You discuss how one in every six males has experienced
unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before the age of sixteen. With those kinds
of numbers, even if a woman doesn't intimately know someone who has been
abused, we are encountering survivors on a daily basis. What advice do you have
for us when we interact with survivors such as grocery clerks, authority
figures, friends, and co-workers?
Cecil: This answer probably sounds
negative but it's important.
take the initiative even if you know the man was abused.
him open up and speak about his abuse. If he opens up to you, it's like a
big risk for him. Don't let him regret it.
him, but don't give him answers—even if you're convinced you know exactly what he needs to hear.
- Please don't use phrases such as, "You're
special," or "I love you." We heard those words from the
adults who stole our childhood.
- Don't touch him unless you're certain it's all right.
Some men freeze when touched. Honor that confiding trust and don't tell his
story to anyone—anyone—without his permission.
You reference the masks that men
who've been abused wear, as well as the masks we all wear in public. In the
past few years, "masks" have been associated with presenting our
"false selves" to the world. I like what you believe though, that all
the masks are glimpses of the "real" person. Please tell us more
The masks abused men wear show a
glimpse of who we are. Another way to say it is that the masks often show you who we'd like to be.
Before I dealt with my abuse,
others referred to me as a happy person. That was true—sometimes. I wanted to
be happy and to enjoy my life.
The masks aren't intentional
deception. In fact, the masks aren't about relating to or impressing others.
Think of them as protection. We
weren't aware of not being our true selves as much as it was our way to retreat
from our pain.
I'm married to an amazing man and have the privilege of
knowing, loving, and raising three boys. I'm passionate about intentionally
respecting all the men in my life. In your book you discuss survivors becoming
victims a second time by the inner abuse they subject themselves to. How can we
as women make sure we aren't subjecting our men to a third round of
Be sensitive to him and his mood.
Don't pry. When we know we're loved for who we are
and not for the good things we do, we can and will open up. We want to open up,
even though it scares some men so badly they can't do it.
I lived in silence about my abuse
for 40 years. My wife didn't suspect, and she did the one thing I needed: She
loved me without any conditions. That's a cliché, but I don't think most men
feel that depth of love. It took me years of marriage before I was convinced
Shirley loved me just for who I was.
We all have roles within the family
structure. As the fifth of seven children, I was the good boy. I did good
things for people and got along well. On an unconscious level, I felt that as
long as I was good people would like me. I needed someone who would love me at
my worst as well as my best. Shirley was that person.
My best friend, David, was as firm
in his irrefutable love as Shirley. Encourage him to open up to other men. Too
many women carry the emotional issues for men, but they need other men. There
are things about our abuse that are easier to discuss with another male than
with a female.
Cecil, Thank you for your time and especially for sharing your thoughts on a very difficult subject.
For more information visit: Men Shattering the Silence.