Dr. David Lisak

david lisak

Dr. David Lisak

Born in Montreal to a WWII widow, the clinical and forensic psychologist talks about the sexual abuse he experienced as a boy, the stigma and confusion adult male survivors grapple with and ultimately how he healed.  Episode is sponsored by www1in6.org which he co-founded.

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To understand more about male survivors of childhood sexual abuse or to offer support, please visit and support www.1in6.org  

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Episode – Dr. David Lisak

Welcome to episode 145 with my guest, Dr. David Lisak. I am Paul Gilmartin. This is the mental illness happy hour - couple of hours of honesty about all the battles in our heads from medically diagnosed conditions, past traumas, and sexual dysfunction to everyday compulsive negative thinking. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional metal counseling. It’s not a doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that doesn’t suck. The website for the show is mentalpod.com. MetalPod is also the Twitter handle you can follow me at. Please go check out the website. There's all kinds of good stuff on there and I also want to give a shout out for sponsor for this week’s episode, the organization OneInSix.org. The website is… the one and six are both numbers. And, the one in six is the… that is the statistic of men that were the victim of childhood sexual abuse and the website has tons of really really helpful stuff for survivors. Again, OneInSix.org. I’m going to kick this episode off with a couple of excerpts from the struggling in a sentence survey. This one was filled out by a woman who calls herself Another Orphan. About her depression, she says, after I come down from the weird anxiety high and depression strikes, nothing I think, feel, say or do matters because I as a human being don't matter. About her anxiety, she says I feel like I have to put a puzzle with over 1000 pieces all in grayscale together in under a minute. This is filled out by James and about his OCD he writes, I just got off a plane and I'm so glad I remembered the blink 17 times so it would crash. And, then lastly, I want to share with you a tweet from Ryan J Smith whose handle is @GamingSavant. He wrote, if I were in a band, I would want it to be called Some Stuff Happened But I Don’t Know If It Counts As Music.

 

Paul: I’m here with Dr. Lisak who is a clinical psychologist and a forensic psychologist and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Dr. Lisak: That’s right. I am.

Paul: I’m so glad that you’re able to come on. I know you’re a very busy guy. We tried to record yesterday but you had about 1000 commitments and we were running around, so I’m glad we were able to make it happen today. Where would be a good place to start because there's a gazillion questions that I want to ask you.

Dr. Lisak: Well, we can start wherever. I spent a long time researching sexual abuse and how it effects men. I’ve spent a long time working with men in clinical settings and also do a lot of forensic work. I’m almost always working with men who were sexually abused. So, I’m happy to start anywhere.

Paul: Well, talk about the forensic aspect because when I hear the word forensic, I just think of CSI and you know somebody with tweezers and the scene taped off so what do you mean when you say forensic?

Dr. Lisak: Well, as a psychologist, I evaluate men who are in some kind of serious trouble so I work almost exclusively on homicide cases and most of these are also death penalty cases. I’m hired by the defense to evaluate these men to provide mitigation evidence so basically to either… they’ve already been convicted - to get them off death row, if possible, and if they’re facing trial to prevent them from the getting death sentence. And, we do intensive investigations where we find out a lot about their childhoods. We collect piece of paper generated on their school records, medical records, and interview often dozens and dozens of people. If at all possible, go back two, three generations and it’s very instructive because What we know is that the vast majority of men who do commit serious crimes were abused very severely as children whereas at the same time, the majority of men who were abused do not perpetrated violence of any type.

Paul: So, then, let me play devil’s advocate for a second and say well then what separates the two of them other than possibly that person's decision to do that as opposed to their compulsion - and I'm with you because you know as a recovering addict, I know what it's like to be powerless over the compulsion to drink every night telling myself this is ruining your life but on unable to not pour myself a drink so I have empathy for that person, but I would imagine in the courtroom there is some tension there with people that feel like this this person needs to die for what they… the lives they've ruined.

Dr. Lisak: Well, there is often a lot of tension in the courtroom even postconviction courtrooms… Even in the courtroom with just the lawyers and a judge, there is always a great deal of tension. What people have to understand is that you know we are all responsible ultimately for our actions and in these men, it’s not like, you know, when we provide all those information to the court, we tell their story, and it is a horrible story, It’s not like court is going to say, “oh, well, that excuses it!” therefore you can walk! They’re not going to walk. They are going to spend the rest of their lives in prison for the crimes they committed. So, they are held responsible and they are held accountable - just a matter of to what degree and in some ways, when we pass a death sentence on somebody, I always feel it’s way of saying they are solely and fully responsible for what they did. And, most of these men have been failed by their parents, by their communities, by their schools, the social services, by psychiatric facilities, by psychologists, by attorneys… There were a lot of people who bear some responsibility and that’s really all the mitigation is about. It is let's share a little bit rather than deciding that he and he alone iss responsible for what he did.

Paul: Yeah, I think a lot of people don't realize that abuse wires people and in a certain way that is... requires such intense, dedicated, supportive processing to begin to unwire, to rewire. I think a lot of people think that awareness is enough for that person that is sick to not not lash out.

Dr. Lisak: Yeah. That’s absolutely right. In fact, it’s interesting that you use the word, the term wire because we now, over the last 10 or 15 years, the advances in neuroscience are really phenomenal and we understand in a fair amount of detail some of the ways that abuse, especially severe abuse or chronic abuse, really does shape the developing brain. And, it’s not that it cannot be undone or healed - it can be. But, it is as you say, it’s not just know you wake up one morning and you say, “ah, ok, I was abused and now everything's just peachy.” It is a lot of hard work. I mean, that’s a good first step, but there is a lot of hard work that must come.

Paul: I read a report where they measured the prefrontal cortex of people that have been chronically abused as children and it is millimeters thicker than the average cortex, which I guess has to do with impulse control?

Dr. Lisak: Yes, the prefrontal cortex is primarily responsible for being able to contain impulses and emotions, channel them. We tell two year olds in the playground to use your words. Essentially what we are doing is training exactly that we’re building the frontal cortex and that child's capacity to even though somebody, some child took the toy that they were playing with, instead of lashing out, what we want them to do is turn that anger and turn that impulse into a “I was using that toy or I was…”, or ask, you know, whatever. Just use some kind of word. What we know is that the development of the frontal lobes is really hinged on all the day-to-day interactions and the things that we associated with parenting. It doesn’t have to be parents - just parenting. Anybody... caretaking, talking to, touching in a good way, in respectful way, interacting with kids, and those millions of kinds of interactions is what build the frontal lobes. And, you have a kid who is neglected. Some of the most damaging effects of neglect are simply the absence of those kinds of building, sort of, interactions that build the brain and especially the frontal lobes.

Paul: I'm so glad you that you said that because for many people, myself included, I couldn't have compassion for what happened to me because I didn't have like a singular event to point to but once I got into support groups and began to see that template for unconditional love and support and being heard and felt and seen, I suddenly realized that much of the abuse was the absence of those things for a child. And, at first it made me feel like oh, I’m being dramatic calling this abuse, but, the parent has that responsibility to... I printed on the website (I don't know who the person is that came up with it) but it’s the childhood Bill of Rights. It’s the most beautiful thing I've ever read and I think they should teach that in school and to every parent that is about to have a child. So, the forensics work… give me a typical case of…

Dr. Lisak: Well, I’ll spare us all perhaps the crimes. You can all imagine typically the kind of crime that will land you on death row is very often pretty terrible homicide or multiple homicides. And, typically the men who commit these crimes are young. Many of the cases that I worked on men were 18, or 19… 20, or 21 when they committed the crime. What we find when we start digging into their background is they overwhelming, just pervasive abuse and neglect and violence. And, when I say pervasive, I mean not just within their immediate family, but within their extended families. So, if you think about just their generation, it's not just within their home, you know, their brothers and sisters and parents, but their cousins and their uncles. So you’ve got violence, you’ve got abuse, you’ve got drug abuse, you got alcoholism, a lot of chaos, and what that means is very significant. Sometimes, if you have a child growing up in home where there is all of this going on, if they have an uncle or aunt or some cousins, or just somebody in the family who can provide some level of caretaking and interactions, positive interactions, that can be very protective to some degree and really, it’ll be the difference between a catastrophic outcome... But, most of these guys live in such or are embedded in such pervasive abuse. But, then, it gets worse than that because it’s not just their generation. The abuse and the violence and the alcoholism extends sort of backwards so it's the previous generation… uncles and aunts and grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents. So, they are really surrounded by it and it just diminishes dramatically the likelihood that there is going to be anybody positive in their lives, anybody that they can latch onto in some way.

Paul: And, I’m glad you said that as well because I know there are many people who listen who have a really sick spouse but there is some healthiness in that other spouse and they can make all the difference that child’s world and I want them to have hope that they can make a difference, that even though there is all this diversity in their kids’ lives, especially for a divorced couple where there isn't that... you’re not in the same room as that spouse so you can't be there and you just hear it secondhand from the kid or somebody else. Let’s talk about your personal story. Where would be good place to start with that? You were born in Montréal?

Dr. Lisak: I was.

Paul: We are still going to continue this even though you’re a Canadian fan. Actually, I love the Montréal Canadiens. It’s such a great history, and such... all Canadian teams except for Vancouver who as far as I… It’s just the current Vancouver team. I hope after everybody there is gone, they win a Stanley Cup because I love this city. Enough about my love of Canada. You were born in Montréal.

Dr. Lisak: Yeah, I was born in Montreal, and my story really begins with World War II because World War II kind of shattered the world beyond the 50 million people who were killed, you know, just entire nations and peoples were completely… And, so, I guess the most direct implication was my mother was a single mother. I had an older brother who was two years older than me. And, so, it was just the three of us. We struggled. My mother decided that she needed to find some kind of stable income and so she decided to go to this teachers College. It was a one year program but in order to do that, she would have to get on the bus at six o’clock in the morning and she got back essentially six pm at night. So, she had to arrange all kinds of child care. I was five years old in kindergarten and my brother was a couple of years older than me.

Paul: And, where was your father?

Dr. Lisak: My father died when I was 10 months old so it was just the three of us. And, one of the arrangements that my mother made was both to help out financially and childcare as she brought in a boarder and gave him a room, and in exchange for room and I don’t know what kind of board arrangements... and can also exchange for taking care of me in the afternoon because I was in kindergarten, it was only half-day so my brother would go back to school after lunch but I would stay. And, my mother needed somebody for few hours to take care of me so that was the arrangement. And, the person that she brought to do this was a… he was barely a teenager. I think he was 19. He was himself a refugee from the war. He was from a Dutch family that was living in Indonesia which was Dutch colony before World War II, and when the Japanese invaded, they rounded up all the Dutch citizens and put them in concentration camps separating the women and the children from men. And, those camps have had a Fair amount written about the. They were horrendous. And, any if not most of the children were abused in all manner of ways and I can only imagine that he was as well. Because, then what he proceeded to do to me over the course of… you know, I don’t really have a solid memory. I have bits and pieces of memory that allow me to patch together what I think happened or what I think happened.

Paul: which is also important. A lot of people beat themselves up for because it's gray, or it’s foggy, or it’s just a snapshot, or a vignette, or just an image burned into their mind that they don't know if this is valid.

Dr. Lisak: Yes, and when it happens to you when you’re a child, you have not only the fact that you are your child… this was a long time ago… you don’t have the capacity to weave together coherent memories that we do as adults but also the traumatic experience itself alters the way the brain remembers and codes the experience and makes it more likely that it’s encoded in these very fragmented ways.

Paul: Is that the brain protecting itself?

Dr. Lisak: I don’t know that we know. We just know that... we actually understand now right down at the neurochemical level what goes on brain but it is so different and why it has this kind of impact on different parts of the brain that have different functions. Nobody has yet the kind of come up with the theory as to why this is other than we know that’s the way that the brain responds. So, Over the course of probably about three months… And, it was during the fall and of course rest my life the fall has been this very fraught time of the year. On the one hand, I always love fall, growing up in Montreal, but on the other hand, it was full of triggers for me. Literally, the sound of dry leaves blowing across the pavement, feel of the air, the coolness of the night, you know, all these things became triggers. And, he pretty much sexually tortured me for about three months. He threatened me.

Paul: if you told?

Dr. Lisak: Yes. And, one of… you know, this has been part of my sort of long process of coming to understand not only what happened but what the impact was and I have come to understand that one of the most severe, most damaging impact was living in my house with my family, my brother, and my mother, and, being of course terrorized into silence as a five year old, I still the way I understood that was that they were letting this happen. That, you know, in my own house, because you know he not only terrorized me during the day, but he started to do this at night as well, and, so, I felt like well, my mother is not stopping it. My mother is not protecting me and it really created this, within me, this incredibly deep rift between myself and the only two members of my family - my brother and my mother which had a really long-term impact on me. That really separated me from them. It really isolated me from them.

Paul: Can you describe that more - what it felt like in your thoughts and your feelings and your body… your relation of them and that distance... can be more specific?

Dr. Lisak: Well, I think…

Paul: Did you feel like they were separate family from you?

Dr. Lisak: in some ways, yes. I… from very early… I don’t know how young I was but quite young… I started, I would collect survival tools and implements like bags of cornmeal, and pen knife, fishing line, fishing hooks, basically… and read books about survival in the wilderness and I would collect these things and put the in a pack and hide the packs somewhere in the house or somewhere where I could get it where nobody else knew. I would of his drills that if I had to escape, I would grab the pack, go out the window, and I would even have route I would take.Montréal was then less built up than it is now, so I would have literally routes planned where I could get to some woods and get from those woods, get out of the city, get into the forest and up into the mountains, north of Montreal where essentially the wilderness extends up to the Arctic. And that was my fantasy was this was how I would escape danger.

Paul: Was it only while the boy was living there?

Dr. Lisak: No, this was for years. In fact, this was right through my adolescence. This fantasy was crucial to survival.

Paul: Yeah, and from what I understand that's a really common thing and often why adults who have difficulty being present is because as children they had to go to someplace safe in their mind and their thoughts and her fantasies. They had to create a world where they would be okay.

Dr. Lisak: Yes, and it’s almost universal that whether some people find that safe place by dissociating, by essentially separating themselves from reality and going into a very private, you know, and sometimes it’s through fantasy and in my case was kind of a combination of fantasy and but also reality. I mean I literally schooled myself on how to survive in the woods and so forth. It became part of the direction of my early life actually. So, it was kind of a hybrid. I also dissociate a fair amount as well, but I think all children have to resort to that in one way or another because we’re were simply too young. There is no way that we can survive otherwise.

Paul: And, Star Trek would not have been popular.

Dr. Lisak: [laughs] This is pre Star Trek, yes.

Paul: Talk about the dissociating. What are the common ways that children associate? Because I would imagine there are also kids that were just… well, I shouldn't use the word ‘just’. That’s a terrible word to use... there were children whose abuse was from peers and in school and that's every bit as traumatic but I guess the use word ‘just’ because to the public it's just…. To people who haven’t experienced abuse, they don’t know that it's about the feelings inside not the event.

Dr. Lisak: And, that’s a very good point in… in another way that that comes up is many men who were abused by siblings, by a brother who may have just been a year or two older. And, you know, it’s the experience inside that determines what kind of effect it is going to have on somebody, not whether, you know, the brother was two or four years older, or he is 5 pounds heavier. That’s irrelevant. It’s the experience.

Paul: The worst mistake people can make in waiting to heal is putting their thing on a graph and saying I’m near the bottom so I only deserve this much compassion or it's not valid. No, it’s what you’re feeling. We have surveys on website - particularly one called shame and secrets survey and people share their deepest darkest shames, secrets, things they've done, things that have happened to them, and I would say probably about a third of the people that fill it out something sexual happened between them and a siblings or a relative and you... well, you wouldn't be shocked but the average person would be shocked when the things they can check off on the box is they can say nothing happened - I was never sexually abused, I was sexually abused and I reported it, I was sexually abused but never reported it, and some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. And, it’s shocking what people put under that category - how overt the abuse can be and they can't name it.

Dr. Lisak: Right, and, sometimes that’s simply fed by the kind of misconceptions and myths that we have especially around men and boys and the kind of the experiences that they have. And, sometimes they’re protective. Sometimes, it's if, you know, for as long as you don't have to label it, you can sort of still keep a little bit at bay. But, the first time you use that word, you say to yourself or you say out loud, “I was abused”, that can be pretty shocking for people, and it can pierce defenses. And, so, I think a lot of people try to protect themselves from that moment for as long as they can.

Paul: I know the moment for me that I was able to say that and call it that, I felt like an astronaut who had been snipped from that lifeline and I was floating in space and I didn't know up from down, left from right, and I wanted to die. Is that… I take it as it is common? People face that?

Dr. Lisak: Yeah, that’s a very beautiful… it’s harsh but very beautiful description of the disorientation when you confront for the first time that something bad really did happen to you. And, even though, you know, a lot of people think that people just use that as an excuse and in my experience it's far more common than people using it as an excuse… it’s people avoid for as long as possible coming to terms and confronting the fact that yes, something bad did happen to you. And, it is related to… one of the struggles are that you’re having in your life.

Paul: Do you think the reticence to do that is because then we have to view the world as such a chaotic harsh place or that we have to view ourselves as having been a helpless vulnerable child who was completely powerless?

Dr. Lisak: I think it’s certainly… it’s overwhelming to really understand how helpless and vulnerable a child is and that we were all children. Especially, once you are an adult and especially if you are an adult who has been protecting yourself in various ways from that experience and that reality, to get past that and to really take in that you were vulnerable, you were helpless, there was nothing you could do, even just to hear those words and remembering that scene that maybe some people remember from the movie Good Will Hunting when Robin Williams keeps repeating over and over to Matt Damon, “it’s not your fault. It's not your fault. it's not your fault.” and Matt Damon tries to kind of brush him off, brush him off, joke with him and finally just collapses because of course he does feel like it’s his fault. And, what is so overwhelming in that moment is that if it wasn't my fault, then something really bad was done to me and that is a crushing, really hard thing to the face.And, the nice thing of course is he wept which is the appropriate response. You weep and grieve over something like that but then having done that, to be able to pick yourself up and walk away , and feel like, ok, it wasn't my fault, you know, I have to live with the fact that something bad happened to me. But, I don't have to live with the feeling that it was me who did it… that I was responsible for it.

Paul: Did you go through that period of blaming yourself?

Dr. Lisak: Oh, of course.

Paul: What were your reasonings for why…

Dr. Lisak: The worst, you know… the rational components of that are the easier ones to deal with because you can look at and use your brain, right? And, you can say, well, wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense. I was five years old. What was I supposed to do? You know, that part is relatively easy - just relatively. The harder part is… I think most of us who experienced this internalize in our bone marrow that it is our… we were responsible - that it was somehow our fault, that somehow we were responsible for what happened. We were bad; something bad happened to us because we were bad.

Paul: Is that us trying to cling to some sense of control?

Dr. Lisak: I think it can be that, but I think it is most frequently an integral part of childhood. All children... in fact, there is a term for it. It’s called internalization. All children are very prone to internalizing experience, so, if your parents… you are lucky enough to be born in a good family and you parents treat you nicely and treat you well, they affirm you… you internalize that and what that means is that your sense of who you are is that you are good. You maybe can’t even put a word to it. It’s just how you experience yourself. But, the opposite is also true so if you are mistreated - treated badly or abused, you internalize that. And, in your bone marrow you feel like well, I’m bad. And, that’s a hard one then to come to terms with.

Paul: Were you confused by any physical response that you had? I know for me there was one instance in particular where my mom was inappropriate and I became aroused and that was like a tattoo stamped on my soul for 30 years that I assumed that meant that I was the creepy one. Did you go through that?

Dr. Lisak: I don’t know because there is much of what happened to me that I don’t remember. What I do remember is more the terrors that I experienced. But, it is extremely common. And, it’s extremely common for a number of reasons. One is… first of all, the body just physiologically responds to stimulation in various ways. That’s completely physical. It has nothing to do with anything other than the physical stimulation. But, there's also another element is that in... it’s fairly common for sexual predators who were abusing kids to deliberately stimulate those kids to try to get them to have some kind of arousal response because it enhances their sense of control and power over this child and because it feeds their distortion - oh, you see, the kid likes it so, this is not wrong. The kid likes this. So, it is part of that whole distorted abusive dynamic that they are enacting. What that does, of course, to the kid is now the kid feels well, I must have wanted it, or they must have somehow know that i would want it. And, for men especially this is something that can… It is oftentimes one of the darkest most… sort of painful secrets and they are just scared to ever reveal that to anybody because of what they think it means. And, that’s one of the things that… It is the most important things that we all have to do is to get this information out there and so that fewer boys and fewer adolescent and fewer adult men are sort of kept captive by that kind of misinformation and myth and secret that they harbor about themselves.

Paul: The other thing that I like to mention... I've mentioned this many times on the podcast but I feel like it's worth repeating. It’s you also… and this was my experience was my genitals were never touched but it was situations where I felt invaded, I felt objectified. There was an element to it were I felt tricked. I thought I was being used and for the longest time I didn't even know that that was abusive because there were so much lavishing praise outside of those situations. I never saw that in many ways it’s grooming. Especially when it’s your mom because you expect... you just assume especially in the 60s and 70s, moms are infallible. Moms love. Dads are the ones that beat. They're the only ones that you know... that's what abuses is.It’s you're getting beaten and you don't know about sexual abuse when you’re a kid especially in 60s and 70s you just… It was never talked about so it was very... it got buried so deep and even now as I say it I feel a bit of tension thinking about the listener that's going, oh, you fucking baby. You want to play the victim so that you can get attention or whatever. And, day by day the part of me that says... that tells that voice to be quiet is getting bigger and stronger but it is a battle. Can you talk that?

Dr. Lisak: Well, I think probably every man who has been sexually abused fights that battle, alright? It will… The specific content of it may be a little different depending on the circumstances of the experience but I think we all fight it. And, the voice, you know…

Paul: But, how could you fight it? Yours was so clearly…

Dr. Lisak: Oh! [laughs] That’s the misunderstanding or the misapprehension is that somehow if somebody terrorized you, that’s completely different. And, of course you would understand. Oh no, as a child, I can't tell you over the years, how many decades now that I’m working and struggling with therapy and so forth, multiple sort of ways in which I internalized and felt it. I was bad. This happened to me because I was bad, that I was responsible, that I was humiliated. I carried around this level of shame about all kinds of things.

Paul: If you had been different, if your personality had been different this would not have happened, if you would fought, if you had spoken up, re those all things that you went through? Or other people go through?

Dr. Lisak: I think it’s sort of… there is this whole shopping basket of ways in which we blame ourselves and so we each for whatever reasons pick out your own personal three or four whatever it is.

Paul: What are the ones you hear and what are the ones that you experience?

Dr. Lisak: Well, I’ve heard. Over the years I’ve heard almost every possible version and configuration of this. It’s one of the values of having been a therapist and interviewed a lot of men and research. You hear so many ways that men internalize the experience and blame themselves that at some point you have to realize, at least intellectually, that my God, everybody… No wonder, I’ve got my own internalizations because it’s literally universal. And for myself, probably the toughest one over the years, the one I struggled and have struggled thus far with is this basic internal deep sense that there is something wrong with me, that I’m just not good enough. There is fundamentally something wrong with, and it when something is internalized that deeply, you can’t even see it. It’s essentially just a part of the fabric of who you are. So, it’s a real challenge to step outside yourself far enough to kind of look back and see.

Paul: Almost like a food blaming itself for being at a buffet.

Dr. Lisak: Yes! [laughs]

Paul: That’s what I was born to be. How could I… you know. How could it have been any different? That’s who I am and that's my place in the world.

Dr. Lisak: And, I think that’s one of the messages that needs to go out sort of loud, clear, and constant is that we all share that in common. It’s whether you were seduced or groomed, whether you were terrorized, it doesn’t matter. We are all going to come out of those experiences with those profound levels of shame and self blame and holding ourselves responsible and internalizing that. And, that’s we share in common and that’s a lot. And, there is a lot that we can help each other with. And, just sort of describing how we each battle with that and share our victories too.

Paul: So, how did you then… Let’s go from when that person moved out. They were there for three months and then they moved out. You must have been elated when that person moved out.

Dr. Lisak: well actually when I first disclosed… before I disclosed to my mother which was about 30 years or more after the abuse... before I disclosed, I asked her a bunch of questions. And, what I found out is my mother kicked him out of the house literally one evening. They told him to pack up and leave. And I asked about, you know, because I was trying to remember when he left and why so I asked her and she said she remembered it was very sudden and I asked why. [She said] well, I just had a sense that something wasn't right and so she kicked him out and then of course she had no one to take care of me literally the next afternoon so she went across the street to these two elderly ladies, these two sisters who lived by themselves and said is there anyway you can come and take care of my son in the afternoon tomorrow till I can figure out… and they said sure. So, they came over and as soon as my brother went back to school in the afternoon, I apparently turned on this poor old woman and started screaming obscenities and all kinds of horrible, awful, angry... I just went berserk. And, the poor woman apparently as you can imagine just extremely upset and distraught. And, as soon as my mother came back, she explained… she told my mother all this and said please don’t ask me to come again. You have the devil of a son. So my mother described all of this - I had no memory of this but that is a classic, absolutely classic… I mean if you would sort of describe that to the a clinician or a social worker trained from the 1990s on let’s say, boy, their antenna would have gone up and they would have said boy, something happened to the child and given the sexual content of some of what he was yelling and screaming at this poor old woman, I have a pretty good suspicion of what it is, but, of course this was not… this was the 1950s, late 50s. But my mother remembered it vividly. So, I discovered all these things and more before I told her. And, then there was that terrible moment that I had to tell her.

Paul: What was that like?

Dr. Lisak: I was living in NC and she was still living in Montreal. When I flew up without warning literally knocked on the door and I'd written a 14 page letter and I walked in and I said, mom, there is something you need to read and I’ll sit over her. And, I’ll sat down in her living room. She sat down at the table in the kitchen and I remember she was looking back at me as she was sitting at the table. And, I just saw her slumping sort of over the table. And, you know my poor mother had survived a lot already. She escaped the Nazis, escaped from Nazis in Vienna, lost her sister, lost her fiancé, lost her old previous life, and did her best. She courageously in heroic ways actually raised two sons. And, to find out 30 some years after the fact that this had happened to one of her children - it was horrible. On the other hand, I had been completely estranged from her.

Paul: By your choice?

Dr. Lisak: Yes, well, if you can call it that. It was just…

Paul: You were unable…

Dr. Lisak: Yeah.

Paul: That intimacy was terrifying, or you didn’t know how or both?

Dr. Lisak: Well, I think there were certainly issues about intimacy for me but with my mother in particular, I blamed her. I blamed her for abandoning me and not protecting me.

Paul: And, she had no idea…

Dr. Lisak: She had no idea. no idea. But as a consequence of the disclosure and starting to work on it and going to therapy, you know, we finally and really in a lot of ways for the first time in our lives, we developed a relationship. And, so, for the last 15+ years of her life, we had a much closer relationship than we ever had before.

Paul: Were you a psychologist when you came to her with this?

Dr. Lisak: I was still in graduate school. So, a psychologist in training.

Paul: Do you think that helped loosen that information up?

Dr. Lisak: It was part of the process. I had started the process really before graduate school and actually graduate school and choosing psychology was of course part of the process. And then, as a part of the graduate school, I went to therapy - very very intense therapy. And, that’s really what gave me the… sort of provided the framework. I was just lucky enough to have a really good therapist and very very cheap who was a graduate students and that was pure luck. That that was a big part of it.

Paul: Talk if you would about how if it has especially as a younger man affected your sexuality.

Dr. Lisak: I think as a young man I think the way it affected my sexuality was essentially undermining my confidence. I… it undermined my confidence and had so pushed me to be a loner because I felt alone in my family and abandoned by my family that was my disposition towards the world and towards people. So, I had friends and I had ways of engaging when I was younger was mainly through hockey. I played hockey. I played hockey with a level of commitment sometimes vicious because it was an outlet and it was a way, or a place I could, you know…

Paul: The regular listeners are laughing right now because I always say the litmus test of where I'm at spiritually is how I lose when I play hockey like three nights a week and it is…

Dr. Lisak: Whether you can tolerate losing.

Paul: I've said more serenity prayers in the penalty box than I would ever… I’ve made more amends and apologies after getting tossed from the game to refs, to people I’ve punched, and I totally get that. It's almost as if that's our primitive vocabulary before we began to…

Dr. Lisak: Yes, that’s actually a beautiful way of putting it. Yes. Yes.

Paul: What level did you hockey? Just like amateur or…

Dr. Lisak: Yeah, just amateur. It was pretty serious business but you got to be really good to play it at a… especially in those days too you know. I remember hearing about Guy Lafleur when Lafleur was a 12 year old.

Paul: Really?! How old are you? You look very young for your age.

Dr. Lisak: I’m 59.

Paul: Well, you’ve taken good care of yourself. So, as young man then that became your outlet for your rage.

Dr. Lisak: Yes, oh yes.

Paul: What were the triggers in the ring for you? Were there any?

Dr. Lisak: Oh, yeah. Well, just getting hit which of course it’s just a part of hockey but the way I viewed it… I took it very personally. So, somebody hit me and my reaction was to hit him back. You know… somebody would give me a good body checking at the corner… I knew his number, alright? And, I just looked for the next opportunity which of course is a very lousy way of playing hockey because you are not longer focusing on probably the important things.

Paul: But it feels so good when you lower your shoulder into them and you flatten them.

Dr. Lisak: Oh yes, and then you feel the… where the… exactly flattened because the immovable object on the other side of them.

Paul: Yes. And, would you feel guilt after laying somebody out later or would it just be…

Dr. Lisak: Well, I probably got laid out as often or more often, so, I think whatever guilt was assuaged by the fact that I took it always at least as much as I gave it. And, you know, the guilt, I felt really came in more… you know, you were asking about sexuality before, as I got older to adolescent, I started having relationships with girls, I… what I could never tolerate was the threat of an abandoned. So, I always ended relationships.

Paul: Would you stay in abusive relationships?

Dr. Lisak: I never had abusive relationships. The things that I feel guilty for, and regretful about now are just the ways… I mean these were adolescent. It was nothing and I didn’t do anything physical to anybody but when I look back, there was this clear pattern of me ending the relationships and I couldn't tell you now… I mean I guess for every one of them I had my reasons but when you look back to the years and you see the pattern, you realize there may have been those immediate reasons, but there was something else going on here.

Paul: What you feel when they would see you, when you could feel them looking into you, and accepting you, and loving you?

Dr. Lisak: That’s intolerable. That’s intolerable.

Paul: Like burlap on your skin?

Dr. Lisak: Yeah, because you know at that stage you still feel so much shame about who you are that somebody looking at you like that just brings up that shame and it’s intolerable.

Paul: I would feel rage. I would feel rage like, “you idiot!!” And, it wasn’t conscious - it was I didn't know why. I just wanted to scream. But, go ahead. I didn’t mean to cut you off.

Dr. Lisak: Well, no but that’s, you know, if you listen to what you just said and imagine though... how do you then have a relationship with someone and endure a relationship, right? When that’s how you feel about yourself and the goal of intimacy is of course to have somebody who really does see you, see into you, and and still loves you. And, if you can't tolerate that, how can you tolerate and have an intimate relationship? And, that’s why so many men who have been sexually abused have such trouble for so long with relationships, broken marriages, and so forth. Because the can't tolerate that level of acceptance or love and because they can’t tolerate themselves.

Paul: And that's what it's so important to to come to that, and come to your spouse or your partner with that information assuming that is somebody who is safe to do that with and again if… Is therapy a better place to deal with that first? Or is it with the spouse? Does it depend on who's the partner is?

Dr. Lisak: Oh, I think it totally depends on… you know, a great therapist? Fabulous. Great spouse or partner? Fabulous. I’ve heard so many different stories and versions of all of what has saved men. And it's been many many times a really good therapist and many many times it’s just a partner who they finally are able to trust. And, sometimes the confluence of point in their life when they are ready to… they can more tolerate that open gaze of somebody who sees them, who loves them and trusts them. And, they can trust and now instead of fleeing, or maybe they have the urge to flee, or they have that impulse that you described about rage but then they can hold that back.

Paul: The surveys and the listeners that I've connected with who have shared that with the spouse, there have been instances where that spouse tells them to just get over it. I've yet to hear an instance where that spouse is female and says that, but there are males who say that to the female spouses and is that a reflection of our culture of how men are kind of shamed for feeling and for not just pulling themselves up by their bootstraps? Do you think it's because women can also... because they are sexually abused more widely than men that many of them have had some experience they can relate to? Why do you think that is? That some of the men would go that route when their wife comes to them with this painful thing?

Dr. Lisak: Well, I do think that it is more likely to get that kind of a negative read or hurtful or really sometimes even abusive response to a disclosure from a man. And yes I think it’s more likely that men are frightened of the level of emotion... that level of pain…. don't know how… don’t have the experience or don’t know how to respond. It could be overwhelming for men. Don’t even have sometimes the vocabulary how to... literally the emotional vocabulary to respond and so they just want to cut it off. It comes out as come over it, or dismissive in some way. I have heard from men having that experience from their wives or partners. And sometimes it’s because the partner also has an abusive experience that they have not really dealt with.

Paul: And, they don’t want to open that door.

Dr. Lisak: Exactly. They don’t want to open that door so they don’t want YOU opening that door. They do everything they can to shut it.

Paul: Where I do hear that from both females and males going to a parent. I do hear that with mothers, you know, minimizing it and I would imagine part of that is because then they have to consider whether or not they failed that child somehow even if they did or didn't because that's just too frightening of a proposition.

Dr. Lisak: Yes, and there are a lot of individual reasons sometimes they have their own histories - moms and dads which remember that just because we are more open and understanding of how many people have been abused, it didn’t start with our generation so there are plenty of parents and grandparents out there who have been harboring secrets for even longer.

Paul: And I think many of them feel like I've lived with it for this long.

Dr. Lisak: Yes, so you can too.

Paul: And I’m not going to be both a victim and a consulted. I didn’t get consoled and many of them I don’t think have anything to give. I think there are coming from a place of such lack or emptiness or hurt - there's not that level of intimacy has to be come from a place of abundance. There has to be... we have to have a reservoir from which to give and if you've never confronted your abuse that's really hard because it's almost like there's a hole in the bottom of that of reservoir.

Dr. Lisak: Yeah, and if you haven’t confronted it then it is hard to imagine how you be able to respond in anything kind of helpful way to somebody who is now a child especially yours who is trying to disclose something. That’s simply not going to happen.

Paul: And there's a difference between being aware that something happened to you and giving it weight.

Dr. Lisak: Yes, there is a huge difference. And, as anybody who is embark on this, the process of really dealing with this and trying to heal the various ways in which you have been hurt and harmed, it's a long process. It’s a lot of work.

Paul: Talk about yours.

Dr. Lisak: It’s many many years of therapy and beyond the therapy for… I have a trunk at home - good size trunk - filled with journals. Thousands and thousands of pages.

Paul: When did you start that? In graduate school?

Dr. Lisak: I actually started keep journals before. Even I have some journals from back when I was eight years old. But, when I was in graduate school, and just before graduate school actually, for the years when I really started even before knew I was starting to deal with it, I started. And, it was by keeping journals. And, so that was a big… And a constant during the process. And then through my relationships and you know for a number of years, I was really working through some of these, many of these issues without really knowing that I was working through these issues. And, with a lot of collateral damage to myself and to other people. You know. Again not in any sort of not in any physical way - just in the failures in relationships. The relationships that could have been much happier for everyone had I been more conscious of the things that I was struggling with and even aware maybe of where that they originated from.

Paul: Yeah, there are ripples when the person gets abused that is not contained to just that person. And, I know that sounds kind of obvious but I think we forgot that - That it lasts a long time and it affects many people. The other thing before we get back into your story and how you processed all of this... I get a lot of people filling out the survey who were themselves children when they abused or you know inappropriately experimented with a sibling or somebody younger than them and they cannot forgive themselves. What would you like to say to those? Because I'm always encouraging those people to forgive themselves, if you have contact with that person that you feel you abused, maybe contact them and tell tell them that you're sorry if that’s what you’re feeling but if you… let’s say to the person who can't contact that person, what would you say?

Dr. Lisak: Well, this may not be the solution for everyone but there is a clinical literature - actually research literature on it’s called reactive abuse and it’s say a widely understood phenomenon that children who have been sexually abused will very frequently, essentially commonly reenact the abuse and it can happened in many forms. It can happen in private where they reenact it with dolls. It can happen with sibling. It can happen with childhood friend and very often children act out some way in school and that’s where it gets picked up. So, a lot of literature comes from that because it’s the only more likely place where we actually somebody in authority or somebody finds out about it and it is common enough like I said, it is a phenomenon in itself. It is understood. It is understood that this is one of the ways that children try to process something that was completely overwhelming to them and try to come to some kind of terms cognitively and emotionally with it. And, kids act it out. That’s just one of the ways kids do this like I said they can act it out with inanimate objects but they can equally likely act it out with another child. It is still the same process going on. They are trying to come to terms with something that completely overwhelmed them. And I think part of this is that people have to have empathy for themselves - for the child who was abuse, you know? In this case if it’s yourself, just like you could probably find a way to have empathy for another child who was in that position, who acted out in some way, you have to be able to try to turn that empathy on yourself.

Paul: The other thing that I have seen are… well, there was one case in particular were girl emailed me. I think she was about fifteen years old and she was distraught because I think she was like twelve she was babysitting an infant as she put her mouth on its penis and she... and I encouraged her to go to therapy and she hadn't done it since then and she had never been sexually abused but her home life was incredibly invalidating and chaotic and is that... I would imagine that is something that also were there those kids are just looking for some type of control and they get put in a position of power and they want to test their power. Is that is that something you you see?

Dr. Lisak: It is certainly possible and because this is one of those sort of the common aspects of growing up is transition from being a pretty much helpless and powerless child to increasingly as you go through… older childhood as you approaches adolescents, all of a sudden you're no longer just that helpless child (but of course you still are in many ways), but you’re now sort of beginning to experience yourself in a little bit different ways. And, when a child is growing up in an adequately stable environment where there is decent caretaking and parenting and typically children find ways of experimenting and testing the new aspect of who they are in ways that are… that don’t involve inappropriate touching and so forth. But lots of children don’t grow up in those kinds of environments and then it is more likely that as they go through those phases and they will experiment like all other kids will but it's more likely that some of that experimentation may not be appropriate. And, again, I would want, anybody who's had that experience to… it’s ok to accept responsibility for your actions but it's also important to have an appropriate empathy for yourself.

Paul: They are not mutually exclusive. Responsibility and forgiveness are not...

Dr. Lisak: Exactly. Precisely. In fact, they they kind of go hand in hand. If you’re going to be held responsible, perhaps you could also show empathy for yourself and feel the empathy for yourself.

Paul: And, I always feel like the best way to take responsibility for your past actions is to get help for yourself today. There is no more loving way to everyone around you than to get help. Because people will say I seriously want to change. I’m seriously sorry for what I did and I’ll say then go to therapy but some people they just don't... they think they’re going to be judged or they don't want to go into that icky yucky place of looking at themselves.

Dr. Lisak: Yup. Where in fact making that decision to to get real help is actually… It’s an act of responsibility and it is the way of profoundly taking responsibility for not only what you did but who you are now and who you are going to be and how you’re going to be towards other people.

Paul: Yeah, I think with awareness definitely comes responsibility and there's… A lot of us I think can't have compassion for what happened to us as children because we imagine ourselves as should have having reacted as if we were a short adult.

Dr. Lisak: Right! [laughs] We quickly forget from what it's like to be a child and in fact in some ways it’s almost impossible, once you’re an adult, it’s really a stretch of imagination and empathy and a lot of other things to have any real sense of what it is like. And, part of that also is because once you are an adult, to really experience the level of helplessness and powerlessness that you experience, even as a child in a normal environment, that’s not a very fun thing to do and in fact it can be a very scary thing thing so it’s not something we do very readily.

Paul. Yeah, and imagine yourself as your present-day adult stuck in a car ride for 10 years with somebody who is eight and a feet tall. Imagine having to stand up to that person.

Dr. Lisak: Yeah. When I was teaching, I of course taught trauma for many many years in University of Massachusetts, when I want to get across to my students what it was like to be physically abused, I realized at some point that as much as I could acted out but it would just seem… Of course they are all adults and adult-size. so, what I would do is I would have a table in front of the classroom and at some point I would stand up on the table and just loom over all students and of course I’m six feet two… and on the table I would have a chair on the table so I would be essentially fourteen feet off the ground and say this is what it’s like. And now you imagine what would be like if I put on the angriest face and in fact I looked like as I was in another world and raise my hand over you and that's what it's like for a child. Just stare up at a giant. And, that’s pretty… I would love to do that with a jury at some point but I don’t think the judge…

Paul: Would let you stand on a chair?

Dr. Lisak: I don’t think they would. I don’t think so.

Paul: American Idol - the judge would let you! What’s the next phase of your stories? So, you begin to journal. You are a graduate student. Am I skipping over anything?

Dr. Lisak: No, journaling and in grad school I really had intensive therapy and it was in the context of the therapy that memories really started flowing back - in fact very suddenly. And, from that point it was really just constant work.

Paul: Did you want to give up?

Dr. Lisak: No, I never wanted to give up and i think because with each step, I experienced, in addition to the terror and the discomfort and everything else, that along with that I experience liberation. And, liberation in really profound ways. I would say liberation of my soul but also liberation on many many mundane levels including the experience of for the first time, in really opening myself up to intimacy and to love and to caring and to a real relationship and to a kind of giving and the taking involved in real relationship and that was so exciting and so wonderful to experience that. I always felt that whatever pain was involved in… and you know, I had nightmares - these horrendous nightmares for years and years. Never really mattered. I never questioned at all that this was worth it. This was a really a road of liberations for me.

Paul: The nightmares happened after you began to confront it?

Dr. Lisak: Yes.

Paul: Really?

Dr. Lisak: Oh, yes. And, periodically I still have nightmares. It’s just, you know, at this point I understand there were some experienced I had in an age that I fully expect will stay with me for the rest of my life. What’s interesting is even though the nightmares can occasionally be this is as bad as they ever were, it’s not the same person that wakes up. When I wake up now and I’ve had one of those nightmares, ok, I’m not going to go to sleep right away because I don’t want to revisit that one. Sometimes, I write. I sit quietly for a while and meditate. So, there is a different adult now with many many other layers of coping resources who deals with those nightmares.

Dr. Lisak: The things I always… I feel like of this podcast achieves anything, it's me being a cheerleader for therapy and support groups to help people achieve that liberation that you talked about and a place for us to hold each other's hands and know that we are not alone. And, one of things I was incurred when people write me an e-mail, my favorite e-mail is when I say I've finally decided I’m going to go to therapy and I always ask them to give me an update and almost without fail, within their first couple of visits, often their first visit, they feel little bit lighter. Even if it was painful, they feel the lifting of something. They feel thin light of hope. Talk about the what the liberation felt like for you - in your mind and in your body an and in your soul as you began to give weight to what happened you and forgive yourself.

Dr. Lisak: There was so many layers to that and so many examples. My mind literally at times felt as I walked out of the therapist’s office after a particular session where I literally could feel like I was floating down the sidewalk. I mean it just physically felt that much lighter. And, i know they only way we can really describe it is almost like through poetry because how do you… Unless you believe me that that's how I felt, physically lighter like I could almost float off the sidewalk.

Paul: I felt like I dropped a backpack.

Dr. Lisak: Yes, and you know, what was in the backpack? Shame that I carried around for decades like it was mine. and the realization that it wasn’t, the realization that I was an innocent child and that he did that to me. And as that begins to sink in, and that sinks in layer by layer, you know, this is not just one moment where boom, ok, got that, check it off… but each time you go to another layer. You know, you get lighter. And, it’s not just a metaphor - When you are no longer burdened by those kinds of negative things and negative feelings about herself and in yourself, it just frees you up to be who you are. And, then you start relating to people in a completely different way. You are free-er to relate to them. One of the ways that I always being so… having internalized so much shame about myself, it’s hard to be spontaneous, right? How can you be spontaneous if you have so much that you have to be afraid of ever exposing if you ever show yourself, people are going to know, oh my God, how yucky!

Paul: It’s all about protecting that part of yourself that you don’t want people to see.

Dr. Lisak: Right. And, then the moment you begin to realize, you know what? There's nothing there that I have to be ashamed of, that I can walk up to somebody and say hey! It’s a nice day, isn’t it?And, they are not going to look at me like what kind of a creep are you?And, actually the first time you try that, you do that and look at them turn to you and say yeah, and they give you this great wide open smile. And, you realize wow, that just happened. I just said something off the top of my head to this complete stranger, and they turned back to me and said something really nice back to me. And, then, now I’m not just floating, I’m just riding on currents of air, right?

Paul: You realize how much love and how many good people there are in the world once you begin to be okay with who you are. You are able to see that in them.

Dr. Lisak: And, how much boy, there can be in this kinds of simple connections with other human beings and that too is liberating. I remember visiting New York city during this period and people think of New York city as this kind of rough where everybody is sort of rude and so forth, but I actually experienced New York city as yeah, people can be kind of rough, but people also really connect with you. I used to test this. I would just have these kinds of spontaneous conversations with people.

Paul: But to be fair, you were being mugged.

Dr. Lisak: [laughs] I was six feet. I was not an easy target, so… But these were really wonderful experiences and they reinforced the process because you realize that this is happening because of taking on all those memories.

Paul: And, it is the opposite of disassociating is being present and seeing all those nice little moments of the way person is dressed in front of you in line for coffee and saying I like that jacket. where did you get that? You know, those are the things that keep me afloat.

Dr. Lisak: Right. And just having them turn around and look at you and smile comes across their faces - thank you! You realize you just said something nice to somebody and they really like it. And, they gave you this really nice smile back and that’s a precious moment.

Paul: It is. It really is. Now, would be a good time hear from Steve LePore who is the Executive Director and founder of 1in6. David is on the board of 1in6 and is probably the most visible spokesman. Are you a founder as well of 1in6.

Dr. Lisak: He is.

Paul: Okay. I know that you are their most valued voice for survivors of of male sexual abuse but I want Steve… especially because they're sponsoring this episode, I want Steve to tell people what 1in6 does, how they can get involved.

Steve: Sure. Thanks for the opportunity to hear the two of you to conversate is always important. It’s like a reminder. So, our work is with adult men who survived childhood sexual abuse and those that love them so it could be a partners, a spouse, a family member, neighbor, employee, what have you. We have three very specific programs. We have our website which is the most authoritative website on the issue in the world, period. Some English, some Spanish, we got a 24/7 interactive support line and lending library where someone can go and check out books for free. We send it to them, no question asked. When they return it, they can get another book, a seconds, third, fourth book, what have you. We’ve got an initiatives nationwide where we are training clinicians. So, a man can come in with a particular presenting issue and not understand that that issue may lead from something that had happened in them as a child. So we help professionals to understand the importance of what happened to survivors and how to work with them in a more complete way, a more whole way to restore them to healthy lives and then, our awareness campaigns. We have two awareness campaigns. David is not only an authority on the issue and the founder of 1in6, but he was a photographer extraordinaire and we got a black and white photo exhibit that it’s up on the website and we will begin traveling the US. In fact our first stop was today here in Los Angeles. We had a number of portraits of men who were courageous enough to put the faces or allow us to put their faces in public along with words that they have spoken about their experience. And, I should tell you that there are quite hopeful which is important to remember that there is great hope. That this is not a dead end, that this is not that has to be oppressive and overwhelming for entire life spans. There is hope in front of men who could choose to come forward and work on the issue. And, then we have one blue string that I think that’s the thing we would really like to do the word out about through your program is that we distribute for free. All someone has to do is to write in and request the e-string, low e-string for us that play guitar and blue string that we send everybody along with the a couple picks and some gig stickers. The idea is start conversation. A lot of our work to destigmatize through conversation. And, so when you put the string on the guitar, it’s one of six and when somebody says, hey, why do you have a blue string, you can say, well that’s one of six and indeed that’s the statistic of the number of men in our country who survive childhood sexual abuse. So, it’s to begin the conversation if you will. And, what we would really love for those folks that have an interest… I think primarily what we would really love is everybody who needs help, come to the website, and those around, take your time. It would be in complete confidence, it’s private, you’re anonymous. We don’t do any tracking of IP addresses or otherwise. And, then if you’re so inclined, or if you don’t need to go to the website yourself and you’re so inclined, we would love the support from you of our work if you’re willing to underwrite the work that we do. You could buy a T-shirt, you could buy a bracelet. I saw that you were wearing a bracelet today. It’s six guitar strings that have been woven into a cool-looking bracelet and one of the six is blue and it’s just a reminder of somebody said earlier today that they’re a part of… I’m not apart from and it’s just a nice reminder.

Paul: You can say that I said that.

Steve: Ok, then I’ll let you say it.

Paul: I was looking at it last night. I was in the backyard and it was late at night and it was quiet. I just looked down at it just… just this wave of emotion came up in me that I am a part of this group of men and I'm not alone. And I could feel like the tears start to well up that my story is valid.

Steve: Indeed.

Paul: And, it just comforted me to look down at it and say I'm not walking this alone and I've always known that since I started recovering, I knew it intellectually but I didn't really feel it until that moment.

Steve: And you know what? your story is… you’re not alone in it and your story is apart of very large muzaik. There is nineteen million men in US who suffered childhood sexual abuse. So, to come full circle, our work is supported through individual donations and foundations. We don’t receive any state or federal money. So, occasionally during the end of each year in the giving season if you will, we got a couple of items for sale and that will go right into the lending library or the support line or to pay the electric bill or what have you.

Paul: And, the of the web address is 1in6.org. So, go check it out and David is there anything you'd like to add before we wrap up?

Dr. Lisak: Well, I think just to resonate with what you and Steve were just talking about…

Paul: I wasn’t listening to Steve. I find him to be very tiring.

Steve: And I can’t remember who you are.

[all laugh]

Dr. Lisak: Okay, well forget about what was just said. No, I think that still the most important thing we all have to communicate to all those men out there is that they are not alone. And, that there are ways out of the isolation both the internal isolation and sometimes the interpersonal and almost physical isolation. And, even though it’s scary, there are such rewards in it and that’s one of the messages I think we all have to keep repeating and getting out there. Because we want more and more of those nineteen million men finding their voice and whether it’s just talking to their spouse, their friend, a brother, a sister, a parent, and then maybe finding some help if they need some help and find their way out of the isolation and the sahem.

Paul: I have to say I met a couple of the spouses and and mothers of males who were sexually abused as children, and there is something so touching to me about the support from them. I think it's because when I began to look at my story, I always felt like oh, but the women are the ones that it happens to the overwhelming majority of times and this is taking away from their plate which seems larger and more immediate but it's not. It’s really not. And seeing that compassion from them and I suppose also the e-mails that I get especially from moms rallying, circling the wagons, and giving unwavering support, it touches me so so deeply and I want to thank them as well for for standing by their sons, for standing by their brothers, and their husbands, and it's just so… it means so much to me personally.

Dr. Lisak: I certainly echo that sentiment.

Paul: David, thank you so much. If people want to get a hold of you... through 1in6 e-mail... Is there and email address or should they google the website?

Dr. Lisak: You can do info@ and we’ll farm it to the appropriate person.

Paul: Ok, Steve, David, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Lisak: Thank you Paul.

 

 

Paul: Many thanks to David and Steve and be sure to go check out that website 1in6.org and support them in any way that you can or get that free guitar string and start talking about it. Before we get into the surveys, I want to remind you there is a couple of different ways to support the program, if you feel so inclined. You can go to the website mentalpod.com and make a one-time PayPal donation, or my favorite, recurring monthly donation for as little as five bucks a month and that is the financial foundation that allows this podcast to keep going and it means a lot to me. Those of you that are monthly donors… You can also support is non-financially by going to iTunes, giving us a good rating, writing something nice. Especially, this holiday season you can shop through our Amazon search link and that’s a great way to support us financially - doesn't cost you anything, but if you’re going to buy something from Amazon, just enter through the search portal on the right-hand side of our homepage about halfway down, not to be confused with search box for our site itself. And you can support us by spreading the word about podcast through social media. That really really helps. Alright, let’s get into the surveys and I’m going to try something today wherever possible. I'm going to just read your responses without saying what the question was that is posed because I think it's kind of self-explanatory on some of these. And, yeah, let’s see how that goes.

This from the Shame and Secrets Survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Quills. She is bisexual, in her 20s, was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, was the victim of sexual abuse and reported it. Deepest darkest thoughts: I work with children quite a bit. Sometimes, the thought or urge to do something inappropriate pops in my head. It freaks me out but seems more like the strange urge to jump when standing on a cliff than something I actually want to do. I’m not sexually attracted to kids nor would I ever do something like that to another human being. Secret: I molested by my grandmother's boyfriend when I was around four. He coerced me into touching his penis. I told my parents without really understanding what it meant. he got busted and went to jail for few years. My grandmother didn't believe me and stayed with him until he died. I cut myself from the ages of 12 to 14. Very few people ever knew. I stopped cutting myself when my older sister started having a lot of mental health problems. I auditioned to be in porn once. I was really tight on money. The director said it was an all female scene. It sounded like we were just going to meet up to talk. I ended up having him take naked pictures of me “for reference”, then he wanted to practice BDSM with me to “check my pain tolerance”. The situation felt wrong so I left. Sexual fantasies: I have a lot. Here are a few. I like to fantasize about men having sex with each other especially if one is being cruel to the other. this was my go-to fantasy in my teens. I couldn't insert myself into fantasies back then. I thought about being kept as a prisoner, being stimulated to lactate, and being suckled by my master. The master in that situation is firm but loving. I've had fantasies of pegging a man or woman. Sometimes I’m the male in the fantasy. Bunch of men fighting to try to impregnate me. I'm willing but passive. Being kept in a cage with another human being and being encouraged to mate. Think Planet of the Apes. I have told my partner most of these fantasies. He is not in the pegging or having sex with other men. We’ve played with me pretending to be lactating and him sucking me. We’ve played a bit with BDSM switching roles. He has a hard time staying in character when being dominant. I have the urge to be a bit too violent and controlling when I'm dominant. I really have to rein it in and make it lighter so he doesn’t have a bad time. I see myself as a very independent and kind person, interesting how primitive my fantasies are. I don't like the idea of someone judging me based on my fantasies. It can be difficult for me to stay in the moment with sex, so thinking of highly charged fantasies helps me focus. Thank you for sharing that.

This is from the same survey filled out by Johnny Blue who is male, he is gay, he is in his 30's, was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused, and deepest darkest thoughts: I feel alone in life and feel emotionally broken. I can’t Elaborate much. I just have a broader range of emotions now than I ever used to, and I’m having to learn how to do with them in a healthy way. I don't really have any dark secrets. The thing I most regret was that I didn't navigate the open relationship with my former husband well at all. He is a sex addict and I was naïve enough to think that he meant he really just like sex. It took me five years with him to have sex with anyone else. I assume that we have open relationships since he told me he was a sex addict and was having sex with other guys. I think that what he wanted for me was to be monogamous while he was not. That would've been fine with me if I had understood that’s what he wanted. He could say. Obviously she knew that would be unfair and he couldn’t stand admitting that he wanted such a double standard. I often feel that if I could just have done that differently, maybe he could've stayed with me. Of course I realize that he was emotionally unstable and that isn't ultimately my fault and had nothing to do with me but I still feel broken. I think I'm emotionally bonded with him. I think he somehow passed his emotional dysfunction to me when he left. In that sense, I feel closer to him than ever. Sexual fantasies, he just quite simply put: spanking.

This is same survey filled out by a woman who called herself Small One. She is bisexual, in her 20s, was raised in the stable and safe environment. Any sexual abuse - some stuff happened but I don't know if it counts. No condom, didn't want to do it, happened anyway, cried afterwards. That sounds like sexual abuse to me. Deepest darkest thoughts: that I'm a horribly selfish person. I molested my little brother when I was 12 or 13. I was going through puberty and wanted to see real-life penis. I made him put it between my budding breasts and when he couldn’t I got mad and yelled. He cried. I shook him and made him promise not to tell. I don't know if he remembers or not but I feel horrible. I’m no therapist but my suggestion would be as uncomfortable as it is to go make amends to them and apologize, and just seems like when people bury that stuff, it doesn't help or talk to a therapist about it and get their take on it. Sexual fantasies: sleeping with a gay man and/or having a dick and penetrating a gay man with it. Would you ever tell a partner? Yeah, sure, my sexual partners know this about me. It's not something I'm ashamed of although it isn't something to reveal on the first date either.

I disagree. I think you go to dinner. You order the sausage and then you say, “speaking of sausage, how does this grab you?” and then to the land of fantasy... but you’ve got to make sure you have a cigarette, and a cigarette holder, and right before you share this, you blow out a big puff of smoke in his face - just my take.

Do these thoughts generate any particular feelings? Puzzlement, but not unsettlement. Thank you for sharing that and I hope you can forgive yourself for what happened with your brother.

This is just one excerpt from a guy who calls himself a nun. Sexual fantasies: I like the way anal sex distorts the vagina a bit like it's being ignored. Fuck, that made me laugh!

This is from a new survey called What Has Helped You and this is filled out by Jules and she writes her issue was major depressive disorder, anxiety, and insomnia. What helped her? “Meds and therapy,” she writes are the obvious ones. “Getting pets has helped tremendously - not just for affection but caring for others. Being needed helps me keep going. Also volunteer work - my clients mean the worldly to me and my co-volunteers have become best friends I could ask for. Plus, it gets me out of the house and forces me to commit to something long-term. That’s awesome. Thank you Jules.

This is also from a new survey about people's experience being hospitalized. This is filled out by Cola Bear. She writes she was hospitalized for suicidal intentions and the first time was scary, but was the best place for me to become stable. The second time was a different hospital and it was horrible.

This from the What Helped You survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Okay. His issues are anxiety and depression. What helps is talking. When I start feeling something's wrong I try to talk about it. Recently I was paranoid and obsessing about a problem at work and chose to talk to my supervisor. I did a one-way fear off and explained what I was afraid of. Thankfully, he was receptive and assured me things were okay. I chose to talk instead of internalizing the issue. That’s awesome. Thank you for that.

This is from the Shame and Secret survey filled out by woman called herself Cat In the A.M.. she is straight, 23 years old, was raised in a totally chaotic environment, was victim of sexual abuse and never reported it. She writes, “when my son was a baby, I thought about killing him. I never did but I hate myself for thinking about it. He is such a beautiful being that I created and to admit to such thoughts is horrible. I love him so much and I have so much anger for the person that took my innocence away and completely destroyed the person I could and should have been. I had the chance to be totally normal but 10 years of my life was taken for his own sexual gratification and I couldn't even get the pleasure of a mother who believed me.” Ah, that breaks my heart. Darkest secret: something that happened... this is... this one... I read a lot of stuff that kind of… just read it… voyeurism, apart from the 10 years of abuse I endured, the same person also rigged my entire home so that from any point in the home, he could watch me dress, undress, bathe, and sleep. Often I would wake up in the night to his boner poking my left, or I would be in the shower and get this intense feeling of being watched. One day I discovered the attic has a full view of the bathroom and tub. The same area was embellished with socks and tissues. I know that’s a hard one for you guys to hear but something in me feel like I have to read these. Sexual fantasies: when I think about sexual acts, the thought stepfather and stepdaughter sex really peaks my interest. I even washed online porn depicting such. occasionally rape will be my interest. Makes no sense when I described myself as a closet feminist. Well, welcome to the insane world of why the fuck does that turn me on. And, so often it's oddly related to stuff that happened to us and seemingly against what we want to be turned on by. You are not alone in that. Would you consider sharing this with a friend? No, I’m trying to grow way for my corrupted mind to begin the journey of healing and become the person I was born to be. I don’t know if keeping that inside and not sharing it with anybody is necessarily going to help that. I don't I know. A therapist might know better. I feel shame and disgust towards myself but I also know wasn’t my fault and to say that is so powerful for myself. Glad you are putting shame where it belongs.

This is from the What Has Helped You. And, Jude writes that his issues are lifelong depression and loneliness, having no friends or family to talk to, intimacy issues, feeling unlovable, low self-esteem, and suppressed childhood memories that may have to do with sexual abuse. What helps? Throughout my childhood I would do with my problems by cutting, choking myself in the shower, suffocating myself and then banging my head against the wall and overdosing on prescription drugs. Over the past couple of years, I’ve dealt with them by getting high, drinking, and watching porn. While I know these are the healthiest coping skills, there are step in the right direction. My goal is that one day weed, alcohol, and porn will turn into yoga, jogging, and going to the gym. I love that. I love that he is being compassionate and patient with himself while he does this and he is hopeful that it’s going to get better. Some days I think that's really all we can ask for. I give you a big hug buddy.

I just want to read an excerpt from this guy’s survey. He calls himself Gamer89 and this is not to shame him. He writes about his darkest secrets: when I was a young teenager, probably 13 to 15, I had sexual relations with two of my nieces who were very young and a young step-sister of mine. I use the term sexual relations because nothing that happened between me and them required force. It is just something that ended up happening. Abuse doesn't require force. Manipulation can be enough and when there's a large age difference like that, I think that's important emphasizing. And, I don't do that to shame you.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Squeak. I just want to read his sexual fantasy - he writes my favorite and most powerful fantasy involves being tied up in front of a large crowd of people and being forced to sexually pleasure several women while being beaten and degraded, not allowed to orgasm until I’ve satisfactorily pleasured them all. Then they all use a knife to carve their names on my chest. Then pierce my nipples while one of them is oral sex until I orgasm. [dog bark in the background] Apparently, that rings my dog’s bell. [Two dogs bark] Ringing both of my dogs’ bells… Alright, do I need to pause? I’m going to keep going.

This is from the what Has Helped You survey and was filled out by… alright, I’m going to pause. Alright, continuing… This is from the What Has Helped You survey filled out by a woman called herself Fishing Moon. Her issues are bipolar, sexual abuse as a child, raped as a teenager, and what helps is support from a counselor who was nonjudgmental. Sometimes just the simplest simplest thing can break it open for us.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a woman who calls yourself IBIS from Finland and she's straight, in her 20s, was raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused. My most profound deep dark thought is that nothing lasts. When I achieve something, I already see how I will eventually lose it. When I see puppies, I see them get older and die right in front of my eyes. Every time my phone rings and in unusual hour, I'm sure it's someone calling me, a loved one (usually my dog or parent) has died. I see things wither away and disappear the moment I have the tiniest grasp of them. Darkest secrets: I cheated on my husband with my best friend's husband. When her husband died in a car accident, I felt relieved and ashamed before I felt the loss. And, I just want to suggest… first of all, send her a big hug, and I just want to suggest something that might really help with you extrapolating into the future is meditation. That can be really helpful and I read the book The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. That's a really really good book for helping us be in the moment and just accept things exactly as they are - the things we don't have control over.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Not in Easterbrook. He is straight, in his 20s, environment he was raised in, he writes was a little dysfunctional. My parents stop having sex in the 80s which my mom told me about in heartbreaking detail at some point during my adolescence. This frustration combined with my dad being the only breadwinner and my mom treating him like a servant naturally led to arguments. My dad was pretty much incapable or unwilling to stand up for himself or us when my mom went on her rampages. That sounds more than a little dysfunctional. That sounds emotionally incestuous and probably more stuff… Let’s see. Deepest darkest thoughts: my darkest thought is how liberated I’ll feel when my mom dies. I know it’s wrong… no, it’s not. It’s not wrong to feel anything… He writes, I know it’s wrong but her funeral will probably be one of the best days of my life. If my upbringing hadn't made me so effective that line in bottling up my emotions, I would probably show up for her funeral with a wide smile and what wouldn't there be to smile about? No more guilt about how I disappointed her with my career, making enough to live comfortably and save while doing something I enjoy isn't good enough, or guilt about my failure to get married or procreate by the advanced age of 30, no more for her unbearable hypocrisy telling us how selfish we are when she spent the last three decades mooching off my dad and his 9 to 5, 7 to 7 if you count commutes, and then treating him like shit even though we spent his nonworking hours waiting on her hands and foot, no more heartbreaking arguments where she screams ridiculously hurtful things at us and then tries to act contrite as if she didn't just tell us how much she hated us all and how big a mistake it was to marry my father and give birth to my sister and me on Christmas naturally. It occurs to me that maybe I should feel guilty about looking forward to my mother's death, that I'm starting to feel the guilt as I write these words is a pretty strong indication that I'll feel guilty at her funeral too. Though, it’ll be her last parting shot I guess. Anyway, it's not like she was neglectful or physically or sexually abusive. It's not like she was neglectful! That is textbook emotional neglect! He writes compared to the horror stories I’ve read on the Internet, not to mention on this podcast, I had extremely good. Let’s just the moment to soak that in. Wow! Man, I just want to reach through the internet and give you a hug. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: physical transformation into animals, aliens, dragons, whenever. Sometimes I'll fantasize about becoming a woman and just straight up dominating a man - tying them up and sitting on his face until he damn near asphyxiates. The, finally letting him fuck me. I also occasionally fantasize about becoming a woman and having sex with women but that has nothing to do with control. Would you consider telling someone this, a partner? No, I’m not sure what good would come of telling my partner, who care for deeply, that she’ll never be as alluring to me sexually as something that can never actually happened. Well, I don’t know… You can role-play. That’s my thought. Things don't have to be possible in reality for there to be role-play. I think it could maybe bring you closer together - just my thought. The secret about my mom generates guilt and makes me feel like a shady son. Well more so the sexual fantasies make me feel like I'm different but it is not like they get in the way of my real-world sex life. Buddy, I'm so with you on the fantasizing about a parent die and anticipating the feeling of relief. I felt that way for 25 years.

What has helped you? Maggie writes for her depression, my pets, volunteer work, and Effexor.

Here is the Shame and Secret survey fill out by a guy who calls himself JT. He's straight and metrosexual, in his 20s, raised in a totally chaotic environment, physical and emotional abuse of mother when I was younger, Ever been the victim of sexual abuse? Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts. My mother would expose herself to me and my younger sibling. Yes, that is sexual abuse - no two ways about it. Darkest thoughts: I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 17. Sometimes I can't help my thoughts of violence. I try to focus on hurting myself instead of doing harm to others. I feel a great amount of self-hatred and self-disgust because of this. And then sexual fantasies most powerful to you: I try to think about sex as little as possible. I try to block out any aggressive thoughts. I can't take the risk of becoming and abusive and violent partner so I stay single purposefully because of that fear of becoming a family abuser in an emotional or physical way like my mother was. This is not a fantasy. It's a fear that I will do harm to innocent others. And he does have a therapist. I talked about this with my dad and my therapist but otherwise, no, I wouldn’t share this with anybody. Thank you for sharing that JT.

This is from What Has Helped You filled out by Plumeria and she writes about her anxiety, depression, and chronic pain… about her anxiety, I make lists. When my thoughts are on paper they are less likely to bang around my head all day long. Singing, it helps focus my mind on the words and voice like a loud meditation. I can focus on what my body is doing in the present and not about my very annoying thoughts that are yammering on about. Depression, I listen to comedy podcasts that break up that foreboding feeling of hopelessness. The raunchier, the better. Walk in the Room would be the best example. I agree heartily. I feel good distractions from my own sad thoughts. For all three anxiety, depression, and chronic pain I get acupuncture regularly - every two weeks. It has kept the peaks of anxiety and the depths of depression from going into the extremes. It has reduced by physical pain about 90% to the point where I rarely need medication. That’s awesome! Thank you for sharing that.

This is from the Shame and Secret survey filled out by woman who calls herself Carmen and she's in her 20s, bisexual, was raised in a totally chaotic environment, never been sexually abused. Deepest darkest thoughts... I would actually counter from from what I've read of her things, the things that her father had shared with her is sexually abusive to me and I think a lot of therapists would agree. Anyway… Darkest thoughts: my father suffers from narcissistic personality disorder and the damage he does to me and the rest of his family drives me insane. When he is at his worst, he is dating multiple women and he has convinced them that he plans to leave his wife for. He physically attacks my mother and threatens to take where my younger sister, if she ever tries to leave him or throws him out. He literally breaks doors down and screams at me. He believes I've told one of his girlfriends about the other one which I do not. He is also incredibly paranoid. He compulsively lies about every waking moment of his life and he also tells and has convinced my younger sister that her own mother doesn't really love her, that her own mother is ugly and her own mother is stupid and compares her to an animal on a daily basis. When he was married to my mother when I was five and until I matured enough to see he was completely full of shit, he had convinced me the same was true about my mother. He victimizes himself in every situation he's in, including how guilty he felt after he ripped the finger off one of his girlfriends, even though he was never prosecuted, I remember once he told me that he went to their home after that same girlfriend had found his laptop had pictures of her teenage daughter and the daughter’s friend in a bikini and saved onto his hard drive. And, when I tried to explain to him why it was normal for someone to find that incredibly creepy, he ignored me and went on to tell me how bad he felt when he went to recover his computer from his girlfriend and her daughter had become enraged and physically attacked him demanding he get out of the house. Wow! When I was a teenager living in a place where there wasn't any work, and going through my very own intense emotional episodes relating my borderline personality disorder, he used to call me and have me act as a pseudo-therapist for two hours every other day. I didn't mind being there for my dad and I knew well enough by this point that he was an incredibly sick individual, but some of the things he brought up were specifically about sex and his girlfriends, how much he was in love with certain ones, and that he still at sex with my stepmother sometimes, and lied to each woman as he was involved with as it came to if he was cheating on them and how he didn't think that anything he was doing was wrong. I couldn't ask him to stop calling me about these things because after he was finished, he'd usually send me $50 for my time and that would be enough to eat and use the heater for a few days. At this time he was also seen a therapist that he had begged I find him and call to set it up for initial consultations. Don’t get me wrong. Therapy has greatly improved him and lowered his violent tendencies by a lot, but I hated that he could see that I was struggling to deal with him telling me all these misogynistic and sometimes violent things about women. Even though we knew I consider his behavior inexcusable and disgusting. When a lot of this shitty behaviors are going on at once, which they often are, the only thing that brings me true releases is the idea of very slowly torturing and killing him. This goes against my general personality as a whole. I’m a pacifist, a vegan, and a human rights activist, but thinking about absolutely physically cutting my father as he screams for me to stop is the only thing that can lift me out the depression caused by his yelling in my face that it isn't any of my or my sister's business that he sleeping with one of his girlfriends literally one room away from us, still married, and entrapping my sister's mother in an extremely shitty relationship. He's an otherwise a great father… Let’s just soak that in like an Epsom salts bath! And, I don't do these moments of calling attention to that to make you feel bad. I do that in the hopes that you can understand… I don’t know. I just feel... when I read that, I just takes my breath away. He's an awful father! The other things that he's doing, the positive things, he should… She writes, he is otherwise a great father and has given me and my sister everything we need financially in regards to school, clothing, food, etc. You know that, in my opinion, though important, but it’s the least important. The emotional nurturing, protecting, hearing, seeing, and feeling your child is the important shit. Your dad... She writes he is not a bad person. No, he is not a bad person but he is a terrible terrible father and you know if somebody ever is in the category of cut-them-out-of-my-life, boy, does this guy fucking strike me as that. Anyway, darkest secrets: I don't have any problems with this one once I’m relationship with a man but knowing that I can't do anything to avoid having men look at me sexually while I'm just out doing everyday stuff makes me sick to my stomach. I know this probably has a lot to do with my childhood and father but turning and seeing the man I’ve never met before looking at my butt or someone I just met glanced on my chest for little too long as we’re talking fills me with a deep and intense anger and shame. I can't stand that certain people entirely disregard what type of human being I am and can just reduce me to my body parts. I binge eat and try to gain weight even though a bad diet severely impacts my borderline symptoms. It makes it much easier for me to succumb to dangerous emotional episodes. Some of the women I've asked about trying to reduce male attention say that it often makes them uncomfortable too but it’s something you learn to deal with. If you told me I should be flattered, I feel so frustrated and helpless writing this. It’s the only thing left in my life that makes me want to kill myself. I hate that nearly every woman has to go through this and that It's their fault for being born female, never the men who have these thoughts about girls and women. I just want to be healthy and not have anyone look at me for. I want so fucking badly to be a person to everyone and not have the way certain men look at me hanging over my every thought, controlling my every action. Well, I want to personally apologize to you for my history of looking at women that way and objectifying them. I like to think that I keep it inside my head and I don't do it in a way that they are aware of - I'm pretty confident of that, but to… And, I hate that part of myself and I wish I could change it. It feels like OCD to me and I hope you know that some of the people that do that... clearly there are ones that don't give a shit and you know think it's okay for you to see them looking at at you like that... but there are also other ones that aren’t aware of it and it's a compulsion. And, I know that probably doesn’t make you feel any better about it but giving you a hug. Sexual fantasies most powerful to you: I imagine being in a committed and equal relationship with someone who I’ve known very well and trust deeply and implicitly. Having sex with someone and knowing that both of us feel safe. I don't trust anyone I know and intimacy on even just the base levels you need to hold hands, kiss, or date seems next to impossible for me. I always have to force it and I don’t feel anything when I do. I don't trust anyone. The only thing that turns me on sexually is the feeling of pretending I could ever be that emotionally close to someone even though I'm not sure it's something I'll ever experience. It makes me feel empty and worthless to know my father chose random women over his own daughters’ mental health in childhood. I hope that you can go talk to somebody about that emptiness and that sadness and I think that might be the beginning of getting to trust other and maybe contact the rape and incest national network because what your father did is incest. You don't have to touch a child's genitals to be incestuous with them and his is as clear a case of incest as I've ever seen, and one of the hallmarks of children who've been incested is that they completely lose trust and intimacy is difficult. So, I don’t believe that you're that way for the rest your life. You just need to talk about it and build trust in safe people and they are out there. We are out there.

This is from the Shame and Secret survey filled out by a guy who calls himself Little Drummer Boy. He's straight, in his 30s, raised in a slightly dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused. He writes I don’t know if I’m depressed, bipolar, or just chemically imbalanced. I’m the single breadwinner in my home and I'm scared to admit to my wife that all the pressure I feel in my job, my debt, and responsibility of earning a living for her, my daughter, and I, that something else up in my brain might be off. I should feel content I have a great job I like, a beautiful wife and daughter adore me. Instead, I feel pressure. I can hardly look at my girls without wanting to break down emotionally about how scared I am. I can't protect them in the shitty world like I should be able to, how we are swallowed in debt because of me, how I should be the stable man they can rely on but instead I feel weak and like a failure for not being a 10-foot giant they’ve built me up to be. My wife doesn't know I drink. That just passed warm body but not quite buzzed feeling is what I'm addicted to - whether it's from booze, pills, even the occasional bottle of cold medicine. I just need some sort of chemical to quiet the nagging badgering voice in my head telling me I’m failure and I'm ruining my wife's life. My heart goes out to you and I think a support group if you can't quit the drinking or the drugs would be a great place to begin open up and talk about the stuff inside you and maybe it will help you find the words to share this with your wife because any healthy wife is going to want to know that her husband is in pain and you can still be that big protector to your daughter but let your wife in on your your inner life. She deserves that as a partner - to know that. You’d want to know that about her.

This is from the Shame and Secrets survey filled out by a woman who calls herself Inertia. She is straight, in her 20s, raised in a pretty dysfunctional environment, never been sexually abused. Darkest thoughts: I often fantasized but being attacked and having that attack witnessed by someone I love so that I could be believed and have legitimate reason to fall apart on that person and have them hug me and not feel guilty for having that proof of love. Oh my God! I don’t even know the words to express how deeply I have that in almost… I don’t want to be attached, but to just fall apart and hug somebody and cry. And, I do that sometimes and it feels awesome. I encourage you to find somebody appropriate to do that with, and I totally understand that feeling. Deepest darkest secret: I often go to my friends with problems not because I particularly need their advice for anything but because I know they’ll give me a hug. This leads to me becoming the friend who's always got a problem. It is true that quite a lot of stuff happened but I'm sure I can deal with most of it on my own if I weren’t so desperate for connection. What’s the matter with just saying hey, I just really need a hug today. I need a shoulder to lean on. You know? And then, let it go. And,if you can't find your friends, find a support group because support groups are filled with people who were willing to let you cry on their shoulder because the next day they need to cry on your shoulder. I don’t really have any sexual fantasies. I’ve had very little sexual experience. When I have a crush, I picture us kissing but not usually much more. My mind is blank when I masturbate. I wouldn’t share this because I feel childish and I feel immature and needy. You don’t sound immature and needy to me. You sound like a really gentle person that has a lot of love to give to the world but hasn't found words to express it yet and that's a pretty simple thing to fix in my opinion, so.... I like your chances of finding peace and connection.

This last thing I want to read is a happy moments and kind of typical of the ones that I like to read is there's… it’s kind of bittersweet and this is filled out by Tip Tap Two, and they writes, my mother has a rare genetic… and I think this is a guy. The survey got cut off… My mother is a rare genetic disorder that gives her predisposition for tumors near several of her internal organs. She was in surgery a few months ago for an operation for several tumors. The group dangerously close to her pancreas… the recovery was projected for 10 days but complication after competition came up. It was weeks before she could even move. Before we knew it two months had passed. She was still weak and bedridden with tubes in her body. In the meantime, since the holidays were getting closer, my part-time job was suddenly full-time and finals at college were just a few weeks away. I was a stressed-out wreck but I didn't want to burden anyone else since we were going through such crazy times. One night I was visiting my mother along with my dad and grandma. My mother told us she had been having random sharp pain and the nurses weren’t sure what was causing it. We talked for bit before everyone else had to leave and I was alone with my mother. Out of nowhere she asked me what I've been doing for fun lately. I've been in the weird and nerdy stuff for all my life and over the years I've learned to just avoid talking about it since I figured at best I would confuse everyone else and at worst I get teased about it. But seeing my mother in the state she was in, I swallowed my embarrassment and answered her honestly. I told her that I have been reading a comic book series called JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. I gave her brief description of it - a family with supernatural powers fighting vampires and an ancient Aztec gods, very comic book stuff. But, my mother's eyes lit up as I talk to her. She told me the one thing she most wanted to avoid was burdening the rest of the family. She knew how stressed out I was and she was glad that I still found time for the things I liked. It was such a small thing but I immediately knew that I had made her day better simply because I was keeping myself together and the fact that I had cheered her up made me feel better too. Loved that, loved that, loved that...

Well, thanks to all you guys were listening. Thanks to my guests for coming and sharing his story and helping me feel less alone which I’m sure you could tell by how we times I chimed in about my story while he was sharing. I felt a little self-conscious after that but I decided to leave that stuff in and I hope if you’ve stuck with this long episode of to the end, you can see that you are not alone and we all have issues. We’re all trying to do the best we can and hang in there. I know this time of years if really tough for many people. Be good to yourself. Take naps if you need them. If you got to cry, cry, and just know that you’re not alone. Thank you for listening.

nakki