More men coming forward to report sexual abuse

10:51 PM, Sep 20, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The Jerry Sandusky case has had a profound impact locally.

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Hotline (216-619-6192) has received a 300% increase in calls from men seeking help for sexual abuse they suffered as children. 

"I have found ways to be strong." says Kevin Sweeney, a sexual abuse survivor. 

His story began when he was eight-years-old and his Boy Scout Leader began abusing him.  He kept the five years of abuse he endured a secret for decades.

"Like most perpetrators he befriended me first, gained my trust and confidence and then began to do things to me he shouldn't have done," Kevin says. 

Like most victims, Kevin never told a soul because the abuser threatened physical harm to Kevin's family.

"I was frightened enough that I knew I had to hold on to the secret."

But keeping that secret carried a price.  Kevin experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, such as night terrors and reliving the experience.  He says he failed to thrive as a child and developed some Obsessive Compulsion issues as well.

"When you keep your story of your victimization to yourself for long periods of time, it does damage within you. It does damage to your inner core."

Seven years ago Kevin learned the man who abused him had died.  That's when Kevin realized he could no longer hide from the affects of the abuse.

"The emotions that I had been keeping suppressed just erupted," Kevin remembers.

At that time, Kevin was in his 40s and for the first time he finally told someone what happened.  First his wife, then his family.  While he began seeing a therapist, he says healing really began when he started sharing his story with other male victims at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

"By interacting with other men, I have found ways to rewrite my past, so that I understand it and accept it," Kevin says.

Megan O'Bryan, President and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, says the Sandusky case caused organization to review some of it's programs to appeal to men.

"I was very encouraged to see that people were so outraged to learn about this tragedy, and the courage of the men coming forward has really helped other men come forward and say, 'you're not alone. I've been sexually assaulted as well." O'Bryan says.

Kevin hopes his story will help someone else face and fight those demons. 

"Hopefully they're stepping forward and getting the help they need so that their lives are better."

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