I was a naïve ten-year-old the first time I was molested by a trusted friend, an older boy who I looked up to because I thought he was cool.
When I was growing up in rural Ohio sex was not a thing that was talked about. I knew some of the anatomical facts, but I had never spoken to my parents about sex.
It is still so hard to write about this after all of these years. I can still feel like the frightened little ten-year-old again, remembering vivid memories, feeling hurt, feeling unclean from my skin to my soul, knowing that something was wrong and thinking it was me, vomiting in the bushes outside of my apartment.
I remember walking into my apartment and my mother asking me how the evening had been. I remember running upstairs and praying she could not see that she would not know that something, something was wrong, that a Bad Thing had happened, that I somehow had been a part of a Bad Thing.
At the same time I wanted her so badly to hold me and tell me that everything would be OK that this thing for which I had no name, this big ball of pain and shame inside of me could magically be removed.
Again and again I would come in from “play” time certain that if I told anyone what had happened that I would get in trouble, feeling so bone-deep unclean, so bad. I hurt so bad inside, and no one was allowed to see because if they saw they would know how terrible I was and how the Bad Thing was my fault.
I know today that no child asks to be violated. I know today that no child consents to be violated. I felt at the time that I should have been able to do something or change something and the abuse would stop, or that it would have never happened. I never knew what to say, or what to do. I felt so ashamed by what was being done to me, as if I had somehow asked for it, as if any child could have anticipated that the flattering attention of an older peer could lead to such a horrible thing.
When presented with the opportunity to speak I would instinctively avoid the pain by avoiding the subject, and then later hate myself for not having the courage to say something. I knew that there was something within me that made this happen. I knew that I was not likeable. I knew that if people knew that this Bad Thing had happened to me that they would hate me the way I hated myself.
Throughout high school and into college I kept silent, afraid of close contact with male peers, terrified that my horrible secret would be revealed and that everyone would know. In my twenties I kept away from children, afraid that somehow I would become the monstrous thing of which I was so terrified.
After my mother´s death in 1992 I finally felt a need to speak to someone about the pain I was feeling and I began counseling to deal with sexual abuse. After reading many books on the subject and listening to the stories of other survivors I began to realize that the abuse was in no way my doing. Sexual abuse is an act of power. Victims of sexual abuse have their power stripped from them.
Recovery from the abuse I endured as a child has been a long process for me, but I am grateful in hearing the stories of others that I did not suffer some of the things they suffered. My abuser was not a family member. My abuser was not violent. There was no physical record of my abuse. I endured what I endured — I am not certain I could have endured what some others have experienced.
I am also not any less of a man because my abuser was another male. Abuse not only has nothing to do with sex and it also has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual orientation. My orientation was not a result of my childhood — I believe it is something with which I was born.
One other thing that I would mention before I stop writing. Sexual abuse is a cycle. Too often those who have had power taken from them as children as adults perpetuate the robbery of power from others. Recognizing that abuse occurred and working towards a resolution of its associated pain and shame can stop this cycle. I assure anyone afraid of beginning the process of recovery that pain is not an infinite ocean but a finite reservoir, and once the waters are drained from the reservoir it need never be refilled.
Today I have regained my power by confronting my abuse, acknowledging it, and sharing my experience of recovery from its effects with others. I pray that anyone who has been through abuse gain the courage to speak out. The most important thing I think I could share with anyone who has been abused is that you did not ask for the abuse, so please forgive yourself — it’s really not your fault. If you can just take this one brave step I am certain that you, like me, can someday face the world with no fear, no pain, and no shame.
May God bless you, and may you find Peace.
– Joe G.