Men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse commonly share these adult symptoms and more:
- Trust issues
- Relationship boundary issues
- Need to self-medicate
- Fear of intimacy
- Risky/promiscuous behaviors
- Contemplation/attempts of suicide
- Food aversions
- Eating disorders
- Physical pains and sensations
The list seems to go on indefinitely. While a few of these symptoms may not indicate past abuse, if there are a number of them and there is no explanation of their origin, there may be reason to consult a counselor, pastor, or therapist.
Male survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) have a different path to recovery at best. Almost no boys report their abuse, often feeling overwhelming guilt for something that was never their fault to begin with. They also experience guilt having believed the manipulative threats and lies of their abuser(s). If abuse is reported to parents or other authority figures, it is seldom believed and there are sure to be negative repercussions from other boys or older males who may learn of the abuse. That is always a fear in the back of the mind of survivors, sometimes well into adulthood. If that weren’t bad enough, the long-term affects of CSA are far more reaching than guilt, shame, feelings of inadequacy, or even of any labels slapped on them.
Part of the compounding problem of CSA is in the decisions and life choices made by the survivor from the point of abuse forward. If the abuse is not dealt with in a timely manner, the choices made, based on their own perceptions and that of people of importance in their life, may very well result in a life path that is nowhere near the path that they had in mind for themselves.
Traumatic and unwanted experiences of any kind may cause survivors to challenge their own thinking. It can affect all areas of their lives, including whether to blame and reject God because of the abuse out of anger or blame. Survivors consciously and subconsciously decide around whom they feel safe, what they will eat, how they will dress, how they behave, their choice of career, location of their home, choice of mate, if
there will be a mate, the kind of vehicle they drive — even something as normally benign as playing sports or growing a beard. All done in the name of hanging onto their masculinity, no matter how much of a feeling of loss. In the case of male survivors, masculinity itself may be perceived as lost or damaged, if he is even aware of his abusive past. Once adults and symptoms of abuse begin to appear through attitudes, behaviors, and triggers, the realization that their present is the result of their responses to the past can feel oppressive and incapacitating. It is as though they’re living in someone else’s life and not their own.
But there are ways to help challenge those choices and turn the pain into power (sounds a bit cliche, but it is true)! There are ways to help make changes in those choices of the past and find the path that is balanced and peaceful.
How does a survivor change the direction of his life after making so many decisions and choices based on what feels like a lost past? How can he focus on such things when there is so much healing to be done?
For starters, use the new choices to take authority over the past. When you name something or someone, you take authority over them. That’s why we name our children, our pets, our businesses, … Naming lost innocence, missed opportunities, and making new choices aimed at a new life plan will aid in healing because you are actually taking back power from your abuser(s).
Another choice is to acknowledge and talk about the abuse. That can be very difficult, but studies show that this one choice is the greatest help in the healing process. Discuss the abuse, yes. But it is also important to discuss how the abuse affected you at the time, and since that time — how life has changed for you and your circle of family, friends, and loved ones. It is literally taking a history of your life starting with what life is like for you now and work backward to the time of the abuse and before. It is helpful for some men to visually link point A to point B and so on to see how abuse-based life choices led to currently living. To identify those effects is to see them for what they are, and then once acknowledged, more informed, new decisions may be made that will positively affect the future.
These are just two steps and there are so many more. If you are a survivor of CSA, you already know you were abused. You can actually relive each and every experience in your mind and you know the torture that it can be. But there are some men who are experiencing some of the symptoms in the list above that have emerged as the result of triggers and not have a clue about their abuse until they begin to dig a little with the help of professionals. You may not believe you were abused and have no memory of such things because you might have been too young to process the abuse with adequate emotions, thoughts, words,… You may be suffering from a form of traumatic amnesia, a little safety mechanism God built into us so that when something so awful happens to us when we are unable to process it for whatever reason, we lock it away in our minds (and bodies) until we are mature enough to address it. But if you don’t address it when it is time or at all, your body will do it for you, in the form of physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual diseases and disorders, many of which people try to treat with conventional medicine and traditional psychotherapy. But, in fact, if you address the pain of the past, the symptoms often disappear with time and proper attention. Life can feel more “normal” than you ever thought possible!
There are other possible steps to this healing process as well. While we cannot change the past, we must acknowledge that it is and from there make different choices that will influence and lead to a much greater future!
I have the tools, training, and experience necessary to help you through this. Check out my Contacts page on my website, www.thepowerofbecoming.com. Also check out my Facebook page at Chrysalis Life Change Solutions@alifetransformed.grantray. Make an appointment for a free, initial consultation to start you on the way to the best life path for you!