Many spoke to me of the journey from victimhood to survival. There was never a definite line here. The process of deciding what material to put into the "Victim" section of the film versus the "Survivor" section became very difficult. Finally, my guiding principle was that negative behaviors and feelings that came from the abuse — beyond the abuse incident itself — also belonged to the phase of the victim.

Survival, I began to realize, was a vast stage of reaction to and compensation for the pain of the abuse. As a survivor, these ways of coping live below the surface of our conscious minds and mingle inextricably with the feelings of victimization. Many men become withdrawn and passive, while others become aggressive and judgmental. Some men lose the memory of the abuse itself for decades. Others, like myself, troubled over it every single day for years thereafter. Some men recede from the pressure of high-stakes jobs, while others crave this pressure in an unhealthy way. Even these few examples show how very differently men can react to a similarly abused childhood, still in the dark as to their own motivations.

Gradually becoming aware of their own role in failed relationships, unsatisfying careers, antisocial behavior and often desperately low self-esteem, they enter what survivor Gary Belkot calls “the mind-blowing labyrinth that we have to journey through to understand what the hell was really going on.” This serpentine path prompts men to look not only at their own views of the world, but also at the world’s view of them. Having faced this volatile nationwide ambivalence, male survivors, says author and teacher Richard Hoffman, “are a political and cultural vanguard.”


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