My first sexual experience happened when I was seven years old by two boys close to my age, and nothing about it made me feel loved. A year later, with stresses at home being added to my secret shame and fear, I considered taking my own life with the misguided thought that not existing was better than existing in pain and fear. Thankfully, I called my best friend to share how I felt and she assured me that I was loved and not alone. That phone call saved my life. At the age of 14 I was sexually
abused again by a 50 year old man for almost a year. That experience further confirmed a belief I had since the age of seven, people that you trust can do horrible things to you.

Over the years I tried to suppress as much fear as I could, but it could only stay dormant for so long. As I entered college and started a journey of discovering my sexuality as a gay man, things got increasingly difficult for me. Trust was a major issue, and any relationship I had between the ages of 18 and 30 consisted of me trying to maintain some sort of control because I was afraid of losing it. I was trying to control how vulnerable I was to men and tried to control them in order to feel safe. I
conditioned myself to believe that having control was a necessity. What I didn’t realize was that by choosing to live from a place of fear and control, I was limiting the love I gave and received.

In 2010 I made a decision to be more vulnerable in my relationships and I met a man that would put that into practice. We both agreed to not rush things sexually and got to know one another. And as we did, I felt more comfortable with him because he didn’t see me as an object. My emotional vulnerability allowed me to open myself up to him physically in a way that I had never done before. What I learned was that I didn’t have the emotional capacity to accept the love he was offering me, and in a fit of fear I sought out sex with another man in order to feel a sense of control for the emotional
vulnerability I was experiencing.

I had no idea why my feelings of vulnerability would turn to destruction, so I sought professional help. I needed someone to help answer questions for me and became a client of the Crime Victims Treatment Center (CVTC) in New York. This organization helps survivors of interpersonal violence, completely free of charge. Through intense therapy, I was able to see that love and control cannot exist together. I learned how to love myself in a whole way. I was able to offer forgiveness and compassion to the seven and 14 year old me, and thank them for protecting me when I needed it most.
My life is not perfect, and it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I don’t believe in perfection. However, I do believe that I live a whole life, a life where mistakes can exist, where pain is not debilitating and vulnerability is not a weakness. I’ve put the time in, through therapy, to find and create tools that allow me to be the person I know I can be. I’m not doing it alone either. I have people in my life that support me whenever I need it, and that came from my willingness to be vulnerable with them, even if I was afraid. I became my own “Soldier of Love.” I learned how to live my life from a place of love,
even when I am faced with insurmountable fear.