Cecil Murphey offers hope to men who suffered from childhood abuse

An Interview with Cecil Murphey,
Author of Not Quite Healed
Survivors of sexual abuse face a long road to recovery, a journey in which they often ask, “Shouldn’t I be there by now?” Having faced the recovery process themselves, Cecil Murphey and Gary Roe, in Not Quite Healed: 40 Truths for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (Kregel Publications / March 8, 2013 / ISBN 978-0825442704 / $14.99), honestly and openly assure fellow survivors that healing is a process, which by definition means it doesn’t happen quickly—but it will happen.

Q: What percentage of men has experienced some kind of sexual abuse?

No one knows because men don’t readily open up. The conservative figure is 1 in 6; more likely, it’s closer to 1 in 3.

Q: What are a few of the most common misconceptions about childhood sexual abuse?

·         Those who have been abused will become abusers.
·         Real men/boys don’t get molested.
·         Most sexual abuse of boys is done by homosexual males. Child molesters have gender and/or age preferences and those who seek out boys are generally not homosexual; they are pedophiles.
·         If a boy experiences sexual arousal from abuse, it means he was a willing participant or enjoyed it. 
·         Boys are less traumatized by the abuse experience than girls. We may be more damaged by society’s reluctance to accept our victimization and are unable to talk about it.    
·         If the perpetrator is female, the boy should consider himself fortunate to have been initiated into heterosexual activity. Coerced sex, whether by a female or male in a position of power over a boy, causes confusion, rage, depression or other emotional problems. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is abusive and damaging.

Q: In the opening chapter, you write that healing is a process with a different timetable for each individual. Why do imply that survivors are not completely healed from childhood abuse?

Sexual experiences involve every part of our selves—body, mind, spirit. God created us that way.

Our abuse took place in secret while we were innocent and young. Because most of us suffered from it for such a long time, it affected us deeply, and we developed coping skills that, although helpful to survive, can hinder us today. For example, we hid our emotional pain to survive. As adults, we may have difficulty knowing how we feel. For instance, as an adult I know I was extremely angry at times, and until I began to deal with my abuse, I wasn’t aware of that anger.

Q: Many survivors of abuse – men and women alike – often suffer in silence. Why is it even more difficult for boys and men to speak out about their experience?

Many of us were afraid that we’d be thought as un-masculine or we’d be ostracized or laughed at. Besides, who could we trust? The perpetrator was most likely a person of trust. We tend to blame ourselves and see ourselves as defective or worthless.

Q: Not Quite Healed gives 40 truths for male survivors – could you share a few of the most important ones?

·         All of us need to be loved and respected. Few of us feel either.
·         Flashback and recurring dreams are common.
·         Most of us feel worthless and often that we’re not real men.
·         We don’t like the pain of grief, but we need it to heal.
·         Most of us don’t know how to trust because our trust was violated.
·         We need to learn to forgive ourselves for being imperfect; we also need to learn to forgive our perpetrators.

Q: What are some of the reasons sexual abuse is especially difficult to overcome?

We had many needs in childhood that weren’t met—that’s not to blame parents—and we didn’t feel loved. We thought we were worthless. It’s difficult for us to accept healthy love because we were betrayed. We tend to feel responsible for what happened or totally irresponsible as if it didn’t matter.

Q: Are men who are abused as children more susceptible to certain sexual sins later in life? If so, which are particularly prevalent?

I wouldn’t put it that way. I would say we have tendencies—and many of us don’t act on them. For instance, some men have a strong same-sex attraction and others struggle with promiscuity. Watching pornography seems to be a growing trend, usually involving masturbation and unhealthy ideas about sexuality.

Q: How often are abusers someone a child actually knows and trusts?

Most of the time our perpetrators were people we knew and should’ve been able to trust: a family member, such as siblings or cousins; a neighbor; a teacher or church leader. Because we trusted them, our defenses were down. They were also authority figures and certainly older (and larger).

Q: What are the characteristics that child predators tend to target?

Predators sense the kids who are needy and gravitate toward them. Those are children who yearn for attention, affection and affirmation. For example, the man who abused me used to call me special and often said he loved me.

One man said, “I seemed to have an invisible tattoo on my forehead that attracted perpetrators.”

Q: What are signs of abuse that friends and family should be on the lookout for?

There are no five signs, because all of us are different. But if we have been abused, we change—and that’s what parents need to watch for. We may become withdrawn or excessively angry. Feelings of worthlessness may be an issue and parents need to listen to what the kids are saying. Many of us have trouble with our emotions—we may be explosive at one point and stoic at another. Some tend to trust everyone or they trust no one.

Some kids show an inappropriate interest in sexuality. Others will suddenly refuse to be around Uncle Matt or Aunt Irene—someone to whom the child had been close. Other children refuse to change clothes in front of anyone, even their parents.

Q: What should wives of abuse victims be especially sensitive to?

Some men demand sexual intercourse—acting out the way they were treated. Or they may shun sexual intercourse. In my case, I was fine unless my wife startled me by initiating sex in the dark. Then I went completely numb.

Q: In the news we hear stories about Penn State or abuse within the church, places parents assume their children will be safe. How can parents be diligent about making sure their children are safe in certain situations?

The best insurance I know is make certain our children know we love them and that they can tell us anything. I could never have talked to my parents about anything important because I didn’t think they cared.

We can teach our children the difference between “good” touch and “bad” touch—but in ways that won’t frighten them. We might also say certain parts of our body belong to us and no one else should touch them. “I hope you’ll tell me if anyone touches you there.” We don’t want to make too much of it, but if our children know we’re there to love and protect them, they’ll probably come to us. 

Q: As a survivor yourself, what words of encouragement would you like to leave with our audience today?

If you were molested, tell somebody. Something about the telling—and being believed—makes it easier to accept what happened to us and aids in our healing. You might see a therapist, counselor, or church leader you feel will listen to you. The first time you tell will be the most difficult, but do it. There is healing for you—although it won’t be easy and the pain will be there a long time. Each time you deal with your abuse, you make it easier to take the next step.

If you love someone who was molested, assure them that you care and want to be there for them. Unless you’re a professional, don’t try to fix them. They need individuals who will love them, stay with them and not tell anyone else about their abuse.

Learn more about Cecil Murphey and his books at www.cecilmurphey.com. Readers can also follow Murphey on Twitter (@CecMurphey).