When Michael at last found his voice, it turned out he had quite a voice. It is a voice that can fill a theater, a voice that can speak an unbearable truth and make it, somehow, more bearable. And it is a voice that can make fellow survivors feel less alone and more able to speak with their own voices. Not bad for a man who, for many years, was trapped in silence.
He was silenced by his step-father who threatened to kill him, the step-father who beat him and raped him repeatedly, for years. Michael pauses in the retelling and makes something clear: the word for what was done to him, what he endured, is rape. “Sexual abuse” is a euphemism that allows us to mask the reality of what a child suffers.
Like so many child rape survivors, Michael sought to make himself invisible to a world that was permeated with threat. But his silence and invisibility did not spare him from schoolyard bullies who targeted and tormented him.
Michael spent many years coping with anxiety, with panic attacks, and with the inner voices that undermined and silenced him. But gradually Michael began to examine those inner voices, and to challenge them. He found a therapist with whom he worked for years, a therapist who walked that inner road alongside him.
Just recently, Michael returned to the house where his step-father raped him several times a week. The house is abandoned and dilapidated, a collapsing relic. Michael sat down on the front steps and realized that he had won. “The nightmare house was collapsing,” and yet he was alive, he was a growing, struggling, overcoming, and even thriving human being who now had the voice and the inner strength to transform his suffering in the service of a shared purpose. His one-man, interactive performance piece, “Ask a Sex Abuse Survivor,” has been touring the United States since 2014.