CONTENT WARNING: This article contains detailed descriptions of sexual abuse, which some readers may find extremely upsetting or distressing, so please read with caution.
By Freddie Cocker
When I wrote about my experience of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) for the first time, I half-expected it to end there.
I certainly didn’t expect myself to write a second and arguably more taboo article either.
I now find myself in the position aged 27 of having recently finished my last round of Eye Movement Desensitisation and Processing (EMDR) therapy to resolve the final scars inflicted upon me by the sexual abuse.
This process unfortunately took longer than I thought it would due to my therapist sadly taking her own life around April 2021. This was shortly after I finished the first round of EMDR with her.
Since her passing, thankfully, after much searching and figuring out what therapist’s fees fitted with my budget, I found a new therapist and kickstarted therapy again.
My aim was to confront these last traumas and move on with my life.
However, as you can imagine, healing from sexual abuse is not always that easy.
I have written previously about how sexual abuse can cause male survivors who were abused by male perpetrators to question their sexuality and this anxiety was certainly one I had to work through.
Despite the fact I have never had sexual or romantic feelings for any man in my life, the abuse had an insidious way of infecting my mind to create this highly stigmatised and irrational anxiety about this phenomenon.
Thankfully, I was able to resolve this and have developed techniques to put up healthy mental barriers when these thoughts threaten the sanctuary of my mind again.
Throughout this process, I also read up extensively on the subject of sexual abuse to learn more about myself and how it affects other men.
In doing this, I have learned that this anxiety is sometimes referred to as internalised homophobia or ‘homosexual OCD’ depending on the psychologist writing about it but there is no definitive term for it.
The reason behind this feeling is involuntary arousal which took place during my abuse. I don’t remember it happening, I only remember the consequences of it. As a child, I learned you have no control over this whatsoever. It is merely your body reacting. However, at the time and until you address it, you believe this arousal is controllable and you blame yourself for it happening.
The result of this is the production of these horrific feelings in adult life.
Interviewing other male CSA victim-survivors on the Just Checking In Podcast and speaking privately to others, I have also learned that these feelings are common amongst us and whether we internalise it or externalise it depends on the person.
This has given me a great sense of relief as I’ve resolved this trauma and move further towards self-acceptance.
Another huge anxiety that male survivors of abuse can have is a fear they will become abusers or predators themselves in adult life.
There is a saying that goes: “abused people abuse people” which can be true and false depending on the individual case. However, it is one I also had to work through in therapy and resolve the irrational thoughts that the abuse was evoking in me and how and why those thoughts were triggered.
Again, this is not something isolated to me and other survivors have shared this pain and anxiety.
There were a couple more anxieties linked to traumas I worked through which, even for an article like this are not ones I’d feel comfortable disclosing but rest assured, I have resolved these too and were probably more a case of me overthinking more than anything.
The part of life that I still struggle with and one which there is no clear solution to is working out disclosure about the abuse itself and my mental health is in the dating market.
Disclosure filters are incredibly important for anyone who has gone through mental trauma and for men, especially ones like myself who are open about their story online, even more so.
My story is out there for anyone to find and is the definition of googleable. Because of that, it’s why I keep my surname out of dating profiles for my own peace of mind and so girls don’t have to read about 15 years of intense trauma before they’ve even met me. That’s not fair on them or myself.
However, there naturally has to come a time where I do disclose my mental health story to a potential partner. I’m still working out the best way of doing that on a consistent basis.
Too early and naturally the conversation goes deeper than the Atlantic Ocean straight away and could the suck fun out of early dates. Too late and I could give the wrong impression too.
There is no handbook on this and I’m sure female survivors have the same anxieties as I do but for men, I feel there is an extra layer of stigma here.
This comes down to the fear some of us may have that showing emotional vulnerability may lead to potential partners losing interest in us or that our masculinity and virility would be questioned, let alone disclosing deep personal trauma.
I’ll finish this article by saying that whilst I continue to work on all of the above in the months and years to come, I have never felt better within myself and my mental health than I do at this moment.
I finally feel like I can navigate life unencumbered by a proverbial suitcase of trauma that I was previously lugging around day-after-day.
The important point is that I’m here, not how long it’s taken.
The best thing I can say about where I am now is this: any more potential therapy I do will be for events that happen in my future, not in my past.
Freddie Cocker is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Vent.