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#73045 - 01/05/05 06:49 AM Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
Hello, all,

Part of every story of sexual abuse is a story of secrecy. The sexual abuser uses harm or the threat of harm to the victim or family of the victim as a way to make sure that the abuse stays secret.

That was definitely the way the abuse worked in my life. It became a central operating system in my life submitting all information, situations, responses--everything to its demand for secrecy.

The threatened harm in my case was not physical, but a sort of twisted guilt feeling that I was somehow responsible for at least part of the abuse. That I had somehow wanted the sexual attention of the man who abused me and that made me responsible.

I spent the next 30 years of my living and breathing to keep what he had done a secret. There was no more just "a secret". A veil of secrecy descended over my inner life and I lived a sort of lie for so long.

After years of avoiding the truth and being honest about myself, it became as though truth and honesty were dangerous things that would cause me trouble.

Being gay and hiding my homosexuality was much the same way. The threat of being ridiculed, humiliated or even physically attacked if I exposed the truth of my homosexuality acted as implicit threats destined to force me to keep this secret. Soon this secret too turned into a web of secrecy.

Combined with the web of secrecy developed around the sexual abuse, the secrecy surrounding my homosexuality had terrible consequences for me. I had to hide the truth about who I was and what I was doing.

That meant that when I went to the doctor and he asked if I was gay, I would say no, even though that lie could really be harmful to my health. No matter, the demands of the secrecy required me to sacrifice my wellbeing to its requirements.

I was afraid of telling anyone about the sexual relations I had with the 55 year old man who abused me, because I was afraid of being accused of being a homosexual.

In retrospect I see how the abuser used the threat of exposure as a homosexual to keep me quiet about what happened. No force was needed beyond the force of anticipated shame, ridicule and humiliation.

A huge step in my beginning to recover from the effects of sexual abuse was when I was first able to admit to myself that I was gay. Later it was in telling some trusted friends.

Not being very practiced at disclosing my secrets, I sometimes disclosed them to untrustworthy people. It was a painful way to learn and sometimes helped reinforce the threat that I had lived under for so long...that if people really knew the truth about me, about the abuse, about my homosexuality...that they would be revolted by me.

Eventually one of my most pernicious coping mechanisms, alcholism, led me to be in contact with individuals who were completely trustworthy.

I told the whole story of my life to one person, as much as I knew what the truth was. And I felt such a sense of relief that I learned that the threat of shame used to keep me quiet was a lie.

Since that first step I have had many opportunities to practice breaking the web of secrecy which once choked out the light of my life.

Still that old habit of secrecy is not dead and will creep back into my life if I don't practice regular checks on myself to see what and why I am keeping secrets again.

My therapist asked me last week if I had told my psychiatrist that I was leaving group therapy. I said no, I hadn't. He then encouraged me to look at that lapse and see if I could be going back to using the cloak of secrecy to hide my feelings behind.

Eventually I called my shrink and told him what was going on with me and about leaving the group.

It's not that big of a deal by itself, but I do think that left unchecked, the web of secrecy could start to build again

Today I make sure that I have several people in my life at all times with whom I am completely comfortable and who know that I will use them to check in with to make sure that my secrecy is not making a comeback.

I know that when I am contemplating taking an action or having thoughts that I hesitate to share with these guys, that there is something wrong in the picture. And that I need to share my secret with a trustworthy person in order to feel ok with myself.

Now breaking out of secrecy does not mean telling all my business to everybody I meet. There has been a long learning period of discerning who is trustworthy and who is not.

It is also very important that I don't start keeping secrets from myself. I'm not sure I can explain that here right now, but maybe some of you all can identify.

As a gay man and as a survivor of sexual abuse it is vital that I continue to keep my life clear of the dark web of secrecy. So much shame, so much sorrow, so much sadness lies behind that veil. One would think that I would avoid it with all my strength.

Yet even today when I feel very uncomfortable with myself, I will almost instinctively gravitate toward that secret place.

That's why it is so important for me to have the mechanism in place in my life to help stop that cloud of secrecy from spreading.

Coming out of the isolation of a gay man in our homophobic society and the isolation of a male survivor of sexual abuse, allowed me to make contact with trustworthy people who would help me break down the world of secrecy I had lived in for so long.

Today it is by being honest with myself, with God and with another understanding, trustworthy human being that I keep myself free from the secrets that once ruled my life.

"We are only as sick as our secrets." is the saying I often here.

What ways have you all found to break the habit of secrecy in your life?

I would love to hear your experience, strength and hope.

What kinds of methods do you use to keep your secrets from making you sick?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Regards,

_________________________
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

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#73046 - 01/05/05 03:14 PM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
Aden Offline
Member

Registered: 07/05/04
Posts: 499
Danny,

Back in my early 20's I was very concerned about being open with people as to my past and my sexuality. I learned some serious lessons during that time. Like sometimes it is best not to be too open with certain people. Such as my mother, my boss, and my (use to be) best friend. On the other hand, I still have some very close friends that I talked to back then.

It seems like we all go thru a period where we feel the need to reveal our deepest inner selves to others. And rightly so, for all of the reasons that you mentioned. But now days I just donít feel the need for very much self-revelation. Not out of any sense of secrecy or shame, but because I have grown to a level of self acceptances where I donít need the validations of others.

I am able and will to be fully open with the right people under the right circumstances. Recently I wrote an editorial for the local newspaper in which I admitted to having been sexually abused as a child. I felt no embarrassment or hesitation in doing so, because the point of the editorial was to influence an upcoming ruling by the federal courts and they needed to understand how an abused male perceived the situation they were ruling on. FYI: Shortly after my editorial was published the federal court reversed a decision by our state supreme court, which is the result I was hoping for.

Itís like being gay. It took a lot of years to accept that about myself. Now that I am comfortable with my own sexual makeup, I really donít care who knows, who guesses, or what they think about it. Since I donít have it tattooed on my forehead and am very butch by nature, no one knows but those I choose to tell. And that is the way I like it. My sexuality is only the business of those I choose to share it with. It isnít any longer a matter of social acceptance. I am not hiding anything, itís just that I donít look good in a neon boa...Recently a girl friend tried to set me up on a date. I gently explained that I wouldnít mind a date but that her friend was the wrong gender. An awkward moment (for her) that passed quickly and with no real effect.

So what am I saying? Discretion is important in many things, sexuality and CSA among the many. However openness is very important and is possible to the degree that we accept ourselves for who we are. And before we can accept ourselves we must first understand who we are.

Discretion, self realization and self acceptance lead to healthy, productive, open honesty.

How do you achieve that? Hard work! Study, therapy, helping others, being here at MS is good, time and experience.

ďThis above all: To thine own self be true,
And it must follow as night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.Ē .........William Shakespeare

Aden


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#73047 - 01/05/05 04:52 PM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
A couple of editorial notes on this thread:

First, although appearing in the Gay Survivors forum, all are welcome to respond, as always. No requirement of being gay or having a neon boa.

Secrecy is a part of all abuse. Your experience, strength and hope is welcome.

Secondly, a belated acknowledgement. The inspiration for this thread on Secrecy as well as the thread on Isolation comes from this article:

Clinical Considerations In Working With Gay & Lesbian Sexual Abuse Survivors by Jim Struve, LCSW

which can be found under the heading Articles under the rubric Professionals at the top of this page.

It is my intention to develop a series of threads addressing many of the issues raised by Struve in his article. I apologize for not crediting him earlier.

Finally, a personal note, so much of my recovery is about recovering balance. Here it is a balance between privacy/public life; secretiveness/openness. It is the balance that for me is so important.

Today I can find myself keeping secrets about the weirdest things. Even though I have acknowledged and accepted my homosexuality and the facts of the sexual abuse, I still feel the need at times to keep secrets--it's almost always worth my while to ask myself 'Why?'.

Thanks again,

_________________________
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

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#73048 - 01/05/05 08:59 PM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
brokentoys Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 09/03/04
Posts: 149
Loc: So. California
Funny you should bring up this topic at this time Danny! I spoke naturally with my therapist about my SA, but had never told anyone else. Then on Monday night after getting word that my cousin had some memories of things happening that weren't right I called her and we talked and I told my first person about my years of SA. No details of course, but just that it had happened. It was such an emotional high and gave me such a sense of freedom I was amazed! Last night we had the final class of our weight loss group therapy. Our assignment had been to come up with a short testimonial about what positive things we had gained from the past 20 weeks and how it was changing our lives. Well in all honesty, I had never even admitted it and this weight loss has been solely responsible for my admitting and facing up to it, so I very nervously waited while others spoke and went back and forth in my mind whether to tell or just come up with some fluff to fill the requirement. So I took a deep breath and said "The biggest change this has made in my life has been to allow me to finally admit that as a child I was physically, emotionally and sexually abused" everyone stopped and you could have heard a pin drop for the next 10 minutes as I completed my tale of the horrors of growing up. I said at the end, "by the way, I lost 109 pounds, which is great, but cannot compare to the freedom I am feeling from being able to stop hiding from my past abuses". I got hugs all around (once all the girls had passed the kleenex box!). I feel very good today. I feel free. I feel like I am taking control of my life. I feel like I am winning for once in my life. I see hope for my future. I still have a long road to go, but after 30+ years of denial, boy it feels good to quit hiding. I just may be impossible to live with soon! \:D
Broken

_________________________
It's easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.

Arnold Bennet

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#73049 - 01/06/05 09:17 PM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
Brayton Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/21/03
Posts: 696
Loc: Minneapolis
Let's see...is there anything that I am not, at least, somewhat secretive about?

I think not.

I know that, in some ways, secrets, the making of them and the keeping of them, binds me. But they are also a retreat, a protected place.

I often feel, consequently, very lonely.

Being gay has been hard for me. I am not s'xually interested in women and am uncomfortable with men. I hate touch of almost any kind, especially s'xual intimacy.

I know a guy that, whenever he sees me, hugs me and kisses me on the cheek. I hate it but I hide my repulsion just as I make practically all my feelings secret.

I am uncomfortable around g'y men. I don't know what that is about exactly. I feel threatened, uneasy, even afraid.

I don't know now if I will ever be able (or willing) to entirely shrug off secrets. I've been this way for 50 years. Its hardly worth trying any more. What use would it be to make that huge effort? The rest of you are (I think) young enough to benefit a great deal from it. It will improve your relationships, make them deeper and more meaningful.

For me, all my secrets are like stones in a wall which, from years of use, has taken on a familiar patina. "Here I am. Don't touch me."

_________________________
Sometimes, things just won't work the way we want them to.

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#73050 - 01/07/05 03:49 PM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
MollyHatchetrules Offline
Member

Registered: 11/13/04
Posts: 31
Loc: Hoover, AL USA
Getting secrets out in the open with at least one friend has done me more good than I had imagined it would. Only three people know I was abused, but I don't think it was necessary to even tell that many. I haven't seen a therapist about it yet, but I have been considering it. But my friends also know that I still have a problem with being completely open with them because I have made it clear for now that no matter how much I tell them about what happened, I'm probably holding something back.

_________________________
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one
-John Lennon

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#73051 - 01/09/05 05:50 PM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
dwf Offline
Moderator/BoD Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/24/03
Posts: 1223
Loc: Austin, Texas USA
I left my group therapy for gay men this week.

I sold the land that I had bought for my tulip business. The sale is in preparation for bankruptcy.

Last night, I told my sister about my impending bankruptcy. This was the first time I had directly mentioned the subject to a family member.

I feel sure that she will tell the others, there are 6 of us, so that's one more family secret out.

In the realm of secrets, I guess besides the facts of being gay and having been sexually abused, most of the things I keep secret have to do with my feelings and my emotional state.

I have had to work very hard at telling people when I am sick, or when I am sad and depressed.

Typically I would not disclose this sort of thing and then feel let down because no one cared about me. Of course I never told them what was going on so they had no chance to express any concern.

A lot of this has to be with feeling vulnerable I'm sure.

Anger, repressed or overt, covered up a lot my other feelings like sadness or disappointment.

So in some ways I would have to say that anger was a big way that I kept my feelings secret, sometimes even from myself.

Selling my land has been an emotionally charged experience for me. I have written about it quite a bit here and in other forums (F&F, Spirituality etc.).

I'm happy to report that today as a result of lots of therapy, medication and practice in places like this, that today I am able to express a whole gamut of emotions as they come up.

So now though I am nostalgic about the land I had bought with so much hope and dreams, I can also see it as one more burden removed from my shoulders. Since I am now disabled, it was too much for me to take care of. Now I don't have to.

Practicing emotional honesty is not easy. Perhaps some of it has to do with the fake macho, bullshit that our society still perpetuates on us, I don't know.

For me, I have to say removing the shadows of emotional secrecy from my inner life has brought new light and a new lightness of spirit to me.

Thanks, guys, for being here to listen to me.

I appreciate you all more than I can adequately say. And that's no secret!

Regards,

_________________________
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"

-Tony Joe White

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#73052 - 02/28/05 09:09 AM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
Morning Star Offline
Member

Registered: 12/21/04
Posts: 1124
Loc: Home
There is no point making the revealation an agenda.

Sometimes I feel you just have to walk on the dotted line, fill in blanks to speak about the abuse. At other times it feels like a effort.

So now speak only it feels natural. Like when in family discussion or at a empowerment workshop the issue a child sexual abuse came up. I knew it was time.

_________________________
~ It's over!...Let go of Thy Past, Remember Thy Self ~

Why Don't People Heal, by Caroline Myss; 30 days to clean up your vibrations - Abraham-Hicks

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#73053 - 02/28/05 04:39 PM Re: Secrecy: How we can break the habit.
MollyHatchetrules Offline
Member

Registered: 11/13/04
Posts: 31
Loc: Hoover, AL USA
I will only tell someone about something like me being gay, or having been abused, or anything like that if it is relevant to a conversation we are having.

_________________________
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one
-John Lennon

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