Personal experience with abuse has started a conversation about how to care for all who are in a cycle of sexualized violence.
By L. García
I don’t speak to my brother. It’s not because he’s verbally or emotionally abusive, nor is it because, as he claims, I consider myself better than him – because I don’t. I don’t speak to my brother because he sexually abused me when we were children and he hasn’t acknowledged or apologized for it. Ever.
I grew up trying to deal with the results of sexual abuse. Decades of self loathing that lead me towards multiple suicide attempts, eating disorders, abusive relationships, alcoholism, sexual addiction you name it, I did it, I had it, I over came it. One morning when I was severely hung over I realized I was slowly killing myself. Seeing my ghastly face in the mirror was enough for me to surrender my anger to a higher being, which led me towards the path of enlightenment where I am able to speak about my past troubles without guilt, animosity, or anger. As I strive to continue to better myself, and see how my brother continues to struggle with his acceptance of self, I wonder,
“What about the boys?”
As children, my brother and I were both sexually abused. He by an uncle of ours, and I by him – a learned behavior passed on from one person to the next, like a cycle. This brings me back to my previous point of not speaking to him. During my recovery, I vowed to myself to not do so until he apologizes. Why? Because I cannot have, nor can I attempt to rebuild a relationship with someone who is in such a severe denial of his past. Denial of the past is refusal to a future free of anger and filled with joy and maturity. At least that’s the way I see it.
I was three years old when the first incident happened, and 31 years later I remember it as if it were yesterday. My brother, seven years my senior, must have been around five or six when he had his first incident. Years passed and we were both victims of abuse. Then it stopped. I was eight years old when my abuse ended. I’m not sure how old he was, but I do remember that my abuse stopped soon after my mother said something about him being able to be a father.
Years passed and I tucked away the abuse in the deepest, darkest drawer in my brain, under lock until my brother decided to confront his abuser. When I heard about the news, I cried, because that drawer was abruptly opened. I realized what he’d done to me was not out of malice, or vice, but out of schooling. He had done to me what had been done to him.
While the days and months following his confrontation were filled with incredibly difficult times for me, there are two things that I remember the most:
ONE: My family was more than willing and able to help me through my difficulties, and I often got looks of pity towards me as I went through the motions of a sexual abuse survivor, such was not the case for my brother. He was disowned, outcast – exiled for ‘hurting me’. His name is still not uttered around the dinner table, much less around me.
To many this behavior is completely acceptable, but to me I can’t shake the feeling of my brother paying for both his and his abuser’s actions. My brother is continuously outcast from family events – while his abuser is welcomed into the family with open arms. He’s able to enjoy Christmas parties with his entire family, etc.
TWO: as a survivor or sexual abuse there are key words and behavioral patterns that lead me to recognize perpetrators.
There were a few things that led me to believe my brother was honest in his accusations. My uncle, who I was living with at the time, became extremely uncomfortable to be alone in the house with me – he demanded I leave the house in the morning when his children and wife went to school and work respectively, and that I only return once the eldest child was at home. Also, there was one thing he said that has never sat well with me.
“You’re telling me that you lost your virginity to your brother?”
As if abuse is ever consensual.
Addressing the taboo
In 1998 Doctors William C. Holmes and Gail Slap, published their review Sexual Abuse of Boys; Definition, Prevalence, Correlates, Sequelae, and Management in which they state,
“The Sexual abuse of boys is common, underreported, under-recognized, and undertreated. Negative Sequelae are highly prevalent and may contribute to the evolution from young victim to perpetrator.”
They further state,
“in other studies, abused compared with non-abused males were more likely to report sex with siblings and, in more than half the cases, with younger brothers.”
So, I ask again: why isn’t anyone taking care of the boys?
Recently Emma Watson eloquently pleaded, before the United Nations General Assembly, that men be included as a key component for gender equality. While Ms. Watson formally invited men to join the very important fight for gender equality – I’d like to note that the #HeforShe campaign should be more of a #UsforUs campaign that needs to trend. It is important to say that yes, countless women around the globe are abused, and have their basic human rights denied to them. We are leaving young boys and men who suffer the same fate to fend for themselves.
I believe that just as men should be urged to be there for women, I personally urge women to be there for men. I urge families to stand by all of their children. To not cast them aside because they practiced learned behavior, and to understand that sexual abuse is complex. Sexual abuse doesn’t have the face of a girl or a boy – it is abuse, and we need to recognize it as such. If I, a sexual abuse survivor, can see that, anyone can be taught to do the same.
Boys are no different than girls when it comes to victimization. We are all susceptible to it. We can all become perpetrators as well. Just like my brother was vulnerable to my uncle when he was a child, as an adult he continues to be vulnerable to him because of my family’s decision to exile my brother for what he did to me. We can stop the cycle of abuse; we need to stop ignoring the problem, that doesn’t make it go away. We need to care for all our children.
One thing is certain though, with reports of male medical providers hesitant to believe allegations of abuse that come from boys, as men you do need to be more alert when it comes to your sons. Please know that whether your child is an athlete, a bookworm, an artist, or a rambunctious child who loves to play in the dirt, all children can become victims. Don’t get me wrong, my purpose for writing this is not meant to instill fear in parents, but to make parents aware.
Aware that our genders have little to play in what happens to us, aware that we all should be diligently taken care of. Aware that we all need help, guidance, protection, and most importantly love.new 1lluminati/Flickr