This is an article to which I linked thru the MS homepage in the media area. Tho dated to last August, I wanted to post this article here for possible discussion, and becuz it really spoke powerfully to me. Partly becuz the man this article is about lives in my neck of the woods, more or less. Also becuz his story says a lot about the male survivor, abuse & spirituality. And becuz it appears in a mainstream newspaper of some size & readership, the Raleigh NewsObserver.
Tuesday, August 13, 2002 8:56AM EDT
FAMILIES & RELATIONSHIPS
"Journey to peace"
A Cary man learns that the only way to overcome sexual abuse is to face it
By KELLY STARLING, Staff Writer
RALEIGH - In the distance, a yellow and orange kayak glided across Lake Wheeler. Scott Jones dipped his paddle in the murky water, pushing closer to the pier with smooth, strong strokes. The early morning sun lit his weathered face and damp, gray-streaked hair as he pulled in, at peace.
Jones gets out on the water often. The serenity clears his mind and helps him think. He never did this, let his mind chatter at will, two years ago. Two years ago, Jones was in a different place.
He filled his life with work. He hid his past from everyone, even from himself when he could.
But at a Thanksgiving gathering in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, in 2000, his shield collapsed.
After dinner, a young relative said she had a secret to reveal: She had been molested by a family member, she said, over six years.
"It all came crashing in," Jones said. Suddenly, his life changed.
The next day, Jones took his three teen sons to lunch. He asked them if anyone had ever tried to violate them sexually or make them feel uncomfortable. They said no.
Then, he spoke the words he had never said before: "I was sexually abused as a child."
At 44, Jones, a medical equipment salesman who lives in Cary, still cries about the rape.
The scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has prompted many people to face an uncomfortable issue: the sexual abuse of boys. Some survivors take decades to find their voices. Some never tell: Sharing their stories means becoming vulnerable again, to hurt and anger, confusion, misunderstanding and grief.
But locally and across the country, more men are seizing the chance to transform their lives by speaking out. The journey toward healing began for Jones that Thanksgiving. But like most survivors, he's still traveling. Step by step, day by day, Jones moves a little closer to feeling renewed.
It's hard to know how many men were molested as children. Even more than women, some experts say, men hide what happened.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network in Washington, D.C., reports that 3 percent of boys in grades five to eight are sexually abused. For boys in grades nine to 12, the figure jumps to 5 percent. A 1996 study by Jim Hopper, a research associate at Boston University School of Medicine, puts the number much higher, estimating that one in six boys are victims of sexual abuse before they're 16.
"It's so hard to break the silence on it," said Meredith Jones, director of support services for the Durham Crisis Response Center, "so hard to find victims to talk, because culture in our society said that this is somehow the victim's fault."
Historically, men have struggled to speak out because there is a myth that sexual abuse doesn't happen to boys, Jones said.
But after the Catholic church scandal, more survivors have sought help. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network reported a spike in calls after the scandal. There has been a jump, too, at the Durham Crisis Response Center and the Raleigh Men's Support Center, though center directors attribute that to better education.
This year the Durham center created its first male support group, and the Raleigh center has seen its support group membership quadruple over the last two years. "Most of the men who have come on board didn't know where else to go," said Charles Fisher, support group program director for the Raleigh Men's Support Center.
It took three decades for Scott Jones to seek help.
A childhood ends
Jones was a boy of 11. He had been swimming with a friend and the friend's big brother. Afterward, at their house, the big brother lured Jones into his downstairs bedroom, locked the door and raped him.
"I don't even remember walking out of the room," Jones said.
He told no one what happened.
Instead, he retreated into himself. He started helping his mom around the house without being asked, trying to wipe away the shame and guilt.
"I tried to do whatever I could to please people," he said. "When I disappointed someone, it affected me greatly. If I had disappointed a teacher, I could feel the redness in my face and feel the tears start to form. I needed to be accepted and part of something that was good."
Jones was married at 20, to the woman he had dated since high school. Year after year, Jones grew more depressed and displeased with the marriage, though. Little things set him off. Once, when Jones had cooked dinner and his wife came home late, he yelled at her and slammed things on the counter.
"I would say things to hurt my [wife]," he said. "She would start crying. My reaction was not a physical one but a violent one nonetheless. In my own way, I was an abuser."
As a father, Jones said his past haunted him, too. "He came to our soccer games and we helped him with projects," said his son, Jason, who is 21. "It wasn't like he wasn't there. But sometimes you couldn't talk to him."
The rape followed him wherever he went. "The trauma that happened to me was before I was 12 years old," Jones said. "But I replayed it a million times in my mind."
He never felt safe enough to tell anyone, even his wife. After 14 years, they divorced.
The long-term consequences of abuse vary from man to man, and recovering can depend the level of support from people around them and how long before they tell, experts say.
Many men feel rage, struggle with authority, experience depression and mental illness, avoid intimacy, even harm their bodies, said Meredith Jones of the Durham Crisis Response Center.
"Keeping the silence can amplify the symptoms," said Fisher. "It's really damaging to hold it in like that. This kind of abuse is similar to domestic violence; it's perpetuated along the timeline by silence."
Facing the pain
The silence exploded for Jones that Thanksgiving.
That night he couldn't sleep: He felt rage at the man who abused his relative and at the boy who had raped him.
When he talked to his sons the next day, he checked his emotions: They sat mute, in shock. That afternoon, he told his mother. Her body stiffened, he said, and she changed the subject.
He tried to sleep that night in his childhood bedroom. But this night, rest would not come: He got up, packed and drove back to Cary in a funk.
"It's like trying to hold a beach ball under water," he said, "you know sooner or later that you'll lose the battle."
That weekend, Jones was despondent; he stared at his handgun, considered suicide.
On Monday morning, he went to work but walked around like a zombie. In the afternoon, his sister called and read him a letter his abused relative had shared with her family.
That was when Jones realized he had two choices: Kill himself or get help. He called a rape crisis hot line.
Two Saturdays after Thanksgiving, Jones sat in a circle of men who had been abused as children at the Raleigh Men's Center. He just listened.
"I never considered that this had happened to anyone else," he said. "You feel like an island in the ocean and there's no one else like you."
He became a regular. The first time he phoned another group member for help was a triumph, he said. He was on the way to transforming his life.
Learning to feel
With the help of his group and therapy, Jones has faced concerns he never dared acknowledge, such as his sexuality. He never had any romantic feelings toward men, but the rape had made him question his sexual orientation.
"I always wondered in the back of my mind whether I was gay or not," he said. "It took me doing this work to separate my sexual abuse from my sexual identity."
He opened himself up to his feelings. When memories arose, he used to hold back the tears. "Now," he said, "I let them flow."
He has grown closer to his sons. Jason Jones said he used to feel bitter that his dad moved to North Carolina and away from him and his brothers. But now he understands. They talk about life and Jones' dreams for Jason and his twin brothers.
"We'll just stay on the phone and talk for 45 minutes about everything or anything," Jason Jones said. "It's nice. It's like talking to a friend."
Scott Jones also began taking time for himself. Each evening, he meditates. He cut back on work and TV time -- ways he used to keep himself numb -- and learned to kayak.
"The quiet time does a lot for my soul," he said. "I allow myself to think and not feel guilty about it."
Each week, Jones travels a little farther on his voyage. He has become active in church. A month ago, he got a massage, letting a man's hands touch his body; he didn't flinch. Two weeks ago, during a first date to a movie about a girl abused by an uncle, he sobbed without shame.
On a recent morning, Lake Wheeler rippled gently under a soft blue sky. Jones rowed alone on the lake, moving steadily toward shore.
"I love the peace of being outdoors and being one with what I consider to be God," he said, as he docked. A golden life vest hugged his damp, ruddy skin. "I feel really connected. That's something I never had before. It's good to feel good."
As he climbed out of the kayak, an orange butterfly flitted near the edge of the pier behind him, just inches from his grasp.
Staff writer Kelly Starling can be reached at 829-4636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe some of you would like to share something about this article that has an impact on you in some way.
I also encourage you to read my message to all of you as the new moderator of this forum, dated January 7.
"I can't stand pain. It hurts me."