Only Human Photography

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1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. I was the one. Talking about being sexually abused is not easy, especially as a male. However, I believe it needs to be talked about. It is time to own my story, write my own ending, and get rid of the shame.

I was molested as a child. I will refrain from giving details of the abuser or details of the abuse, but I will say that it happened more than once. In fact, it went on for a while until as an 8 year old, I decided to tell my parents what was going on. The abuse stopped. I saw a therapist. And I thought I would be okay. However, as life progressed, I soon figured out that the trauma never left.

I didn’t realize how much sexual abuse twisted my view of the world until I got into a serious romantic relationship and noticed my unhealthy behaviors. Codependency. Feelings of being worthless. Beating myself up. Thinking I’m broken. Used. Abused. That I have no power over my world or myself. Trust issues with myself and others. Playing victim. 

Being triggered and letting emotions run my life. Feelings of insecurity about my body. Having a hard time opening up in an intimate way without feeling molested or violated. The finger of shame wants to tell me I’m not good enough. The hand wants to invade my body, my mind. And all I can do is sit and watch, afraid that I will never measure up, or be safe. And this just a glimpse of what it feels like being the survivor of abuse. #metoo

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Being an abuse survivor means having triggers. These triggers can cause an array of emotions in an instant, from anger to anxiety. I wanted this image to represent the emotion of depression triggered by social norms.

I never quite fit in with other guys, partly because I’ve always been attracted to males, but also because I was abused by a male. I felt lost, confused and isolated when it came to interacting with other males. I didn’t feel like I could ever fit in. Some guys hugged each other, while others wrestled. Most men can change in a locker room, pee in a urinal standing next to another man, or talk about sexual behaviors without a second thought. I never felt comfortable doing any of those things. It all felt wrong and violating to me. In addition, I honestly thought for most of my life that sex wasn’t actually a good thing. That it was just a way to take advantage of someone else and use them for personal pleasure. I also thought that I didn’t deserve or could ever have my own sexual pleasure. That it was wrong and selfish. In addition, I grew up in a religion that told me I had to wait to explore sexual pleasure until marriage. That somehow my body was not mine to use. 

I had to wait for someone else to use it for me. Depressing knowing that I was not like the others. Depressing knowing that sex was viewed as wrong and selfish. Depressing knowing that after the abuse, I didn’t feel like I had control over my own body. That I hated my body. Depressing to watch the hand drag me down, while the other one twisted my view of appropriate physical interaction. Depressing to feel like I was sinking, all alone, with no one to reach out to.

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“Why did this happen to me?” Is the question I would often ask myself. Why would someone else use my body and not even feel bad about it. Why would my abuser use me one day, and then the next day make fun of me verbally.

Anger. Another trigger. This anger was not only towards my abuser but also towards people I loved. If someone touched me a certain way (whether innocent or not), all of the hairs on my skin would stand up. My blood would boil. My mind would instantly think “If you don’t stop yourself right now, you’re going to knock this person out.” I’ve never been a violent person, until my body is reminded of how my abuser once touched me.

The body holds a memory, just like the brain. Anger is the only word to adequately describe how I feel inside and out. Angry that life isn’t fair. Angry that I didn’t deserve to be abused. Angry knowing that it wasn’t my fault I got abused, yet I have to deal with the consequences from it. Angry that I didn’t feel protected growing up. That I was left to defend myself and my own mental and physical well being.

Angry that the feelings of abuse come and go. Angry that the hand who touched me multiple times has no clue the damage that they have done. Angry at myself for suffering so much and so long in silence.

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Survival Mode

You don’t realize that when you grow up being abused, you automatically live in survival mode. That somehow you don’t really trust the people around you. That everyone has an agenda and that agenda is to take advantage of you in one way or another. That people will just use you, or leave you. As a result, your mind and body start living in fear and subconsciously push anyone that gets close to you emotionally or physically. You fall victim to any behavior that might be seen as unfair. You start accusing people that they don’t know you or love you.

Survival mode is all about protecting yourself at the cost of any relationship. You don’t believe you’re good enough, therefore you automatically believe everyone else thinks the same about you. You’re broken. You’re tired. You’re worn out from being emotionally drained. You don’t practice self care or self love. It quickly turns into self hate and self doubt.

Why would you let anyone in when you can’t even accept yourself at this point? Oh, but people hurt you. They disregard your feelings. They don’t understand.

Or maybe you don’t understand.... You don’t understand how to be kind to yourself. To put down boundaries. To be respected. To know your worth. To know your potential and what you deserve. That’s right, you don’t understand. You can’t understand when you’re stuck in survival mode, trying to stay afloat. Trying not to let the hand that abused you drag you down. Trying not to let the other hand tell you that there’s no point in opening yourself up again to someone else, anyone else.

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As an abuse survivor, I thought how I was living my life was how everyone was living theirs. That for some reason it was extra hard, and sad and depressing - until I got help. I thought I had worked on my past trauma, doing my best to be a better person everyday. However, last year I realized that I never worked on my trauma. That I had an unhealthy mindset and therefore resulted in unhealthy behaviors.

I went to therapy. I worked hard, talking about my abuse but also moving past it. I learned how to put down boundaries. I put down a boundary to never speak or see my abuser again. I also put down boundaries with my family, friends, and loved ones. I worked on creating a healthier mindset, realizing that I’m not broken. I never was. I just have a few scratches and kinks that needed to be worked out. I also realized that I can’t control anyone but myself. That I am in control of who I let in, my emotions, my reactions, and how I deal with triggers and stress. No more blaming. No more playing victim. No more unhealthy relationships. No more letting my world crash and burn and continually stuck in survival mode.

I have a lot to offer, and I think I’ve finally realized that. Learning to love myself fully meant doing the work to heal and move forward. I will no longer let my past abuse take over my life or well being. I am strong. I am courageous. And I am ready to thrive.

Thanks everyone for your love and support. It means the world to me. I could not have shared such a personal experience without the support of a loving community. I hope that this story will carry and help that abuse survivor that’s too scared to tell anyone. Or the abuse survivor that doesn’t know how to heal. Or the abuse survivor that needs to know their not alone. You matter. You are loved. And you deserve the best.