According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 1 in 5 girls and at least 1 in 20 boys are victims of sexual abuse. I have had the privilege of working with many adults who were sexually abused when they were children. In my work with them, I have witnessed many of the long-term effects of child sexual abuse. Today, I am fortunate to be able to offer this blog post from a male survivor of child sexual abuse. My hope, and his, is that you gain some insight into the effects and decide that you will take action if you’re ever confronted with this terrible experience.
Here are this thriving individual’s words. His words are totally unedited. I have only broken some things into sections to make it easier to read. This post is a bit longer than usual, but worth the read.
Child Sexual Abuse Is Real
I was 4 years old the first time. The last time, I was 13. Between those two ages, sexual abuse came from 5 different people. Two of them were family members, a cousin and an uncle. The other 3 were family friends. There were a lot of different incidents. I can’t count them. I am able to recall 17 different occasions in detail.
Growing up, I always had a sense that I didn’t fit in. I never knew why. Frankly, I still don’t know why. I understand being sexually abused probably had something to do with it, but I’m not real sure exactly what it had to do with it. I do remember just feeling weird about other people. I remember wondering if anyone knew. A lot of times, on the days I was molested by someone, I would wash like crazy – trying to get rid of the dirty feeling. Of course, soap and water doesn’t wash away feelings very well.
I never did tell anyone about it while it was going on. I had older siblings I trusted. However, I had been threatened by 2 of the men who abused me. They threatened to kill me if I told anyone. I guess I believed them. When I was 16, I told an older brother about his best friend. This brother was 10 years older than me and his friend was older than him. I don’t know how much older. Anyway, when I told my brother his friend had done some sexual things to me when I was younger (between 11 and 13), my brother said nothing. Not a single word.
Even though I was 16 and fairly intelligent, I think I learned something I wish I hadn’t – silence is better than being heard and not responded to. I suppose I still feel that way, to some degree. I wish I didn’t. But I can’t help but think I would feel better about it if I hadn’t said anything at all. At least I wouldn’t have had to deal with my brother not even responding and then acting as if we had never talked about it every day after that. I think that might have been even more painful, although I’m not totally sure about that.
The other thing I learned from that, incorrectly, was that I was not important enough for him to do anything. I now understand my brother probably had no idea what to do. However, he was 26 years old and could make his own choices. The guy I told him about remained his best friend. Talk about a kick in the gut…
This reaffirmed, in my head, the guy who abused me was actually more meaningful to my brother than I was. I realize my brother didn’t say that. He probably wouldn’t have said that. Perhaps he didn’t believe me. Maybe he thought it was no big deal. Whatever the case, my interpretation was that something that was painful for me was simply not important enough to even react to. So, this confirmed for me, in my mind, that I really didn’t fit in. I was a burden more than anything else. I had better keep my mouth shut about things that bother me.
Child Sexual Abuse Affects Future Relationships
I never was part of much of a group. I did have a couple of good friends in school. Looking back, I can see some of the people I grew up with were probably being abused by one or more of these guys as well. Trusting another person was really hard. Think about it. Ask yourself who you can trust outside of your family when the people you know best outside of your family are molesting you. No one.
Over the years since then, about 25 have passed, I have learned there really are some genuinely caring, loving people in the world. It took a lot of work to believe that about others. Regardless of all of the nightmares, occasional flashbacks (long time ago), and feeling like others didn’t really want me, the inability to trust others was just awful. I guess I could talk about this or that in regard to relationship problems – getting into bad ones, etc. – but I have great relationships with friends now and a wonderful wife.
I always felt like I had to do more to keep people liking me. Do something else so you stay on their good side. Be exactly what they want you to be so they won’t bring you any harm. I know I didn’t consciously think those things, but it was there. What was worse is I seemed to attract those kinds of people – those who would take advantage of what I believed was “kindness.” By the way, it wasn’t kindness. It was an effort to fit in. I think I finally learned how to, but those feelings that something is “wrong with me” still crop up every now and then.
What I want to say now is to tell parents that child sexual abuse is a problem. If you suspect it, ask your child. If you find out it has happened to your child, act. If you’re a family member or a friend and you learn that a child is being sexually abused, do something!
Call the police, child protective services, or whoever you need to. Do something! Letting it go by tells that child he wasn’t important enough for you to act. Don’t let that child go through his life believing that. It’s a lie. I believed that lie for a long time. Now I know it is a lie. It is a lie that keeps child sexual abuse going. Do something to stop it.
What Actions to Take
I (Jason) hope you read this man’s words. I will only add a few things to remember. First, it is not your job to investigate (unless you work in that field) and determine whether or not child sexual abuse actually happened. Second, if you suspect child sexual abuse, contact law enforcement. Regardless if there is a CPS issue involved or not, law enforcement will guide you. Finally, if you know the alleged perpetrator has frequent contact or lives with the child, contact CPS as well. I agree with the above sentiment. Do something when you suspect child sexual abuse.