Book Review: Not Quite Healed

Not Quite Healed: 40 Truths For Male Survivors Of Childhood Sexual Abuse, by Cevil Murphey & Gary Roe

[Note: This book was provided for free by Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.]

There are only two reasons to read this book: either you or someone you love is a man who has survived childhood sexual abuse. If you qualify in one of those categories, this book is a powerful and deeply personal examination of many of the key issues that male survivors of child abuse face during recovery [1]. Not all of these truths apply to all survivors, but speaking from personal experience, a vast majority of them will apply to those who are honest with themselves about their suffering and its consequences, both in terms of bad habits as well as damages. This is not a pleasant book, but for far too many people, it will be a useful book in helping to provide some encouragement.

I have sometimes complained [2] that many books dealing with sexual abuse tend to focus on women and on their issues, and that there were few books that dealt specifically with men, who face slightly different challenges as a result of sexual abuse, including barriers to proper masculinity as well as the occasional reality of female perpetrators (which was not the case for me, but was for at least one family member of mine). The authors do a good service in pointing readers to resources, both their own blog (www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com) as well as to recovery groups (like Celebrate Recovery) and the need to build a supportive community and a network of encouraging friends. Like many survivors of child abuse, I have often tended to be rather private and isolated, and building a strong support system of understanding and nonjudgmental people has not often been an easy task.

This book is honest as it explores the sort of issues that male survivors of childhood sexual abuse face, including deeply conflicted feelings about intimacy, difficulties with trust and boundaries, bad coping mechanisms (including addictive and compulsive behaviors), a lengthy list of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual difficulties, and often debilitating fears and anxieties. Speaking for myself, I was diagnosed with PTSD as a four year old and still struggle with the hyperarousal and hypervigilance, and the occasional nightmare or panic attack. Physically, I still carry the scars, physical and otherwise, inside of me, but I’m a lot more at peace with myself and with others than I have been before, and certainly a lot more understanding. I generally find relationships to be highly stressful, though, as might be imagined, however, and that’s the area where I really need the most help.

The book, as might be expected, raises a lot of provocative issues. For one, many survivors of childhood sexual abuse will find it a struggle to feel any sort of sympathy for their abusers. However, those who are at least partially along the road to healing will be able to look at our dysfunctional backgrounds and to realize that the people who hurt us were themselves lashing out in their pain, unable to control themselves. And, but for the grace of God, many of us would walk the same line ourselves. I feel a deep sense of gratitude that God has spared me from assault on others, but he has not spared me from the fear of that potential monster within or from the fact that my own damage has led to suffering for people I care about. One can hate evil passionately and still show grace to the undeserving in the knowledge God is gracious to us.

For me, the most provocative issue that the book raised was that God ordained certain types of evil for certain people to give “street cred” in terms of helping others with specific problems. Divine providence is not an easy matter to untangle, but it would appear as if part of God’s call includes having to deal with all of the problems that have befallen a sinful world. Those who have faced brokenness from sin and evil are those who most clearly see the darkness that this world has faced, and are better equipped to fight against it with zeal and passion, whether that evil is in themselves or others. This book does a yeoman’s service in equipping men who have survived childhood sexual abuse with honest and hard truths as well as encouragement and support to overcome it over time with God’s help and the help of supportive churches and peer groups. It is deeply sad that so many of us have to wrestle with the consequences of this kind of dark evil, but at least there are resources and help out there so that people don’t have to face their dark nights of the soul alone. The fact that the authors of this book are warm and generous in personal discussions makes this book even more helpful, when one comes to realize the compassion and sincerity of the people who wrote it and who share their own journey from shame and brokenness along the road to recovery.

[1] The 40 truths are below. I have put in bold those that apply strongly to me:

1. I’m not quite healed, but I am being healed.
2. I am not quite healed; I am a healing-in-progress.
3. I was a needy, innocent child; someone took advantage of me. I wasn’t bad; something bad was done to me.
4. I matter to God–the one who has the power to heal me.
5. Because I am being healed, I continue to gain new insights into my behavior.
6. It hurts to learn more about myself, but the pain assures me that I am learning. And growing.
7. I will avoid using code words for my failure. I confess my wrongdoing, ask God to help me not to do it again, and take more steps down the healing path.

8. Pornography is a substitute for intimacy. I choose to strive for the real thing.
9. Despite my attractions and desires, I don’t have to give in to any wrong impulses.
10. Others may not like who I am, and that’s all right. For a long time, I didn’t like me either.
11. The need to feel responsible as an adult comes from my powerlessness as an adult.
12. God gave me emotions; the more I heal, the more aware I become of what I feel.
13. Life’s paradoxes can be confusing, but the more honest I’m willing to be, the less often contradictions trouble me.
14. I may feel lonely, but I’m never alone; God is with me.
15. When I speak aloud about my abuse, I am healing my shame and empowering myself.
16. I’ll never be fuly healed if I hide the secrets of my past. A big step–and a difficult one–is to move out of darkness into light.
17. I don’t like to feel the pain again, but the only way out of the pain is to go through it again.
18. Grief is not my enemy; it testifies that what happened really does matter.
19. That which seems the most intimate and private, when expressed well, becomes the most universal.
20. I can turn from the lies I believed; I can embrace the truth because the truth sets me free.
21. The lies are many, and I believed them The truth is simple, but I’m often slow to accept wonderful, loving messages about myself.
22. I don’t deserve your love. I can’t earn it. Thank you, God, that I can accept it.
23. I can be–and will be–compassionate toward myself.
24. God not only forgives sin; God loves the sinners. That’s the example I want to follow.
25. Forgiveness is difficult for me, but it’s simple for God. He’s the expert, and he teaches me how to forgive.
26. Our perpetrators did wrong. Our best revenge is to extend compassion.
27. Accountability is the first step toward livability.
28. Admitting I need help is a sign of humility, not weakness. Reaching out for help is a sign of courage.
29. The tools that helped me survive as a child are no longer the tools I need to enjoy my adult life. Now I can consciously choose my tools.
30. Because of my abuse, I have a hurting soul and an injured body. But I am healing in both soul and body.
31. My childhood was stolen from me, but I can rescue my inner child and become whole.
32. I don’t have to keep listening to the same words inside my head. I have the power to change them.
33. I can’t change the past, but I can pick up the painful pieces of my past and become whole.
34. What do I really want? It’s a question I’m learning to answer for myself. As I face my desires, I continue to heal.
35. I give to others what I want to receive. That’s part of my quest for wholeness.
36. When I give of myself to those in pain, I fulfill my calling as God’s hero. I complete the circle.
37. I am becoming different. And I like the new me.
38. I don’t know who I’ll be after I’m healed, but I look forward to the end result.
39. God wants to heal my pain to bring healing to others.
40. Because I seek divine wisdom, I will receive it, and I will grow.

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/book-review-overcoming-abuse-gods-way/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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