Category Archives: Essay by W.R.R.

Not Forgiving Years of Incest, Child Rape, and Abuse is not “Weak”

Gandhi said some good things; but unless he only meant the “my neighbor cut down my rose bush” sort of thing, he’s dead wrong on this one:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

I file this tripe quote under “religious platitudes”, which means it’s in the “don’t say this crap to child sexual abuse survivors” category. Yes, some survivors can feel comforted by religious stuff, but many more are hurt by it. Unless you know which sort of survivor you are dealing with, and if you actually want to help them more than you want to preach at them, please make sure they don’t mind before you spew this empty and hurtful junk at them.

Not forgiving is weak? Can a compassionate person call weak a survivor who was raped from age four by his father? Molested and raped by his mother since before he can remember? Or when they began renting him at age five to their pedophile “club” of sick rapists? If that boy was raped, cleaned up by his mother to get him ready for the next paid rape, and at the end of the day he had to “service” his father; would any person with a shred of empathy tell that survivor he “must” forgive them, or “God won’t forgive him”? Or quote Gandhi and call him weak?

I assure you, the boy that survived years of that daily abuse, rapes, torture, beatings, being “trained” that he was a worthless animal bred for sexual use for money, is not “weak”. If he has managed to survive to be a man with the guts to become an advocate to help other survivors and prevent other children from being abused, does any person who thinks they want to help have the right to call him “weak”? Or tell him he “must” forgive? No, they do not.

Abusers who rape and sell children aren’t sorry they did these crimes; they are only sorry about being caught and prevented from doing it more. Statistics show the chances of reforming them are dismal, and they also show that nearly all will reoffend if set free to do so. If you want numbers, research it. It’s not hard.

I’ve referenced these resources before, but here they are again, for a flip side on the “you must forgive” debate and showing that being guilted into trying to forgive can harm and re-traumatize survivors of rape at any age (even religious ones):

Forgiveness as a Weapon by Dianna E. Anderson (Faith and Feminism blog)

Must You Forgive? by Jeanne Safer in Psychology Today

I’ll repeat myself as often as I see a need to. I got the Gandhi quote off of the timeline of an “inspiration for healing” huckster who followed me on Twitter. He was blocked the second I saw it.

If you truly wish to help survivors, please have the common sense to get to know them some first. Don’t just assume that what may comfort you will be appropriate to say to them. Also, ask them first how they can be helped or if they even want your help. There are many well-intentioned advocates on Twitter whom I do not follow because the hyper-religious content of their “help” triggers me.

Finally, the big issue: respect boundaries. If you don’t know the survivor, it is far more likely to be acceptable to keep things respectful. Do not assume a familiarity that may seem natural to you, but may feel threatening to them. It’s great if you’re a hugger – but please keep that to yourself, because many survivors do not want to be touched by people they don’t know well and don’t trust. Telling them you are a good person simply isn’t good enough because many abusers say the same stuff. It’s fine to ask if they want a hug, some do; but just doing so can be very alarming. If they have PTSD, like I do, you might even trigger a response that could really ruin your day.

Why respect boundaries? Because most survivors of child sexual abuse had no rights and it can re-traumatize them to have their fledgling sense of bodily autonomy taken away by some clueless impulse hugger with “good intentions”. You want to help survivors? Then put their needs, wants, and boundaries ahead of your impulses; verbal, typed, physical, and spiritual. You don’t know their boundaries? Ask.

For me personally, trust me – I’ve had my choices and rights taken away from me quite enough by my abusers; and I won’t ever forgive them, Gandhi. I don’t have to. The neighbors cutting down the rose bushes? Sure, forgive them; forgive child raping human evil too, if that’s your thing, knock yourself out. But don’t tell another person they “have to” forgive. You have no right to do that.

I am not weak. I am a survivor.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 1/22/2014
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Please read the Comment Policy before submitting a comment to the moderators. For more about me, you are welcome to read my story and visit the About page.

Thank you for reading.

Guilt, Shame, Prevention, and the Burden of Educating Others

In a very helpful newsletter, Cecil Murphey of Shattering the Silence stated that the following statements irritate him:

“You don’t need to feel guilty.”
“You have no reason to feel ashamed.”

I agree. I get both statements said to me often and they irritate me, too. These people mean well, mostly; at least the ones who aren’t saying it in a “man up, get over it” way.

I think what they are trying to say is, “It wasn’t your fault.” But saying it the way they do comes across to me like a glib attempt to “tell me how to feel” and it doesn’t help at all. It certainly doesn’t make the guilt and shame magically go away. I suppose it’s ignorance of how to help on their part, so I try to educate.

Cecil Murphey suggested (linked above) that saying, “I’m sorry you’re hurting” is better, and I agree. He explained that as children, we didn’t know we were not to blame. So we naturally blamed ourselves as children do, and guilt and shame gained a foothold.

Most of us were told we were to blame by our abusers, often people we trusted, and maybe even loved. Then guilt and shame took root – during the delicate formative years. We don’t choose to feel guilt and shame, and we can’t “decide” to stop feeling that. Does it make sense to say to a child with a broken arm, “You don’t need to have a broken arm”? It won’t be fixed because you said that. They need a cast and they have to go through the mending and healing and not try to climb trees until the healing is done.

Sometimes I realize that survivors need to educate people on how to help, and I try to; but most times I’m too busy trying to deal and heal to worry about it. I often wonder, “Why does the burden to educate and inform the public so often fall on the shoulders of the survivors who, quite frankly, have enough on their plate?”

It seems survivors are also the majority of people teaching others how to keep their children safe from predators. At times, the willingness of parents to put fingers in their ears and say, “It can’t happen to my kid” makes me very upset. Self-care is vital in this jungle.

Then the language of the education can also be problematic. Most prevention advocacy talks of “parents, watch out for these signs of predatory abusers” but rarely do they mention that parents can often be the predatory abusers of their own children. For a survivor of incest abuse, it is very hard to read that stuff.

The important part, to me, is trying to learn better how to help and prevent, and to move forward in eliminating child abuse, rape, and all other forms of crimes against children.

Most survivors want to help with this, it often helps us to help others; but we do have a lot on our plates just to keep breathing and heal. It would be wonderful to see more people, especially those who are not survivors themselves, helping to end, and prevent, child abuse.

I know it’s frightening and unpleasant to think about an abuser harming your child or kids you know. It’s far more horrible to become an abused child. Which is worse? (Trust me, being abused is worse.) Learning about it to prevent it is far better than doing nothing out of squeamishness only to find out your child was abused. Damage from abuse (especially of children) can last a lifetime and affect every aspect of the child’s life. “It can’t/doesn’t happen in my town” doesn’t and can’t help the children at risk in your town.

Isn’t prevention worth more than scrambling after a non-existent cure? Isn’t prevention and the safety of children worth some discomfort? I’d sincerely like to know; but too many people have their fingers in their ears and can’t hear the question – or the cries of abused children.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 12/11/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Please read the Comment Policy before submitting a comment to the moderators. For more about me, you are welcome to read my story and visit the About page.

Thank you for reading.

Sex Ed, Consent, Responsibility: Can We Teach Them in Healthy Ways?

***Trigger Warning for child sexual abuse***

Consent can be taught without implying our sons are potential rapists. This is a fact that is ignored by many.

After reading this:

An Open Letter to My Son About Sex via the Good Men Project, 8/24/13 by Janis Whitlock, I was inspired to share my thoughts. Normally, I read the comments – even when they go over 300, but for self-care reasons I stopped reading these. For the record, “most” child sexual abuse survivors do not grow up to abuse kids, and “most” predators of children were not abused as kids. There is a pitiful amount of ignorance about this in those comments. Please educate yourself on abuse myths and statistics; that is the whole point of this post, after all: education and being proactive about it.

As a general disclaimer, I should add that as a male survivor of incest, with my mother as one of my abusers, the simple and usually benign notion of a mother talking about sex to her son basically creeps me out. That aside, I am also a dad of four kids, two girls and two boys, and they do need education, healthy information and facts; especially on abuse prevention and combatting child-harming deviants. Their mother and I handle most of this together, and our kids know they can ask either of us anything, or tell us anything.

The above linked article is a mother’s letter about sex to her son. In my opinion, it goes from “let’s have a healthy talk about sex not being bad” to “you are a boy so please don’t rape anybody” in 0 to 60 seconds. The whole letter isn’t bad, just certain parts, and I object to the saturation of anti-porn sentiment (porn depicting adults being legal) and the writer’s opinions being presented almost as facts. Teens are going to try to look at porn, the curiosity for boys and girls is already there. Also, if you haven’t talked to your son enough to already know he isn’t the raping type, how can you be sure he even likes girls? Maybe sex isn’t the only thing he’s been afraid to talk to you about?

In particular, it’s irresponsible for a person to make sweeping generalizations about what “all” or even “most” other women or men like or don’t like based on the letter writer’s own preferences and turn-offs, and then teach them as “facts”. Kids shouldn’t be required to become little copies of their parents or care-givers, after all. What if your son has a girlfriend who likes some things on your “women don’t like this” list? Will he think she is weird or gross? That’s not healthy either, right? Can we also stop pretending that only boys are curious about sex?

However, my main point is this: a healthy age-appropriate sex talk and abuse prevention education should include education on consent. There is a healthy way to do this and a damaging way. Saying anything that sounds to a young male like “you’re a boy, so please remember not to trip over your hormones and rape a girl” has no place in a sex-positive educational talk to a teen boy. Odds are, if we’ve raised them to understand, give, and receive respect for themselves and others, our kids won’t grow up to be rapists, killers, bullies, or jerks.

Another thing that is often forgotten or bypassed is that young girls also need to be taught about consent. Their consent and the consent of others are equally important. How many times have little girls kissed little boys when the boys didn’t want them to? Teach everybody about consent, not just the boys.

Finally, we have the ugly situation of many adults not even understanding (or caring about) what constitutes rape and consent. If adults aren’t educated on this, how can we expect kids or teens to know what rape and consent are? I read horror stories in articles on statistics or in the news about men and women who think buying an expensive meal entitles the person to have sex with you, like it or not. Also, far too many adults think a teen boy is “lucky” if his female teacher rapes him – as long as she’s “hot”. Yet if the genders are reversed, most of those people are suddenly outraged. Why?

We as adults need to get educated too, before we try to teach young people. We need to stop teaching them shame and guilt about sex and their bodies. Just because our parents did that, doesn’t mean it should be done to our kids, too. Our kids and teens need to be taught respect for others as well as self-respect. They need to learn that their bodies belong to them and that their bodies and sexuality have value and shouldn’t be indiscriminately given away like they mean nothing.

We also need to change the societal view and pressures that being a virgin is something bad or laughable, a condition to shed, tossing it out like garbage on the junk heap of our lives in some hollow rush to be grown up, to be maybe loved, or to “belong”. I don’t care about “waiting for marriage” in the least. Yet if self-respect and self-worth are taught, perhaps more young people will wait until they feel ready, with or without feeling “in love”. In the absence of pressure and ridicule, perhaps they could make safer and healthier choices.

Sex education, consent education, and abuse prevention education go hand-in-hand, or they should. For those with objections to factual sex ed in schools, do you know you are leaving your children vulnerable to all sorts of traps and tragedies? Abstinence Only doesn’t work. Teen pregnancy rises in any state where that is the only sex ed offered. More importantly, children need to know the proper names for body parts and know how to get help if somebody tries to abuse them. Age-appropriate sex ed and abuse prevention (and consent) can be taught to very young kids, and it needs to be taught to them.

Too many parents don’t find out “it can’t happen to me/in my town/to my kid” isn’t true until after their kid is abused. Don’t make your child pay the price (most often a lifelong and horrible price) for your ignorance and your preference to keep your head in the sand. Learn the warning signs of predatory and grooming behaviors in the people around your children (especially if you think you can trust them). Learn the warning signs of abuse in a child. Talk to your children, let them know they can tell you without fear if somebody is hurting them or making them afraid. This goes for bullying, mental health issues, etc. How many parents have found their child dead from suicide because of endless bullying and the parents never knew the child was being bullied, or never knew the child had mental problems or was being abused, because the child was afraid or ashamed to tell? Also, many kids do tell and are often not believed. Don’t teach your child that telling you they need help will not get them help.

Our kids need these types of education desperately. Many adults need them, too. The “birds and bees” sex talk dreaded by so many is far easier to have when you have already educated them on basic body parts, abuse prevention, and respect, long before they turn twelve or fourteen. Sadly, many parents skip those talks entirely and allow society and the media to teach their children, out of embarrassment. If you don’t teach your child, somebody or something else will. Some kids get taught ugly lifelong lessons by abusers, or stumble through pitfalls that a little guidance could have helped them to avoid.

One final point on rape: males aren’t the only ones who rape. Females aren’t the only victims of rape. This is a fact, whether you accept it or not. Telling boys “learn not to rape” is awful. It is in direct opposition to the intention of having a sex-positive talk with your son. Teach consent and sex ed. Foster a relationship where they feel safe to ask questions. Don’t make them think you believe their natural and good sexuality is nasty or potentially evil. That worms into the mind of kids and teens and does some ugly psychosexual damage. Imagine telling your daughter, “Try not to rape anybody.” You wouldn’t do that? Then please don’t say or imply this to your son, either.

I spent most of my life and all of my childhood being raped by adults, men and women. I was four when my father raped me the first time, five when he rented me to others daily. Prior to four, they were training me, grooming me, to accept sexual and physical abuse. At age three, my parents were teaching me how to “service them” sexually. This abuse was all I knew and they lied and said all parents were entitled to sex from their children. That was a pedophile ring, run by my father. They made and sold films and photos and made kids harm other kids in them. It has been an ugly struggle of slow healing to become the dad I am today, and that struggle is ongoing.

When I hear, “Teach men and boys not to rape”, my heart breaks. Teach everybody not to rape. Teach consent and healthy factual age-appropriate sex ed and teach abuse prevention. Learn warning signs…. Before it’s too late.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 9/11/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Please read the Comment Policy before submitting a comment to the moderators. For more about me, you are welcome to read my story and visit the About page.

Thank you for reading.

Now I Lay Me Down

***Trigger Warning for child sexual abuse***

A man of God once told me, “Good boys are gifts,” but he didn’t mean me. He called me the “Devil’s boy,” always with two fingers and a thumb pinching my cheek on the edge of the terrible scar. It still hurt, even a year after the knife slashed across my mouth, wielded by my god, my father. I would promise to be good, to obey, and this man who liked to call my father “Devil” would look at me strangely, as if amazed.

He came to the house alone, except on rare occasions. He never wanted to see the other men. If he had to, he would pace in the kitchen and harass my mother, trying to preach to her, I suppose. He never spoke to the others. I never knew his name, but when I named them in a poem, I called him Praiser. My father called him “this preacher” and told me to obey.

I was raised to believe that my father was a god. He told me he was, and taught me ways to “worship” him. He said I was his sacrifice, to be used however he liked. I knew no different. He read, wrote and spoke Latin as well as any Catholic priest, just like the men on TV did on Sunday. When Praiser came along, he confused me. When he spoke of his god, he didn’t seem to mean my father; but a lot of the ways of worship turned out to be the same.

Praiser told me I’d been “made to be used for the glory,” because I was a vessel for sin. When he took me into the downstairs room the men rented, he would always repeat the phrase “Now I lay me down.” It made no sense to me then, but my father had told me how to respond. When the man raped and degraded me, he called it “passing his sins into me” so he could go back to his church clean, and free of lust. This preacher paid my father money to use me this way. He wore a fancy suit with a silver cross pin on the tie, and when he was finished, the suit perfect again, he would tell me to dress. Then he would sit beside me and explain that I was wicked, that I would go to hell. He said it couldn’t be helped, because I was evil, and I had a purpose. He told me to ask forgiveness for my sin, and I did, as I sat there bewildered, dazed, and in pain. He said it was to make me ready again, a “fit vessel.” Most Saturday afternoons, he showed up. I was five.

So many times I read or hear statements from religious people about how a survivor “must know God” in order to heal, be clean, be free. To me, god was my father, my first abuser, the man who gave me to all the others. These religious people tell me that I “must forgive my abusers, or God will not forgive me.” These concepts have horrified and confused me, bringing on despair and suicidal thoughts. It is my view that no survivor of any sort of abuse “must” forgive the abusers, and I’ve read articles by psychiatrists and psychologists that support me on that. I’ve also, thankfully, had good people who happen to be Christian tell me that I don’t “have to” forgive unless I wish to, and feel I can. They tell me I was a child and couldn’t fight, couldn’t be guilty of what they made me do. I struggle to believe it.

I try not to disrespect or “bash” anybody else’s religion or lack of religion. This is difficult when so many “people of faith” bash me, for being bisexual or for my Goth appearance. I try in spite of that to keep a “live and let live” attitude. However, many religious people need to realize that not everybody wants to hear about their religion, many don’t share it, and for others, it can be an abuse trigger.

Some survivors might benefit from a spiritual angle to the healing process, whether they were raised religiously or not; but the fact is that not all survivors would welcome that. Many were abused by “men of God”, as I was, most often Catholic priests. Only one of my abusers was a preacher, but most of them went to church. Many pedophiles who are preachers or priests will use scripture and other aspects of their religion, or objects from their religion, to abuse their victims. My adopted parents are Catholics (though excommunicated for being gay) and the first time I heard one of them recite, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep … ” I had to run to the bathroom and be sick.

A survivor may not tell you that religious speech triggers them. They may simply go away to deal with the fallout alone. Once, I lay in bed with a knife under my pillow and sobbed, trying not to use it to make the memories stop.

If you wish to talk about religion to a survivor, or tell them how your faith could help them to heal, I implore you to learn first who the survivor is, and how they may feel about religion. If you gain their trust enough to hear their story, listen to them. If they were hurt by people who represented religion, religion and spiritual aspects and suggestions may not comfort them. These things can sometimes stall their healing progress.

To survivors harmed by preachers, priests, nuns, people who claim to be religious; the pronouncement “only God can heal you” could do a lot of damage. It is so vital to know something about the person you want to help before you start. Even if a spiritual approach helped one survivor, it could drive another to despair. If your goal is to help that person, a person in pain … please help them without adding to their pain.

This essay was originally posted here on the Good Men Project.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 7/23/2012
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Please read the Comment Policy before submitting a comment to the moderators. For more about me, you are welcome to read my story and visit the About page.

Thank you for reading.

Pithy Religious Quotes Need Warning Labels

Due to my issues and damage as a non-religious survivor of child sexual abuse (one of my abusers was a preacher) and as a survivor of rape as an adult, as well as having to deal with all the fallout from those traumas, such as physical, mental, and psychological handicaps, PTSD, phobias, religious triggers, bipolar disorder and occasional fights with suicidal thoughts, I have a big problem with the quote below:

“If you’re thinking about giving up, don’t… because God gave you your life because he knows that you are the only one strong enough to handle it.”

I realize some people think this is “nice comfort”, and they have “good intentions” in sharing it. However, unless you are speaking to peers of your own religion and/or people who also find this sort of thing comforting, I’d like to discourage others from sending this pithy trite quote to strangers who are hurting. Especially if they don’t share your religion, or if religion was part of their abuse or trauma. This should certainly not be said to a person battling thoughts of suicide, more so if you don’t know the person very well.

The quote above reminded me of two topics discussed by the excellent writer Christian Piatt, included with his gracious permission below:

#1 from Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use here:

Everything happens for a reason.” I’ve heard this said more times than I care to. I’m not sure where it came from either, but it’s definitely not in the Bible. The closest thing I can come up with is “To everything, there is a season,” but that’s not exactly the same. The fact is that faith, by definition, is not reasonable. If it could be empirically verified with facts or by using the scientific method, it wouldn’t be faith. It would be a theory. Also, consider how such a pithy phrase sounds to someone who was raped. Do you really mean to tell them there’s a reason that happened? Better to be quiet, listen and if appropriate, mourn alongside them. But don’t dismiss grief or tragedy with such a meaningless phrase.

#5 from Ten More Cliches Christians Should Avoid here:

The Lord never gives someone more than they can handle. What about people with mental illness? What about people in war-torn countries who are tortured to death? What about the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust? And this also implies that, if really horrible things are happening to you, God “gave” it to you. Is this a test? Am I being punished? Is God just arbitrarily cruel? Just don’t say it.”

~ ~ ~

“Happens for a reason” and “God never gives more than you can handle” seem to have been combined and morphed into the first quote at the top.

Stuff like this can push a survivor of abuse or rape, or a suicidal person, right over the edge. As “you were meant to have this suffering” rattles around in a person’s head, ricocheting off of their pain and horror, their abyss of multiple losses, and the hopelessness that trauma and/or mental illness has brought into their lives. Also, like it or not, not all people share your religious views, nor do they have to.

Here is one of the reasons why the quote at the top personally disturbs me:

Now I Lay Me Down

After years of being raped by that preacher (starting when I was five) on most Saturdays, I wince at quite an array of religious-based “comfort quotes”. Considering my father initially raised me from birth to believe that he was my “god”, religious “comforts” can get confusing and upsetting fast.

Here is the key: try to seek to know a little about the person you want to reach out to and hopefully help. Ask them if they are religious, if that is important to you in your life. Then be prepared to respect it if their answer is “No.” Remember that the goal (hopefully) is to help the person. You won’t be able to help them if you disrespect their views and their need for self care. My self care requires an absence of religious jargon. If that is not respected, I am placed in an untenable spot and subjected to unnecessary upset and distress. Also, it often makes me angry. Making others feel pain, distress and anger is generally not the way to “help” them.

So try to get to know them first, respecting their wishes to not let you, if that is the case. Here’s a great quote: “You have to be a friend to make a friend.” Also, the Golden Rule of “Treat others as you want to be treated” applies; so please slap a warning label on your religious quotes collection and ask first if they might be welcome… or not. I know I would thank others for this gift of respect, as that does make me feel that I am being helped.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 8/19/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

“I wasn’t brave”, and the problem of assumed familiarity from strangers….

I want to focus on two things here; being called “brave” by random strangers who don’t know me, and having those strangers act like they’re entitled to behave as if we are best friends on the basis of a few tweets, or in a comment because they read one essay. Do you want to know how to help me feel more comfortable talking to you? In a way that could help you with talking to some other survivors of abuse you may meet? Then please, read on; and thank you for taking the time to do so. As for comments on this blog, please read the Comment Policy.

To those who have already put in the legwork to help me feel comfortable and to become my friends, huge thanks to you. You help me learn how to grow into a “real person” every day, and I couldn’t make it without you. To my fellow survivors, take from this what resonates with you, feel free to ignore the rest.


As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I rarely want to be told I am brave/strong/etc. I realize people are trying to be supportive, encouraging, or complimentary, but it usually feels off to me and falls flat, especially from a stranger or somebody who only knows a few things I’ve written about myself. I typically gloss over and ignore the comment, hoping it will go away. This article by Justin Cascio has helped me grasp a better way of realizing why it bothers me, in particular #5, the “brave” section:

10 things people have said to me that you should never say to a trans person

From a stranger, it does objectify, and seems to be an assumed intimacy that repels me. I am not me to them, I am a cardboard poster boy for “all survivors”, or simply an opportunity for them to feel better about themselves. Also, I don’t see being a survivor as “brave”. The phrase “it takes courage to survive that” irritates me. Actually, all it takes is “not dying yet”, each day. I never felt “brave”. In the end, it feels condescending. (Thanks to Justin for this clarity. I really appreciate his blog.)

As a semi-random point, I’ll add this: I don’t “speak for all survivors”, nor do any of them specifically speak for me. We do often find kernels of truth or common feeling in each other’s words, but it’s a “take what resonates with you and leave the rest” sort of process.

So what to say instead of “you’re so brave/strong because you survived”? Well, for me, I’d rather have my efforts to keep plugging along acknowledged over assumed past “bravery”. Why? Because surviving isn’t a done deal, it’s an ongoing process; and for many of us, it is a lifelong struggle.

Also, I was serious about the “I wasn’t brave as a kid” part. It’s a matter of perspective, in the end. To me, brave would have been trying to run away or refusing to hurt others because they ordered me to. Both of those things would have resulted in my death. So in my mind, what let me survive was closer akin to cowardice, and being told “you were brave” just makes me feel bad, as the truth of my past rises up on cue to negate the “compliment”. Therefore, if the goal is to make me feel better, I’d rather be told, “I’m glad you are still here and it’s great that you do what you can to help others”. Tell me I’m a good daddy, or that you like my poetry, perhaps, if you do. “Brave” is only a lie that haunts me, in tandem with the other ghosts born out of guilt and shame.

Thank you for trying to understand, and for trying to learn that survivors are all different. Maybe somebody else feels better to be told they were “brave enough to survive that”. Maybe they don’t. As I said, none of us are poster representatives for all of us.

The best advice I can give is, if you want to really discuss things with me about abuse and survivorship, make an effort to get to know me. Do some reading here on my blog (without making assumptions) and try not to assume familiarity or display an expectation of intimacy in talking to me before I’ve decided if I feel comfortable with that. It’s the same common courtesy you probably display at any other event where you meet new people. The assumption of intimacy or friendship and the entitlement of expecting me to be buddies just because you believe you’re a decent and safe person, can quickly feel like red flags to me. I often have people exchange three tweets with me and then they seem to assume they are on a par with my support system of people, family and friends, and begin acting like they have the same intimacy privileges that they do. Frankly, that behavior makes me want to avoid those people. So if your goal is to make me feel better, please don’t do that.

If you simply want to ask my views on abuse or survivorship, please still make an effort to allow me to feel comfortable talking to you first. A good start is to do your own research prior, on your own. Speaking to an informed person who asks good questions and wants to discuss issues is a lot more comfortable for me than feeling like a poster boy you randomly want to tell you things to have a passing curiosity satiated. People of that sort are not why I’m here. I am here to try to help others like me or vaguely similar to me, and to help educate those who show some effort in wanting to help, too; especially if they have the goal of learning prevention to keep their own kids safe. That, after all, is the most important thing. Far easier to prevent than to make them endure a lifetime of trying to heal.

Also, please read As Ashes Scatter: My Story and About W.R.R. to learn more about me. It is quite jarring to have a (however well-meaning) stranger assume they know what abuse I suffered on the basis of one tweet.

In conclusion, it is also not helpful or appropriate to ask me how I feel today in reply to a serious tweet about abuse issues, or to offer “religion-based” comfort when you haven’t read the comment policy where I state that that is a trigger for me. I mean no offense, I just need to clarify these points to avoid feeling reluctant to tweet or speak out due to a fear that strangers will start assuming they are “buddies with privileges” and reply to me in ways that make me want to disappear. Thank you for your time and patience, and hopefully, for your understanding.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 7/30/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Rape is not a scandal, it’s a crime.

Society, the legal system, the news media and sometimes even advocates have stooped to using words and phrases that minimize rape, and I’d like to point out and discuss four that both aggravate me and make me angry:

The “Sandusky Sex Scandal”

Two advocacy terms: “child sexual abuse” and “child sex trafficking”

The term “molestation” (when used in place of the word rape)

Now, I’ll address them in backwards order.

News reports that say a child was “molested” when the child was clearly penetrated and raped. This could be a “legal terms get muddled issue”, but to me, it’s all rape. Yet if “molested” legally means “touched” (no penetration) why does the news say “molest” when penetration rape did occur? I see this as a deflection, a “softening term”. I don’t get into pointless debates of “this abuse is worse than that abuse” as it can all damage and impair for life. Yet this “let’s soften it for the public” bullshit makes me angry. The public needs to grasp that the perpetrator raped a child (in cases with and without penetration) so that they don’t end up on juries that acquit the rapist of a child because they think a bit of therapy can make them “stop touching kids”. When an adult is “touched on genitals without consent” it’s commonly called “sexual assault”, not “molestation”. Why the less serious term for the same crime against a child?

I’m stuck with both of the advocacy terms I listed because those are the “official terms” and make up a lot of the hashtags on Twitter. Even so, I object to the words “sex” and “sexual” in them. (I’m not fond of “sexual” being paired up with “assault” either, for that matter.) It should be “child rape” and “child rape trafficking”. We should abandon “sexual assault” too, and just call it rape. Sex is not rape and rape is not sex. A pedophile doesn’t “have sex with” a five-year-old boy or girl. He or she raped them. Yet many news stories do say an adult “had sex with a minor”. I realize I’m essentially arguing semantics, and legal terms and definitions have muddied the waters, but I think “rape isn’t sex” is a very important point to make, especially to victimized children. Teach them, “You were a victim of sex abuse” and then they get an intimate partner as an adult and the word “sex” is already tainted. The child rapes I suffered, perpetrated by male and female pedophiles (including both of my parents), have seriously messed me up in my struggles with adult consensual sex; in some part, because both were called “sex”. As a child, I was constantly told I was “having sex”. I started calling it “do sex”, as in “I have to do sex now.” To this day, I will sometimes say the term “do sex” if I feel nervous, and my support system knows the term as a general warning that caution may be needed. On my better days, the far more romantic “make love” is the more pleasant term.

Time to pick on the news media again. For me, this is a whopper: “Sandusky Sex Scandal”. Sandusky raped boys. A lot of boys, with both touching and penetration. It was rape. A “sex scandal” would be if Sandusky had a sexual affair with somebody else’s wife. “Sex Scandal” diminishes, distorts, and sanitizes the horrific rapes those boys endured. Another example is “the Catholic Sex Scandals”. A Catholic sex scandal is catching priests having sex with nuns, or some other “not supposed to” sex. Raping children is not a “sex scandal”. Yet the news media (of all forms and regions) seems to insist on slanting it that way. Rape is not a scandal. Sex is not a crime.

The news media can and does influence how society views these things. It seems anathema to me too, that the media usually seeks the stronger and more shocking (and issue-selling or website clicking) headline. So why do they downplay “Sandusky Child Rape Case” to “Sex Scandal”? To reiterate, getting down to basics, the word “scandal” in this usage is horrific. Rape isn’t sex. Sex isn’t rape – and rape is not a “scandal”… it’s a horrifying crime.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 7/16/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Seek help. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Time Heals All Wounds? Time Lies

(Trigger Warning for child sexual abuse and rape. This is a plea to those who are not survivors of trauma; please try to understand how we feel, and what we face.)

“Time heals all wounds.”

This is a concept some swear by, while others disdain and reject it. I’m in the latter group. If I may argue semantics for a moment, take a look at the word “wound”. If you break your arm, a doctor puts it in a cast and it gets better; soon you can use it again and it is healed – just as good as new. For some people, it isn’t that simple. There are emotional, mental, and psychological wounds, and even some physical wounds, that don’t ever heal “as good as new”.

Sometimes damage from a car wreck or a wound received in military combat simply can’t be fixed as neatly as a broken arm in a cast. What of the person who can never walk again? What of the soldier who suffered a brain injury from a head wound and a good portion of his or her mental and physical capacity, and ability, are gone forever? Can we say time healed those wounds? Would those afflicted with them agree?

Emotional wounds are often lumped under the quaint “time heals all” verbal bandage, as well. The stages of grief are bandied about with the same blind fervor of a child rubbing a severed rabbit’s foot for luck. (Speaking of wounds that don’t heal, the rabbit never got his foot back.) People, both the afflicted and their loved ones, often mention this or that stage of grief as if they are an announcer watching a horserace: “He’s in denial, denial, now he’s in anger! Here’s bargaining hedging in from the inside rail, with depression surging up behind. Now coming around the bend, depression and acceptance are neck and neck. Yes! It’s acceptance, folks! Acceptance wins the cup! What a race!”

This chaotic rush to “get over” grief and trauma can cause serious problems down the road, whether the afflicted person rushes their own healing or others pressure them, often due to being tired of hearing about it all. Steps are rushed or skipped by the drive to “be better”, and the external and internal pressure for this can be equal in causing damage. The stages of survivorship (victim, survivor, and thriver) can be rushed in the same manner as the stages of grief. So too, can healing in general be rushed, and some things or stages taken out of the safer order.

Nobody should be under external pressure to “hurry up and get better” and we should all be wary of internal pressure in this area, also. Whether the issue is grief, trauma, injury, mental illness, stress, etc., a solid foundation needs to be built at each stage so that we have firm footing while we reach up to the next stage.

This is the same for things like reporting a rape; it is far healthier to be sure it is one’s own decision for the right reasons. Health, safety, mental health, etc. need to be considered. There is a lot of external pressure in the world to report; but if the victim isn’t ready and despair and social fallout lead them to suicide (or gets them murdered), what is gained? Yes, it is generally preferred to report; help catch the rapist so they don’t rape again, etc. Yet the laws need to change to help victims and survivors, too. The stats I read said that only 3% of rapists ever even spend one day in jail, and that is in the case of reported rapes. That means victims reported, but 97% of rapists go free anyhow. So why re-traumatize a victim who doesn’t feel safe to report? Help them to be safe, instead of pressuring them to act before they are ready. This goes double for a child who has been raped.

With traumas like child abuse, child sexual abuse, and rape, especially when victims are so young that their formative years are still ahead of them, studies have begun to show that things are happening physiologically, psychologically, and emotionally that can physically change the way the brain is wired. Pleasure is introduced via sexual abuse hand-in-hand with pain, in many cases leaving the person with their pain/pleasure wiring so mixed up that they get fused and no amount of therapy or medication can fix that. Trauma-caused problems such as phobias, PTSD, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, sexual dysfunctions, and mental disorders can manifest like a grab-bag of horrors. Only some of these things have medication that helps, or a way to work them out in therapy. Even so, survivors who have felt healed for years can be blindsided by a trigger and have to regroup and cope again to get back on their healing path.

Children like I was, abused and raped many times before the age of six, do not develop normally and have many other problems. Things like trust, love, empathy, and compassion can be terrifying and felt to be “not worth the risk”. The lucky ones get help right away, before the extremes of lies, guilt, and shame can set in and warp self-image and development; but many do not get help until years or even decades later – and some never get help at all.

These problems can overshadow a person’s whole life, and every aspect of their life. How can that person grow to trust and love, seek an intimate relationship, or function even half as well as those who were never traumatized? Guilt, shame, fear, and self-hatred bring other problems, such as: self-harm, unsafe sexual behavior, drug and alcohol addictions, and suicidal thoughts. It becomes a race to see if the damage will destroy a person before they can get help; yet even with help (therapy, medications, a loving support system), many of these problems and much of the damage still remains. Of course, the world doesn’t stop or even slow down for traumatized people, and things like nightmares, flashbacks, and triggers seem to lurk behind every corner.

So what can the traumatized person do? We can learn how to process and heal the things that we can heal, and we can learn coping skills for the wounds that refuse to heal. This is what therapy, medication, and the support of my loving new family helps me to achieve.

Still, it is an ongoing process that I may never be finished with. I was abused and raped for my first twenty-two years on this planet. The first nineteen years were spent as a trafficked sex slave in my parent’s pedophile ring; then the next years I spent homeless in a brutal world of prostitution, starvation, addictions, and still more abuse and more rapes. At this time, I’ve been abused for more of my time alive than I’ve had time away from abuse to begin to heal. In addition to abuse’s inflicted physical, mental, emotional and psychological damage, I am bipolar; a fact I tend to see as a cosmic joke being played on me.

In this state, which others can take breaks from but I cannot, I have found it to be horribly harmful, offensive, and condescending to hear others tell me: “Time heals all wounds.” Will the passage of time make my left eye heal and regain sight after my father ground it out with a lit cigar? Will time restore the mutilation of my face and body? Can time undo the fused pathways in my brain as abuse forged and derailed whatever it could of a child’s developing mind? Can time give me back my physical, spiritual, sexual, and emotional innocence?

This concept of passing minutes must be powerful indeed if it can restore lost experience, too. My first kiss was with my mother. My first time of “sex” was anal rape by my father. Learning to ride a bike? Never did. Prom? It didn’t exist, not for me. First love and making out, giggling with your lover? That was all twisted by my mother, who taught me how to service her from as young as three years of age. Learning how to “be a man” from my father? He taught me how to obey his every command, how to literally worship him as a god, and how to be terrified of him as he raped, beat, and rented my body. Yet time, that vague invention of mankind so that if we count the hours, we’d all know it was “Friday, July 5, 2013”? This concept of passing minutes alone is going to make my body, mind, and past whole and healed? No, it’s not. It can’t, and it never will.

Instead I learn to cope, to process, and through those things, I learn how to heal the things that can be healed. For the rest, there is more to learn about coping and processing, and maybe the healing path in front of me won’t have an end. Maybe healing, like learning in general, will just go on, indefinitely. Despair is a threat, as are triggers. Self-care is a vital lesson. I do not want to die. I want desperately to live. I want to watch my children, abuse-free and loved to bits, grow up and become… whatever they want to become. Through them, I can at least experience a pale echo of things most people take for granted. My oldest is eleven, but someday she may want to go to a prom. She already wants to go to college. My son can learn how to ride bikes, drive cars, and how to be a good man. My twins are only toddlers, but their joy in a simple set of blocks or a sandcastle is teaching me how to feel joy, even if my past mutes the colors and variations of it that they experience.

“Times heals all wounds” is a lie, and for many child sexual abuse and rape survivors it is also a trigger. I’d wager many wounded veterans, people with mental illnesses, and survivors of crippling car accidents may likely feel the same. It isn’t necessary to sooth the hairs on your own arm by handing survivors a hollow platitude like that.

Perhaps examine your thoughts, feelings, fears, and reasons for saying it. Do you sincerely hope the survivor or grieving person will someday heal? Then why not say that, instead? If you reach for the hollow platitudes due to being weary of hearing about that person’s grief or trauma… please don’t. It is far kinder to tell them you are sorry they are suffering and you hope they find their path to healing (and coping). Other hollow platitudes (for me) are: “I’ll pray for you”, “just move on”, “that was years ago”, “you have to forgive to heal”, and other similar empty or triggering words. If you care about being a good person, practice by being kinder to those in pain; especially when the wounds (like grief, mental illness, trauma damage) don’t show up as a visible wound. Perhaps get to know them a little so that you know what may help them and what may trigger or anger them. For instance, religious talk triggers me, no matter how much it may comfort somebody else.

A person suffering from PTSD, grief, trauma, or bipolar deserves the same kind consideration as the person with their arm in a cast; maybe more. After all, the arm will heal and be as good as it ever was. Not all wounds can, or will; for them, we learn to cope. Please help us to cope and heal as much as we are able to. If you can’t do that, then please stand aside in silence and let us get on with it ourselves. Thank you.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 7/5/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

As Ashes Scatter: My Childhood in a Pedophile Ring

This page was needed, even while posting it triggered me. It is very hard and frightening to speak of these things, but if I can help others, even one, it is worth it.

My story of abuse, in brief:

As Ashes Scatter

I am working on writing my memoir, which can be a very daunting and harrowing undertaking for any survivor. For now, I write it only for me; but I wanted to share some of what I survived, to hopefully help others understand what so many face, even now.

– W.R.R.

Only a Personal Choice is the Right Choice, for Coming Out as LGBTQ

Inspired by this article by Kile Ozier on the Good Men Project:

Stand up. Be visible. Contribute to the solution.

I wanted to share my thoughts on “coming out” via pressure from others.

I was looking forward to seeing the comments on the above article, but I fear the approach may be too draconian and a bit too guilt-trippy for most folks to want to engage with it. Especially when most closeted LGBTQ people aren’t just wary of a vague threat of not being accepted or losing a job. Actually, losing a job these days can ruin somebody’s life and their ability to feed their children. Plus, there is the very real, local and immediate threat of bodily harm and even death for some, according to where they live. Spouses could take away kids and never allow the person to see them again (since the media and society love to spread the lie that “gays are dangerous and will molest kids”). Many are not willing to risk these things, and like the concept of reporting one’s rape, coming out needs to be a personal choice with risks, pros and cons assessed. If fictitious Josh Smith comes out at the urging of others before he is ready, loses his family and ends up committing suicide because the loss of his kids forever is too much to face, what have we, the LBGTQ community, gained? A soundbite? A platform point? Josh is still dead. Likewise, if his neighbor shoots him dead because he doesn’t want “one of them” around his sons? Ignorance and bigotry is killing people right and left these days, so it’s not a vague threat. It is another risk to be carefully considered. Now Josh may kill himself because the loneliness, self-hate, and lies of the closet can cause depression and despair, too, so it’s all a risk – to come out or to not.

I have never been “closeted” as a bisexual; I spent my life hiding my abuse and rapes and didn’t much care if school peers called me gay or beat me up for it. What was that, compared to my home life of abuse? None of them hit harder than my father.

My boyfriend is partially in the closet. He started therapy now to deal with a past of parents who neglected and ignored him, while his father would beat him at any sign of “being soft”. His father spoke almost daily about how “those gays should just be killed” and the threat was not veiled at all what would happen if they knew he was gay. He tried suicide by drinking bleach as a child and his mother only said, “Don’t embarrass the family.” The “gay goes to Hell” was a constant theme, too. As a child, he believed it.

He only has a few friend groups that he thinks don’t know (though I suspect they do and don’t care) but he needs to work that parental BS and abuse out of his mind and heart and then choose for himself to come out fully. He probably has low risk of real danger, as he’s nearly a mascot to the police and the bikers around here. Still, like reporting rape, it is a crucially personal decision. Since each person is the only one who knows their risks, others can urge, but should not try to force or guilt trip that person into taking risks that could end in another person’s death or the ruin of their life.

I never reported my abusers as a child because I would have been killed. I watched them kill others, so it wasn’t an idle threat. As an adult, it took years for the “they’ll find me and hurt me” fear to fade, and to some degree it’s still something I struggle with. Yet I assessed risks and decided to tell, to speak out, to help others.

I have been fortunate, in that I am still alive and I am protected by a new and loving family. Many teens and even children as young as ten are struggling in homophobic homes and are terrified to come out. Some who do are killed, sometimes by their own parent or community. Others are cast out to be homeless, at risk of rape, murder, drugs, prostitution, or starvation. Some kids are bullied to the point of suicide on the mere accusation of being LGBTQ when they aren’t, let alone what happens to the ones who are. The “It Gets Better” video campaign has been helping those kids. So does the Trevor Project. Alas, there are next to no similar help resources for adults.

We also need some serious public relations improvements. If enough of society still hates/fears LGBTQ people and see us as a threat to them and to their children, we need to show them we are not a threat. We need PSAs and other media and laws changed and better examples set. We need to eradicate the lie that “Gays harm boys”. A gay man is attracted to a man, not to his seven-year-old son. Homophobes equate gay with pedophile, and that is the root of the Boy Scouts not allowing adult LGBTQ people to be involved. Pedophiles infiltrate organizations where they will have access to kids. Yet the Boy Scouts of America think boys are being raped because there are gays involved. This is a prime example of a wrong public perception that we need to debunk. Prove to society that LGBTQ is not a threat; that is why the younger generations don’t worry about who is homosexual or not – they don’t see LGBTQ as a threat.

Personally, I know many LGBTQ people in committed relationships who feel most Pride parades don’t represent them at all. When the parades turn into an excuse to have a drunken/drugged barely clothed orgy on a public street, you will have some in society using that as “proof” that LGBTQ is a threat. I’m not telling anybody how to enjoy Pride – just wanted to point out the possibly irrationally unpopular opinion that many family-oriented LGBTQ folks have. Most of them I know avoid Pride because drunken debauchery is not kid-safe. Basically, party wild if you want to folks, but don’t be surprised if Pride footage on the news is used as “proof” that LGBTQ is a threat.

I understand the frustration and the sense that, being on the other side of it without loss of one’s life, a person can look back and say to the closeted person, “Go ahead, it’s okay.” But we usually don’t know the risks they face, and we shouldn’t be so impatient that we are willing lose lives by not giving each person the right and space in which to decide for themselves.

Now that my words will probably be taken as well as a stick hitting a hornet nest, I’ll go sit in my bunker and wait to be attacked over them in general, by whomever.

I appreciate the passion of articles like the one above; but as a rape and abuse survivor, I only see that people need the right to assess risks they face that we don’t know about, and then make a personal choice for themselves. That way, it will be the right choice for them and it will give them strength to face the results of their choice. In the end, community spirit aside, we all have to face those risks and consequences alone, one way or another.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 6/19/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Gordian Knots: My Parents, My Abusers

My parents. My abusers. They both formed me into who and what I am. To heal, I need to understand them. This is how I feel I need to proceed; your path to healing may or may not be similar to mine.


My mother is a complex and very broken person. She was probably raised with being sexually and physically abused, then married my father. While I felt that I loved her, both parents abused me physically and sexually; he mostly hurt me and she rarely hurt me, but sexual abuse damages with or without physical harm. She worshipped him, so leaving to save us both was never considered. My father rented me out to pedophiles for money and my mother would say, “He hit you because you didn’t obey him. Please don’t make him angry.” She would cry and beg me to be “good” to avoid being beaten by my father, and sometimes he would beat her to punish me, too; yet she never could make a leap to the idea that she should get us both away from him.

I am making progress in therapy to see the monster that my father was instead of blaming myself for how I am now. However, it has been far more difficult to see the wrong she did. I often cling to the few good memories as a defense to protect her from my own sense of anger that she also abused me. Therapy and all the research I do is beginning to help me in seeing that maybe I don’t need to feel guilt about laying the blame for her crimes at her feet instead of my father’s, or my own.

Still, the impulse to protect her is strong. We “trench-bonded” in the Hell that was my childhood. She was the only person who said they loved me and I could feel it was true. Tainting that, though, was how she let my need for love and affection twist into incest, to try to fill her own unmet needs.

I know that I need to strip off the blinders with her as I have slowly been able to do with my father. Yet it still feels like a betrayal to call her an abuser, because she was so often my only solace and protection, even if both were minimal and largely ineffective.

This is just one of the fallout damage problems of incest and child sexual abuse. We are hardwired to love our parents and to want and seek (and try to earn) their love. They take that and use it against us.

I am getting better at seeing the monster within my father. I am more able to say, “How could you do those things to me?” Even though he is long dead now, and I can never have the answers I need, at least now I am more able to ask those questions.

My mother lives across the country and she is not allowed any contact with my children, and only minimal contact (phone, email) with me. She has to remain in therapy, or all contact with me will stop. She is not allowed to be inappropriate to me. I maintain contact out of a need for answers, but if I try to seek answers from her, she just cries and breaks down. I know she is so damaged, as I am. Yet the urge to protect and shield her, even from my own horror and anger, persists.

Sometimes the conflict between all of these feelings ties me into a terrible Gordian Knot of guilt, shame, anger, fear, and self-hate. Yet the sword therapy taught me to wield that has helped me to cut down the Father Knot seems useless on Mother.

If I am brave enough to be honest with myself though, I know that what I must do is try to untangle them; even the severed halves I was abruptly so desperate to cut down.

What holds me back is fear: the dread of what horrors and memories may be released as the crusted-over strands are finally loosened.

I see myself in a stone hallway with these tangled masses between me and the healing I work toward. I have to go through them and past them, but the understanding I want probably lies in the untangling, not in merely cutting them into pieces I can move beyond.

As I hesitate, sometimes I’m afraid the strands deep within may only wind tighter; yet the courage to kneel, set down the sword, and get to work, seems to be paralyzed in my chest.

In these moments, it is all I can do to breathe. Still, as I breathe, I feel the fear calming, the courage rising, a little more.

Breathe… just breathe. Someday, when we are ready, we will know it is time to begin.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 4/2/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Silence is the Enemy

People often say: “I have no words”. Not me; I have plenty of words. Tracy Morgan speaks about stabbing’ his son to death if he was gay, and this filth surfaces in the comments on CNN’s blog, located here:


June 10th, 2011 1:30 pm ET

Better dead than gay

Tracy’s healthy son likely would agree: It is better to be stabbed to death by dad, than living like a worm in the filth of another male



I am grateful to the many other commentators on that page who vilified Tracy Morgan for his hate and reiterated how horrid it is to threaten to commit murder because a person loves someone of the same sex.

I am a polyamorous bisexual male. I am a father of four children who are loved and will be raised to not hate and to have compassion. My partners, a man and a woman, live with me and our kids. My male partner grew up with a father who harbored Tracy Morgan’s hatred. He hid his gay nature to save his life and yet tried to kill himself a few times as a child and teen due to fear and not being accepted or loved unless he was something he isn’t. Even pretending to be straight, his father beat him and his mother didn’t care if he breathed or not, as long as he did nothing to “disgrace” the family.

I am a survivor of physical and sexual abuse by both of my parents. I am also bipolar and struggle to stay alive on days when my past makes death seem better. Death is NOT better. People who are happy and not afraid of being harmed for no reason don’t consider suicide to be an option. Unfortunately, many people are in fear for their lives, while haters tell them they should die for being who they are.

LGBT PEOPLE (not just youth) deal with hate and abuse every single day, to one degree or another. They can’t marry in most parts of the world. Interracial marriage was legalized bout 44 years ago. Same-sex marriage is not “wrong” just as interracial marriage wasn’t wrong. Murder and assault are illegal. Freedom of Speech, yes, grateful for it; but yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater as a “joke” and see what the police do in response.

Some people, like the hateful one who wrote the comment above, will always be hateful; some can be helped to change their views. But most of the people complaining that gays are too sensitive and should suck it up and learn how to take a “joke”? The offense on that page is largely not about Tracy Morgan’s “comedy”. Gays and friends of gays are offended that Morgan said he would “stab his son to death if he said he was gay.” That’s not a joke, that’s hate.

I love comedy, I love “dirty humor”. I’m a fan of some very foul-mouthed comedians; but the comics I like don’t say things like that. What really makes me sad and angry is that controversy like this digs deep and pulls some ugly filth up from the dregs in the process. I know the LGBT community has come far, but when I read comments like the one above, I realize how far we still have to go. I just hope we’re all along for the ride and that none of our community will hurt themselves because others that spew such hate make them feel that there is no hope. There is hope. It does get better – but not by sitting around telling ourselves it’s going to be ok. We have to act. We have to speak out. We have to MAKE IT get better.

“Speak. Act. Silence is the enemy.”

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 6/10/2011

For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

After Court Cameras Turn Away, Healing Work and Suffering Continues

Sometimes after a monumental event like the Sandusky trial thankfully ending in a guilty verdict, many people say, “Well now the victims can get on with their lives.” I know most say this out of ignorance, but the truth is that for survivors of abuse of all kinds, the horror, terror, and hardship doesn’t disappear like a puff of smoke the moment a guilty verdict is read. There remains so much work to do to recover and heal, and for many of us there is physical damage and handicaps to contend with also. For survivors of child sexual abuse and child sex trafficking rings, where abusers are often parents, teachers, coaches, pediatricians, dentists, etc., it can be very hard to face some of these people who can help you, but who remind you of the people who hurt you.

So much is going on in this area for me right now, it feels a little overwhelming at times. I’m used to playing the hermit at home, getting my social life through Twitter, and hiding from the world at large as I work on therapy and recovery. Quite often, unless I’m in the manic cycle of my bipolar, therapy once a week is the only time I leave my home. Agoraphobia, anxiety problems, and PTSD conspire with bipolar to keep me where I feel safe – even though nightmares, memories, and flashbacks can still plague me there, too.

Lately, the physical damage from my abusive childhood has been racking up issues (some merely worse than usual, others a recurring theme) and they are starting to demand attention. I’d rather ignore it all, but I’m reminded that if I don’t tend to medical/dental needs, they can impact my health in ways that can hinder my life far more than the hassle, annoyance, and downright terror of dealing with medical types can.

Dentists, medical doctors, and a pair of psychiatrists and nurses were among my abusers, so it’s not a simple thing to just make appointments and waltz on in. I trust my therapist now as much as I ever trust anybody with a collection of degrees on their wall, and I have found a dentist I can tolerate when I have to. Medical doctors are another matter. No offense to anybody who is one of these types of people, but the bad apples can put an abuse survivor off the whole barrel, to mangle a phrase.

I can’t go to my good dentist this time until I see a new person, a specialist. When I was a young teen, my father struck me on the side of my face with a metal bar. It left a scar and shattered molars. The bridge I needed to fix the damage was first acquired from another of my father’s “clients”; they traded the dental work for sessions of child rape in the man’s office after the appointments. Dental bridges don’t last forever, and it was replaced when needed as a gift from my adopted dad years ago. Now it needs replacing for the second time, and rather than keep doing that, I decided to get implants instead. Enter the specialist. I’m happier knowing I can still see my dentist afterward for follow-ups. She is an amazing person. She lets my adopted dad stay in the room with us, tells me, “If I hurt you, you can hurt me back” with a wink and smile, and she knows the dial on the gas goes up to eleven.

While I try not to stress over dental issues, I have reluctantly agreed to have an MRI brain scan, to attempt to learn what might be causing my progressively worse cerebellar ataxia. Quite a saga went into that agreement, and I have a list of conditions almost longer than my arm detailing what I will and won’t tolerate in order to do this test. The dental implants may be a bigger deal, but the idea of an MRI scan terrifies me. I tried to research it (warning: don’t read about triggering medical stuff on medical websites; they give way too much information and will likely scare you to death in the effort to be all-inclusive). The top problems for me are lying on a table, the possibility of needles for contrast dye or sedation drugs, and the idea that medical people I don’t know may have to touch me, possibly with me in a hospital gown. As an added bonus, there has to be another new unknown doctor involved too, a neurologist. In a nutshell, I’m not sure it wouldn’t be simpler and kinder to cure the ataxic gait problem by just shooting me. My therapist and adopted dad and I discussed and wrangled over this. They agreed to the conditions I listed. After all that, I’m still terrified to take the test. The irrational part of my mind that forgets I’m safe now and away from my abusers, knows that I will likely end up a sobbing mess in the machine, which may ruin the test, and then I will be punished. All I can really do is hold a loved one’s hand, listen to something soothing, and repeat “I’m safe now, they can’t hurt me” over and over like a mantra. None of this will make me relax, but it will hopefully allow me to keep still and tolerate the test.

My current mantra is “baby steps”. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve handed over most of my alcohol from my house to my adopted parents for safekeeping. Many survivors turn to drugs and alcohol to cope and I’m no exception. I gave up hard drugs and cigarettes years ago when I became a dad. I’m probably easily classified as an alcoholic, but I haven’t honestly wanted to quit. It dulls the horror that rampages through my mind every day and every night. Unfortunately, even though I’m mellow and subdued when drunk, alcohol hinders my medications for bipolar and other issues. It’s possible that alcohol is even at the root of the cerebellar ataxia. Therefore, one of my new baby steps is to cut down as much as I can on alcohol without going into detox shock. I have not agreed to quit drinking. We’re saving that fight for another day. For now, I’m going to see if less is better and makes a real change for the better, or not. I have to do this on my own; rehab is another idea that you’d better shoot me before you suggest it. Some things a survivor just can’t cope with, and those things are different for each of us, even when some of them are similar for many.

Here’s hoping this ramble has shown just some of what a survivor has to deal with, many of us for the rest of our lives when physical handicaps are created by abuse. As I go along my personal path of healing, I have to face the fact that some things, like a blinded eye and missing fingers, slashed face and damaged speech can’t be fixed. Even if medical science could fix some things, that doesn’t mean I could cope with what it would take to allow them to try. If you ask why, I may only say two words: Scissor Man. I’m not ready to talk about him here yet, but it’s his abuses in that clean white coat that plunge me into despair at the mere thought of any sort of corrective surgery; even if it means going through my life being called “Frankenstein” by strangers on the street.

It was both stunning and amazing to hear “guilty” pronounced at the end of Sandusky’s trial. The brave young men he abused and terrorized who stood up and testified against him to get that guilty verdict are heroes. Yet when the cameras are turned off and the crowds are gone, we survivors are not wholly “free now”, nor is our work done. Many succumb to the horror and choose suicide. Many choose to fight even when it feels like a struggle for every next breath.

Why am I writing this? To help people understand what we face, in the hope that every person who reads this, or any other survivor’s account of abuse, might rise up and act for changes to help us. Many of us can never have our day in court, even if we could muster the courage to testify. The Statute of Limitations laws for sexual assault of any kind, of any sort of victim, need to be removed. You can prosecute for murder decades afterward; rape of adults and certainly of children need to be able to be prosecuted too. Mandatory sentences are needed for monsters like Sandusky; no more “slap on the wrist” sentencing, like the two year sentence the monster Graham James received in Canada. We need to educate the masses and the children in prevention of abuse of all kinds. We need the penalties for covering up horrifying crimes to be so steep that people in power will choose to protect our children over their sports programs, or whatever else they think may be more important than saving adults and children from rape. We also need to end the stigma and smash the myths about abuse and abusers, so that more victims and survivors will feel safe enough to come forward and get the help they need; and so they might be able to help us all to stop the next Sandusky, the next James.

If you haven’t helped because you don’t know where to start, Google “child abuse prevention” and you’ll see many organizations that can help you to help others, to help your own family. Just a few of the organizations that help me are:

Please don’t wait until it’s your loved one who is raped. If you think it can’t happen where you live, look at the statistics; I promise you, it already does happen where you live. It happens everywhere, to anybody; male, female, boy, girl, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, religious, atheist, the disabled, the healthy, the old, the young. Educate, smash myths, change laws… lock up monsters and keep them locked up. Each of us can save an adult or child from rape and abuse. If we all helped, we could end sexual assault and abuse.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 7/20/2012
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

Hidden Ashes: A Male Survivor’s Fear of Men

“The primal aspect of male power can be very intimidating, especially if one spent boyhood with men who abused or avoided their own power.” – Rick Belden

I came across this quote on Twitter, and it stopped me in my tracks. It was one of those valuable and rare light bulb moments where the flash of revelation actually stays on long enough to do some real soul searching. The revelation concerns my fear of men, a fear I’ve had as a survivor of incest and child sexual abuse all of my life. Yet the real power of these words from Mr. Belden, for me, was the validation that I am not the only one who feels and fears the way I do. Logically, I knew I couldn’t be the only one, but logic can and often does fail in the face of fears like that. Having another person, another man, say those words in public – that carried weight… and light to explore by.

Primal male power means many different things to many people. To some, it is attractive, desirable, sexy. Sometimes it can be provocative to me, if I am not specifically afraid of the person, but most often I am terrified by it.

My father was a handsome man; to me as a child, he was larger than life. People who came to our house seemed enthralled by him. When he wasn’t actively hurting or terrifying me, I felt enthralled too; and I craved his love and approval so intensely, I endured unspeakable things to try to win it. This is a common thing many child victims deal with, but I didn’t know those things then. I only knew what he told me.

The first time he raped me, I was four years old. He had conditioned me to believe he was a god, my god, and I was his property, to do with as he pleased. By age five, he chose to rent his property to other men. They were all different, but all the same. Some were cruel, some pretended to be kind; but the end result was always pain, confusion, terror. In the years that followed, ninety percent of the strangers who came to the house where there because they had paid my father to be able to rape me. One of the defining things that I think shaped and honed my fear of men was how “normal” they seemed. Outside of the act of rape, they behaved just like the teacher at school, or the mailman. They were Everyman, and so for me, they became all men everywhere.

I don’t leave my house much, unless I’m in my bipolar “up” cycle of mania. I am ten-feet-tall and bulletproof then, as the illusion goes. Otherwise, I go to weekly therapy sessions and not much else. Out on the streets, I often encounter more reasons to fear men. They catcall in ugly voices, call me “Frankenstein” or offer me advice: “Halloween was last weekend, freak.” I am a bisexual, but they don’t quibble about label specifics when they beat me up for being gay. There have been sexual assaults as well. Survivors often feel like a target for rapists, and sometimes it appears to be true. All of this has formed a very hard to refute perception in me: men intend to do me harm.

A new family was gathered around me in time, and my new “dad” encouraged me to go to therapy. For the first nine years or so, I would only agree to go if he went in with me for the sessions. For the first year or two, he was also the only one who would speak to the therapist. Aside from two friends in school, who are a part of my family today, this man was the first I dared try to trust. It took years to finally believe he wouldn’t harm me. Family has been my best example that some men are good and kind, decent and honorable. I try to remember that as I meet others, but there is a wariness that never goes away, and I still believe it keeps me safer than I would be without it.

There is a downside, of course. I’m told there are good people in the world; I’ve met many on Twitter from all over the globe, even if most of them are women. Yet there are probably many decent men I might meet, except my fear keeps me from trusting, or from even being friendly. If they are friendly? I question their motives. The past whispers, “They play nice to make you relax, then they hurt you.” I dress to repel quite often. If the extensive facial scars or blind eye from my abuse injuries don’t keep them at a distance, the piercings, tattoos, and dark Goth clothing might. I wrap myself in an aura of “do not touch” just as securely as the heavy spiked boots I strap on my feet. Among those warded off could be nice people, of course, but my past taught me it’s not worth finding out.

For the odd occasional soul who isn’t fooled by the costume of threat but is actually drawn to it, I simply don’t know how to deal with them. If they try to touch, I’m far more likely to punch them in a PTSD fit than ever shake their hands. When they try to engage me in conversation, I retreat in confusion and fear. They must want to lure me into trust, to harm me later, right? Logically, I know that isn’t the case with all of them; but again, logic has nothing to do with this fear. This isn’t just about men, of course; I often fear and mistrust the motivations of women I don’t know very well, too. Somewhere between being sexually abused by both parents and some of my father’s clients being female, it’s become an all-inclusive miasma of terror and the anticipation of harm.

Coming back to the powerful quote from Mr. Belden, I can’t emphasize enough that the most frightening men to me are those who own their primal power. Many examples of Everyman have this to some degree, but the others, the arrogant, the proud, the vain – these strike a fear in me that cuts the marionette strings of my play at being a man and reduces me to a very small and shattered boy, huddled in the darker corners of my own mind. Assertive and powerful women can do the same, but there is an inherent maternal or nurturing quality in so many women; they are more often taught to show feelings, compassion. Men are abandoned in so many ways, because they aren’t taught those things. It leaves them believing they must be tough, powerful, primal… and therefore, to a survivor like me, terrifying.

I don’t “cling” to these fears or perceptions by choice, and I cannot merely “get over them” as so many unkind and uneducated people chose to suggest. These things aren’t dust to be swept away to leave me clean and whole – they are the ashes of the man I will never fully be able to be. Caked with physical, mental, and emotional injury, they streak and smear… and remain. The rancid, acrid smell of them fills our spirits, and coats our nightmares. For some of us, they can never be swept away.

For those I have startled with my fear or rejection of their honest offers of friendship, I can only say I am sorry. It is so hard to see your goodness while blinded by the tears of my past. Some days, I am so caught up in how to breathe, just to breathe, that there simply isn’t energy left to be sorry when I offend or hurt others. I promise you, I will feel sorry later. When I am home and feel safer again, as safe as one can be when the monsters are in the mind and heart, I will regret my sharp words; or my actions, if your misunderstood gesture caused me to lash out. I will regret, I may cry for causing another person pain or to fear; but none of this will wash the ashes clean. If you ask why, I can only say, “Because I am still burning, still being consumed by this fire.”

This is only some of the horror that child sexual abuse leaves ground into the stains on the child now grown into a man. If you would help ease his pain and fear, remember that the boy who was raped is still there, inside. Look in his eyes, see the way he withdraws when you try; and you will see that wounded, scorched boy. Be still and silent, be open and don’t crowd him, help him feel you mean him no harm. When he leaves you, don’t follow the trail of ashes in his wake; wait and watch. When he is healed enough to be ready, and you have proven worthy of trust, he may turn, and offer his hand, or the precious gift of his story of pain.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 6/20/2012
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.

I knew I wanted to write on this topic, specifically my fear of men, the moment I read the quote above; so I dropped everything and replied to Mr. Belden, asking for permission to use his quote in an essay that might hopefully help male survivors of child sexual abuse, and those who need to understand them. He most graciously gave that permission, and I have attached his bio as well, so that others might be able to access his work and books:

About Rick Belden
Rick Belden is the author of Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood. His book is widely used in the United States and internationally by therapists, counselors, and men’s groups as an aid in the exploration of masculine psychology and men’s issues, and as a resource for men who grew up in dysfunctional, abusive, or neglectful family systems. His second book, Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within, is currently awaiting publication. He lives in Austin, Texas.

More information, including excerpts from Rick’s books, is available at his website. His first book, “Iron Man Family Outing,” is available here.

Adam’s Mask

An Open Letter on Perspective, to My Fellow Glamberts:

There’s a lot of discussion back and forth about Adam Lambert’s photo shoot for the fashion magazine Fault, where his face has been dramatically airbrushed in the custom of publications dedicated to fashion. Some fans love it, some are just happy to see new pictures; others like most aspects of the photos, except for the airbrushing.

In these airbrushed photos, his forehead lines and freckles disappear. It even enhanced his eyes to an almost Marvel Comics mutant level of glowing blue-green hue. Another thing that was covered up may be more important to Adam than to his fans, namely a slight blemish of acne that comes and goes in various untouched pics (or that show up even under makeup in HD photos).

By using the word “slight”, I don’t mean to diminish Adam’s stated perception of the skin issues that he says has deviled much of his family. I say “slight” to avoid being hunted with pitchforks by that corner of fandom that insists Adam is flawlessly perfect, and how dare anybody say otherwise? Well, fact is, Adam says otherwise; and he’s brought it up more than once.

The night he came on Twitter and talked to us about things we don’t like about ourselves? He said it again: he doesn’t like his acne problem. He was trying to share a group catharsis with us, and many of the replies he got had the power to break hearts. Some of them humbled me, made me cry. I told him about my issues with scars and facial damage, and the atmosphere he had created of open acceptance helped me and others to have the courage to bare our insecurities, to not hide them. It was catharsis. For some, it was the first time an insecurity was admitted to anybody, much less in a public forum. Adam has a gift that gets us to be open and unguarded with him, and he asked us to try to be more open with our loved ones and friends. I wept. I felt closer to him and to everybody else who bared their fears. It reminded me that I’m not the only one who suffers with the ingrained belief that I am ugly, no matter what anybody says.

Some of us expressed feeling silly that their insecurity “wasn’t important” in the midst of “greater traumas” but Adam didn’t say his problem was lesser than anybody else’s. If it makes you hate yourself, or how you look, it’s a big issue, even if it’s acne instead of facial scars. Self-hate (which I struggle with a lot) causes real harm and real problems. Nobody has the right to belittle another person’s pain or fear.

Obviously, Adam doesn’t hate himself, he’s a happy guy. Yet in interviews, in meet and greet videos, and tweets, Adam deflects the “you’re perfect” talk and says he isn’t perfect. He has said some of the HD pics out there make him wince because he sees the acne problem first, even if those who love him don’t focus on it or even notice it at all. All that said, Adam probably loves the Fault photos because of the airbrushing. He gets a break from having to see the issue with his appearance that makes him feel insecure.

Another problem about a person’s perceived blemish, fear, or insecurity: well-meaning people like to reassure and say, “Oh nonsense, Adam, you’re gorgeous, you’re perfect.” As nice as this seems, it can feel not so nice to the other person at times. It feels like one’s insecure feelings are being brushed off as unimportant, and one is left feeling unheard, dismissed, disregarded. Adam has learned to say thanks to more of these “you’re gorgeous” comments, but I noticed he rarely lets a “you’re perfect” go by unremarked. One reason I imagine is that he’d like people to remember that he’s human like the rest of us. What if another reason is that this seemingly nice comment makes him feel a wince coming on? “Perfect” conflicts with one’s self-image when a major insecurity in appearance is present.

Sometimes it is nice to hear a compliment, or be told you’re okay, don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you think; that is the difficult dichotomy of this topic, but it’s no less true than what I said before. I love the song “Perfect” by Pink, it has helped some people turn their backs on thoughts of suicide. Here’s the difference: when a person is in the grip of feeling low because of their self-image, and has the courage to express their feelings, fears, or their self-perception, an instant “no, you’re perfect, you’re beautiful” response can actually hurt, because the person doesn’t feel heard, or taken seriously.

A better response might be, “I know you feel that way, I respect your feelings; I just want to let you know that I don’t see you that way. To me, you are beautiful; but I respect your feelings and I thank you for entrusting me with them.” Saying, “You feel that way now, but you won’t always” isn’t fun to hear most of the time, either. If you can’t fix that person’s problem, especially if nobody can, then predicting they won’t always feel that way sounds as disregarding/unheard as the “no you’re perfect” does.

As an abuse and incest survivor who also suffers with rapid cycle bipolar and has one blind eye and some serious facial scarring from abusive violent attacks, I feel happier without a mirror around and I have a serious phobia of photos of myself. I toy with the idea of allowing an artist to draw how I really look to have something to show friends and loved ones online, but most of the time I panic and believe all the old lies from my abusers, awash in self-hate and the belief that I am ugly. There has certainly been no shortage of cruel people in my life from birth to now who gleefully call me ugly, freak, Frankenstein, or monster. The silent ones just look at me in fear, or even cross the street to avoid me. All of this reinforces all the times I was told I was too ugly to be loved, or that I should kill myself to put me out of their misery. School lunch tables I passed, where my peers would say, “Do you mind? We’re trying to eat” and the laughter as I slunk away – these things burrow under the skin and worm into the soul.

Adam was called fat, so he strives to be slender. He said he was teased about the freckles, too, and has often said he doesn’t like them. He was probably teased mercilessly about acne, or he wouldn’t be so hyper-aware of it. He has said he likes makeup because it covers his flaws (to a resounding echo of “you have no flaws”).

All of these things tell me I probably can guess that he likes the airbrushed Fault photos quite a bit. Yet Adam isn’t in the habit of hiding. I bet he sees the airbrushed and/or photoshopped pics of glossy fashion magazines as a costume, like if he chose to wear a mask at Halloween. It’s a break from yourself, a chance to toy with ways to actually enjoy looking in a mirror. Like makeup, it can boost your self-esteem.

For those who really don’t like these airbrushed photos, they are allowed to not like them (or they should be allowed). Especially if they prefer to see Adam as is, because to them, he is beautiful that way. That’s great, too. I just think when we have the chance to talk to him directly, online or off, that telling him he’s gorgeous will get a happier response than telling him he’s flawless and perfect. Yet if he’s sharing how he feels about his insecurities, pause a minute and hear him? Let him know his feelings matter too, even if you really do think he’s perfect. He’ll most likely thank you for it.

Personally, I love the Fault photos. I think he looks amazing in them. It doesn’t mean he isn’t amazing in more natural photos, however; I haven’t met many pics of Adam I didn’t like. To me, his joy leaps off of these images. I see no tell-tale shadow in his eyes of worry; and that makes me happy just for his private joy.

In the end, the mask only obscures perception; when it is set aside, the real person is still there underneath.

~ ~ ~

© W.R.R. 4/25/2012
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.