I have written about this in the past so it is not a new revelation.
I was introduced into the mysterious world of sexuality at the age of eleven by adult men. They had access to cigarettes, pornography, and alcohol, all of which they shared liberally with the preadolescent boys with whom they were involved.
I met these men through church.
Until I was thirteen, I was in and out of relationship with these men. When I decided that this was no longer something I wanted in my life, we remained connected but no physical involvement was ever forced upon me.
Today I would be labelled a victim of sexual abuse.
I was terribly young at the time. When I look at an eleven year old boy now, it does seem shocking to think of a twenty-something male entering with such a child into the inappropriate kind of relationship I experienced at that age. There is no doubt I was at the time vulnerable, impressionable, insecure, and eager for attention. It is possible I have suffered irreparable, perhaps unacknowledged harm, from these encounters that took place over a space of two years as I was entering adolescence.
Perhaps I am in denial. But, I do not feel particularly more messed up than lots of people I encounter. I do not feel like, nor do I identify myself as, a “victim.”
I have managed to sustain a permanent loving intimate and deeply fulfilling relationship with my wife for forty years. I have parented children who have become well-adjusted, mature, and beautiful adults with whom I now cherish a rewarding adult relationship. I have sustained a demanding and at times challenging career for thirty-five years.
I have been perhaps somewhat morose in temperament and introverted; but my life has not gone off the rails too seriously at any point.
I never spoke about this part of my life as a teenager or young adult. It was certainly a secret until I was well into adulthood. But more recently I have not hidden this part of my past; but neither have I spoken much about it. I have not gone to therapy, taken medication, or fallen prey to substance abuse in an attempt to anesthetize my pain.
I cannot explain what it was that enabled me to avoid being defined by the things that were done to me as a child. It is a mystery that I was able to walk away in a reasonably healthy condition from relationships that left other boys irreparably damaged. Today, I would describe it as grace.
There has been it seems to me in my life a mysterious power at work that has guided and stirred me towards a light that does not let me go no matter how dark the blind alleys down which I have occasionally stumbled.
I take no credit for the gift of the inscrutable power that has brought light into the dark places of my being. There is certainly no merit that has caused me to be the recipient of this life-giving presence. I can only respond with gratitude.
I pray for those who remain trapped in dark angry reaction to past circumstances. My heart aches for those who still find themselves unable to experience the power of grace that I believe aims to heal us all.
I am not a victim. I am a broken child moving haltingly towards greater wholeness with the help of a divine aid I glimpse in moments when I experience the deep presence that is my true nature.