Category Archives: Good Men Project

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.

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.

In regard to the conviction of Jerry Sandusky

My deepest thanks to the accusers most, and then to the other witnesses, the prosecution, judge, investigators, and certainly to the jury, for believing the survivors. Normally I’m not a fan of the news media, but in this case, they were exemplary in sticking to facts, protecting the accusers names, and bringing the facts to the public with dignity and respect for the victims. To be honest, I did not expect that last part; nor did I dare too hope too hard for the conviction we finally, thankfully, received. The public Twitter feed on the #sandusky hashtag was 99% amazing support for victims of child sexual abuse, and that helped me a lot, just to see so many outraged and demanding justice for victims. I hope this conversation and support continues in the public eye at last, rather than fading back into hushed obscurity as it did after the same horrors were first reported in the Catholic Church. To my fellow survivors: we are stronger than we know. Many of us are long past the statute of limitations and can’t ever have this kind of justice for ourselves, but we can take this conviction to heart as the harbinger of change that it will be; for us, for those who suffer now as children, and for those who will never be harmed if we work to make those changes a reality.

(Originally posted as a comment on the Good Men Project, here: Viral Thank You Letter to the Sandusky Survivors)

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.

The Seeds of Power

The Good Men Project and Guest Editor David Kaiser, PhD, ACC were kind enough to post this essay on the Good Men Project site: The Seeds of Power

My thanks for helping me reach other survivors with my story, in the hope of inspiring them to speak out and get help.

WARNING, this essay contains abuse triggers for some survivors.

It wasn’t the lash of the belt or his hand on my throat that hurt the most, it was the look on his face: pure power, mixed with a dismissive arrogant boredom. I didn’t matter unless I managed to entertain him, either with my body, my humiliation, or my pain. That day, all three hadn’t been enough to earn me anything; not food, reprieve, or mercy.

Today I call myself a survivor, that way station between victim and victor; the struggle for healing between the acts of abuse and the goal of conquering my fears, as well as my mental, emotional, and physical damage. Yet the hard truth of abuse is this: some of these things can never be made right.

The seeds of power start small. The abused sometimes learns to abuse, in some vain and barren attempt to taste what power feels like. We see this in bullies today, so often victims of abuse and ignorance themselves. I never wanted that taste, not that way. Power to me was cruel and cold, terrifying – not a thing to desire, but a thing to flee from, or to obey. Disobedience was a seed too – a seed of powerlessness.

My father blinded my left eye when I was sixteen, to punish me for not coming home from school by the time he’d ordered me to be there. I tried to sneak in, but he was waiting. He hit me, beat me. I hoped that would satisfy his anger, but it didn’t. When I was weakened, he handcuffed my wrists over my head to the newel post of our staircase, sat on my legs, and used his knife to cut the upper eyelid off. He told me that was the intent, and if I didn’t stay still, he’d cut my eye by mistake. He said it would teach me to watch the clock better. That was a lie. He did it to force me to watch as he brought his lit cigar down and slowly pushed it into my eye.

Have you ever felt powerless? Feel the cold of a hard floor, the burn of metal cutting your wrists, of a weight crushing your breath from your body; feel the searing fire as it grinds out your sight. His mercy was to leave the right eye intact, though he often threatened it in the years after.

My father was never diagnosed, but he was a narcissistic sadist and a pedophile, who believed he was a god. His power in the home was absolute, as was the powerlessness of my mother and myself. She, a child of abuse herself, was more of a child than I was in many ways.

Being powerless was my life until I escaped at age nineteen, living on the streets to get away from the abuse, only to find more abuse of many different kinds waiting there.

Today I have a home, a family… and children of my own; my angels, my reason for fighting to survive every day from the damage, the memories. I could rail, cry, and scream about the injustice, but it wouldn’t change a thing. It wouldn’t give me the experience of seeing my children with the sight of two healthy eyes.

With all I still have to struggle with to heal, the only form of power I’ve ever found that helped me was the power to help others by telling my story. So few people who have been abused and raped can tell anybody what happened to them. Most who can talk about it are women; yet there are so few men speaking out. Men and boys have such an awful stigma to fight against, the myth that males cannot be raped, cannot be abused. If they hear other men speak out, it can encourage them to tell somebody they trust, encourage them to seek help.

Now, when men and women tell me that reading my essays and poetry has helped them in some way, hearing that helps me. It starts with a strange swelling in the heart, a timid, fledgling gratitude. These moments are the seeds of power for me; the power to help, to heal.

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 W.R.R. 3/15/2012
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse. You are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.