Below are selected words of wisdom and encouragement that were sent to Mike Lew and published in his book, Leaping Upon the Mountains: Men Proclaiming Victory Over Sexual Child Abuse.
The men and their words are real, as are their ages and where they live. Only their names have been changed.
These men gave Mike Lew permission to publish these “victorious messages” for the benefit of others, and he has given 1in6 permission to publish them here.
Not all of these men will speak to your situation. As always, take what you need and leave the rest.
Jimmy, 23, Mississippi
I didn’t think it was possible to get my life back. If I can do it, so can you.
Clay, 24, Oregon
I’m movin’ on.
Warren, 25, West Virginia
You don’t have to feel like shit forever.
Jim, 26, Massachusetts
Give yourself a break and remember that the abuse happened in the past. It doesn’t have to continue now and in the future by beating yourself up for it. I spent untold numbers of hours, days, years telling myself I was crazy, messed up, or not good enough. Not only was it not true, it was further from the truth than I could imagine.
As I continued to press myself to feel, I realized that while sometimes I might have a different view of the world than “normal” people (whatever that means), that often times my special view was insightful and is often quite creative and useful… My views and thoughts really did matter and I didn’t need to give any more power to those lying messages from the past.
Sam, 26, Virginia
Although your family of origin or others close to you may not believe or try to deny you, believe in yourself first. It is the first step in unlocking the pain. The rest will follow, including unknown strength and power. I believe in you and support you.
Travis, 28, Victoria, Australia
Try not to procrastinate and try not to be afraid and be ready for anything.
Aaron, 29, New Mexico
Throw out that macho mentality because it will kill you! Take help. Strength is having the courage to feel those terrible and good feelings. Feelings won’t kill you.
Stefano, 29, New York
Recovery and healing are possible for us. Trust in the process. You will experience great freedom!
John, 29, Illinois
Reclaim your life. Don’t let “trying to figure out why it happened” keep you from moving forward. There may not be an answer. Just know that it shouldn’t have happened, that you didn’t deserve it, and that what’s important now is to get it behind you, love yourself, and grow!
David, 29, Ontario, Canada
Never, never, never, never, never, never give up.
Kevin, 30, Ireland
Despite all the gloom, you will feel a happiness bubbling inside you – a kind of calmness about your life. Rest and have some fun. Play.
Ingo, 31, Germany
Gebe niemals auf! Gebe niemals die Träume Deines Lebens auf. Du findest den Weg Dir zu erfüllen. (Never give up! Never abandon your life’s dreams. You will find a way to fulfill them.)
Tony, 32, South Dakota
Either give up now or move on. It Hurts Like Hell, but going through to the other side has been worth it for me. Make your own decisions.…
Don’t forget Humor – Gallows or otherwise!
Henk, 32, Netherlands
Face these experiences and slowly share them with your loved ones.
Jim, 32, Maryland
Don’t let fear stop you from asking for what you need or want. Asking can be absolutely terrifying, and it takes tremendous courage, but the rewards are infinitely fulfilling!
Todd, 32, New York
You are not alone. Many others have stories almost the same as yours.
Timothy, 32, Connecticut
As bad as you may feel about yourself, there is a wonderful, caring person buried under the pain. You can release him by slowly letting in the love of others who are not hurtful. Having him in your life will make the struggle worthwhile, because he will always be there for you.
Sid, 33, Ontario, Canada
Abuse creates tremendous alienation and isolation – which makes matters worse. Lots of effort is needed to connect with others. Healing can only take place with the help of others
A.H., 33, Leicestershire, England
Never give up hope, because despite the isolation we experience, often for many years, there are thousands – even millions – of us out there. It’s perhaps easier to walk away and try to ignore it (that’s what men are supposed to do after all!). But sometimes when we’re lucky enough to find someone to trust and share our greatest fears with, something amazing seems to take place. It can feel like being reborn in the most liberating way I’ve ever experienced, perhaps a little like I imagine learning to fly might feel? Along the way, we make mistakes and do and say things that we might regret, but no journey was ever that easy, was it? Above all, be good to yourself. And with time you, too, will start to believe that you deserve to shake free those painful shackles and begin to realize that just anything is possible. Right now I really do think that it is.
Christopher, 33, Victoria, Australia
No matter how pathetic and lost you feel, your quality of life is enhanced with understanding of where you come from, and that your future is yours to mould. The power is within.
David, 35, Wyoming
If you can admit that you were sexually abused, then the rest will get easier as you go. Never give up, because if you do, then those who abused you will win and they will be able to control you for the rest of your life.
Doug, 35, California
Realize that you are strong and find your inner strength. It’s there. It’s the thing that has kept you going all these years. It is both a talent and a gift.
Tohon, 35, New York
Seek to validate, whenever and wherever, what you already know to be true about the innate value and beauty of life. Don’t give in to what J.D. Salinger would call “sloppy thinking.”
Brent, 35, Oklahoma
You are not alone. Get help; it’s out there.
Bill, 36, Devonshire, England
Feel compassion for yourself and find the strength to continue with your own recovery.
Ramon, 36, Philippines
There were times when I wanted the pain to end and I almost gave up. I am happy that I did not. Someone came along and listened to me and believed. When you are afraid that you will not survive, and nobody in the world will understand your pain, please do not give up. Someone will appear to listen and to help. I am thinking of you.
Barry, 38, Toronto, Canada
Tell someone! There is more help out there than you realize.
Daniel, 39, New Brunswick & Ontario, Canada
There is hope in recovery, even though it might be hard. You are struggling with confusion, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem. You can see yourself through if you want to – if you work hard at it.
Shop around for a good therapist.
Blaine, 40, Utah
Being a gay Mormon… I didn’t think I had a chance… too many strikes… but I made it. Anything is possible.
Tino, 41, California
Beware of the victim trap. To brand yourself as a victim is to give your power away and it means that someone else still has power over you. Every time you say “I can’t” because of what happened to you, your molester wins. Healing comes from expanding your self-view, and shedding the shame and guilt that are associated with victimhood.
Bob, 45, California
Do not let shame and self-destructive behavior isolate and abuse you further. Find support and lots of it. Do not give up on yourselves.
Adrian, 45, Massachusetts
The road to recovery is a long and hard path to follow. However, if you believe in a God, either internal or external, he gave us potential, and it is our duty now to fulfill that potential – despite or because of what other people may have done to us.
As survivors we must do everything possible to repair any damage that we may have done to others, starting with our immediate partners and children. We must stop the toxic cycle passing on from generation to generation.
Ed, 46, Minnesota
Hurt and pain are part of every life. There are those with whom you may find empathy. Do not be afraid. But be honest with yourself, and to the extent you feel safe, be honest with and demand honesty from others.
Jon, 47, Minnesota
“Recovery” and “healing” mean you are going to grow in such a way that you can put your childhood into a context you can understand and accept. “Recovery” and “healing” also involve letting go of some things, perhaps even some long-held hopes and dreams…
Other people can give you encouragement and hope, but you are the only one who can do the intense, difficult work of growing and healing… it will become less and less necessary to keep bringing up old, troubling memories, allowing you to spend more time looking ahead and less time looking over your shoulder…
As you heal, your friends and family who, knowingly or not, have suffered along with you, heal along with you.
You cannot heal by yourself, and you won’t heal until you’re ready. When you’re ready to heal, you’ll find the strength to reach out and get the help you’ll need…
Your personal healing will be speeded and strengthened if you simultaneously work to heal your community, dedicating yourself in whatever small way possible to ensure that what happened to you will not happen to another child.… In a way, you’re an expert.
Erik, 47, South Dakota
Don’t doubt your knowledge of the reality of the abuse, even if you are without all of the factual details. If you must have factual proof, examine the reality of the effects and the cause will be clear.
Fight the belief that your reactions are unique. For me the strength to take some of the hardest parts of my journey of recovery has come from time spent with other men [who had similar experiences]. From them I learned that my pain, grief, fears, experiences, worries, secrets, acting out, behavior patterns, and shame are NOT unique, but part of a normal and rational reaction formed in response to an incomprehensible situation.
The 20 percent of recovery that is the easiest concerns information. Knowledge about sexual abuse and its effects in general, and awareness about the abuse I experienced and the effects in my life is important. It gives me a framework of understanding. The other 80 percent of recovery that is the hardest concerns activity. The actual change that has occurred in my life has not come from knowledge or understanding, but from changing my behavior – usually in small increments. I am learning to feel emotions rather than avoid them by some compulsion or other. I am learning to act in ways that are different than my historic patterns. Acting in new ways takes a lot of courage and consistency takes a lot of self-discipline. Usually I go two steps forward and one step back. [See Stages of Change.] But it has always been the action not the knowledge that has produced changes in my life.
John, 49, Massachusetts
Use your wisdom when you are most rational to put in place a system which will help you when you are least rational. Be both persistent and patient with yourself. It probably took a long time to arrive at your current condition, so expect it also to take a long time to get better, but do expect to get better.
Michael, 52, North Carolina
Define who you are and do not allow someone else to do it for you.
Larry, 53, Texas
There’s a lot of help out there. Get it for yourself. You deserve it.
George, 43, Nova Scotia, Canada
Believe that – despite what happened – you can make your life different. And, with support, a tremendous amount is possible.
Jeff, 43, Nova Scotia, Canada
Find someone you can trust to talk to – someone who has been abused or a good counselor. Someone you consider your best friend may not understand your problems in full. Group counseling is very good. Don’t be discouraged if you are feeling down after several months of admitting abuse, because it takes time to heal. But it will get better with time.
Bob, 46, Ontario, Canada
There is hope. It’s OK to feel.
Avoor, 48, Wisconsin
It may be difficult, long, unpredictable, but life is enjoyable; one should keep moving ahead.
Max, 50, Netherlands
Seek your happiness. Settle for nothing less.
Sergio, 51, Mexico
Transformation is not possible until you face the truth. Then speak the truth from your heart and your soul.
Martin, 55, Sweden
It took nine years, but now I can be sexual and be joyful about it.
Angelo, 58, Italy
Do it. The roads are many, yet there is no road: Just jump!
Bob, 68, Delaware
Start recovery now. It is never too late. It is never too soon.