After prolonged exposure to the Sandusky and Lynn trials, it’s natural for a survivor to crave the safety of his own shell.
What a difference a few days can make.
Last Thursday the media was focused on the US Supreme Court decision upholding much the Affordable Care Act. Just a few days earlier, our attention was focused on trials in two Pennsylvania courts. While those decisions might not have the same constitutional importance as a Supreme Court decision, they could prove to be just as influential in the years ahead.
Focus has shifted away from the Sandusky and Lynn verdicts. It would be understandable if some people got the impression that what happened last week didn’t matter at all. But for a great number of people, the impact of those trials continues to resonate in powerful, and sometimes negative, ways. Both trials thrust the issue of sexual abuse into the national spotlight like never before. There are many people who are continuing to emotionally process what happened, and will do so for some time to come.
I’m not going to lie, the last couple of weeks have been tough for me. Hearing some of the most graphic testimony while in the courtroom and then repeated in the news day after day was triggering for me. I tried to keep busy and tell myself that I was doing “okay”. But for the past week, there have been signs: I’ve been more easily irritated by trivial things. I’ve been fatigued and it is hard to concentrate at times. Perhaps most worrying, I want to be alone. For the past few days, I’ve been envious of the collection of carved turtles on my shelf. When I’m overwhelmed I want pull into my shell.
A few of my turtles.
My wife, friends, and colleagues have all been asking me if I’m “okay.” That question always sounds a little odd to me. For a long time I had no idea what “okay” meant. It wouldn’t even register that people were expressing concern about me. Survivors learn to ignore their pain. Boys in particular are expected to be tough, unemotional, and never, ever talk about our feelings.
So why am I telling you about how I feel? Because I have learned that I ignore the warning signs at my peril. If my wife and friends are getting worried, it’s important to be able to hear that and not minimize their concerns. Pulling into a shell, and pushing away those who are care about me is a bad idea. As I’ve made progress in my own healing I have learned that hiding from my pain is not “okay”.
It is “okay” to speak about what I’m feeling. I deserve to be heard. If I am hurt, I am worthy of the love and care of others who can help me.
It is “okay” to speak because when I do, it can help other people who might also be struggling.
It is “okay” to speak because it is only when we hear the voices of those who are hurting that we can start the healing process.
Healing is not a process that makes the pain go away. Healing is what allows us to process the pain. Being alive means that sometimes we will feel pain. And yet many people still think it is better to suffer in silence. They don’t understand that silence actually magnifies pain. Silence also creates the secrecy abuse requires to flourish.
I am doing better. As each day passes, I process a little more of what I saw at the trial, and I feel a little more connected again. I have not pulled into my shell, and I am spending time with people who love and care about me. I hope that you are able to do that as well. If you find yourself struggling, I encourage you to try and find a safe person to connect with, even if it’s just for a few moments. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then take a look at the discussion forums on MaleSurvivor’s website.
For now, all the talking heads are focused on framing the Supreme Court’s decision on health care. Tomorrow our national attention will shift to the next controversy. But I think it is important we don’t let ourselves forget the main lesson from the Sandusky and Lynn trials: When it is “okay” for victims to speak, we help stop abuse from happening and begin a healing process that helps us all.
—Photo credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region/Flickr