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The impacts of child sexual abuse can be complex and severe. While it is not always the case, it is common that a man who has experienced child sexual abuse will experience a range of negative effects many years after the abuse.

However in our experience with men who have been sexually abused in childhood, what we are working with is not only the effects of the abuse, but also the unwanted side-effects of the strategies some men adopt to help them deal with these effects.

Anyone who has lived through traumatic experiences in childhood has, out of necessity, developed a range of creative, effective strategies that helped them survive and go on to live their life. Very often, however, the strategies that worked in childhood don’t work so well in the adult world.

What brings men to services like Living Well is quite often not the original abuse, but a crisis involving the strategies the man has been using to manage the effects of the abuse. For instance, a drinking problem gets so bad the man had to go into rehabilitation; a way of managing relationships becomes so dysfunctional that a partner threatens to leave, and so on.

Men are sometimes surprised to find that what they think of as their current problem was originally developed as a strategy for dealing with their abuse. So rather than listing all the negative effects that sexual abuse can have on a man’s life, in the following section we will talk about some of the strategies men use to manage the impacts of their abuse, and how these strategies can sometimes ‘take over’.

Strategies: When some solutions become the problem

childhood sexual abuseWhen a human being experiences a terrible event like child sexual abuse, the memories of that event become charged with very strong emotions, like feelings of horror and disgust.  This is actually a biological process that has an adaptive advantage: It makes us want to avoid that same situation again, which helps us to survive.

But, where we are not able to avoid the threatening situation – such as when a boy is being hurt by the very family which keeps him fed and alive – then these memories and feelings can build up and start to feel unbearable.

When a child is not able to avoid the abusive situation physically, he must learn to avoid the memories and feelings about the abuse psychologically.  Thinking about the abuse triggers the feelings that are attached to the memories, so the child learns ways to not remember or think about the abuse.  There are multiple strategies children develop to do this.

All the strategies we are going to talk about work the same way.  The purpose of the strategies is to avoid the feelings which are linked to the memories of the abuse.

Very often strategies are developed in childhood, using a child’s mind.  A child can’t be expected to think though all the consequences of the strategy, and sometimes is in too much pain or danger to be able to afford to.  The strategy may then take on a ‘life of its own’, and ultimately become a problem in itself.

Nevertheless it is worth making that point that just because a strategy may cause difficulties, that does not mean it didn’t make sense in the first place.  If it hadn’t worked to manage the feelings caused by the abuse, you would not have kept using it.  All strategies make sense when they are first developed.

We should also add that just because some activity or way of thinking is being used as a strategy, that does not mean it is an inherently unhealthy or problematic activity/thought. Anything can be used as a strategy. It only becomes a problem when it becomes dysfunctional or painful in some way, or gets in the way of other positive things in a person’s life.

Here are some of the most common strategies.

Numbing strategies

Common emotional responses to child sexual assault are long-term depression, sadness, anxiety, intense fear of feelings or memories of the abuse, and anger.  Some men feel joyless, and ‘empty inside’. A very common feeling following abuse is shame. This feeling may ‘cover’ the whole person, so that by the time the child becomes an adult he feels worthless and unlovable. Struggling to managing difficult feelings is a very common effect of childhood sexual abuse.

The purpose of the ‘numbing’ strategies is to numb the feelings about the trauma. They usually have the side-effect of numbing other feelings too.

Some of the most common of these strategies are the use of chemicals to alter mood. They include:

  • Painkillers and sedatives.
  • Alcohol.
  • Other drugs, legal and illicit (a very long list).

Other numbing strategies include the ‘rush’ strategies.  In these, the survivor engages in activities which provide an absorbing psychological ‘high’:

  • Sex (including sex with other people, pornography or any other form of sexual activity).
  • Gambling of all kinds.
  • Shopping, either physical or on-line.
  • On-line social networking.
  • Risky behaviours (aggressive driving/racing, fighting, some sports, etc).
  • Self-harm (cutting, etc. Not all ‘rush’ strategies involve a positive rush).

Another group of numbing strategies are the task/discipline group, where the strategy is to throw oneself into highly challenging, absorbing, or painful tasks.  For men, these strategies often have an element of aggression, pain or high levels of self-control:

  • Work (‘workaholism’).
  • Physical training (marathons, cycling, martial arts, weightlifting and so on).
  • Ascetic practices (including long or arduous forms of meditation or prayer, fasting, etc).

An additional benefit of aggression- or risk-based strategies is they may help the survivor combat feelings of shame about being a ‘victim.’

Thinking strategies

These strategies involve thinking about things in ways which help us avoid painful feelings.  Here are some of the more common ones.

Self-blame: It is very common for men who experienced child sexual abuse to blame themselves for the abuse, or to believe that it happened because there was something wrong with them. These beliefs are encouraged by perpetrators and sometimes by society.  However, self-blame can also have a psychological benefit. Sometimes it can be easier for a boy who has been abused to look for the fault in himself, than have to accept that a person he loves is an abuser.  Some men also find hope, if unconsciously, in the notion that if the abuse is their fault, if they can find a way to change what is wrong with them, then that might stop it from ever happening again.  It seems easier to change ourselves than to change others who are more powerful than us.

Intrusive/unavoidable thoughts: Some men experience critical or despairing thoughts or worries. Sometimes these thoughts can seem to come out of nowhere.  These thoughts can become ‘stuck’ in an endless cycle of circular worrying and obsessing.  The origin of these anxious thoughts is often a desperate attempt by the man to ‘think’ his way out of experiencing the post-traumatic feelings.  Over the years these thoughts become attached to ‘worry objects’ and can become habitual (For example: “Why didn’t I do X or Y?” “If only such-and-such had not happened.” “Why did this happen to me?” and so on).

Rigid beliefs: These are very strongly held, emotionally charged beliefs about self, right and wrong, politics, the meaning of life and so on.  When we are growing up, ideas which make sense to us become beliefs.  One of the reasons ideas make sense to us is that they help us manage bad feelings.  Examples could include:

  • Religious beliefs that help with notions of forgiveness, where the a person is experiencing shame.
  • Political beliefs which allow anger to be expressed against one group or another, where it is psychologically dangerous to feel anger against the perpetrator.
  • Spiritual beliefs that the world is basically a good or rational place which help guard against feelings of terror and betrayal.

Keep in mind that we are not saying that just because a person believes something which helps them manage their feelings, that what they believe in is not reasonable or true!  We are not concerned with the objective truth or otherwise of someone’s beliefs.  What we are saying is that some beliefs do help people manage strong feelings and from that point of view, can be seen as a strategy.

Relationship strategies

Many men who have survived child abuse find that being in relationships triggers bad feelings.  Here are some of the main ways men attempt to manage their feelings within relationships.

Clinging to relationships: Some men who have experienced neglect or lack of care can be so afraid of losing a relationship that they become vulnerable to entering into abusive or unhappy relationships. Alternatively, such men may also act in controlling or abusive ways within relationships to try to keep the relationship together. Worry about losing their partner, feelings of despair or anger, jealousy, even stalking and violence, are not uncommon.

Controlling relationships: Some men are susceptible to feeling like they are being controlled, exploited or abused within relationships.  This can lead to them reacting with attempts to strongly control the relationship, which can in turn lead to abuse or violence toward their partner. Some men protect themselves by remaining distant or inaccessible within the relationship. It is common for men who experienced sexual violence to have lots of feelings of anger in relation to their abuse and for this to spill over into their relationships.

Avoidance of relationships: For some men, suspicion about the motives of others may lead to an inability to maintain relationships.  This sort of hyper-vigilance for abuse was obviously adaptive in earlier life, but now may interfere with fulfilling relationships.  Men may also feel they are unlovable or not worthy of a relationship.  These perceptions, which are similar to self-blame (see above) may be easier to manage than dealing with the emotions caused by the abuse.

‘Pursuit/retreat’ relationships: Some men combine all these approaches into a pattern of intense preoccupation with and pursuit of a new partner, swift disillusionment once the relationship is established, and anger or rejection of the relationship.  This strategy attempts to meet the man’s need for affection with the pursuit of new relationships, but tends to be sabotaged by the opposite strategy of distancing/avoidance once a partner becomes so close that the man feels emotionally threatened.

Attachment to the perpetrator: A very common pattern is a boy or man remaining in some sort of relationship with the person who committed the abuse.  The purpose of this strategy was originally to earn love, or at least some physical security, from the abuser.  Another reason may be that maintaining this connection with the abuser can give a sense of control over the relationship. This pattern may continue for years after the abuse has stopped.  This pattern may also make the man more susceptible to further abuse from other people who in some way are reminiscent of fill the same emotional niche as the perpetrator.

Emotional strategies

Emotional reactivity: A person is ‘emotionally reactive’ when he responds very quickly with very strong emotion – essentially an uncontrolled or ‘excessive’ emotional response.  Some men can use less painful emotions, such as anger, to mask the experience of more painful ones like sadness or grief.  Being angry, or close to anger, all the time, can lead to a ‘rush’ like those described above and can be psychologically addictive.  Other emotions – for example, depression or despair – can sometimes be used in the same way. (Read more about Men, emotions and childhood sexual abuse).

Depression: Some clinicians consider depression a strategy for conserving resources and protecting deep emotions.  If depression goes on for a long time after the abuse has stopped, it can become difficult to move on from it; this can be particularly so if the person stuck in the depression has a lot of negative judgements about it (“I should just get over it,” “I should be achieving more,” etc).

Avoidance and phobias: Avoiding activities, people, or places which trigger memories of the abuse.  The short-term benefit of this is obvious.  In the longer term, the person’s life will become more and more confined – especially since phobias tend to expand and grow to encompass broader and broader situations over time.

Hyper-vigilance: The ‘hyper-vigilant’ person is always alert for, and expecting, something dangerous to happen.  It creates a heightened sense of anxiety and ‘jumpiness’, and may also contribute to difficulty sleeping, lack of concentration, and irritability.  Hyper-vigilance is a good strategy for avoiding real danger such as abuse, but once the abuse is no longer happening, it can lead to a very anxious life, or seeing threats where there are none.

Flashbacks, nightmares, other intrusive memories: ‘Flashbacks’ are memories of past trauma which feel like it is happening again in the present.  Some clinicians believe that intrusive memories, whether experienced waking or in dreams, are attempts by the mind to begin processing the feelings related to the trauma.  Often men will need professional help to move past this point. (Read more about dealing with flashbacks and dealing with nightmares).

Dissociation strategies

Dissociation’ is the psychological phenomenon of becoming ‘detached’ from a key part of your personal experience.  It is a way of ‘splitting off’ from suffering so that the pain (feelings and usually memories) is consigned to another part of the mind.  In situations of very great and ongoing abuse, dissociation is sometimes the only strategy that young children have.

Dissociative strategies can cause significant difficulties in later life and should be worked on with an experienced professional specialist.  Here are some forms of dissociation:

Dissociated emotional states: Finding yourself switching between very different or opposite emotional states.

Disengagement/’spacing out’: Losing awareness of the present for short (or sometimes longer) periods.  Sometimes there may be loss of memory, or ‘coming to’ in a place or situation and not knowing how you got there.

Derealisation: Feeling like you are living in a movie or a dream; nothing feels real.

Depersonalisation: Feeling outside your own body, watching yourself do things from a distance.

Pain or body symptoms: For some people, physical pain or discomfort which does not appear to have a medical cause may be related to early abuse.

These examples are less common, but do occasionally happen in response to trauma:

Fugue: Travelling significant distances, sometimes over long periods of time, with no memory or knowledge of it.

More than one personality: The experience of having different people living inside you. Known as dissociative identity disorder.

‘Feeling-phobias’

As we discussed before, all these strategies work in pretty much the same way.  The purpose of the strategies is to avoid the feelings which are attached to the memories of the abuse.

Almost all these strategies result in an over-avoidance of fear.  In one way, the fear of bad feelings is like a phobia.  Phobias tend to get broader over time.  For example, a man who is assaulted in a public place first begins avoiding that place, then over time any place where there are people like the ones who assaulted him, then any public place with people, then any place outdoors, and eventually he finds it difficult to leave the house.

‘Rewarding’ a phobia, by always giving in to the fear it generates, makes it grow.  We sometimes call this ‘feeding the phobia’.  This in turn leads to an ever-increasing difficulty in facing fear, anxiety, or stress. Most of the strategies we have described can lead to a person having a very low tolerance of stress, which in turn makes life more difficult, or shuts off options or opportunities which would otherwise be open to the person.

Suicide

Thinking about suicide is a strategy for trying to avoid present pain.  It can be a fantasy or daydream about being free from terrible feelings.  But it is a fantasy which carries a great risk.

Suicidal thoughts can range from fantasies about dying as a way to be free of the present pain, to detailed plans to kill yourself.  Even if your thoughts seems like they are ‘just’ passing ideas or fantasies, it is still important to find someone to talk to.  The more detailed your thoughts and plans are about suicide, the more important it is to get help.

If you think you might harm or attempt to kill yourself, call for help immediately.  Reach out to someone you trust and ask for help.  Tell them honestly how you feel, including your thoughts of suicide.

Call Lifeline 13 11 14; or

Call 000 (emergency services); or

Go, or have someone take you, to your local hospital emergency department.

It is important to remember you do not have to go through this alone.  We urge you to try talking to people about your thoughts.  If you can’t or don’t want to talk to your friends and/or family, you can contact a crisis service specialised in hearing your difficulties.  Try and share your thoughts with someone you trust or a professional who understands the impacts of trauma.  We encourage you to get rid of anything you have obtained to hurt yourself with.

Read more about dealing with suicidal thoughts.

A general note on the impacts of childhood sexual abuse

The impacts of any trauma experienced in childhood tend to be more severe than those experienced as an adult.  If you are a man who experienced child abuse, we hope this page is useful to you.  However, it is very likely that you will need much more support than an introductory article of this kind.  We urge you to consider getting some professional help if you have not already done so.  The Get Support section of this website contains information about how to find services which might be useful.

There is hope

When you were a child, suppressing or avoiding the feelings about the abuse was the only way to cope.  Now you are an adult, it becomes possible, slowly, to face and process these feelings.  And this in turn means that the strategies you developed to avoid the feelings are no longer needed.

The natural process of feelings is that you feel them, and then they pass.  Feelings never last forever.  They don’t even last for very long at a time – they tend to come, go, come back, and go again, until they are fully processed.  The only feelings that stick around for long periods are feelings you are putting off experiencing out of fear.

Remember, feelings can’t kill you.  By definition, they are smaller than you; they are inside you, not the other way around.  They can’t sweep you away or drown you.

Having said this, facing and processing these feelings should be done carefully and slowly.  We are not big fans of dramatic ‘emotional breakthroughs’.  This work does not have to be done quickly.  It is safer and less exhausting to do it slowly and in manageable chunks.

Very important note – we are not suggesting that you should use this outline, or this website, to do this work by yourself.  This work should only be carried out with the support of one or more professionals specializing in trauma-informed counselling or therapy.  Dangerous memories should only be confronted in a safe environment.  Take a look at the list of services in Queensland.

This article was adapted from resources developed by Jack Dalby and the team at SAMSSA. Thank you  for sharing.

15 comments

  1. Comment by Sally

    Sally Reply February 8, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Hello,
    I’m concerned/curious about my partner. I didn’t know at first, because I was quite naive and had recently ‘escaped’ from a 17 year emotional, verbal and financially abusive relationship, but he took drugs! He was on speed and drank a decent amount of alcohol and lots of pain killers when the other two weren’t available. As time went by, my partners drug intake grew and he started to become delusional and paranoid. It’s now been 4 years and gradually his moods have become worse, as has the paranoia.
    What had a big impact though, was the return of his younger cousin, who’d been in jail for beating up his girlfriend because she’d cheated on him.
    I immediately noticed a similarity in their personalities, and high on their list of priorities was ‘trust’. Neither trusted anyone, both were highly vigilant and super sensitive to us (their girlfriends) giving off ANY indication that we might cheat on them.
    One day, a few months earlier, my partner had suggested that maybe something had happened when he was a child. He went to a catholic school, he was an alter boy, he HATED school and was often in trouble. He felt picked on and weak, so he gradually blended in with the ‘tough’ group of kids, became a bully, started taking drugs and breaking the law. He also said that when he was about 10? (Sorry I can’t remember the exact age he said) he started wetting the bed and having nightmares, for no apparent reason!
    My stomach went to my throat, but I waited, he quietly said ‘Do you think, maybe something bad happened to me?’
    Oh please, if you can help at all, please tell me what to do, how can I help him IF I am right?

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply February 18, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Hi Sally,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I first want to say please know that you are not alone. It is not unusual at all for a trusted partner to be the first person that a man discloses abuse to. This is a big step for him and it indicates how much you care for each other.

      Please take a look at our page Men’s disclosure: How you can help. We have quite a bit for information for partners of men also, which may be of help. Many women have shared similar stories on our Relationship challenges page.

      If you are in Australia, we offer counselling and support groups for partners of men, and of course if your partner does decide to reach out for help himself, we are here for him.

      I hope that helps. Please take care of yourself Sally, and get in touch with us if you need to.

  2. Comment by Mike padgett

    Mike padgett Reply February 23, 2016 at 11:41 am

    This information help me understand the way I feel – why I get so mad, why I get so controlling. my abuse started as a young boy and now I’m 27. I’ve been living with the secret for 20 years and it finally took its toll on me. I was able to finally tell my loving and supportive girlfriend, with out being judged. two day later she talked me into telling my family. now I’m not alone any more, now I can get the help I need. life still seems dark and gray but it has to get better from here.

  3. Comment by Andrea

    Andrea Reply March 10, 2016 at 12:26 am

    This article might have just helped me unravel the mystery behind this guy I was seeing for about 19 months and his strange behavior and things make a whole lot more sense now. I could never understand how a human being could be so loving and caring one minute and then so mean, emotionless and detached another minute. I often asked myself was I living in a twilight zone.. but now I get it. I am not a 100% that he was sexually abused as a child but his behavior is almost word for word identical to this behaviors identified in this article. I am now trying to figure out a way to approach him and ask him without him feeling offended or scared off. If there’s anyone who can give me any kind of advice or maybe someone a man who is a victim of sexual abuse could tell me how you would to like be approached me and what would make would make you feel comfortable.. I would be so appreciative of any response. Thank you so much for this article, it may have just given me some answers to some questions that I’ve had for a long time now. Thank you again.

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply March 21, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Andrea, Thanks for contacting Living Well.

      I’m hearing you’ve been experiencing some confusion about the behaviour of this guy for a while. First I want to let you know that it is pretty difficult to tell whether someone has experienced sexual abuse from their behaviour alone. There are many, many reasons men may have the above experiences and feelings.

      If he has been subjected to sexual abuse, it is important that he is in control of whether and when to disclose this. Our pages addressing the process of disclosure may be worth looking at: Men and disclosure and How you can help. We also have a page with some advice from men, where they generally report that being pressured to talk about sexual abuse is not helpful.

      My advice would be to let him know that it is safe to talk to you without feeling judged or pressured to say more than he chooses. Rather than asking him questions, simply tell him you’re willing to talk with him, and support him, through anything.

      I wish you well, Andrea.

  4. Comment by Lety

    Lety Reply July 14, 2016 at 12:15 am

    I just started a long-distance relationship with an Australian man. I am Mexican.

    He is sweet, tender and everything I could have hoped for. But he has told me some things that scare me. I think he might have been abused as a child.

    During this time we have been together (it has not been long) he told me he was into cuckoldry.
    I didn’t know the term and he explained to me. I come from a very religious, sexist, close-minded culture so it was a shock at first. But I read a lot about it and although I have not agreed to anything, I decided to be open-minded and not judgmental even if it makes me uneasy.

    Then I found out, at least two of the serious relationships he had in the past were with strippers.
    I felt uncomfortable and insecure. But then again, I tried to see it from the perspective that he likes his women to be desired by other men, so in a way it makes sense that he wants to pursue a relationship with those women. They feed his fetish and of course I should not be judgmental of what they do for a living.

    He has mentioned he was a bit promiscuous when he was younger, that he fell in love with a lesbian and that they almost had a child together.

    Yesterday he revealed to me as a funny anecdote, that he organized his first threesome at the age of 6. I was very shocked and reacted poorly, so he has been very distant since. I do not judge him. Not for the action or because it was with other two children or because one of them apparently was a boy. I know from an early age we as humans start having sexual curiosity. I just can’t stop thinking in what kind of environment he was raised, or what experiences affected him that his 6-year-old self could engage in such an adult thing. How did he even know what to do??

    I am not sure if these thoughts I am having come from my own cultural perspective that is very conservative (I personally try to be open-minded, but sometimes it is hard to change some paradigms). Or if I have reasons to be genuinely concerned.

    What do you think? Is he just very very liberal and is it normal for kids in your culture to be so sexual so early in life?
    Or do you think something happened to him that makes him hypersexual?

    He is truly a great man. And I love him so. Even if things don’t work out between us I want him to be happy and fulfilled.
    I hope you can give me your perspective on this, so I can understand him better.

  5. Comment by Pinky

    Pinky Reply December 3, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Pinky. I’m in a relationship with a guy over 2 years now. I love him very much. He acts like he loves me in ways.but then he lies for everything he hides things from me. I feel he’s really sneaky.but everytime I catch him living he tells me some excuse or he says. “oh I didn’t mean that ” or “I forgot”. I found all kinds of porno in my phone and his. He stares at women like crazy. Then says he was looking at something else. This girl said when I first meet him that he had sex with her while she was passed out. So I paid attention to him. I decided to put camera up one night and we were drinking. Well the next day I remembered. So I checked it. For already over an 1 hour maybe 2 u can hear me snoring and I could see him over top of me. I woke up n screamed so he laid down n turned the light out then later I heard it again me snoring n him over me. I know he’s been abused. We just had sex before I went to sleep. Then this it’s not the first time. I know. Why would he do this to me. I’ve done everything to support n be there

    • Comment by Brenton [Living Well Staff]

      Brenton [Living Well Staff] Reply January 24, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Pinky, thanks for the comment.

      I’ll get right to it. Your partner has engaged in behaviour that has taken away your choice, which makes it difficult for you to trust his words or actions. Trust is essential to intimacy and vulnerability in the relationship, and if you don’t have these then I would question your sense of ongoing safety and wellbeing.

      To build vulnerability and honesty you have to start from a place of safety. From what you have described about his dishonesty, he is uncomfortable with telling you the truth. You can’t control whether he tells the truth or lies to you, but you can address the issue with him. Explain how important honesty and trust are to you, and question the barriers for him in this.

      It might be worth seeing a couples therapist who can guide and structure the discussion. If, after taking this course of action, you are still not satisfied, you would have to make a decision as to whether you are prepared to continue on in a relationship where your rights and needs are not being respected.

      Best of luck to you Pinky.

  6. Comment by Kat

    Kat Reply February 9, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Hello. I’ve been researching topics like this for some time to get a better understanding on my boyfriend who I’ve been with for 4 years. I feel horrible that I’m just now recently realizing that abuse is the reason for these emotions and actions. He seems to be very open about his abuse as a child & knows the effects it’s had on him. Lately I’ve been worried more because he hasn’t been sleeping but maybe 10 hours a week & never eats but once a day maybe if that. I try to get him to eat and take vitamins but I’m worried the effect this will have on him. I don’t want him to crash and sleep and be depressed for a week from not eating or sleeping. I worry about him constantly, although since he’s been awake and not eating he seems to be happier (working on his art all day). He has an apt with a therapist a month from now. But what can I do now to help? I don’t want to nag too much. I’m stuck and don’t know what to do.

    • Comment by Jess [Living Well Staff]

      Jess [Living Well Staff] Reply March 3, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Hi Kat,
      Thanks so much for getting in touch, doing some research, and being so supportive of your boyfriend. It sounds like you are a real source of strength for him and I want to commend you for this.

      I’m not sure if you’ve found them, but we have a series of pages written specifically for partners of men who find themselves in your situation. From the message you’ve written, it sounds like you are handling things very well. I know it’s hard to know what to do, because you want to get it right – but from here, it sounds like you are.

      Please take care of yourself Kat. This is difficult for the both of you, and you both deserve support.

  7. Comment by Jan

    Jan Reply March 30, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    My Boyfriend and I have dated for about eight months now. He told me about being sexually abused as a child a fews months after we started dating.He has never gave me any details and I wouldn’t dare ask in fear of hurting him more. It has had a major impact on our relationship. I noticed that he takes at the least two showers a day, which isn’t a problem at all but I couldn’t understand why. He seems to believe he has an odor and is never clean enough. I tell him everyday how good he smells but he acuses me of lying to him. He says that it’s the one thing I always lie to him about. It just breaks my heart. No matter what I say or do he always insist that I’m lying! Also, I have noticed that certain words trigger his past abuse and it’s usually words that involve smells and it makes it very hard on a daily basis. Example: I could be smelling a cow pasture and say, “goodness that stinks” his responce will be something like I’m sorry you know I can’t help it or it’s me isn’t it… I love him so very much and don’t know how to get past this.

  8. Comment by Hubie

    Hubie Reply November 16, 2017 at 2:26 am

    Hi. I was abused when I was 14 by a man who Was 50 at the time. I am now 52 and am just now starting my journey. I have a hard time with trust and relationships communication. Issues. Thoughts of infidelity and excessive self pleasure, i.e. masterbating. Nothing seems fun most of the time, and it should be. Be it a movie or fishing or birthdays… I just consider birthdays another day. Nothing special.

    I believe my emotions are almost nonexistent these days. The abuse was not fun but happened a lot and he tempted me with money, booze and smokes. I felt I owed him. He would perform oral on me and when he was done I would go home. I would not climax. I quit school at an early age and entered the workforce. The abuse continued for some time up till I was 17. I know he did this to others as he gave me names. Now I am realizing that this may be why I have communication issues and trust issues and am unemotional at times. So this month my journey begins. With the support of my wife. Hope I get better and become a better husband to her.

  9. Comment by James

    James Reply January 30, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I was abused by a male youth several times at the age of 9 and once at 10. He made a very strong impression on me and I was terrified afterwards if I saw him. He also made me sexually aroused and I remember we were focused on each other. It seems to me that he went to orgasm and so did I – I have never experienced anything like that other than during orgasm. I would find bruises on my abdomen afterwards and wanted him to stop hurting me. However, I was so ashamed of having enjoyed the sexual abuse that I could not tell anyone. I needed him to stop and much later told his mother who stopped him. About a year later he did the same thing again, but used his mates to do the punching and tease me, whilst he raped me. At this time I remember being stressed and behaved more like an earlier self. Once I was able to cope again, my normal self took over, but the abuse was somehow forgotten again.

    We moved away at this time, I do not know if my father noticed anything wrong with me, or if it was just coincidence. Once at my new home I settled into my new surroundings and I felt safer. At age 10 I found some things seemed abnormal about me. For example, when I was sitting with two brothers whilst waiting for my father at school, I did not know how to relate to them. I was very uncomfortable being with them and wondered if I should be sexual with them. I decided this would not be right and they would not like it and I wanted to leave. I was not thinking of the abuse at this time and for a year went to school and passed the 11 plus. I enjoyed this year, but did not like being in the boys changing rooms.

    My mother then insisted we go back to live at the place where I was abused. My father was against this, but my mother took me anyway. I started at the grammar school and soon made friends with an older boy. He used to molest me at his home and was stopped by his mother who knew he did this. At the time I was keen to visit this boy because he had a huge array of toys and I wanted to play with them. I was not worried by this sexual favour in return for playing with the toys, although I eventually stopped going there. I never felt afraid, since his mother had told me she would not go out. I knew that if she did my clothes would be removed forcibly by the boy.

    I was playing in the park one evening when my abuser walked in with a friend. I looked up and saw what to me was a rapist and his friend and immediately began having a flashback to a year ago. I wanted to run, but the friend took hold of me and started punching me. Eventually my mother arrived and the boy let go of me and I was told to go home. By the next day I had forgotten about the rapist again, although I felt uneasy. I wanted to do something to the friend, but I knew I was too small and he would easily beat me. I spent the next few weeks avoiding this friend at school and really wanted to leave to go back to where my father was working. One day I had changed for swimming at school and after walking to the pool I had a panic attack, with increased heart rate, abdominal cramps, excessive sweating and an increasing level of anxiety. I was acutely aware of the effect the other boys were having on me, although I did not understand it. I felt I would soon faint and the teacher let me go. I asked my mother to take us back to be with my father and this soon happened.

    Once back with my father I was in low mood and cried on my own a lot. Eventually I put the anxiety aside and concentrated on school and friends. I was still 11 and I remember my father coming to my bed at night and I felt I had no option other than to let him in, since I was afraid for my sister. My father gave me no real option other than to accept his sexual abuse, but let me feel I had made a decision. I remember this happening when I was 8 and 9 and when I reached 13 I needed it to stop, since I was having anal leakage at school. I started asking my father about his nocturnal visits in the morning over breakfast and he stopped.

    The youth left me with triggers that were difficult to deal with. I was so afraid around groups of boys and men that I had to find some way to escape. If any of them removed their shirt I would become increasingly anxious and afraid that something would happen. Sometimes a peer would try to wrestle with me and I would have a flashback and become afraid I would try to hurt him. I just froze until he got off of me and this gradually eroded my trust. Sometimes the presence of a peer would trigger a flashback at school and I found this distressing. I thought there was something wrong with my mind and did not want to talk about it. At other times I would be reminded of my abuser and this would make me worry I secretly wanted a peer or older boy to forcibly rape me.

    I had many problems with interpersonal relationships and avoided sex for many years. I was attracted to females, but felt very uncomfortable around men. I felt I might be homosexual and it seemed that I wanted males to forcibly rape me. After I began having sex with a female I found I was more confident of my sexual orientation. I now know that I would be unable to cope with penetration by a man, this because I remember the sexual abuse by the youth and know what he did to me. I was left crying on the floor, overwhelmed and feeling stripped of everything each time he forcibly raped me. I used to pretend the abuse did not happen, but if I do that I flatten my emotions and feel there is something badly wrong with me.

  10. Comment by Greg

    Greg Reply January 31, 2018 at 1:17 am

    I guess this is part of trying to find a way to heal.
    My story is mired in layers of abuse.
    I grew up in a small house with a large family and the “landlord.”
    There were limited sleeping arrangements and my bed was beside my mother’s side by side about 3 ft apart.
    The man I call my father worked steady midnight shifts for almost 4 yrs and my earliest memories are of the landlord coming in to my mother’s room and having sex with her.
    I have seen, smelled and heard every sex act 2 people can commit and at the age of 6, yes 6, figured out who my biological father is and in fact is the landlord.
    My mother and the landlord never considered I may be awake, which was all the time when they would engage in sex, a situation that continued until I was 14 and my sisters’ room became available to me. All I can say is, ignorant and selfishly abusive of them.
    I can remember turning my head into the wall and cry silently. I began to suffer depressive episodes regularly, withdrawing from school mates and became obsessive about sex, engaging with boys older than me from the neighborhood and letting them do what they wanted.
    I hated and still hate myself as I don’t look like my 4 siblings for obvious reasons. The oldest brother(10yrs older) spent so much time either beating me, slapping me or punching me on whatever whim he had including breaking my nose with his knee when I was 7 and calling me names like “pismire,” and made a point of making me feel worthless. His beating of me only stopped when I was 18 and by that time now could match his strength though the insults continue almost to this day though I have not spoken to him or my 2 sisters for over 6 months. I still have a decent relationship with one brother and my mother’s husband, whom I call dad.
    The man I call dad was oblivious to most of this though he knew the affair was going on, just not the extent. It got to the point of my mother going on vacations with the landlord and eventually introducing me to his other 2 children where I was forced to write a letter to them expressing my love for them though I did not like the son at all and the daughter was distant and both were older than me by 11 and 13 yrs.
    I became distant and no longer cared about school though I was doing well enough through sheer memory but never studied. I still behaved in risky behavior and with teens older than me, just for the acceptance as one sister barely talked to me and the other would criticize me and tell me how everyone hated me and yes, I am the youngest.
    My solace became sports and was at one time a decent hockey player. I finally dated a woman when we were both 18, though her home life was no panacea either.
    We were obsessively in love, hiding from the dysfunctional families we both came from.
    The relationship was highly sexual and I guess it was the intimacy/love we both lacked from our home lives. I even was caught in a compromising position with her and got the lecture from the landlord, “You can’t do that in this house. Promise that you won’t.”
    My response shut him down and I said, “OK, if you promise not to touch my mother in this house.” Like wtf? A lecture from a serial abuser?
    Every woman I have dated and met my parents, all 3 of them as the situation continues to this day, my mother alludes to who is my biological father including comments from my biological father at family gatherings as he is passed off as an uncle on my mother’s side.
    Those comments sink my spirits and crush my ego as I consider, rightly or wrongly, not part of any family.
    I have delved in workaholic life when I could find work, never missing time for stretches of years, though through layoffs and closures I can’t say I have had steady income over the last decade.
    I have immersed myself into one night stands after the end of any relationship I gave a crap about though I have actively rejected that over the last 4 yrs. I despise myself for what I am: bereft of dreams or goals and there is no joy in my life.
    The pets I have are the reason for me to work as they didn’t choose the home they are in and I have a love of animals as they have no voice, though that begs the question, do I?
    I have been to family gatherings only to sit by myself for hours. If I am dating, which is rare, my oldest brother will make unwanted comments about me or the woman I am with, so I have decided to have no contact with him.
    There is no joy, no sense of accomplishment, no sense of worth.
    Three parents to this effing day, my mother bringing the landlord to parent teacher interviews though that was rare; it did, in fact happen.
    The neighborhood kids would ask all the time, “Why is your mom leaving with the landlord?”
    I began to heal after being out of that room, and even had friends for sleep overs and bad jokes, then came mom to wake me up at 6 am when my friends were over, I was almost 15 and had friends! Go figure?
    My mother told me, “We are going to Vancouver, I”ll see you in a couple weeks.”
    My friends were woken too and then the same question, “Why is your mom leaving with that guy?” I never had a sleepover after that.
    So I never had a sleepover again and slowly withdrew from the small circle of friends I had though one of them was smart enough to figure everything out. He even said he talked with his mom and it would be OK for me to stay with him and his mom for a while but I didn’t do it. I never told a teacher or school counsellor or talked to any professionals.
    I think about the end of life now, just so feelings of depression and isolation will stop though I will not prematurely end this existence.
    I have tried anti depressants, and a psychologist and yet the mental paralysis is always there.
    It is only in a relationship with someone I care about can I push these nihilistic feelings away and that is not a common occurrence.
    If you were to meet me, you would find me at first distant and stoic, then false smiles knowing you will reject me as my family has.
    There is so much more but rather than bore anyone who has made it this far with more of this despondence, for the moment I will stop here.

  11. Comment by May

    May Reply March 4, 2018 at 11:21 am

    My husband recently opened up to me about flashbacks he began having of being molested at a very young age by a family member. He was so young that he was able to use some of the strategies listed above to suppress these memories for 30 years. He’s told me he suffers from anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Through my relationship with him these traumatic life events became more prevalent and yet he hasn’t taken the time to talk to anyone else or seek professional help. I don’t think he’s ever been as close to anyone as he is to me. I don’t think he’s ever felt safe enough to begin confronting these traumatic experiences until he had me for love and support. I know I make him feel safe and that is something I am afraid is fleeting if I do not handle this properly. When he told me about his abuse I felt so sad, angry, and powerless. He is my best friend, the love of my life, and I cannot protect him. But that is the emotion I felt so deeply within me, that I am afraid I am no longer of help to him because my own feelings aren’t helpful. I am also afraid that he won’t go beyond talking with me about it. How can I suggest that he seek help and remain sensitive and emotionally available to him? I am struggling to keep our relationship afloat at this point and I am scared that I am not helping but rather making matters worse by not responding to his pain appropriately. He told me about his abuse 4-5 months ago. Since then he’s had to face family for the holidays which trigger him in ways that affect him for months after. He’s become a bit of a workaholic as a way of coping but it’s been detrimental to our relationship. There are so many triggers and he has flashbacks on a daily basis. What can I do?

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