"That hurt and that damage [of being sexually abused] was really a driving force to a lot of the [negative] things that happened."
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The path to healing is a Hero’s Journey. There are crises, leaps of faith, helpful angels, determination, and courage. Often, a crisis becomes an opportunity. When Walter was 24, a quarrel with his girlfriend led to this blunt accusation: “I love you, but you’re just like your father.” Walter grew up witnessing his father’s abuse of his mother. Instead of responding defensively, Walter took his girlfriend’s accusation to heart. He called a friend whom he knew was seeing a therapist and he asked for the therapist’s number. So began Walter’s journey. He and his therapist had a lot of work to do. Walter was sexually abused for more than a decade by a close friend of his family. During that decade, he was violated and raped in so many places in his hometown that, to this day, it is a landscape of triggers and terrible memories. When he hears that limiting voice in his head that tell him to avoid visiting his hometown, Walter reminds himself that he is safe and that no one will hurt him. Among the legacies of the abuse that plagued Walter was a toxic and marrow-deep feeling of self-blame and worthlessness. Today, he looks at a photograph of himself at age six, “and I remind myself now. It’s not his fault. He’s a six-year-old. Even when I was fifteen, I was still the child that was hurt. Even right now I have to tell myself, to say it out loud. It was not my fault.” The abuse also interfered with Walter’s understanding of his sexuality. Only after years of work can he say: “I’m not gay. I’m not straight. I like men and women. That’s who I am, and that’s okay.” Through therapy and his dedication to healing, Walter now feels and knows his value. He knows he’s smart. His grades at college reflect that. It was a hike up a mountain near San Diego that introduced Walter to another key to his healing journey. At the top of the mountain, his hiking partner suggested that they meditate. Walter agreed, and the experience was transformative. He now begins each day with meditation. Running is another key element in his healing. Walter understands the combination of these tools keeps him present and keeps a smile on his face.
1in6 is a national nonprofit organization supporting the estimated 1 in 6 men who have experienced sexual abuse or assault. At 1in6, we believe that the tens of millions of male survivors who have had such experiences deserve to live whole, meaningful lives, but we know that isn’t always easy. Entrenched myths about masculinity, the stigma and silence around the issue, and a lack of male-specific services are just some of the barriers men face to seeking help and addressing emotional wounds in a healthy way.
Men who feel unsafe to disclose and seek help may risk exposure to social dysfunction and mental and physical health issues, including but not limited to: depression, PTSD, suicidal ideation, addiction, isolation, fear of intimacy, confusion about sexuality, interpersonal violence, and feelings such as anger, guilt, shame, and distrust.
We help men overcome the negative effects of past experiences and reclaim their lives by offering information, outreach, and free and anonymous services for men and their loved ones, as well as service providers working with men.