As Gandhi shared with the world “Be the change you want to see in the world.” “Without taking action very little will be done. However, taking action can be hard and difficult. There Scan be much inner resistance.”
The first step in taking action toward healing for a male childhood abuse survivor is uttering the words, “I was abused.” The three most difficult words for a man to speak. The inner resistance will be great. Because most men have been taught, since they were little boys, not to cry, admit they need help, show anyone they are vulnerable, to buck up, be a man, don’t act like a girl, or a sissy. It becomes very difficult to admit they were unable to protect themselves, no matter how old they were at the time of the abuse. Men have told me they should have been able to protect themselves against a grown man and when asked how old they were at the time of the abuse, they tell me six or eight. It is an interesting phenomenon; when we look back at our childhood we tend to experience ourselves as taller, smarter, and more capable than we actually were. When men have a frame of reference as to how small they really were they are often shocked.
A male survivor becomes filled with shame that there is something wrong with him. Survivors fail the litmus test of being real men according to society’s definition. As the shame builds the need to release it builds as well. Feeling unsafe to speak out, the survivor searches out ways was to release it, resulting in the expression of rage. For an untreated male childhood abuse survivor, road rage, domestic violence, and child abuse will rule the day. Over 68% of males in recovery centers are abuse survivors but few tell anyone, choosing instead to numb the pain and shame they feel with drug and alcohol use. Drugs and alcohol work very well in the beginning, and the desire to give them up is minimal. The problem is, there are not enough drugs and alcohol to keep the pain and shame away, and it keeps sneaking out.
My group of male survivors and I speak at Middle and High Schools. Half way though our workshop we put an empty wooden box in the middle of the room and pass out 3” x 5” cards. We request the students to share their own stories with us anonymously. The students are aware that we are mandated reporters and if they share their story directly with us we have to report it to the authorities. Many students were already quite savvy in the ways of Child Protective Services and felt telling was not the lesser of two evils. Stories of life becoming worse, being caused to leave their home and live with foster parents who were mean surfaced and created even more reluctance to disclose. Knowing some of the stories are true and sometimes life does get worse, we can’t tell teenagers they are wrong. What we can tell them is to read Dave Pelzer’s story, A Child Called It. Dave had the worst case of child abuse in California’s history in 1973. Someone finally had the courage to go against Dave’s mom, an alcoholic who was very manipulative. Having enough evidence to remove Dave from his home finally brought him to safety. His mom made him drink bleach and ammonia and his vocal chords were burned. Mom was planning to kill him in August and he was saved on March 5th. Dave lived with foster families who were good to him, teachers were kind and Dave started his healing process. He also had to learn to talk again. Dave grew up to become an astonishing man who has given so much to our society. Even though the book was written years ago it is still being read in most middle schools and students we see always know who Dave is.
As we collect the many story cards we do our best to cover as many stories we can and respond to them during the class. This is 2017 and we live in a very beautiful area of the world. That makes little difference, as child abuse has no boundaries, it is an equal opportunity problem happening in the best and the worst of homes. We share the reported statistics with the various teachers who always find it hard to believe that the numbers we give them are accurate. Then, the cards tell the story and the numbers are there. Teachers are always shocked about the number of students who are currently being abused.
There is hope. As a community we can take action, educate children, teens, and adults that healing is possible. It all starts with the admission of the abuse, getting sober, learning how to regulate emotions, helping parents be emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy.
We offer workshops and trainings for schools, medical students, medical residents, attorneys, law enforcement, therapists and recovery centers, staff and residents. We are finding that there is insufficient education about sexual abuse.
Together we can make a difference if we all speak up.
For more active solutions, Creativechangeconferences.com is offering the 9th annual It Happens to Boys Conference in Austin, Texas on March 24, 2017.