When A Man You Love was Abused: book review

I recently wrote a review for the Ashland Theological Journal, and I thought that it might be helpful for others who do not have access to the publication.

When A Man You Love was Abused: A Woman’s Guide to Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation, by Cecil Murphey.  Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010. 256 pp., paper, $13.99

Clearly, Cecil Murphey knows his subject matter only too well.   This is a book written for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse by one who has walked in their shoes.  Sadly, “Cec,” as he calls himself throughout the book, writes from his own personal experience of living under the shadow of memories of molestation while just a little boy.   The author was molested by both male and female perpetrators, all of whom were persons related to or trusted by his parents.   It was not until he was married and his offenders were dead that Cec was able to “remember” and begin his journey towards healing.

This is not an academic work, nor was it ever intended to be so.  There are less than a handful of references for the generalized statistics that the author refers to, and most of these are just web addresses.  Yet, clearly this book is well researched, if only because of the author’s own personal journey of healing.  Cec’s recovery was greatly facilitated by the very knowledgeable and supportive relationship he had in his best friend, David Morgan, a therapist who wisely provided support and referral instead of giving counsel himself, since a dual relationship between David and Cec would have only muddied the waters of recovery.  Cec needed David to be his friend, while another could be his therapist.

The book is an easy read, divided into two parts, and filled with real life stories by other male survivors of sexual abuse. The first section is dedicated to explaining the effects of sexual trauma on the little boy, how this abuse has impacted his life, and how it colors the relationships he has for the rest of his life.  The second half of the book is full of helpful wisdom for the women who love and live with male survivors.

Cec does not flinch from dealing with the “elephants” in the room.   Chapters are dedicated to tough subjects such as “Where was God?” and “If His Abuser Was a Woman.”  The subject of forgiveness is discussed several times throughout the book, and the author strongly suggests that this is something that is not to be rushed, and which may take a lifetime.  He gives examples of where men were shamed by well-meaning Christians to publicly forgive their offenders before they were even able to express the emotions they were feeling.

Although he never mentions the word “triggers,” Cec clearly explains how the sexual abuse survivor’s body holds onto memories long before his mind is able to recall or deal with the trauma.  This will be very helpful for the women who love them.  As the author explains, they are secondary victims of the abuses that happened, as they daily deal with the consequences of the horror the men experienced.

While male survivors of sexual abuse are repeatedly reminded that they were not responsible in any way for the perpetrator’s actions, the author makes it clear that the way the survivors react to the abuse as adults is completely their responsibility.  Much of Cec’s recovery took place in small support groups with other male survivors, and many of these men had acted out sexually throughout their lives or had abandoned women and children who had been their family.  The author explains how the abuse distorted the child’s self image, and offers a healthy response to the lies he has believed throughout his life.

This is an excellent resource for anyone who cares for a man who was molested as a child, but especially for a woman who lives with a survivor, as the abuse clearly impacts his emotional and sexual relationships.

Morven R. Baker, D. Min, LPCC-S, NCC; Ashland Women’s Counseling Center

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