In another life I used to write and speak about child abuse. It was hard work. I worked for a nonprofit which required me to go there with audiences. In public venues, I shared details of my life I thought would remain buried forever. I was often attacked by victims just like me. Men who were violated. Men who hadn’t come to terms with their abuse. I shared something that gave them hope but raised an intense anger within them.
They questioned my story of abuse. I was labeled a liar or gay or a coward smearing his family without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves. I was impossible to many. Boys and men can’t be victims of abuse, especially those abused by a woman. If they are, they probably let it happen. They must have wanted it. It is this dark psychological soup we are churning in. Us invisible men. Every man learns to hide their weaknesses, all of them. We hide it through denial, overcompensation, or hypermasculinity. A male survivor talking about his abuse gives up the game. It’s a betrayal.
It was a difficult period. I needed it to survive. To be a good father. To acknowledge and grieve my own devastating losses. The loss of a relationship with a parent. The death of the child I had once been. A sudden, ripping death without reason or explanation. I had to make my own reasons for what happened, and they all came to the same conclusion. He chose me because there was something wrong with me. I was a disgusting and rotten apple.
In every other way he was the typical dad. Working hard. Sacrificing personal goals. Sacrificing everything to make sure his family was fed. There was just this one tiny thing and it only had to do with me. They say that we carry the voices of our mothers and fathers with us everywhere. It is in our superego, lecturing us, judging us, incriminating us, and destroying us. I can’t rid myself of this voice on my shoulder that scrutinizes everything I do. That tells me that I am nothing and there is nothing consequential about my life. This voice explains away every victory. It refuses to take credit for anything I should be proud of. It is my father’s voice. My mother’s too. She couldn’t protect me, and maybe she always knew. Those lingering questions stretch off into infinite and there is no satisfactory answer. No way to recover all those essential things that were stripped away.
I’ve come a long way. I have shared my experiences with many family members and received their reactions, and sometimes forgiven them for the damage they continue to cause. This was not the man they knew. So I have taken something from them. An ideal. I didn’t ask for this burden, but it is mine to bear.
The irony of all of this is that I have become an advocate for this man who abused me. I am making the preparations for a respectful departure. He is so weak, as I was when he took away everything, and I want to rage. I want to scream in his face. I want to let him know that I hate him for what he did. I just can’t do it though. The vulnerable should be protected. I know what happens when they aren’t and no one deserves that.