Your response to abuse as you describe it above is shared by many survivors new to recovery. May I also say, but not in any patronizing way, that I see this idea a lot among young survivors who are just coming to terms with their manhood and deciding what it all means for them.

Bro, you were abused by an adult male, sure, but maybe it would be helpful to consider the difference between that and a man. Any guy who is physically mature can have sex, for example, but so can animals. After a certain age we are classified as "adults" and society lets us think that with this age transition something special happens that gives us all sorts of new privileges and responsibilities - as if, with our 18th or 21 birthday or whenever it is, we suddenly become more able to deal with all this stuff.

That's nonsense so far as I have seen. At the age of 21 I wasn't doing anything that I wasn't already doing at the age of 17, and I wasn't doing it any better - not sex, not relationships, not life. I don't think I really started to become a "man" until I was nearly 30.

Becoming a man as I see it means learning to define and justify your boundaries in the various aspects of your life and then living by these limits because you know them to be right. A man lives by what he believes and treats others with compassion and respect; he stands by what he believes, but is willing to listen to others, test his ideas, and accept challenges meant in good faith. He understands that learning never ends and that wisdom can come in many forms.

So I would propose to you, Adam, that while you were abused by an adult male, you were not abused by a man as I would define the term. You are right to be cautious about adult males for the time being. You have a lot of work to do where your recovery is concerned, and I can see that your ability to trust has been pretty much wrecked. That isn't your fault - you are right, as I said, to be careful.

But I hope you will think about this and see that what you need to do is look for men and allow them into your life. And I know what your next question will be: How do I know that someone is a man I can trust?

We all keep learning this throughout our lifes bro, but just a short rule of thumb that I find useful: Look at how guys treat others and deal with them. How would you feel if he treated YOU like that? What would the world be like if EVERYONE behaved like that?

It's late and I need to get to bed, but I did want to finish this one. We all need others to fertilize our thinking, inspire us, and lend us strength. You are a good guy already and are showing a lot of the traits you will need to become a man in the sense I am proposing here. As you make more progress and gain in confidence you will begin to recognize others who see the world as you do and seem to offer you good ideas and models you can follow. You will be safe with such men in your life.

Much love,

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)