affect me directly it was behind everything that caused me pain. It was the monster pulling my strings. The last ten years I didn’t want to talk about the abuse at all. Even in therapy recently it was a subject that was off limits for me. I could say it happened but I couldn’t give any details about it. This is the first time in ten years that I have opened the wound back up. Tonight was a sign that I have more work to do. I’ve uncovered a big heap of pain.
Now I see why I continue to lay down in the lion pit. It was how I was trained to be. I was told that I was meant to be torn apart by the lion. I was the meat, the prey. Well fuck that. I refuse to lie down any longer. The next time the lion comes to rip me apart I’m going to take my sword and pierce it’s heart.
“I’ve got stamina.
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier”
If you’re a male survivor there is a great website for help/support:
Support for sexual assault survivors (I’ve never used any of the websites below but found them on google and thought I’d share in case they’re helpful to someone). I wish I had a recommended site for Women. If anyone knows of one leave me a comment.
and a list of recommended books:
You’re not alone. There’s a huge network of survivors in this world who know what you’re going through.
If you feel unsafe please consider calling The National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
1-800-273-TALK (8255) , 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)