Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oprah - Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, Part 1

This post is about my experience being part of the 200 male survivors on show airing November 5 and November 12. Please tune into the Oprah show to view these episodes and spread the word to all your friends. This post is part one of a two part series.

The days and weeks leading up to the taping of the Oprah show on Oct 20, 2010 were like riding an emotional roller coaster. There were ups and downs and loops and jerks and just about everything you can imagine. I went through the fears of what I would say if I was going to be on the show and would I feel safe to speak my truth. It wasn’t easy and finally a few days before we were to fly up there, I found a peace within myself. I am now at a point in life, where I really do not care what my abusers say or think. If they do not like me speaking out about the horrific things they did to me and others, than I’m sorry, but to be very blunt, that is their problem!

Taking off for Chicago was fun because Jeff and I rarely get to fly anywhere and we don’t take too many trips because of how expensive it is to travel. This trip was paid completely by Oprah. From the initial contacts with her staff to the point of travel arrangements and then at every point during the trip, the staff of Oprah were extremely professional, compassionate and top notch. I cannot say enough about them because I was very impressed.

Arriving in Chicago early in the morning gave us some time to get to the hotel and then do a little exploring. We were extremely tired because of getting up so early that we did not go too far but just walked around downtown. The hotel we stayed in was one of the nicest we have ever stayed in. It was fun just to be in the downtown part of Chicago and I took plenty of pictures. While most of the people that flew in for this show arrived around the same time and were transported by bus, we were taken by a car service. So we didn’t get to connect with all the others at that point.

That night, not knowing everyone was getting together for dinner in the hotel, we stumbled upon everyone with the right timing of when we chose to eat. We met some very interesting people and had fun getting to know a few people. The camaraderie that everyone felt there was out of this world. There was such a strong bond there with people who were strangers, yet we all felt the common connection. While I was a little shy and nervous, it didn’t take long to just fit right in. At the end, there was a grand piano in the lobby and one of the guys talked me into just playing on it. Here I was in a hotel lobby creating music in the moment on the beautiful grand piano.

The next morning, we had to be up at 4am to get on the bus and head to the studio. That was not easy and we were all very tired. Getting to the studios, you go through security and then have to check in any sharp objects and cell phones, cameras, coats, etc until you are leaving the building. I was extremely nervous and in fact, I could barely eat.

As we all started to be seated in the studio, they informed us that we were going to screen the episode that was actually airing this day on the Oprah show. The episode was of Tyler Perry coming out as a male survivor. Viewing Tyler Perry’s story on the screen, there was hardly a dry eye in the place. Hearing about the beatings, the molestation and all that he endured was heartbreaking. I cried throughout this show because some of his experiences hit so close to my heart. It was not easy to see this episode so early in the morning and it left me feeling numb. I had to focus on my breathing just to stay centered and grounded.

After that, they started getting everyone in place so the taping could begin. When Oprah came out, everyone was so happy to see her and she seemed to be genuinely happy to see everyone there. Oprah appeared to me to be just as down to earth and genuine in person as she did on TV. In fact, at one point during the taping she talked about how her back was hurting that morning because the dog decided it was going to take up most of the bed when she tried to sleep that night. That’s a small insignificant story but it just showed to us how real she is. She was very accessible throughout the taping and very responsive to all that were there. I thought there would be many ground rules laid down but the taping took place in the way that things unfolded. I thought there would be more staged and rehearsed moments but it truly happened as we were watching it take place. How it will all be edited together and shown on TV, I have no idea.

One of the most powerful moments of the show came at the beginning. I’m not sure I will be able to watch this part of the show without crying because it was so powerful. Before coming to Chicago, we had been asked to email a photo of ourselves around the time of the abuse. While the picture I submitted was not necessarily when things happened, it was the best quality picture I could find. The studio took our submitted pictures and blew them up to 8x11 size and handed them out to each of us. When you see the show, you most likely will see these pictures. I won’t give any more of it away but as I type this, I’m almost in tears. They say a picture is worth a thousand words – well, maybe in this case, it is worth a few million words.

I’m not completely certain but I believe there will be two shows out of this taping. One will be on November 5 and the other will be a week later on November 12. There was just too much material for her to cover in one show. So, set your VCR/TIVO or whatever you use to record the show if you can’t be home to watch it. I believe it will be a powerful show when they get done editing it together and I doubt many will be able to sit through it without being affected by the content. For now, I’m not sure if I will show up in the show or not because it depends upon the editing and what they include and what they have to omit. There was so much information and segments that were taped so it will be interesting to see the final show.

Jeff and I were sitting directly behind Oprah, the guests and Tyler Perry during the taping. It will be interesting to see how things look in the show because for most of the time, we got to see the backs of everyone with Oprah but the faces of the audience. I’ve never been in a studio like that but we could see the Teleprompters and cameras with the red lights indicating which ones were on and being used. It felt surreal sitting there with Oprah and Tyler Perry as this unfolded.

There were 200 male survivors that she flew in for the taping of this show. While she tried to use as many of the stories as she could, so many people were not able to talk. However, everyone that was a part of the audience was just as important as those who were highlighted. Oprah made the statement that never before had 200 male survivors been assembled before at one time to tape a show such as this. It was truly a historic moment. According to what one of the guys shared on a forum, there were over 10,000 applications submitted to be on the show and out of that, only 200 were chosen. I feel extremely fortunate that I was there.

Come back tomorrow for part 2 of this series and mark your calendars or set your TIVO to record the show on November 5 and November 12. Send an email and post a link on Facebook to let all your friends know about this very important show.

For Part 2 on my experiences on Oprah, click here

(Above Picture (c) 10/28/10)


  1. Great job Don...very well written!

  2. Bless You! Thank you for sharing. One person can make such a big difference in the world. This is one of the most important programs I have ever seen.






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