John Saunders is a father to three children, has travelled the world and been interested in communications and the human condition for many years. After studying Psychotherapy in the early 1990s he set up a communications business in eastern Australia. This delivered indoor and outdoor experiential programmes to corporate teams, helping them enhance their productivity. John designed, ran and opened over one hundred national and international conferences within Australia.
When he became a single parent in the late 1990s he started an advertising business in digital media management and production. This involved the design and creation of advertising for outdoor billboards and cinema.
In 2005 he travelled the world with his daughter and filmed a documentary on positive parenting.
Currently his focus is on assisting others on their healing journey through his writings. He spends his leisure time as a musician.
If I was to investigate the lives of all the authors who have written the books that hold pearls of wisdom and touch the hearts and souls of those that read them, I’m sure I would find that their lives had periods of great struggle and suffering. Many may well have written their books during these times.
This book is about my time of struggle, interwoven with my understanding of the direct gifts that I have received from this journey. I’m hoping the two will combine successfully for you and be easy to engage with, and that you will find a piece of you on the pages that follow.
As I wonder what to write to open this book, ironically I think of placing J.M.J. (Jesus, Mary & Joseph) at the top left hand corner of the page, as I had to write at the top of every page as a seven-year-old going to a Christian school. I’m fifty-one now and it has been eighteen years since I first recalled the memory of being sexually abused by a teacher in sixth class at a Church-run boy’s school.
It was during a counselling session when I was thirty-three that I first recalled the memory of the abuse. Imagine something coming up behind you while you are peacefully lying down relaxed and startling you to the point where your whole body jumps off the floor. This is what happened to me as the memory of abuse came rushing back. Then my mind immediately began to negate and trivialise the memory.
I was afraid to confront the pain and confusion. I even tried desperately to convince myself the abuse hadn’t really happened. This was instantaneous and all my mental justifications rallied to convince me that it was not important. This, coupled with my counsellor telling me that he thought these events had aided my growth at the time, led me to suppress further exploration of the memories of my abuse once again.
Many times within my life I have been challenged with suicidal thoughts. I have woken up depressed, hopeless, wondering what’s happening to me, and why my life is falling apart around me and turning into a tragedy.
Why do I not want to spend time with my children? Why am I uncomfortable being around them, hugging them, loving them? Why do I not want to be loved and touched myself? Why do I feel so awkward with other men? Why is it I have become so short tempered with my children, my partner and am now desperately trying to hold on to my relationship and my professional life? All the things that are dear to me, I now hold onto by an extremely thin thread.
After many loving talks with my friends, counsellors and reading varied books on sexual abuse (especially Victims No Longer by Mike Lew) I realise that, for most of my life, I have been artfully convincing myself that everything is okay. To do this I have created an extremely capable bodyguard within me to ward off anyone who comes close to my wounds or my inner world. The unfortunate part about my bodyguard is that he doesn’t trust anyone and now he doesn’t even trust me, the man who created him.
I’m not a psychologist nor do I claim to be any more than a simple man, though at this point in my life one thing is for certain; this is not going to be a simple road. However, it is now the only road I can walk.
So this book is going to be about what I have discovered about being a man through my experiences, on my healing journey. I’ve now commenced weaving the fabric of my life back together again, with the incredible support of my good friend and partner, both her loving teenage children and our daughter. The journey of recovering the pieces of myself that I’ve left behind in my past has now commenced.
From these writings I’m hoping that a transformation will take place in my heart, soul, and mind. I also hope that these words will be of support to others who have experienced traumatic events similar to mine. I believe we need to speak of our wounds and the parts of our lives that have had no voice, no words – the parts that, if silenced, will forever keep us living one step behind a rich and full life.
As I’ve walked the road of recovery, I’ve realised that the most vital and fundamental part of me that the abuse has affected has been my spiritual foundation and religious beliefs. I was not going to include these subjects for fear that it would alienate some readers. However, my spirituality has constantly come up to be addressed. Whether I like it or not, my parents entrusted my spiritual foundation to be developed and nurtured by the Church’s religious orders for thirteen years.
The holes in this foundation needed to be discovered and refilled through the self-discovery of my personal connection with God. So I will leave these writings in because without them this book would not be an honest account of my life experience. I have also included a section on my disclosure and compensation process with the Church Education Office. I hope this will prove helpful to other men and women wishing to disclose their abuse, and I offer advice to them on how to best support themselves along the way.
This aspect of my healing process had such a profound impact on my life, on my stress levels and on the well being of myself and those around me. I now realise I could have cut a few more corners, jumped less fences and been much more prepared for what I was in for, had I the knowledge of someone else’s experience to draw upon.
Through sharing my process, it may encourage you to include this avenue in the healing of your abuse. Even though the process of disclosure was extremely difficult for me, it was worth it for my peace of mind.
There is also a specific section that covers sexual abuse litigation. By including this section I have endeavoured to make the road less stressful and time consuming for you than it was for me.
This is a tale of one abuse survivor’s experience. Certainly, the various affects that sexual abuse has on people of different backgrounds and cultures other than my own must vary enormously. However from what I have seen, there are some common human responses that run true for all victims of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. This encourages me to tell my story, hoping that it may be of benefit not just to myself, but to other abuse survivors as well.
Today I ask myself: Why did sexual abuse happen to me? Why did emotional and physical trauma happen to me? What attracted this to me? What effect has this had on my spirituality and on my life? What lessons are there to learn from this kind of trauma? Will I be a better human being by learning from this? Will I be a more capable Dad, man, friend and lover?
I have always run from pain and from this journey’s beginning it has been painful. Who is this man in me? Who am I? This whole book is about looking within, and about some of the treasures that I brought back from my journey of diving into me.
The book also includes poetry and lyrics from music that I have written over the years, which now form a theatrical play about being a man. This too has played a central part in my healing process, aiding me in piecing together my history and easing my inner bodyguard.
If you have been abused, or have had a relationship with someone who has been abused, I’m sure you are familiar with the heaviness that falls over us like a shroud at times. When this happens, it is the perfect time for us to ask for help, to reach out, speak honestly and trust someone. These are the times that we can take giant leaps forward in life, before the memory of the abuse is suppressed and buried again. Please, do not suffer in silence.
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