“I do not, and cannot, trust other men. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of male friends I have, and none of them I let get close to me.”

Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith

This comment by Dave on the post Open the Door: A Survivor’s advice on Not Shutting Out the World

I am a survivor, and I have to shake my head at this article. I really do see where the author is coming from about being vulnerable; It’s a message like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It is, however, not that simple. For me, and I suspect others like me, it’s the hardest thing in the world.

I do not, and cannot, trust other men. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of male friends I have, and none of them I let get close to me. My abuser was a fairly stereotypical masculine man, and such behaviors in other men, trigger a strong defensive reaction in me; even now, twenty years after the abuse ended. As a consequence most of the truly close friends I have, which are not many, are women. My wife worries that I am a social isolate.

The other thing that keeps me walled off from the world is the stigma of being a survivor. I live in fear of others finding out. I had one girlfriend break up with me because she was terrified if we ever had kids I would abuse them. Another person looked me dead in the eye and asked if I abused kids. Then there’s the homophobia associated with male survivors. I have had been called pansy, and much worse when others found out. I do not openly advertise the fact that I am a survivor. All of these reactions came from people I trusted enough to reveal my past to.

In my experience, survivors like myself, cannot truly open up, and cannot truly be vulnerable while the very real social consequences of being a survivor keep us defensive and walled off.

I apologize if this was longer than I expected, once I got writing I could not stop.

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Let’s start a conversation:

How do we help survivors feel comfortable to open the door, lower the walls and participating in a meaningful and rewarding social life again?

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Comments

  1. Hi Dave

    I hear you

    I’m only just starting to let my family in (my abusers were teachers and parents at the schools I went to). It’s hard to explain to people that in my eyes when dealing with others I see only three outcomes
    1) They will hurt me
    2) At some point when I (really) need their help they won’t be there.
    3) They don’t believe anything I say.
    I don’t trust anyone really and I have never found a reason for a fourth category (such as I trust you). I’m hoping to change that but it’s hard work.

    Even with my parents there is an ever present “you knew about some of this why didn’t you rescue me” Its a very large barrier to cross and somedays I’m not sure I don’t hate them for that. I still don’t know how to process a statement like “It was different times back then, there wasn’t much we could do”. I would happily got to jail to stop a 1/10th of what happened to me if it was happening to my kids and it would be a price I would gladly pay.

  2. Dave,

    It has taken me a long time (40 plus years) to learn to trust men. My father tried to commit suicide when I was 5 years old. One of the lessons I learned was that getting close to a man can be dangerous to him or to me. Growing up, like you, I tended to get along better with girls than guys. I joined my first men’s group, initially to have something to do when my wife was with her women’s group. Over the years I learned to trust myself as a man, to trust other men (though I learned that everyone wasn’t trustworthy and I had to be smart about who I trusted), and to feel more comfortable socially. Life is a journey, but I’ve found not trusting can be deadly and having some close male friends is vital to my health and well-being. Keep reaching out.

  3. Tom Brechlin says:

    Okay, this makes me crazy on so many levels I can’t tell you. As kids who were abused, I am so sorry and as people who have felt (strike that) not felt but have been judged and criticized I am also sorry. Words cut deep and for those of you who have had those words enter your ears, I can’t imagine the pain you’ve gone through. I may sometimes struggle with some of the articles here at GMP but there is one thing that’s clear, GMP has always offered a platform that allows people like you to get their stories out. Stories that people need to hear. I admire those of you who have the courage to stand up and disclose such intimate pain.

    In so far as not trusting, I can understand why any of you would fear trusting people. All I can say is that there are people out there (and here) that you can trust. I hope that all who are hurt to the level you’ve been hurt, can find a way to meet them.

  4. Hi Tom

    The problem isn’t you – it’s us. We simply do not see things the same way as you and our early childhood trained us to be this way. You have a fundamental belief that people are good and kind and most likely going to do the right thing. We have a fundamental belief that everyone on this planet is out to get us and if they haven’t yet it’s because they don’t know about us yet.

    To give you a small idea I spent 13 years of my school life being assaulted, bullied, humiliated and shamed by other students, I was strangled by my school principal, suffered broken bones at the hands of parents from the school, drowned so many times I don’t actually know how many times and can’t put a number on it, stabbed and a whole bunch of other stuff I simply don’t remember. One of my more recent flashbacks is watching blisters form on my fingers while they were being held in boiling water while on a school camp, real fun stuff, I know why I burried that memory.

    That belief that everyone was out to get me, that was a fact, not paranoia. For 13 years everyone was out to get me and most of them managed to do it.

    Those 13 years of your school life while you learning trust, love, safety, security, self worth, pride, joy,happiness, friendships, and relationships I spent learning how to survive in a very very hostile world. A place where trust and love were weapons used against me, safety meant being able to walk at the end of the day, security meant being able to successfully hide for a day, self worth meant that you felt the things that happened to you, pride was a way to get to you and joy and happiness were things I read in fairytales. Friendships and relationships were the worst because as soon as the bullies turned up your friends would turn on you so they didn’t get beaten up.

    The things I learnt were distrust, helplessness, dissassoitaion (in simple terms a mental trick to not feel emotion or pain and suppress bad shit, I think of it as taking half a step sideways in my own head), despair, shame, terror, anxiety, avoidance, paranoia, agrophobia and a whole pile of other crap that serves me not one jot in a world that is no longer so hostile.

    While I know in my head there are people I should be able to trust the very skills I learnt how to survive with prevent me from experiencing it. (for the time being anyway, i’m finally on the path back)

  5. Tom Brechlin says:

    Dave, thank you for your response and I completely understand how you feel. I will never say that “I know how you feel” because unless I have been in your shoes, I can’t come close to how you feel. You are in my prayers and I wish you the best. Take care,

    • Thanks Tom

      I came on a bit strong but I was trying to at least show you what it was like. I wouldn’t want anyone to live a day in my shoes or know what I feel. I would prefer it if kids never had to grow up like that. But we do and and it takes a long time to undo the scars left by others. If it helps we suffered trauma for enough time for biological changes to occur in the way we think and it is very hard to undo.

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