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Surviving and Living

A Personal Story

Copyright © 1997 by Scott Abraham


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I wrote this in 1991 for the original M.E.N. magazine. At the time, I was grappling with the enormity of the damage that had been done, and wondering if the pain would ever end. Five years later, I can say.... YES!

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Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse
by Mic Hunter
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Victims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse
by Mike Lew
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My name is Scott Barak Abraham, and I am an incest survivor.

Or am I?

Am I a survivor, the accepted term for a man who was molested as a child and has begun the path to healing, or am I, and will I forever remain a victim, bedeviled by the memories and the residual effects on my life?

I am unsure where the dividing line between victim and survivor lies, if it can truly exist at all, and I am not comfortable with the definitions of therapists and counselors, however well intentioned.

The dictionary defines a survivor as a person who continues to live after or in spite of a life threatening experience, and the abuse I suffered most certainly qualifies: that I did not die as a child, much less during my years as a practicing alcoholic, much less by my own hand in the insanity of early sobriety during the return of my memories, is a miracle to me.

I survived-but I did not thrive.

Authors of recovery books and experts in the field generally define an incest victim as a person who was violated sexually as a child by one of more relatives, with the proviso that each victim becomes a survivor at the magical moment that they begin to realize the magnitude of the abuse and make a conscious decision to find the "Courage to Heal": the decision itself, in current understanding, changes the status of victim to survivor.

I liked the connotation of honor and strength implicit in the term survivor, as I was true to my male conditioning and resisted labeling myself as a victim.

But victim I was, and victim I remain. I've recovered more of my memories than I ever desired, and re-lived the slimy touch of the vile hands of eight different perpetrators, male and female, relative and stranger. I survived living life with no eyelids, unable to stop the flood of images and feelings that rose like rotten corpses disinterred from the grave of remembrance. I've confronted the perpetrators that still live. I've made peace with my death wishes, and the wish I still have that I could choke the life from those baby-raping monsters who still breathe. I've divorced what little remains of my family of birth, and built a family of choice. I've spoken on radio and TV. I've written, I've talked myself hoarse, and I have lived openly as a survivor for several years. I mentor those who have not walked as far on the path.

I survived, and I help others survive. For the first time, I can honestly say that I have a good life.

I survive. At times, I thrive. Yet I am, and always will, remain a victim. I am, and will always be, warped and twisted, limited and constrained, by what was done to me. I know I shall never be able to totally transcend my wounding, that to some degree, my father and mother and grandmother and uncle, the coach and priest and neighbor lady, will once again reach out in violation, if only in memory.

I will act out of my wounding. I will be limited in my ability to give and accept love. I will see life through an increasing accurate filter of my experience, but no matter how much I work, no matter how deep my perception, the lenses through which I see will contain unavoidable distortions.

In that sense, I shall always be victimized.

The task before me is to wrestle with the ghosts, to fight to neutralize their power, to learn and grow; all with acceptance that the battle shall never be over though victory is mine.

If I have weakened the enemy within, and slain in mind if not in fact the most of the enemy outside the walls, yet know I shall never completely completely exorcise the ghosts, am I only a survivor? Still a victim? Or something else?

For me, I am a victim when I excuse my choices because I have been wounded. I am a victim when I blame others, or the abuse, for the harm I have done to others and myself.

I am a survivor when I hold myself to this simple law: No matter what was done to me, I am responsible for what I do to others, and to myself: under all circumstances, I responsible for my choices.

If I do not hold myself to that credo, I am a victim, and my perpetrators live on within me, gnawing at the core of my soul, vermin scurrying in the cracks and crevices of conscience.

If I strive to hold myself to my own ideal standards, if I willfully choose to speak and act by my own authority, I do not sing the perpetrator's song, the whine of victimizing blame.

As long as I refuse to accept responsibility for my actions, I remain a victim. Better than them, but still a victim.

That has been my personal definition of survivorship, and I feel that I do well, today, in consistently maintaining that honor. Yet calling myself a survivor, and living to the standard I have set, still has its own limitations, for I am continuing to define myself by my experiences when I wish to transcend those experiences. Labeling myself as a victim, then a survivor, were necessary steps in the healing process, yet those definitions contain the inherent limitations of names.

I know the power of naming. I rejected my patronimic name and proudly bear a name I chose, a name of meaning to me. I am an alcoholic, co-dependent, ACOA, over-eater, sexual and relationship anorexic and addict, yet I no longer participate in those soul-murdering activities; I had to name what I was before I could change what I was. I suspect that the necessity to name has passed, as what once defined my reality now seems to limit my potential.

The process of definition has promoted a fragmentation of psyche, so that each broken part could be identified, dismantled, and rebuilt: I think the time has come to bring the parts together as a greater whole, and I cannot do that as long as I am artificially fragmented into competing dysfunctions.

I no longer want to be known as a victim, and neither do I wish to know myself as a survivor.

I simply want to be a man who defines himself as a human being, free of the seductive tyranny of labels and names. I have a set of molding experiences, which included horrendous sexual abuse. But an abused child is only a part of what I am, and as I accept the eternal repercussions, I refuse to accept that I cannot transcend that experience.

I shall never succeed, but neither shall I quit the quest; I shall grow closer to my unreachable grail each day.

There is no name, no label, other than the simple mantle of my humanity, that I wish to don today. I shall call myself a survivor so that others may know my reality, but in my own heart, I search for something else to call myself, something that does not connote victimization or suggest that I have been deprived, by the abuse, of the potential to live a fully authentic life. I struggle to accept the dichotomy that though I shall fail in my goal, I still succeed.

I am not just a victim, and I am not just a survivor. I am, and shall remain, both that and more than that.

I am a man. As it happens, I am a man who was sexually abused as a child.

That does not make me less of a man, or more of a man, or inherently, irredeemably flawed as a man.

What happened to me is a part of what I am, but not all that I am, nor does it limit what I can be.

I'm Scott Barak Abraham, and I proudly chose that name.

I'm human, and I proudly claim that title.

Related stories:


My Story, by an anonymous author

Take Care of Your Mother - Or Else, by Scott Abraham.

Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold, by Scott Abraham.

Be Gone!, by Scott Abraham.

Climbing Out From Hell, by Jeffrey Miller.

Wounded Boys, Courageous Men, a photo-essay about male survivors of institutional child abuse in a Canadian institution, by E. Jane Mundy.

Healing from Childhood Sexual Abuse: Book Reviews, by Scott Abraham.

Yes, Women Do Abuse, by Scott Abraham

"False" Memories, Repressed Memories, by Scott Abraham.

John Lee on Anger, an interview with John Lee

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