MY GREATEST BURDEN: SUFFERING IN SILENCE AS A VICTIM Of CHILD SEXUAL ASSAULT
Content Warning: This is a heavy topic concerning child sexual assault. I hope to try and ease the pain of other men who have suffered in silence as I have from being a victim of sexual assault as a child.
It is not my intention to compare sexual assault between men and women. Sexual assault or rape in all of its aspects is one horrible, fucked up experience. However, as a man, there is an additional challenge to our manhood and masculinity that is taken away from us. From this perspective is what I’d like to discuss.
As I sit today, I am still angry mostly because for over 40 years I’ve allowed this to stunt my growth and make me question my life. While it doesn’t go away, I have learned how to best manage that energy and use it more productively. People who know me have seen a “nicer” version of me most of the time. I’ve learned to reduce my flame of anger and rage to that of a pilot light as opposed to always fully ablaze.
Let’s Start From the Beginning
I was an active child who enjoyed exploring at the ripe old age of eight. I was coerced by an older male, a teenager I suppose, to explore an empty garage down the street from my house. This was the first time that another human threatened my life and the first time I looked evil in its eyes. Nothing before that time had scared me more.
He grabbed me and threw me to the ground. He removed my pants and underwear and penetrated me. What I remember most is that my spirit left my body there on the ground and had completely disassociated with it. I could see what was happening to my body but could do nothing to stop it. Someone heard my screams and banged on the aluminum door which brought me back to the reality of what was happening to me.
I was then threatened that if I told anyone, I and my family would be harmed. Every time I saw this person, I trembled in fear. I avoided his end of my block. But, most important to this story is that I told no one what had happened for fear of harm to me and my family.
People around me noticed a difference in my behavior. I stayed in the house. To my young comprehension, the danger was outside; and if I remained inside as much as possible, I would be safe. For protection, I locked my eight-year-old self away in a mental and emotional cage.
Instead of exploring my world, I learned to explore other worlds through books. In fact, I read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover. Here’s where, at an early age, I learned to dream outside of my environment.
My Teenage Years
By the time I had become a teenager, my then personality was set in stone. I felt like people could see what had happened to me as if I wore a scarlet letter or badge of some kind. I felt isolated, alone, and did not see a way out. This is when I plotted my revenge.
I decided that I would get big and strong enough so that no one would ever hurt or bully me again. This is also where the rage began. I simply could not go on feeling weak and helpless. I got interested in Martial Arts and lifted weights. I don’t know how big I needed to be but I simply felt too small. To make matters worse, I needed to prove to the world that I was a man.
I participated in group sports but still felt isolated and alone. My shame was eating me alive and I had no one to confide in for fear that they would judge me as weak and less than a man. So, I suffered in silence all through high school.
People thought that I was simply a quiet person but I was on edge ready to explode at the drop of a hat and I knew of no way to rid myself of these thoughts. Perhaps, I thought, the world would be better off without me in it.
I did the next best thing. I joined the military. Here, I would learn to fight on a completely different level. However, I came face to face with another demon.
I hadn’t considered in a million years that there would be gay men in the military. These men moved in packs. I was not prepared for anyone let alone gay men to be friendly with me. In my ignorance, I thought they had some super-power and could tell what happened in my past and were seeking a new member to their team. Now I had to deal with the prospect of being homophobic too.
One day while I was on security duty, I asked one of the gay guys, who had stopped to chat with me, why did he act friendly toward me. I was prepared for him to reveal my secret but instead, he simply said that he thought that I was laid back, cool, and didn’t judge. Egg on my face.
We sat and talked for hours. Outside of his sexual preference, we had much in common. Most importantly, we both wanted to be accepted. Obviously for different reasons but a similar challenge indeed.
Hurt People, Hurt People
This is one of the truer statements that I could apply to myself. I learned to soothe myself, my lack of confidence, and my self-worth by engaging in sexual conquests with women. By this time, I had such a negative attitude towards myself that sex was my way of getting validation and a sense of importance. It became addictive. I had to constantly feed this demon. Whenever I was alone, those feeling would stir, the rage would begin, and I would have to find a female to engage with sexually.
I didn’t give a damn what they were about, dreams, goals, aspirations, or any of it. I needed someone from the opposite sex to be penetrated by me. I wasn’t rough or anything like that. I was quite gentle. The problem was that I felt nothing but remorse for imposing my shit on someone else.
I remember thinking to myself how I would like to shout from the rooftops, “Me Too!” when that movement started. I dared not. What would people think? How would they view me if I said something? By this time, I had carried this burden for over forty years. “I am Ok”, I would tell myself. “I buried this shit long ago.” But I didn’t, not even close.
One day, while reading a bedtime story to the son who adopted me as his dad (yes, you read that correctly), pounced on me to wrestle as little boys do. That rage reappeared. It all came back in a flood of fear, anger, and a sense of protection. I instantly felt that small, defenseless version of myself being victimized and in an instance I grabbed him. I caught myself before I did anything violent but that monster was unleashed again.
All of those feelings of helplessness came rushing back except this time, yes, this time I am big and strong enough. The only thing left to do was find this son of bitch and kill him. And, I meant that shit. I would get my revenge for having my life stolen from me.
“Revenge is mine”, sayeth the Lord but I was going to do this one myself. So I started to look for him. My time in the military taught me how to shoot and kill. I knew how to set explosives. I’ve spent time at the range. My plan, though, wasn’t to do it from a distance. I was going to slit his throat and watch him try to scream for help.
I was prepared to sit right next to his dying body when the police arrived. He had it coming. These thoughts had consumed me and there was no turning back until this was done. You might say that I was goal-oriented.
However, someone had gotten to him already. Apparently, he had sexually assaulted another child and met the wrath of that child’s father who murdered him. Now, what do I do with this anger and rage?
My taste for life was wrapped up in anger. I have suffered for over forty years trying to hide my inner demons. I had no workable relationships with anyone, I had sons that I could not connect with because of my insecurities. I couldn’t even hug them when they were babies because they were male.
Because of this isolation, I had created a Frankenstein out of myself. My life was built on hateful revenge and even that was taken away from me. I had nothing to expend this bad energy on.
My work life started to unravel. I am now angry at work yelling and cursing staff. Once, it had gotten so bad that I jumped on my manager’s desk to confront him because I saw him as trying to bully me; and now that I can defend myself, he would feel my wrath. Everything has become a confrontation now.
Let My Tears Water My Seeds of Growth
As boys, we are often taught a few simple memes that we carry on into adulthood. On the surface, it seems quite innocent. However, as adults, it causes toxicity and damage to relationships.
- Boys don’t cry
- Walk it off
- Snitches get stitches (this might be a cultural thing)
- Boys don’t show feelings, it makes them weak
- Don’t be a sissy
- If it didn’t kill you, you are fine
- Only weak-minded people seek professional help
- Get over it
- Be a man
So here I am stuck with all of this darkness inside poisoning me my entire life. I once tried speaking to someone professionally (ignoring #7) and she wanted to talk about my mother. My mother didn’t do this to me. I had locked away that small inner child of mine for protection and was looking for ways to move forward not relive the past. So that didn’t help me at all.
This had to be a DIY project. It has been my burden to carry this so it is my burden to rid myself of these feelings of rage. At this stage in the game, I realized that I can do nothing about the past. However, I had locked away that small inner child of mine for protection and was looking for ways to move forward. So that didn’t help.
One evening, I got a call from a relative who was distraught because her child was dealing with being molested. Without thinking, I said that the child could call me because I had suffered the same. Dead silence! I couldn’t believe I had uttered those words.
Next up was revealing my truth to my mom. My feeling about this was that she would now be burdened with it because it’s new to her and well over forty years old to me.
We had that conversation; and for the first time, I cried about it. All this time, I had refused to feel it, to go through it instead of going around it or burying it deep within my soul. The feelings came flooding in and it sucked.
You see, once that emotional gate opened, everything that I had buried started coming up. Broken relationships, the death of my son, someone holding a gun to my head threatening my life, the loneliness, the isolation. All of the emotional shit that I stuffed down was being regurgitated and it went totally against what I thought boys shouldn’t do which I began to realize was all a lie.
I won’t deceive you and tell you that now all is well. I still have that rage. It’s a pilot light but I’ve learned to use that fire to build my life the way I want it. For years, I’ve wanted to move to California. I packed up what I could fit in my car and headed west. No plan, nothing except the intention to live life full out.
I had a nice, long conversation with my protected inner child to inform him that he can come out and join me in this life discovery. He no longer needs protection but can open up to live and love. My God, I do have feelings (work in progress).
Listen up, I’ve shed my last tear over this because I am too busy living NOW and not in the past. My way may not be the best way for you but I’ve conquered a lot of demons. I know what it’s like to feel alone having to deal with a mountain of bullshit that life throws at us.
I’ve decided that life didn’t do this to me but did this for me. It’s all about perspective.
If you’d like to talk, I will listen. No judgment. I only offer advice if asked. We have this one life to live and I’ve wasted years feeling sorry for myself and I want better for you. Shoot me an email if you need a shoulder and an ear.
Well, that’s it. Thank you for allowing me to share my perspective with you today.
Now get out there and show the world how awesome you are!
Live More, Love More, Laugh More, and Be a Blessing to Someone Else.