Congratulations on having the courage to read this article about taking your first steps toward healing from sexual abuse. Given that one in six men is sexually abused as a child, and many others are abused as adults, the number of services available to men who have been abused is grossly inadequate. Because of a number of organizations that have developed in the past two decades, more and more psychotherapists have been trained, however, when men do come forward, there's still a lack of enough trained therapists. My hope is that the help that's been available for women in past decades will become just as available for men. It's really essential that men have the resources, the help and the support so they can heal just as effectively as women have learned to do.

When you are ready to talk, here are nine steps to help you on your road to healing:

Give yourself a big applause daily. It takes a lot of courage to open up about your abuse, and one step at a time, you absolutely can heal and recover.

Find somebody to talk to who's safe. That may mean calling a therapist, a mental health center or local psychological association. There are many types of trained therapists: psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health, family, marital, and pastoral counselors, as well as trained body workers and self defense experts who can help. You can go online to find organizations that list therapists who are helpful:

1in6

With an emphasis on men finding their own pace, 1in6 helps men educate themselves about sexual abuse, reflect on their situations, find answers to their questions and explore their options in complete privacy.

MaleSurvivor

MaleSurvivor is dedicated to preventing, healing and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through online support, Weekends of Recovery, education, advocacy and activism.

MenThriving

MenThriving is a peer-support resource offered to men who survived sexual abuse in their childhood or adulthood.

Attend support groups. The Internet is filled with lots of resources, chat rooms and bulletin boards where you can go and talk to other men and just listen to other men share their stories. This is important because men need a community in order to heal. Remember it is fine to just listen at first, and only share a little at a time. You will feel safer this way, and your safety is very important as you start and continue to recover.

Know that you're not alone. Know there are other men out there who understand. You're not isolated. There are other people who are going to understand.

Take your time. Talking about your abuse is a process, and it's really important that you be very gentle with yourself and take your time. We can take our time. We can be compassionate with ourselves. We can learn to be loyal to functionality and disloyal to dysfunction, which means that men really have to examine the messages that have been planted in their heads by their perpetrators and well-meaning family members. You can learn to give yourself permission to have to be vulnerable.

Be willing to have feelings in order to heal. It's absolutely possible to heal and to fully recover. It just takes time, and it's important to have that hope and to keep reaching out for as much support as you need.

Learn to breathe, slowly and deeply. There are many books on mindfulness practices which will help you feel more in control of your body, mind and soul. Remember you cannot be tense and relaxed at the same time: it is physiologically impossible.

Ask for help, and then ask for all the help you need to support you. Remember, men learn they shouldn't need help; as survivors, we didn't get the help we need. Now, it is essential to have help from people who have been on the recovery path and have wisdom to share.

Practice daily affirmations. These affirmations are designed to help you practice being disloyal to the dysfunctional messages you may have learned growing up. Say them out loud, preferably looking at yourself in a mirror, or say them to someone who cares about you as you look them in the eyes. Be mindful of whatever feelings arise as you say the affirmation; any feelings you have are okay, even if you cry. Every tear you cry validates your worth and the worth of the boy inside you.

TEN DAILY AFFIRMATIONS FOR SURVIVORS

  1. Recovery is ABSOLUTELY possible and achievable for me.
  2. I will practice being DISLOYAL to DYSFUNCTION and LOYAL TO FUNCTIONALITY.
  3. I give myself permission to CONNECT to loving, affirmative, strong, sensitive, accepting men and women in my community.
  4. I release and forgive myself for ANY responsibility I have accepted in the past for my abuse.
  5. My abuser (s) chose to hurt me; I will stop repeating the lie that it "happened" to me.
  6. SELF COMPASSION is a necessity for my healing and growth.
  7. I commit to connecting to the boy inside me today so we can play, laugh and experience joy together, even if just for a minute or two.
  8. I believe deep inside me I possess the ability to face the truth of my abuse and the tools to heal.
  9. I have the right and the ability to speak the truth of my abuse and deserve to be heard, understood, believed and supported.
  10. Feeling is healing; as I heal, I am developing the ability to experience a wider and wider range of emotions to enhance my health and connections to others.

Howard Fradkin received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology in 1980 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has been licensed as a psychologist in Ohio since 1982. Dr. Fradkin has counseled more than 1,000 male survivors in individual, couples, and group psychotherapy and weekend workshops over the course of his career.