HAVING A VOICE AFTER SEXUAL ABUSE
Posted by Mike Foster:
In our hustle and bustle of the holiday season we sometimes overlook the reality of people's pain. Wounds are real. Scars are there. Life can be so brutal and we never even take notice.
During the "POTSC Season of Second Chances" we want share stories from the POTSC community. Stories that are hard to hear but also filled with hope. Stories about the process towards grace. Forgiveness. Self acceptance. And most importantly...healing.
This is Justin's powerful journey. I am so thankful that he was willing to share it with the POTSC community for the first time.
WOUNDS: I need to be painfully truthful about my life....or maybe my life lived through coping. At some point between the ages of 7-10, I was sexually abused by a male stranger in our neighborhood. I was abused again by a family friend during those same years.
This is the first time I have written about my abuse publicly. I first disclosed this to my wife, shortly after we met. I remember a deep hurt within me that needed to get out and telling my wife provided some relief, but that was only the beginning. Although I was courageous enough to tell Lynnette, I didn't understand how to manage my shame, guilt, and pain.
I didn't trust anyone - even my own parents who were good, loving people. I was now a scared boy living in an adult's body....I was scared to be in the presence of men, even my own dad who was a good father - and protector. I didn’t trust women, and if I did, I would sexualize the relationship to ensure I had control - my voice and sense of self was hijacked during the abuse. My world became unsafe.
I was abused by someone who was older than me - and the same gender as me. I was also abused by someone who was female, she was supposed to take care of me, not harm me. I was confused about my sexuality while growing up, not confident in my manhood. Our culture always portrays the man as the protector, the hero, the warrior - although I tried to live up to what the culture said I should be, and my own dad who was truly a great influence, my understanding and perception of authentic masculinity had been twisted.
CHAOS: As a teenager, I was unable to deal with my pain, and I acted out - in anger. I would become angry at the drop of a hat, storm out of the house, vowing to never return. I was disrespectful and hateful to my mom and would become so angry that I would make threats. I didn't respect my dad, after all, in my mind - he did not protect me. My ability to learn like other children was fractured, I felt like I was always two steps behind my friends.
I struggled in elementary school, and barely graduated high school. Because I was not able to give anything healthy to my girlfriends, I would use sex as a way to keep the relationship going, and once that got old - I would check out. I squandered many good friendships and relationships due to my inability to see myself as a person of value and worth beyond the physical. After high school, I had no clear direction.
I did have a desire to help people, but didn't know how - I was flailing.
LOSS: I met Lynnette in December of 1995, we were engaged in 1996, and married in 1998. In Lynnette, I found safety and trust. Sadly, I would throw it all away. During the first 7 years of our marriage, I was a wreck. I became very good at wearing the "everything's fine - I'm good" Mask, but inside - I was unraveling.
I continued to wear other Masks to hide my pain. The Masks of addiction to pornography, and sex outside of marriage. Feeling the shame of my addictions was linked to the insidiousness of my abuse - after all, I was shame, so doing shameful things was my distorted reality. With a marriage; I was entrusted with something wonderful, and beautiful - through very poor, distorted choices...I made it dark and ugly - which is exactly the way I felt inside.
HEALING: In 2006 - I fell to my knees in brokenness. I was rotten inside. Becoming a husband and father revealed how broken I was and the years of coping with my abuse as a child and dragging all of that ugliness with me in to adulthood absolutely crushed me. I found healing through the support of my family and the love of God. I was certain that my marriage was not salvageable - buried in ashes, but God has restored my marriage to Lynnette! If nothing else, the sheer power of his love, grace, word and spirit is on full display in our relationship.
I am allowing God to restore me as well. I’m writing a story about my life with the hope of being a resource on the subject of male adult survivors of sexual abuse. God has connected me with trust-worthy men. Men who live with integrity and have a healthy love and concern for my life.
I have a voice - I kept the secret of what happened to me from my parents for 20 years! Now I use that voice to speak up for social injustice. That untapped desire to help others that I had in high school, is finally presenting itself. God is revealing gifts in me that I wasn't aware of, and I'm learning to use some of those gifts to help others who have experienced the pain of child abuse. Healing from sexual abuse is not a one stop shop - it is a lifelong process, but the love and grace given by Jesus Christ empowers me to no longer be a victim.