As the parallels between the Sandusky trial and my childhood unfold, I wish I could tell other men like me what I’ve learned.
Last November, as news of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal broke, I was glued to the television, virtually immobile, as I saw the horrific memories of my childhood run parallel to the modern-day storyline. The media barrage was bitter-sweet. On the one hand, the coverage validated my pain, giving me a glimpse at hope for our society to finally lend this type of unforgivable crime the worldwide attention it deserves. On the other, it crippled me to see a student body group rioting in protest of their beloved coach’s downfall, and proud alumni coming to the defense of their former Defensive Coordinator with little-to-no proof of his innocence.
With all of the work I had done, with all of the time spent in therapy and the wisdom it had provided, with all that I had accomplished, with the book I had written about my recovery progress, how could this case leave me feeling so alone and afraid?
That was over six months and thirty therapy sessions ago. Still, I sit here, the television bombing me with defense strategies, opening statements, witness inconsistencies and holes in the prosecution’s case, wondering when I’ll be impervious to this type of emotional invasion. After some time to reflect, I remind myself that wondering is a waste of my time. I know the answer: this struggle is normal for someone like me and that’s alright.
As this case unfolds and as media coverage ignites, there will be millions of men in the United States alone who will be reminded of their unfortunate experiences in childhood. Some will not be affected. Some will side-step the issue. Some will avoid it completely. Some will marvel at their personal recovery progress and roll through their days unscathed. But, there are men who will find themselves triggered by the high-profile, too-close-to-home nature of the case. These men will feel as though they’re in a bunker alone. They will close their eyes and hear the explosions, waiting for the sun to rise and the attack to subside.
I wish I could hand them what I have learned over the years; I wish I could give them the tools I have learned in therapy—the ability to take a deep breath, to reflect. Many haven’t been given the chance to receive the treatment I have. The wounds seem too deep, the resources too far from grasp, the perspective undiscovered.
So, where does that leave me? Well … hopeful. Not for me—I feel like one of the lucky ones; I’ve found help. I’m hopeful for the men who have yet to reach out for help because what they need is right at their fingertips. The resources they believe are unattainable are within sight. The next three weeks of media bombardment need not be sustained alone and without defense—the bunker is much stronger, much larger and much fuller than anyone might think. To feel less alone and to get a glimpse at some of the millions strong in this bunker, visit 1in6.org/men/other-guys-like-me/.
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Chris Carlton is the Development Director at 1in6. He is the author of Nice To Meet Me, a book that chronicles his journey through therapy for sexual abuse in an effort to help fellow abuse survivors and those who love them better understand the process of recovery. Chris is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer and advertising executive living in Richmond, Virginia.
Photo credit: Flickr / sydneyduhh