When A Man You Love Was Abused: A Woman’s Guide To Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation, by Cecil Murphey
If you are reading a book like this, then one of two things is probably true: either you or a loved one (or both) have been victims of child abuse. This is the second book of Cecil Murphey’s I have read (the review on the first one is forthcoming as it is part of a blog tour ). The title of the book explains all that one would need to know about this book going into it. No one ought to read a book like this expecting an easy or pleasant read, but as there are some people who have to deal with child abuse, or who care deeply about those who have suffered from it, books like this are sadly all too necessary. Most books on child abuse focus on women, and so this book (and others like it) fill a necessary niche by providing insight and a little bit of comfort and encouragement to male survivors and to the women who love them from a Christian perspective.
This book is divided into two parts. The first part is an often highly personal examination of what sexual abuse does to a boy and to the man he becomes. Reading this part of the book was especially difficult for me, in that it revealed a lot of aspects of my own life and personality that are rather personal. Though not every aspect of this particular book involves me, so much of it does that anyone I know who reads this book would understand very well a great deal of my own personal anxieties and damages and the origins of many of the ways I cope with life. Among the difficult subjects this book wrestles with is the aspect of abuse of men by women, something that is not publicly recognized or admitted among women activists against child abuse. The second section of the book is addressed specifically to the women in the life of a man who is wrestling with the horrible effects of abuse, to help encourage her in being a loving and supportive help to the man in her life. I found this section of the book rather encouraging, as it says to women what I would from my own personal vantage point, and does so very kindly and graciously.
One aspect that makes this book particularly worthwhile is the fact that it avoids treating the recovery from child abuse as formulaic and contains a great deal of personal stories (all of them deeply moving) that help to illustrate the complexity of recovery. The book deals with fears, with facades, with anxieties, with feelings of low self-esteem, with self-blaming, with roles and struggles with trust and intimacy, and with the need for those who are seeking to comfort survivors of child abuse to have patience and love and support for those who are facing the difficult journey to some kind of wholeness. Over and over again the book stresses that while the lost and stolen innocence and childhood of sexual abuse cannot be recovered, that with love and care and support, that people can develop intimacy and come to terms with their life and overcome the patterns of thought and behavior that survivors struggle with. Among the most encouraging aspects of this book for me personally was a quote from page 213, which is mentioned in different words earlier in the book: “Encourage him to believe he’s not to blame that he’s lost touch with his feelings. Rather his behavior was learned as a brave, struggling child who figured out a way to make it through the morass and the pain. He deserves admiration and love. He negotiated a way out of insanity and did it even when he wasn’t aware of what he did. He survived that childhood, and he needs to know that change is possible. He needs a loving environment that promotes change. If he trusts that his behavior doesn’t make you love him less, he can change and grow. You can help him to take those healing steps. He wants to be more than a survivor; he wants to be victorious. He needs your help.”
While the subject of this book is deeply troubling, as it could not be otherwise, it is honest and written not to disturb but to help and encourage those who had no choice but to wrestle with child abuse. I highly recommend this book to any woman who cares about me, or who cares about someone they know or suspect to have been a victim of child abuse and who want to do the best they can to help and encourage them along the road to recovery. Here is what I would like from someone who read this book on my behalf, found on page 189: “So what can you do? Say, “I love you. I’m here whenever you need me.” These two sincerely spoken sentences may be exactly what he needs.” Indeed, so it is with me in particular, and no doubt for many others who have endured what I have. One of my own long-running difficulties has been the fact that people who have seemed to care about me personally, whether as a friend or something more, have run away (whether literally or figuratively) when faced with the seriousness of the difficulties I have faced and continue to struggle with. I hope that is not always the case. For as this book says on page 193: “For you merely to be available and to listen to him may not seem like much, but it’s a special gift to him. For you to listen to him and love him as he is now and to let him know you accept him as he is, is the greatest healing gift you can offer. He may not be able to acknowledge it, and he may not trust it, especially at first, but don’t give up on him. He needs you. Don’t let him down.” Someday, God willing, I will find an encouraging group of people, and a special lady, who will not let me down and who will not cut and run because the task of loving me even as a close friend, much less a future wife, seems too overwhelming.