Amazing Spider-Man #30
There are two images attached to this post. Both are from the Amazing Spider-Man. Both images include Betty Brant, receptionist for the Daily Bugle, and the first woman Peter believed he loved. Unfortunately, the two were never able to work out their relationship, and Betty eventually married Daily Bugle reporter, Ned Leeds. One of the main reasons they were never able to get their relationship off the ground was partly because, Peter always felt as though he needed to keep his identify as Spider-Man a secret for the betterment of Betty’s health and safety. Both images are from Amazing Spider-Man # 30. In the first image, Betty Brant is knocking on a door with Peter Parker on the other side. Earlier in the comic, Betty says how Ned proposed to her. Immediately, realizing he may lose the woman he loves, Peter decides to reveal the secret that he is Spider-Man. Before he can admit his secret, Betty confesses that she does not like the excitement that Spider-Man attracts. Rather than reveal his secret identity out of fear for Betty’s health, he decided against it and stormed out of the room. Betty calls for him to come back and that she loves him, but he refuses. You can tell by her tears and her words that she wants to be a part of Peter Parker’s life, but Peter’s secret stands between them. The second image visually depicts the divide Peter’s secret as Spider-Man causes in his life as he stands between Peter and Betty.
As a male survivor of sexual abuse, you may sometimes feel like a superhero. You may feel as though you can accomplish anything on your own. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Be a man. You may feel as though you carry the world on your shoulders and that no one can truly know who you are. You may feel guarded at all times, and afraid of hurting the people closes to you with the truth if they ever found out the secret you carry about your sexual abuse. However, like Peter, this fear can keep you from being happy. It can lead to you feeling as though you can never be yourself, and show your true emotions out of fear of how they may hurt the people you care about the most. This fear can lead to the suppression of other emotions that can manifest in ways that end up hurting you and those closes to you, in the same way it affected me one night last summer.
It was a few days after the release of the Philando Castille dashcam video. The video in which an unarmed black male in Minnesota was shot eight times after informing the officer that he was licensed to carry and had a gun in the car. I had watched the video on average about ten times, analyzing the language used, and what could have led to his death. I believe it affected much more than I knew.
After putting our daughters to bed, my wife and I sat on the back deck of our house. I told my wife that there were certain things she would never understand as a white woman that me and our daughters would. I said some hurtful things about race, how I can only depend on myself, and very directed hurtful comments. My voice had gotten so loud the neighbor poked her head out to make sure everything was okay. It was the first time I had ever really yelled, or had an argument of this nature with my wife after eight years of marriage. I have not had an argument of this nature since. I have not had one since. For a majority of the conversation she said nothing. She let me yell and be angry. Afterward, she calmly said, “If you ever wonder whether or not I love you, know that I just let you yell, and embarrass me for over thirty minutes.”
Looking back, I realize how angry I was at the Philando Castille video. During the session, my therapist made the point that it was probably not the shooting that bothered me, but the fact that his daughter is seen leaving the car afterward, confused and unsure where to go. I identified more with the traumatized child as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The reason for my anger transferred to the person I loved and felt safe sharing that intimacy. And although I was angry, and yelling, my wife confessed that she was happy to see a part of me that she had never seen. My anger and frustration at a situation usually remains bottled inside, hidden away and festering until I can go for a run, lift weights, meditate, or write. She felt pleased that I was able to show a true part of myself, even if some of what was said was hurtful.
As a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse, you may be afraid to show all parts of who you are to the people who are closes to you. You wear facades, or masks, that hide the pain and anger you feel on the inside. Instead of feeling depressed, lost, and isolated, you may use humor to keep people at a distance, or work to the point of exhaustion to keep your feelings in check. You may be afraid to let people in because they may see you as the monster you feel you may be. You may also be afraid that the emotions you feel will consume you, leaving behind the person you were with the version of the person you hate and despise due to the abuse you suffered. Unfortunately, as a male, you may feel like Peter, afraid to let the people you love see behind the mask you wear. Do not be afraid to let people know who are. Lean on them for support when it’s needed. Remaining distant will only lead to further isolation, anger, shame, and depression. Keeping this secret, and the emotions you feel from those you love will only tear you apart. Don’t let it. Be a superhero and know you are not alone.