There are many facets of abuse.
The sexual abuse of men is a conversation we are not yet willing to have. I was actively involved in a sex act with both my parents at around 4 years of age.
It is my oldest memory.
My first pornographic magazine was at around age 5 or 6—Cavalier magazine, I believe. At 11, Deep Throat was the feature at my first introduction to what was called a Porn and Prawn Night for fathers and sons. At 13, it was Debbie Does Dallas. I grew up believing Penthouse forums were all true stories, and that was what sex and women were really like.
I left home for the first time at 8, just going to the neighbors’ place. Finally at 18, I went to South Africa, then to college. In between that was years of inappropriate touching, suggestions, and watching. These were weekly experiences. My early teen years are a muddle of my parents’ parties I had to go to, and the things I had to do or were done to me by family friends, strangers or my father’s girlfriends. Sex I had to have or watch.
Physical violence was only occasional.
I sometimes wish they had just beaten me, maybe those scars would have healed better—I don’t know. My father tried to stab my mother with scissors once. I stood in the way and was beaten for it…that’s all I really remember…I still have trouble remembering a lot of it.
I shielded my sister from most of it. I took her place and it cost me greatly. But now it has cost her everything, she feels so guilty for the things I let them do to me to stop them from hurting her. It has cost her her marriage and her self respect. The girl I was prepared to die for, I can no longer protect from herself.
My experience became one of emotional abuse.
Later in life, I became a magnet for the spiritually manipulative and emotionally abusive. They fed on my brokenness, capitalizing on my need for acceptance and my desire to have a place to belong. The strange thing is that I never connected the dots until I was in my 40’s. It all lay in little unconnected buckets, hidden, broken shards of memories, disconnected.
Life went on.
I could never figure out the destructive force or reason behind what appeared to be personality changes. The occasional incidents were turning into regular episodes. They went from once a quarter, to weekly, to daily destructive cycles. I was spiraling out of control for what appeared to be no rhyme or reason.
One day, all the pieces came together while I was sitting reading in my study–like the reel on an old projector, the movie of my life played back, including every disjointed scene. I knew what was remembering was horrible, but I never realized it was all done to me. I never understood that all these memories were my memories. I never realized the extent of my abuse or its effect. The revelation of what was done to me and by whom, finally broke me. I was 45 and totally, utterly shattered. I was found in the backyard, wailing, unable to speak, incoherent.
I had studied and read for years, praying and searching for answers, trying to find my way back to me. I discovered I was probably suffering from something that was brought on as a result of my environment and the years of abuse. I was first diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, then after years of learning to manage my battle, the diagnosis was changed to Post Traumatic Stress.
My search for help.
When I started to try and find someone to talk to, I just couldn’t. All the support groups where for women. Therapists in my area only wanted to talk to women. I remember being clearly told, “You are probably a stalker, men don’t get abused.”
So I began to write poetry as a way to help process my memories. I published my art/therapy, No Working Title: A Life in Progress, anonymously in 2013 as an e-book, and in hardcover in 2015. I published it anonymously because my kids were little at the time, and I was a public figure in my community. I didn’t want my kids having to talk about their dad at school or church.
Why call this volume No Working Title?
A working title is a temporary name to given to a project, normally in film-making or television. It is something you give to a work when it is still in progress.
The thought that the life I have now is as good as it gets for my wife, my kids or myself, is devastating. The things that were done to me were wrong, but I am not finished. It is not over. My life is an unfinished project. I’m a daily struggling someone, not a recovering anybody. By God’s good grace I will see my life turn around. The term “victim” is not one I have ever used or will ever use in regards to who I am, what I have been through, or where I am going.
The response has been incredible. Men and women all over the world have thanked me for helping create a framework to discuss an issue that few seemed prepared to talk about.
Times have changed.
I was asked to be a part of a documentary in 2016 dealing with sexual abuse and human trafficking. I had to make a choice if I would remain anonymous, or if I would help give a voice to the millions of men who had none. Would I simply deal with my stuff, or would I use my story to help boys and girls who are trafficked daily?