Brian’s Story

Brian's Story

  • Silly
  • Loving
  • Passionate
  • Artistic
  • Woke

I’m on this road to wellbeing. The fact that I keep taking each step makes me stronger.

3% of American men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. A survivor speaks out: “I want young Black men to know that they are not alone.”

“I’m on this road to wellbeing. The fact that I keep taking each step makes me stronger.”

Brian Johns was repeatedly sexually abused by a trusted older family member, starting at the age of five. The perpetrator used coercion, emotional abuse, and grooming to facilitate the abuse.

As often happens in cases of child sexual abuse, Brian felt afraid to tell family and friends about the abuse because he was worried he would get in trouble or cause others to be angry. “When I was younger, I didn’t want anybody to be mad at me. I didn’t want my abuser to be mad at me.”

Brian’s parents soon learned of the abuse when his cousin, who was also being abused by the same family member, disclosed to the family. Brian’s parents enrolled him in counseling but chose not to report the abuse to law enforcement. At the time, he was not ready to disclose the abuse but as an adult is grateful the disclosure happened early. “I needed it to move forward and begin my healing process.”

After his family learned of the abuse, Brian remembers feeling ashamed and responsible for the emotions of those around him. He suggests that loved-ones remember that it is OK to be angry when you learn that someone you care about has been sexually abused, but it is vital to remember to put the survivor’s emotions and needs first.

“Don’t get so caught up in your emotions that you forget about the person it happened to. When you put your own rage before their healing, a survivor can end up trying to manage your emotional welfare instead of focusing on their own.”

As many men and boys who are survivors of sexual abuse do, Brian faced a specific set of challenges, including self-blame, difficulty in relationships, and concerns about sexual orientation. “I felt ashamed for years because not all of what I experienced was painful. When you’re exposed to such sexual activity in your formative years, it complicates so many things.”

Brian has found writing about his story to be helpful in his healing process and recently published his memoir, Ant in an Eggshell: The Fragile Fortitude of a Black Man, in which he touches on the themes of sexual abuse, self esteem, and relationships. “Black men have the stigma attached to us to be strong, unmoving, unfeeling.”

When Brian isn’t writing, he works as a substitute teacher and finds joy in immersing himself in art. He is a singer and focuses on soul music as well as other genres. 

“Expressing myself artistically is what I love to do. I sing, I write, I act. It’s very cathartic for me.”

"If anything comes from this, I want young Black men—who are not paid attention to—or any survivor, to know that they are not alone.”

On supporting survivors:

“Don't get so caught up in your emotions that you forget about the person it happened to."

On being a survivor:

“Showing emotion about being abused? It's not well-accepted. As a Black man, you've been broken down so much that you have to put on a face of being strong. We have a lot of pain that is unattended to."

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