In light of this month’s emphasis on suicide prevention, all need to be aware of the trauma associated with child sexual abuse for both boys and girls. Abuse affects more than one moment in time; it changes the direction of the victim’s lifetime. The victim may be a survivor in adulthood, but there is more to child sexual abuse (CSA) than what the ridiculous mandate to “get over it” can achieve. The best way over is through; and that means a bit of work and time.
We are constantly surrounded by men and women who were sexually abused as children. Some of them have been working hard, trying to filter the past out of the present; some are aware of their past pain that has crept its way into the present; some are aware of their past abuse, but are in denial; and some have yet to discover that CSA has been a part of their lives for many years and sent them down a path they were never meant to traverse.
“Childhood sexual abuse, in my opinion, is a form of domestic terrorism.”
Suicide is a real possibility for those who have experienced CSA. Studies for male victims of CSA are typically inconclusive, since many men do not report their experiences to anyone. It is believed that stats for suicide could be significantly higher than what the studies that do exist have found. In some studies, nearly 50% of males report suicidal thoughts as direct or indirect result of CSA; more than 20% of men report making a suicide plan, and greater than 10% of male survivors actually attempt suicide at least once.
Childhood sexual abuse, in my opinion, is a form of domestic terrorism. Abusers control and manipulate, using fear as their leverage and influence. Sexual abuse is about selfishness; it always involves taking something away from someone else for their own pleasure. They are often able to convince their victims that they are the ones with the problem rather than their abusers. For many CSA victims, the memories of physical, mental, emotional, and even some spiritual abuses are kept locked inside, acting like a slow poison over years of agonizing torture. A remnant of the abuse continues to wreak havoc over the body, soul, and spirit, even though the abusers may be long since gone. Such terrorism leaves a wake of carnage for the victim and all those connected to him. The vacuum of brokenness is palpable and there is a haunting sense of unfulfilled potential. Without help, a man can lose his sense of direction and purpose; that which drives his sense of what it means to be male is not only questioned personally, but often rejected as he ruminates over every moment of every time the abuse occurred. He feels smothered by defeat and shame.
In no way is child sexual abuse a child’s fault. CSA cannot be blamed on anything except the choices of the abuser(s). Men often choose not to say or do anything about their abuse and, thus, the abuser wins and the torture within continues. Sexual abuse can feel like being branded with a label or a stigma and anything said or done about the abuse would only come back to them over and again.
It is important to stand up as men against CSA. Standing up is not weak. It is not without fear either. It takes courage to stand up in the face of opposition, especially when that opposition is a darkness within an abuser. But courage is doing what needs to be done because it is right DESPITE one’s own fear.
The stigma of CSA often drives men to suffer in silence. But that need not continue. To find help and healing, there must be action taken. I often tell my own clients that if you don’t address the issues in your life (no matter what they are), your body will eventually do it for you in many different ways. This can be especially true in cases of CSA. Some people have come to me over the years with physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual symptoms, disorders and inner conflict, not realizing why until we dig a little bit and discover an abused past that has altered their life’s course, throwing it out of balance. CSA can forever change the direction of a person’s life because of one’s new choices to avoid, to hide, to heal, to rethink,… Literally, every aspect of life changes when child sexual abuse has been in the picture.
It can take a lifetime of trying to work through even a few dark moments from childhood. But healing is possible. Men no longer need to continue being victimized by a past that altered their life through trauma. Men no longer need to just be a survivor of child sexual abuse; they can be a “thrivor” over CSA. Victory comes like sunlight bursting forth from clouds of darkness.