Media headlines end the story, until sensational news breaks of another kind. The public arrests of celebrities Ty Herndon and George Michael for soliciting anonymous sex in public, placed temporary doubt upon the future of these pop stars' careers. Kos was responible for grave crimes against boys, Herndon and Michael hurt no one. Yet the acts themselves, secretly hidden, repetitive and homosexual in nature, fuels the outflow of society's disinformation about male sexuality. The media stretchs only to meet eighth grade level education, leaving most adults dumb to issues behind events.
Linking childhood sexual abuse with adult solicitation is the tip of a much larger and secretive problem facing men. Sensational cases of Herndon and Michael remain unexplained, are minimized by their press agents, and drive male victims of abuse further into denial. There are no heros for male victims of sexual abuse.
Two Dallas men, Matt and Tom, explain how their childhood assaults as boys, had far-reaching effects to their lives well into adulthood. Neither of these men have been arrested, nor have their cases lead to trial.
When Matt was 10, he didn't remember his dreams. He was treated as a surrogate husband by his mother. His father was emotionally unavailable. When his parents traveled out of town, they entrusted their neighbors with Matt and his younger sister. The wife was Matt's mother's best friend, the husband was a heavy drinker, according to Matt.
After Matt fell asleep, he was awakened by the husband laying beside him. Matt remembers the man breathing on his neck, and holding Matt's body next to his, he said. The man forced Matt to perform oral sex, and then exited the room.
Matt could not remember how much time passed, but the man returned. During a second round, Matt was forced to perform oral and anal intercourse.
The next morning, Matt dressed for school, and tried to block the rape from his memory, but he never did.
Several nights later, while his parents were out for the evening, Matt and his sister were home alone. The man, in a drunken state, visited Matt's house, demanding to borrow a leaf rake. It was 10 P.M.
Terrified that he would be raped again or that harm would come to his sister, Matt ordered his sister into a bedroom and locked her inside. He found his father's gun, and sat in the living room, gun cocked, aimed at the front door.
"I called my parents and told them to come home," Matt said. Upon their return, "I didn't know what to say to them. I didn't want my mom to lose her best friend."
Matt's father was in law enforcement, "So, if I told, all-hell would break loose," Matt said. He kept his secret for 10 years, until he was 20.
Before Tom was 7, he had already been sexually abused for an unknown period of years. When he started therapy in his late 40s, he recalled it normal not to remember any of his childhood. After months of therapy, memories of watching his father force-feed his sister surfaced. He remembered his mother giving his sister more food after she vomited what the father had fed her.
"I was addicted to food. I was bulimic from as early as I can remember until puberty, then my addictions changed," said Tom now 61.
Society is accepting of women being victims, not boys, said John McCormick(1), founder of the Dallas Society for Bioenergetic Analysis. Though not all of his patients were sexually abused as children, boys being molested by either sex is simply not discussed.
"It is difficult for men to say, 'I am a victim' or ask for help of any kind. "The trend is for men to be more vulnerable with abuse trauma, but society has not seen the abuse of men come forth yet," he said.
Sue Meier(2), director of Child Help U.S.A.'s 24-hour intervention hotline, agrees. "It appears that the southern Midwest, including Texas, lags behind both coasts in admission of male abuse and awareness."
The Los Angeles-based helpline receives calls from male victims who have not been believed by a judge, or are again abused with therapy. "These calls would not be necessary if only our country was aware of male issues," Meier said.
Matt, now 33, and Tom, a successful Dallas businessman, each began recovery through therapy. Men who enter therapy may not recover from childhood sexual abuse. The patient must commit to the process and work at building a life away from the abuse, according to McCormick.
While attending the University of North Texas, Matt sought therapy after excessive use of alcohol and marijuana. He said UNT's psychological counseling center's program gave him the tools to further his recovery.
Tom was forced into recovery by his wife. "I didn't know that she knew," Tom said. "She was in therapy, and one day she confronted me, that she knew I was having sexual encounters," he said. The ultimatum was "get help" or "move out."
Tom's childhood fight for control of his life led to a food addiction. As an adult, the same control issue led to a sexual addiction.
"As a child, the food was all I could control in my life. My secrets became the reasons to live. What I could keep under tight control, the sexual abuse- the vomiting- and as an adult anonymous sex- were my secrets. I didn't know my wife knew that I was having anonymous sex," he said.
Mike Lew, author of Victims No Longer, is a New England therapist whose expertise in male survivor issues champions male recovery.
"Recovery is a difficult emotional process that takes years. It is worth the effort. Recovery is possible and includes- joy, release and understanding of self," Lew said.
Both therapists agree that men and women should not be forced into recovery. Most people will avoid therapy to keep themselves from experiencing heightened pain. Help should be made available without pushing too hard.
Tom fears discovering more about his childhood. He knows that a trusted family friend living in the neighborhood sexually abused him before his family moved to a new house when he was 6-years-old.
Severely withdrawn as a child, Tom said the onslaught of puberty brought about a switch in his personality.
"I became the life of the party. Like an actor, I role-played a gay man."
Daily activities for Tom were planned with explicit detail, including who he would see and what he would discuss. "This was how I controlled my day."
He thought he was gay as a result of the abuse, which McCormick says is a common misconception. Through therapy Tom was able to differentiate actions and needs from his heterosexual identity.
Addiction and obsession with sex was not about Tom's identity, but about controlling men who looked like his perpetrator. "I would seek-out men who were tall, thin, with dark hair -- really nice looking," Tom said.
During the pursuit of sexual encounters, Tom said he would reenact those childhood events to take back his power. It was only during these acts of sex that Tom felt any emotion. Therapy forced him to look at his actions, and the guilt he felt after overeating, or acting out sexually. Tom would compulsively fixate on men in public places and would follow them into the men's room.
"I would voyeur on them in the urinal and if they responded we would go further," Tom said. Tom would never engage in conversation.
After the sexual release, Tom felt debased and ashamed. He would act out, up to five or six times a day. Immediately after the encounter, he would be aware of his actions, not the man whom he had seduced. His sexual release often left him in shock, and he would scramble to clean himself, while trying to forget what had happened.
"My therapist reminds me that everyone who participated with me did it willingly, and that they were just like me, " he said.
Matt had two secrets while attending high school in East Texas. He couldn't tell anyone that he was gay or that he had been raped. However, he said it was common knowledge that his rapist abused boys.
"I didn't have friends in school, I didn't trust anyone." Matt said, "I thought I was dirty and worthless. I felt that everyone could see the rape written on my face."
Teen boys called him a "fag," and Matt says he never undressed for gym class out of shame. He hypothesizes that boys who mocked him, were attacking his self-esteem not his sexual preference. The way in which boys tormented him, using gestures and words, gave him the impression that they knew exactly what had happened.
In 1992, during a male-survivor workshop, Matt learned how to mourn the loss of his childhood. He began to acknowledge his rage and anger towards the rapist. He started to forgive the shame and self-blame that he lived with 12 years.
"I was not to blame. Children have no boundaries; we just do what adults tell us," Matt said.
Reaction to his abuse were obvious once Tom entered therapy.
"I couldn't cry until I was 49," Tom said.
He describes a recurring dream that starts in his parent's house -- where a tall, faceless man smothers him in bed. "When I open my eyes he was gone. I feel his presence behind me and I start running. I am too afraid to turn around. When I awaken, I am shivering and scared."
Now Tom is ready to accept the dream. "I can face him. Now I can cry."
Tom and his wife enjoy a loving relationship today. They have a college-aged daughter who is encouraged to ask questions of Tom.
"We don't force her to understand, she knows some of what happened- she will ask more when she is ready," he said.
Both Tom and his wife don't need sex to be nurtured, "instead we seek intimacy together, " he said. "I think that men seek sex and can't deal with intimacy." He feels the search is more complicated with male survivors.
"I have discovered my spiritual life through recovery. Someone told me that religion is for those who fear hell. Spirituality is for those who have been there," he said.
Tom hopes for a law of understanding. "We all must understand why a boy would isolate himself from a family, his friends and not have a positive peer group.
"Parents assume that their boy is just going through a rebellion, but they never think to ask why, or if he is OK."
McCormick agrees, and says that the recurring signs of sexual abuse described in Tom's and Matt's stories are routine. Parents don't think that their son could be a victim of sexual abuse.
We live in an unhealthy sexual society, and what is called "normal sex" may not be what is "healthy sex," he said. Sex becomes a commodity rather than expression, and power over another individual results. "Sexuality should be a profound expression of who 'I' am as a person. This is not taught today."
Matt is learning how to love himself. He sets boundaries with those around him, including his life-partner of two years. "As teen-age boys, we need to be allowed to cry if we are hurt.
"If a boy is sexually abused, he needs to tell every adult until someone listens. Don't stop telling until someone hears you," Matt said.
Nothing in a family should be secret, McCormick said. Isolation sets the foundation for abusive situations.
"We have found that some isolated farming communities and pockets in large cities have larger incidence of sexual abuse."
Irony may at the base of arrests like Herndon, Michael, and thousands of non-celebrity males in the USA each year. But authorities can not yet determine what abuse is, because society is unclear of what it is, McCormick said.
"We treat children as little adults." A child who was sexually abused, can not explain what happened by using the emotional maturity and terminology of an adult, he said. Disinformation around public arrests drive men further into shame and secrecy, rather than accepting their actions and seeking help. No one questions why these men put themselves at risk to begin with.
The body's natural defenses take over during trauma. "People in a war-torn country for example, live each day on survival technique present in the body," McCormick said.
The same mechanisms are used by children when they are sexually abused, because they don't understand what has happened. Age does not matter, as infants will react to sensations, whereas adults react to eroticism and symbols. Pleasure sources differ, but the body always remembers, he said.
When an infant is sodomized, their lack of comprehension overwhelms them. There is nothing for the child to do but repress the trauma, but the body will remember, and can resurface in adults as reactive signals in forms of addiction, anxiety, and depression. These signals could be touched-off by the scent of a cologne, or the way someone enters the room.
Lew defines recovery, "by each person's freedom to choose." The ability of choice not based on the aftereffects of abuse, can clearly mark recovery.
"Having healthy sexual and non-sexual relationships, without expecting perfection, but healthy integration with others- will follow recovery," he said.
People growing up in a sexually dysfunctional society may in fact experience a level of sexual abuse. Those who watch a movie that sexually degrades women furthers an abusive situation towards this gender, but it is this level of damage that becomes the cultural norm.
Kids are more sophisticated than their parents about sexual issues today because of AIDS, and celebrity arrests, McCormick said.
Because men are only "boys who grow older," it is unfair of society to expect boys not to cry or discuss their feelings, because it takes away their opportunity to tell a horrible secret when intervention is required. With early intervention, men like Matt and Tom, may have had the chance to heal without the loss of their only childhood.
Update 2003 (2) Sue Meier is no longer with Child Help U.S.A.
(1) John McCormick is no longer with Dallas Society for Bioenergetic Analysis
(2) Sue Meier is no longer with Child Help U.S.A.