Column: When a man you love was abused and 'not quite healed'
Today's column is a follow-up to last week's featuring Dawn Scott Damon. Damon is the author of "When a Woman You Love was Abused: A Husband's Guide to Helping Her Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation." Today we look at the flip side of this all-too-prevalent and devastating problem in our society.
Cecil Murphey has made a living as a full-time writer since 1984. He wrote "Gifted Hands" for Dr. Ben Carson in 1990, and the book has never been out of print. His book with Don Piper, "90 Minutes in Heaven," has sold more than 7 million copies. The film version will be released nationwide Sept. 11.
Cecil, or Cec as he prefers to be called, is also the author of "When a Man You Love Was Abused," which he followed up with "Not Quite Healed." I think you'll find his story fascinating, but I also hope you'll consider sharing it with others who need to know their childhood experiences need not destroy their present relationships.
I'll be interviewing Cec on "TWOgether as ONE" at 6 p.m. Monday. You can hear "TWOgether as ONE" every Monday on KLJH 107.1FM or at www.KPCL.org.
As I mentioned last week, there are some columns I would just as soon not have to write, but the impact that childhood abuse has on marriage makes it a necessity. I hope you will check out the resources cited in this and last week's column and bring hope and healing to people in marriages impacted by this scourge.
Starting the journey of healing
The clock showed 1:47 a.m., and I undressed in the dark, being careful not to awaken my wife. For five days, I had been on the road and had gotten home a few hours earlier than she had anticipated. I crawled into bed and carefully got under the covers. I relaxed and was nearly asleep when Shirley reached over and touched me on the thigh. I slapped her hand away, yelled something incomprehensible, jumped out of bed and turned on the light. My heart was beating wildly. "What's wrong?" she asked as tears filled her eyes. In the six years of marriage, not once had I ever behaved harshly like that. "I don't know," I said. "Guess, I'm just tired." I had no idea why I had acted that way. She turned away from me, and, I assumed, went back to sleep. After getting back into bed, my heart still raced. Slowly I calmed down, but a long time passed before I dozed off. What's wrong with me? Why would I do that to her? No answers came to me.
Years later, Shirley told me that she lay on her side of the bed crying softly and asking, "God, what's wrong with me?" Hours passed before she returned to sleep. Neither of us realized that traumatic incident was the first awareness of my childhood sexual assault. Never again did I do anything physically violent, but little things sneaked in that confused me. For instance, when we lived in Kenya, East Africa, a group of other Americans came to our house for breakfast. Most of them brought something to share. Eva, sitting on my right, passed me raspberry jam. "I don't like that," I said and passed it to Shirley on my left. "What's wrong? You like everything," Shirley said. "You've never refused anything before."
"I hate raspberry jam!"
The harshness of my voice surprised me. Until that moment, I didn't know I detested raspberry jam. I felt confused by my odd response. For days, I tried to understand, but I couldn't figure it out. One Thanksgiving Eve, we were involved in a head-on collision. The other vehicle hit Shirley's side of our car and she was bleeding and unconscious by the time an ambulance arrived and took her to a small, country hospital. Shirley was so seriously injured, the doctor told me I could stay next to her bed because he didn't expect to her to survive the night. As I stood there staring at her, I felt nothing. Numb. Empty. What's wrong with me? This is the person I love most, and I can't feel anything? (Shirley survived the night and lived another 30 years.)
These three incidents pointed to my traumatic childhood, but I didn't know that. We survivors all cope differently, and a common method is amnesia — a form of denial. My agony was so overwhelming I "handled" it by forgetting.
My first insight took place when I was 51 years old. I'd been a serious runner since my early 40s. Normally, I ran six or seven miles each morning. That particular day I decided to run a half-marathon (13 miles). The run was invigorating until about a mile from home. Abruptly, I began to cry convulsively. Even though shocked, I kept running. I hadn't cried since I was 11 years old. My father had been a functional alcoholic, a man who never missed a day of work or a weekend of drinking. And he beat me regularly. His method was to keep spanking with a belt until I cried. One day I vowed, you'll never hear me cry again. And he didn't. The beatings didn't stop for another three years, but I never cried again.
On that morning when the tears returned, so did memories — vague, distorted, but powerful enough that I couldn't push them away. I remembered the old man who first molested me. He enticed me into his room by offering me raspberry jam on saltine crackers. That was the beginning of my inner healing. I told Shirley as well as David, my best friend. They loved me, supported me and encouraged me. For about a year my suffering was intense, and I cried almost every day. But the slow, painful healing journey had begun.
I make my living as a professional writer and I've now published two books on the topic, "When a Man You Love Was Abused," and followed it up with "Not Quite Healed." Since 2010, I've written a twice-weekly blog, to reach out to other hurting men: www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com.
Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.