Sunday 26 February 2017

'I feign migraines to avoid having sex'

I was abused by my father between the ages of seven and 11. I'm now a 25-year-old male and in a relationship with a girl for the first time.

I have never spoken to anyone about this and she knows nothing either. We have had sex but to be honest I feel hugely under pressure and don't really enjoy it. She is always up for it, so much so that I've developed a pathetic excuse about migraines to try and avoid it sometimes.

At times when we are together, I can't really perform and she gets upset. I can't explain to her what it's about and I'm afraid if I do that she will leave. Other than that, we have a great relationship and really enjoy each other's company. I had been drinking a lot, too much, before I met her. There were a couple of incidents where I lost my temper and hit out at strangers that were completely drink-fuelled.

She has helped me calm down and not be as dependent on booze for social occasions. I don't think she realises how low my self esteem gets at times because I try and hide if from everyone as much as I can.

My father is still alive but moved out when I was a teenager and I have barely seen him since. My mother doesn't know what happened to me and maintains a good relationship with him.

What will drive you apart is just how hard you are on yourself and your inability to like yourself for who you are. Admitting to being abused by your father is an incredibly difficult thing to do but you have already done so in your email here. That's a first step. Talking to your girlfriend may be the next step although I would suggest talking to a professional first if the idea of opening up to her overwhelms you. Your behaviour, your drinking, the violence, the confusion over sex are all typical behaviours of people who have experienced sexual abuse as children.

I'm not surprised you haven't met a man who has been abused. I suspect you probably have but they dare not mention it.

In the SAVI report (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland) commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in 2002, 20pc of girls and 16pc of boys are reported to have experienced sexual abuse during their childhood. For adults, that figure changes to 42pc for women and 28pc for men. Another interesting finding of the report is that while a small 8pc of women reported their experience of abuse to the gardai, only 1pc of men did.

For a long time now, it seems you have avoided the issue altogether. Drinking initially covers up the feeling of inadequacy. I would suggest that this is the first time you have truly stopped to wonder what the abuse your father committed has done to you. There is no question your self esteem has taken a knock and no matter how much this girl loves you, it will be up to you to start truly believing and trusting in yourself for this relationship to work.

We all have thoughts going on in our heads that we don't want others to see but you need to start getting to like yourself and not blame yourself for the abuse that happened. Understanding what impact this has had on you, requires professional counselling.

Sexual abuse can significantly affect your own sexual attitude and drive. Again a professional would start working with you on the best way to tackle that. Harbouring such intense anger can eat away at you and some day you will have to learn to let it go.

Sexual abuse in childhood can be overcome and you can go on to lead fruitful, committed adult relationships. It may take some time but you have already taken the first step.

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