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Joining Forces: Empowering Male Survivors to Thriveby Howard Fradkin
One carefully placed raindrop can overflow a dam.
It’s funny how you can think you’ve worked through something, removed yourself from a situation, and then one incident can come along and drag your senses right back into that very moment.
This happened to me on a very normal day. It was a day like any other. I was at home with the dogs, reading. The television was on some news station, but I wasn’t paying attention to it until I heard the reporter say something about several young men who had been sexually abused by someone in a church. His words became white noise to me as my senses took me back to my childhood and an awful experience of sexual abuse I endured at the hands of someone in my church. I was listening to this story in shock, but what struck me the most was that even though I was more than 30 years removed from my own abuse and abusers, this story was able to deliver me right back to that moment as I relived the horror of the violation on such a raw and guttural level. It sickened me to my stomach.
As the day went on, I tried to get the news report out of my head, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t. Later that night I was talking to my good friend Oprah. I asked her whether she had seen the story, and she said that she had. I said to her, “You know what would be amazing? If you could make this happen . . . if you could find enough men who had been molested as young boys to fill your audience and have them talk about their experiences as adult survivors. I think the world would be shocked at the long-term effects that those moments have had on us.”
She said, “I think it would be powerful and life changing for so many men, not only if I did that show, but if you would be a part of it as well.”
Now, that threw me for a loop. I thought, Why would I do that? I am not the type of man who spends time looking in the rearview mirror. I’m very much a forward thinker. I am fully invested in letting the past be the past. So what would be the point in me revisiting those awful experiences? Over the years I had become comfortable talking about it to friends and loved ones on a need-to-know basis, but I wasn’t interested in talking about it in front of millions of people on national television. So I said no. I was past it . . . or so I thought. But here comes that raindrop.
Days went by, and I tried to get the story out of my head. I tried to stop reliving my own nightmare, but the more I tried, the more I realized that I was still haunted by it. As much work as I had put into my own healing, I quickly became painfully aware that whether I wanted to look back or not, it was still looking right at me, still affecting my life in many ways. That showed me that there was still a lot of work yet to be done. I also started to wonder how many more male survivors were affected by this news story. I wondered how the victims of the story that I had just been watching were dealing with it. The next day the news ran an interview with one of the young men. He looked to be in his early 20s. I saw the familiar agony in that young man’s face, and me being much older than he was, I knew the difficult path that he had before him. So I decided to do the show.
From the moment I agreed to do the show until the day I actually did it, I had so much anxiety, so many questions. I wasn’t sure I should do it until the second it was over. I mean, the very second I had spoken my truth, it was as if I had removed a five-ton weight from my chest. I felt as if every bit of evil that these molesters had sewn into the inseam of my soul had been ripped away. I was so glad I did it. I felt so much lighter and freer. I didn’t realize how much power lay in talking about it. I didn’t know that part of lifting my own shame was in using my own voice. Out of all the years of self-work and discovery, I think that moment was the one that did the most good on my journey to healing.
When it was time to tape the “200 Men” show and I walked in and saw all these men holding up pictures of themselves at the ages at which they were sexually abused, it moved me inside of my soul. I finally knew I wasn’t alone. There was a brotherhood of survivors who had painfully and slowly triumphed. I cried a lot that day. I finally saw myself in all of these men: all races, fathers, husbands, lovers, friends, doctors, lawyers—you name it. We were all represented, and we were all an army standing strong to speak out against the silent suffering.
One of the most impressive of all the men in the room was a gentle, brilliant spirit named Dr. Howard Fradkin. His explanation and care of the journey that all of us in that room had been on was so intriguing to me. For many years I had done so much self-exploration to try to get to a place of healing, and here was this voice describing my climb out of darkness as if he was the guide who had helped me all along the way. I was hanging on his every word.
I am beyond excited that he has written this book. His kindness of heart, and his way of explaining even the most complicated long-term effects of male sexual abuse, is so revelatory and profound that not only can it inspire you to a healing, but it can also give you a clear and detailed understanding of what has been happening in your life. He is a brilliant, gifted man, and for him to author this book is a selfless act of sharing.
It is my prayer that as you read this book, Dr. Fradkin’s words will do for you what they did for me, and that it will give you the hope and the permission to allow yourself to heal fully. You deserve it. That’s what it did for me.
Acknowledging that something happened is tough; realizing that you are still being affected by it is even harder. I applaud your bravery. That is such a difficult thing for most males to do. But you have already made the first step—you have this book.
May every word in this book be marrow to your brokenness and speak comfort to your soul.
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