Love Among the Ruins
In his book Abused Boys, therapist Mic Hunter details the many reasons why sexual intimacy is complicated for male survivors: Some withhold or avoid physical intimacy because they come to think of sex as a disgusting act that people inflict on one another. In a complex effort to show respect, some victims seek out prostitutes or strangers instead of venting their desires on their loved one. Others may come to define sexuality as always involving a perpetrator and a victim. "Often this association is so powerful that the victim becomes physically nauseated even when someone initiates respectful, mutual, consensual sex with him," Hunter writes.
On the other hand, many adult survivors compulsively seek out sex: More than one-third of the men in Sex Addicts Anonymous said they'd been sexually abused as children, according to a study Hunter conducted. Some sort of sexual dysfunction affects one in four abuse survivors, he reports—including inhibited drive and erectile problems.
Healing, for these men, is possible, but experts say that the process they go through can be one of the more difficult junctures in their lives. It often involves confronting the one thing they never wanted revealed. And it often makes things worse for their partners. "Recovery is hell on relationships. Many couples don't stay together," says Mike Lew, a Boston psychotherapist who wrote Victims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse. "And if the couple makes it through, the relationship is different. It's healthier, it's stronger, but it's not the same. The old relationship is dead."
The Martins are living proof of that. Julie says Craig's recovery process has caused them to grow apart. So far therapy hasn't bridged the divide. "I love him. He's gained my trust back," she says. "I admire everything he's done. I give him credit. But he's not the man I married."