Even after identifying myself as a sexual abuse survivor and learning about how to heal and help others heal, I was still startled when I met a man who was sexually abused. It hadn’t really hit me forcefully that not just girls and women are abused, but boys and men as well.
Now that man, Bill Harbeck, ministers to other men who were abused as children or teens. He and his wife, Jillian, help others through their ministry, Holding Onto Hope (www.holdingontohope.org). His ministry also helps men caught in the web of pornography.
Although the large majority of my readers are women, there’s always the possibility a man you know suffered from abuse and has not yet been healed. Bill and his ministry would be an important resource.
I’m including here some important information Bill has written. I hope it will be powerful for someone’s healing.
“Healing from sexual abuse is a complicated life long process. The original trauma to the soul is soothed in that there is hope that one day wholeness will be restored. I get a sense that out there in the world there is a belief that some sort of systematic approach, if provided with great self-discipline and fortitude along with enough effort will at some point foster in complete healing. The desire to heal and mend completely is admirable. However, if ultimate healing becomes a goal we pursue with great determination, with that comes the potential for great disappointment. So many variables are outside of our control. In working with fellow survivors the one great common frustration is time. Years pass as healing comes and goes. It seems at times there is no progress at all.
“I was sexually abused the first time at age 12. From that moment it took twenty nine years before I spoke out to anyone about the experience. In that twenty-nine years I developed the ability to disguise feelings, and expectations. I taught myself how to survive with deep seated anger. I committed myself to believe and behave so that no one would ever hurt me again. I fell prey to the idea that because of my abuse I was no longer of any value to anyone. I lived for twenty nine years in the bondage of shame and I hung on hoping that one day it would just all go away.
“Twenty nine years is a long time. When I spoke out for the first time the weight of all those years was lifted and the feeling of freedom to this day is hard to describe. It took ten years from that day to finally begin to reverse the lie that I am not a valuable person. It has been eleven years since then to today. That lie, the one that I have no value, even now is difficult to believe in my heart. Decisions, interaction with others, behaviors, motivations, desires are all filtered through the hope that I am truly valued and loved.
“That’s fifty years. Fifty years of confusion and pain at the heart level holding on to a wisp of hope that one day the pain would end. Brennan Manning asks, “Is hope self-deception, the ultimate cruelty of a cruel and tricky universe?” Is hope the power of positive thinking and if I work at this hard enough it will all go away? Can I hope that someone will come along and fix all the damage that was done?
“Time is the great frustration. It is also the gift of grace that allows healing to progress. I am not sure I will experience the healing to my soul that I so much desire in this lifetime. The healing that will once and for all change the lie that I find so hard to believe. The healing that will erase the memories. The healing that will assist in building relationships that I have so effectively damaged. The healing that will end the nightmare of pain. That is why I hold onto hope so tightly. For the sliver of joy I experienced the moment I spoke for the first time. For the slivers of joy I experience when I release control and allow my dependence to lead the day. For the sliver of joy that comes from walking with another that is traveling the same path. This has become the heart of Holding onto Hope Ministries.”