On a return trip from Portland recently I had coffee dates with two male survivors. They shared their stories of what happened to them as children at the hands of their parents. One man’s sexual abuse started at age four. It ended at age nineteen when, after a particularly brutal event (the last time he ever saw his father), he ended up in the hospital needing reconstructive surgery. He told me he thought it was easier for him to live with the memories because it was all he had ever known.
The other man was severely beaten by his father (and later his step-mother) starting at age ten and lasting until he left home. The dozens of attacks he described certainly qualified as felony assault, and at least one sounded like attempted murder. He described going from an honors student to a life filled with alcohol and drugs, crime and imprisonment over a fifteen-year period. At age 41 he has just started to put together what went wrong in his life and identifying that what was done to him as a child as the probable cause.
I spent a total of four hours with these two men that day. When I left that afternoon, I attempted to drive home, 400 miles away. I didn’t get very far and I had to get off the freeway for a couple hours to pull together the strength to keep going. What was happening was obvious, I had absorbed the pain and horrors that these two men had endured from their unimaginably brutal fathers.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe for a few days so I did my self-care and went to see my therapist and then my massage therapist. The therapist helped me process what I had heard from these men and the second hand trauma I was experiencing. The massage therapist helped move it out of my body.
I left the massage on Sunday morning 20 minutes before church was due to start and I knew there was no way I could pull myself together that fast. As the minutes ticked by I got the feeling I needed to hear the sermon, so I walked the two blocks to my church and got there just in time for the sermon. Low and behold the title was, “Sightless Among Miracles.” As the preacher begins, lights start going on in my head. Miracles huh? It comes to me that I’ve been holding on to the wrong end of this animal. Let go of the tail Randy and look it in the eyes. It will destroy anyone who tries to hold the pain of victims. We can listen to the stories, but we need to focus on the miracles that are happening and they are aplenty. It is a miracle to me that these men lived through the abuse to become survivors in the first place. It is a miracle that they have reached a point of being able to share their stories out loud (which most never do). And it’s a miracle to see the healing that is taking place in these vulnerable yet powerful people. By letting go of their secrets and shame they are transforming themselves and in turn the world around them.
It is an honor to be in the presence of these courageous men as they speak their truth. As each new survivor steps up to stand with these men, the secrets die, the healing thrives and we share a new journey together. When enough of us speak out, it will become society’s journey and that will become the ultimate miracle.
Boys Don’t Tell – Ending the Silence of Child Abuse