I often use statistics as the launch pad for my opinions. So when I heard the following statistical data last week on Oprah, I knew I had to write about it.
Her show was about men who were sexually abused. There were 200 men in the audience, all of whom were willing to admit they were molested as children. Statistical data indicates one out of every six men has been sexually abused.
It's worth repeating. One out of every six men has been sexually abused. That one man could be your brother, your co-worker, or your boyfriend.
Glendale's current population is approximately 197,176, of which 48%, or 94,644, are men. That means there could be as many as 15,774 men living in Glendale who were sexually abused. It's a staggering reality.
I know what many of you are thinking. "It's impossible for that number to be so high when I don't have one male friend who was molested." I can assure you that will change soon. You are going to know someone.
For now, there is a reason you don't know. It's because most men live their entire lives without telling anyone. And that was one of the points of Oprah's show. It's a hidden crime, where the victim often carries the burden alone, only to suffer long term issues with personal relationships, anger, substance abuse and other negative manifestations that take a toll not just on their life, but on the lives of those closest to them.
So this little statistic got me to thinking. How can I use my column to reach out to the abused men in our community? How do I help them see it wasn't their fault and that it's time to regain the power that was taken from them?
I figured the best way would be to stand up and tell everyone that I was sexually abused on separate occasions between the ages of 7 and 8.
This is only the third time I've ever mentioned it. I told my girlfriend a few years back. And about 25 years ago, I told my sister, who found it impossible to believe, which is understandable. Why should my sister believe me when I was the one who was emotionally unstable and the perpetrator was a more model citizen by comparison? My credibility was always suspect because I was always angry, bitter and impulsive. I could never blame her for not believing me.
When my attempt to tell my sister failed, I buried the abuse even further. But eventually, the dark truth manifests itself in other ways. For me, I have never been able to establish long lasting relationships. I don't trust those closest to me. It has cost me numerous relationships with women and alienated family.
My displaced anger is also affecting the relationships with my children. On many occasions, they have asked me why I am angry, even when I am displaying no external rage.
When people get too close, I hurt them before they can hurt me. This has been the pattern of my life. It is how I've dealt with the violation of trust. I am an expert at it. It is a common behavior among men who have been sexually abused.
I can't tell you why I kept this hidden for so long. All I know is seeing 200 men standing up on TV made me want to confront my past. Had it not been for my girlfriend's unrelenting insistence that I watch this episode, today would have been just like the last 41 years. Those men each had a picture of themselves when they were little boys — their pictures were taken prior to their abuse. And this really hit home.
About a week ago, a friend on Facebook had posted our first grade class picture. I was 7. I was a happy, smiling boy with no real fears or worries. In every other class picture after that, my honest smile was gone, replaced by a forced grin, void of innocence.
Just two days ago, I was at it again with my girlfriend, threatening to leave, inexplicably trying to end the relationship for no valid reason.
Cumulatively, it finally added up to a defining moment in my life — a moment of real change. And if my own story can help a stranger to overcome their anger and agony, then it turns bad into.
To those 15,000 men in Glendale, let me say you will never be alone. As you read my declaration to those who took advantage of my trust, my hope is it will help in your journey to put the dark secret in perspective:
You stole something from me when you sexually abused me. I was 7 and I trusted and loved you. I've lived with the consequences of your actions in secret all my life. Those closest to me have also paid dearly.
I'm not sure what I would have been like had you not done this to me, but I would like to have known. I'm going to live my life accepting that I can't change what happened to me and that it is not my fault. It is said that when you heal yourself, you heal the generation before and after you. It is my hope that my children do not suffer from what happened to me.
I have lived isolated as a victim for 41 years. It is time for you to assume your identity as perpetrators. I transfer the weight of your actions back to you. I am free.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at email@example.com.