Last week former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. 45 separate times he abused the trust of young boys–and their parents–who looked up to him and counted on him for guidance and protection. That same day a Catholic monsignor in Philadelphia was convicted of covering up sexual abuse by priests of the young altar boys entrusted to the Church’s leadership and care.
So perhaps it’s no great revelation now that not just women become victims of sexual violence. This is the fourth post in my Voice of Violence blog series but the first one authored by a male victim. My friend, whom I’ll call Justin, had just lost his father at age 11. Sexual predators seek out victims who are vulnerable, and as a lost and suddenly-fatherless young man, Justin fit that category perfectly. His perpetrators pounced.
What struck me about Justin’s story is how very similar it is to those of Pauline, Lisa and Christine. Pain, deep pain. A feeling of profound worthlessness: “Why the f*** should I care about what I put into my body or with whom I share it?” Self-destructive behavior. A descent into drugs and alcohol in a futile attempt to escape the pain. Male or female, their response to sexual abuse was much the same. And note that each of them, after a long and difficult journey, has come to a place of moving forward, trying to forgive, placing themselves in the hands of a greater power and becoming the beautiful people they were created to be. But the abuse left a legacy. Be sure to notice these words of Justin: “the pain is gone but the ashes remain.”
Here is Justin’s story.
I ran for years hiding from the pain and hurt that was deep inside. Years went by and all I could do was escape into the dark world of alcoholism and drugs and feel nothing; no emotion, no happiness, no pain, nothing. I was a dead man walking because of the evil that is known as sexual abuse. The closest thing to death I guess is the numbness of emotions for 10 plus years, and honestly, death would have been heaven compared to the hell I was in.
These men touched me and did things to me that no young man should ever experience and I pray that these words I write will be a call to action against the evilness of it. I was 11 or 12 when the first one happened, and I say first one because it happened with two people several times shortly after my father passed away when I was 11. Think about this if you will: A young man, 11 years old just loses his father and then the sexual abuse started, all in the matter of a year or so. Painful but true.
The abuse lasted for a few years; one was a cousin, and the other a friend I had grown up with. My cousin started taking me to movies and the mall, all the things a young boy likes to do, then he started touching me where I knew he wasn’t supposed to. At first I didn’t think anything of it, I just figured it was a way to understand my sexuality and besides, what did I know? I was young and still hurting from the loss of my father. It continued the next time we “went to the mall” and by the third or fourth time, I started to realize what he was doing was not right, and I started to get scared when he came around and eventually he went his own way.
Shortly after my childhood friend started and by that time I knew what was going on wasn’t right, but he was bigger than I was and couldn’t stop. He only lived a few houses down and every time he came over I knew he had other motives but I was defenseless because my family loved him and was welcomed anytime. I didn’t want him to be there and grew more uncomfortable every time he was there and all I wanted to do was run. He touched me and told me it was OK and it was what everyone was doing and eventually I gave in and this one lasted shortly under a year.
I felt useless and worthless for many years and with no one to talk to it made it worse. I couldn’t tell my family because they wouldn’t believe me because I was young and they were older. When I did break down and tell my mom, she just swept it under the rug and told me not to think about it. Don’t think about it? I was 11 when dad passed and had been abused for years and she told me not to think about it, and that’s exactly what I did. I bottled it up, every last horrifying experience that happened I bottled it up and when I was 18, I was gone. Booze and drugs consumed me for the next 10 years but the pain was still there.
When I finally came to the Lord in 2005 I realized one thing, the pain was still there. This time the pain was more intense because I had been sober for a few months, and when you stop the boozing and drugs the pain of our lives always come to a head. When I started this new journey I was told by a very dear friend that these men that hurt you will never do it again, and I needed to forgive them. Forgiveness is the key to any joyful Christian life and I had to dig deep to forgive them. The only problem was I was still angry with these men and wasn’t sure if I had forgiven them or not, until I came across both of them in the matter of a few days and that’s when I knew I had forgiven them. I spoke with them and prayed for them and I knew that because I was forgiven of my sins, that I had forgiven them as well.
Through Christ, the pain is gone but the ashes remain. I think to myself sometimes what would life been like if these events would never occurred? I don’t know because God loves me enough to turn my past into a future for someone else. He has opened my heart and done amazing things in my life and today I am grateful that I went through the hell because I have found heaven and His name is Jesus.
Cardinal’s aide convicted of endangering children: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/23/us/philadelphias-msgr-william-j-lynn-is-convicted-of-allowing-abuse.html?smid=fb-share