Sexual Abuse

Friendly, that is what he was, a nice, older man on my paper route…my new friend. It was 1978 in Moberly, Missouri, the small town I was born in. One certain day, after my “friend” gained my trust, this nice, older man suddenly turned on me. Like a wolf eyeing the wounded lamb on the outside of the sheep herd, he had me, his innocent, naive target, right where he wanted, right where he had been planning for me to be. I was 11-years-old, a neighborhood paperboy delivering my daily route and collecting monthly payments for the paper. I knocked on his door that day like I had many times before, but this day was different. He invited me in and had me sit on his bed where he had pornography magazines opened. He told me to look at them. I did, and it was no big deal as I was just a kid and porn didn’t mean anything. He then said he would call the newspaper office and tell on me for looking at the dirty magazines unless I did something for him. He came and sat next to me on the bed. His eyes were bloodshot from drinking and I smelled alcohol on his breath. The look in his eyes triggered a life-threatening fear that words cannot define. At that moment, it was like a warm bucket of syrup was poured over my head, a sensation of tingling electricity ran throughout my body. I had gone into shock. This began a repetitive, ongoing period of sexual molestation and rape by my older man “friend.” Sometime later he brought in a younger man to join him in his pedophilic strategies and ambitions. I couldn’t cry for help as no one was there. I had no way of escaping but was trapped. He made continual threats at knifepoint, of which the most common one was him saying if I ever told anyone or stopped coming to his apartment that he would kill me, and bury me, and that I would never see my family again. He also said he would kill my parents and my brother, who was just a baby at the time. My thinking back then, as an 11-year- old, was this “fact”…“If he is already doing these bad things to me, he will do what he says and kill my family and me.” So, in my little boy decision making process I decided, on subconscious levels, I had no choice but to continue delivering his paper 6 days a week, and to let him continue to do what he wanted to me in order to save my family and me…he had complete control of and unhindered access to me. The abuse finally stopped when, due to my dad’s drunken violence, my mom had to get us away from my dad and we moved from Missouri to New Mexico when I was 12-years-old.

The trauma, pain, and damage done inside me emotionally and mentally as a result of the sexual abuse cannot be described with human words. It traumatized me so deeply I repressed all memories of the abuse completely. All that I had memory of was a “blank spot.” Here is what I mean by a blank spot:  I remembered entering the man’s apartment that nightmarish day when the abuse started, as I had to collect his payment for the newspaper. I remember he had me sit on his bed where all the porn magazines were (he had an efficiency apartment, so the bed was a few feet from the entrance) and I remember he came and sat next to me with a glass of liquor in his hand. But then, after the sensation of the “warm syrup” and “electricity” ran over my body—when I went into shock—I had absolutely no memories, not one, of any abuse…my mind blocked it all out. My next memory, which happened after going into shock and after the first episode of abuse, was of me standing outside his door in the hallway of his apartment complex collecting for the paper, I gave him his receipt and he gave me a large tip, and said, “This is for you.”  From that point on, my mind subconsciously hid every sexual abuse encounter from that apartment in this blank spot “file”, and locked it. As the years went by that blank spot at times would quietly jump into my mind, but it never went beyond just a casual, fleeting thought. It wasn’t until I was 32-years-old, twenty years after the abuse stopped, that I dug into that blank spot, or, better said, God “pushed” me to begin digging into this blank spot memory, and then it all came rushing back in and through me like an opened fire hydrant. The sexual abuse memories began to surface, sometimes like “popcorn”, and there was no turning back!

Did you know 1 out of every 4 women and 1 out of every 7 men are sexually abused to some level at some point in their lives? I am one of the seven men. Sexual abuse usually leads to extreme behaviors such as: drug and alcohol addiction, sexual addiction, sexual repression, compulsive behavior, suicide attempts, major depression, exhaustion, the inability to function “normally” emotionally, socially, relationally, sexually, etc. Being sexually abused can leave us incomplete and underdeveloped, cut off from God, others, and ourselves. Feeling extremely self-conscious and awkward can be the norm for sexual abuse victims, with the powerful ingredient of shame being mixed in with it all. For most of my adult life, and still some today, I have felt very self-conscious and awkward in social settings. I tend to uncontrollably focus more on the awkwardness than on the people and social setting itself. Can you relate to that? The sexual abuse planted in the core of my identity a complex, twisted mixture and fusion of anger, rage, shame, low self-esteem, sexual confusion, sadness, grief, depression, etc. Though He had been my personal Savior and Lord for many years at this point, Jesus Christ did not instantly deliver me from all the ramifications of the abuse. Instead, He surfaced it all in phases and helped me work through it very slowly, which, to a much less degree, I am still doing even today. Here is more of my story.

Sexual abuse, especially if experienced when we are children, begins “stealing”, twisting, distorting, fusing, and damaging parts of us from the point when the abuse first began. The pain can then compound and become “infected” as time goes by until we choose to get help, that is if we choose to get help…which I hope you will do if you were sexually abused. In my case, one of the consequences of being sexually abused is hypervigilance, which means we are extremely aware of our own presence in social settings and are “hyper-aware” and alert to our surroundings. Hypervigilance is a protective survival mechanism “tool”, one I have continually tried to change and work through for many years now because I no longer need or want the protection this tool provides. I am safe now, and am no longer in continual life-threatening danger like I was as a boy during all the abuse episodes. What was subconsciously triggered and “built” into my mind and emotional system over 30 years ago to help me survive the abuse trauma when I was a boy, actually became an obstacle to living a “normal” life as an adult. Hypervigilance basically builds an invisible emotional “wall” around us, keeping us from connecting with others, and keeping others from connecting with us. Years ago I was engaged, and my fiancée at that time said something I will never forget, she said, “I feel like I am trying to love you through a screen.” That statement sums up what happens as a result of sexual abuse trauma when hypervigilance kicks in…a wall and screen of protection goes up! Hypervigilance experienced on a short-term basis is helpful for survival, but on a long-term basis it becomes a hindrance because our brains can get programmed and “stuck” in this hypervigilant state if we stay traumatized for an extensive amount of time, and this is what happened to me—long term trauma.

The Lord continues to help me strive forward in spite these obstacles, but it is a very difficult process. In addition to, and in connection to all this, is a common by-product of hypervigilance — exhaustion. It takes tons of energy to be continually hyper-aware of our circumstances, similar to a parked car that will eventually run out of gas if the engine is left running. So, I struggle with chronic fatigue, which is a ramification of the hypervigilance, which is a ramification of the sexual abuse. Due to the chronic fatigue, I have had to make significant adjustments in every area of my life to “accommodate” the recovery process and long-term consequences I have written about to this point and will continue to write of below…adjusts with my ministry, social activities, sleep, rest, dating, exercise, hopes, dreams, and so on. My energy tank no longer goes above “reserve level”, which means I can only handle limited social activities and such. As the years have gone by, I have grown to really enjoy, appreciate and “love” my time at home, just resting, relaxing and “being.” In order to function enough to reach and train as many people as possible around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I had no choice but to cut everything out of my life except the barest of essentials and the highest of priorities, and since I am not married and have no kids this means the highest priority is world evangelization. What a journey it has been, and still is! There is more to my story, if you care to journey forward with me…

Another consequence I experience is a complex form of brain and memory damage due to being in “Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)” for over 20 years, which is different than “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” C-PTSD can be defined this way, “a psychological injury that results from protracted exposure to prolonged social and/or interpersonal trauma with lack or loss of control, disempowerment, and in the context of either captivity or entrapment, i.e. the lack of a viable escape route for the victim.” The brain and memory damage I struggle with is due to a faulty “trigger” that over the past 30 years, and still today, releases too much adrenaline and cortisol, especially in social settings. This trigger releases excessive amounts of adrenaline and cortisol because it got “stuck” during long-term trauma survival. Over time, the excessive adrenaline and such damages certain parts of the brain that controls memory, attention span, focus, etc. So, from the ages of 27-42, I did not function fully and consistently, and my memory, ability to focus, and energy level slowly eroded. I was basically in “hibernation,” in a very complex category of rehabilitation. One reason it took so long for me to begin functioning was that the severe sexual abuse was combined with intentional psychological abuse, what is called brainwashing. There were numerous times when the older pedophile (who was the meaner one of the two rapists, the one in control), during the abuse acts, would look into my eyes and with hate, anger and confidence, and he would say to me, “You are just like me, Scotty! You are just like me.” Due to the fusion of sexual and psychological abuse, I shut down from “normal” life and was in recovery for more than 15 consecutive years. Those 15 years were lost “unlived” years. The loss of so many things…the loss of time, the loss of parts of my heart, mind, and body, the loss of innocence, the loss of the ability to serve the Lord at my highest level and build my ministry to its highest potential, the loss of my dream of getting married and having children at a “normal” age, the reality that due to all that has happened I may never actually get married, etc, etc…these losses and realities brought, and still bring to a lesser degree, a reservoir of grief. My life, for the most part, was put on hold, literally. When most people were getting married, having kids, and getting settled into their careers and ministries, I was in survival mode recovering from and working through horrors from my past. I also went through periods of anger, rage, and “hatred” towards not only the rapists, but also toward God for allowing it to happen. What is so ironic is that for those 15 years in recovery I was an evangelist, trying to be faithful to what God called me to do, traveling around the country and world preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During those 15 years, while I was in the core of the healing, the Lord didn’t open enough doors to keep me on the road continually, but I still preached regularly in many places. There were countless times that I stepped behind the pulpit in excruciating, numbing, emotional pain, and basically no one had a clue what I was going through. It is what I call “emotional crucifixion.” Why God didn’t just snap His fingers and “deliver/heal” me immediately I will never know. Why the recovery couldn’t have been just for one, two, or five years instead of over 15 years, I will never know. It is by far the greatest mystery of my life why God allowed all this to happen. No Bible verse, sermon, or Christian cliché can ever do justice to the actual abuse or to the process of survival and recovery I had to go through. The answer to all this will only be given in heaven, and I have now come to terms with and accepted this.

The transition from recovery life to “normal” life has been a slow process. The recovery phase becomes a safe place to survive while we get better and heal. Transferring from and leaving that “safe” recovery place to blend into normal society takes time and can be a major life-changing transition. Believe it or not, God used a movie to speak to me and let me know it was time to start this transition, and it changed the direction of my recovery, and my life. Here is how it happened:

Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway” was shipwrecked and stranded on an island for many years. He was grateful for the island as without it he would not have survived as long as he did. Yet, as the years went by, he knew there was more to life than just surviving on that “safe” island. He had a choice to make…to either play it “safe” and stay alone on the island and continue living a “partial” empty life with no guarantee of being rescued, or, he could take a chance, make a raft, leave the island, risk his life, and go for it! Even if it meant he died trying to leave, he would rather have that happen than live the rest of his life on that empty, lonely, island of survival. He chose to go for it and after spending weeks at sea on a barely held together raft, he was rescued by a ship. He went on to recapture the life he lost and he lived like never before, with an entirely new depth and appreciation of everything his life had to offer.

Now, to add more meaning to this, let’s backtrack in the movie Castaway:  as he left the island, and before the ship found him at sea, there was a mysterious grief he felt. If you have seen the movie remember when he was on the raft rowing away, and as he watched the island fade in the distance, he had tears. He should have been happy and excited to leave, but instead he had tears of sadness and grief. Why? Because he had invested so much of himself there, he was leaving his heart, his soul and his “guts” on that island, it took all he had to survive and get to that point; it was a special place, a special time, a time that saved his life, and a time that he would never, ever forget. In a sense, the island was a “friend” who saved his life and enabled him to stay alive, and he was saying goodbye to his “friend.” Also, the years he had spent on the island were lost years, and he was grieving these losses. But the island also had beautiful memories, as the years he spent on the island became a wonderful memory of victory and hope that became the catapult and platform from which he began living his second chance at life like never before!

Back to my story:  In year 13 of my recovery, I reached a point where the Lord revealed the time had come to leave my “island.” He had brought me far, but it was time to go. As the time on the “recovery island” was coming to a close I had a mysterious grief surface in my heart, and it reminded me of Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway. Similar to that movie, I had a choice to make…to remain on my safe, recovery island, or take a risk and go for it. I chose to leave my recovery island, and got on my “raft” and went for it…and I am still going for it today! It is not easy and is filled with excitement and fear…fear of the unknown as I have never known or experienced what a “normal” life looks and feels like. I have lost a lot and I will always have unusual, complex scars and quirks. The transition to “normal” life off the island is hard, yet I am now getting my chance to live my life, I am just getting a late start. And you too can start to live a fuller life but first you have to accept and work through any sexual abuse done to you. Just the fact you are reading this is a big step, meaning on some level you may be ready to move forward from sexual abuse and live a more satisfying, healthy, and love-filled life.

Perhaps, like me, you too were sexually abused, and you can relate to my story and the descriptions of the after-effects of being abused. If so, I am so sorry this happened to you! It was not fair and you did not deserve it or ask for it. Perhaps you too can have the courage to deal with your wounds. For those of us who were sexually abused, there is hope for liberty, freedom, victory and wholeness, especially for those of us who know Jesus Christ! You can do it! You CAN heal and you CAN live your dreams, or to say it more accurately, you CAN live the dream God has for you…if you give your life, and give the sexual abuse wounds, to Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord!

Out of all emotional damage, childhood sexual abuse is the most confusing, complex, and painful. I highly suggest anyone who was sexually abused to any degree seek out a licensed, professional Christian counselor who has experience in working with people who have been sexually abused. I also suggest going through, with a counselor and/or support group, the book and workbook, “The Wounded Heart” by Dr. Dan Allender. Information on counselors and books can be found on our Wounded Hearts homepage. The following are more suggestions to help you work through sexual abuse: