When he was a child, Woodinville's Thomas Edward was sexually abused.
"From age six through 14 I felt like I was a piece of meat being passed around. Some was with family and some was without family."
But he repressed the experiences, until one day it all flooded back while watching a sexually violent scene in a movie. He experienced:
"Just instant depression within, like, 72 hours to the point where I was actually suicidal. So I remember I had decided, okay, well this is it. I can't take what's going on, what's happened to me. I'm going to kill myself."
Luckily, a friend talked him out of it and Thomas started looking for help. As a Christian, he turned to his church but no one there would help him - in fact they made him feel worse.
"If you've been sexually abused by someone who is the same sex, somehow you instantly, magically become gay. The other thing is, people think that you're going to become a perpetrator or an abuser. So it was really hard trying to get past that."
Long story short, Thomas eventually created his own therapeutic plan and soon he began helping others like him. He created Healing Broken Men and leads five retreats a year for men who have been unable to find faith-based help.
"It gave them a chance to come and share their experience, to talk about their experience and realize they're not alone. That's one of the keys is isolation. We think, oh there's nobody else going through this except for me, all of the issues I'm dealing with. Most of the guys that come through the workshop, usually it's spouses, girlfriends that send them because the guys don't want to say anything."
As far as he knows, Thomas is the only person in north America, or perhaps the world, who does this kind of work. Men fly in from as far as New Zealand to attend.
Including Dale, a Canadian who only wants his first name used. Dale was abused by a male neighbor and a male family member, starting when he was seven years old. At age 12 he started reading the bible.
"I started in the Old Testament and homosexuality was a detestable sin and God would punish us," Dale said. "From what I had heard at that point, I was going to hell. At that time I believed I was gay because of what I had done. It didn't matter who I was attracted to now. Sure I'm attracted to women, but look at the stuff I did. So that made me gay and that made me hate myself."
As an adult, looking for help, Dale went to his pastor who simply told him to, 'Let it go.' Dale was shocked that there was no support from the Christian community.
"It creates such a sense of guilt and shame, it's overwhelming. The self-esteem issues that arise from that, I think it's a huge contributor to homelessness, prostitution, drug abuse, alcoholism, anger management issues. How many of these issues the church has resources for, they're treating the symptoms. They do have resources for women. There are resources for children. There's just nothing out there for grown men, in particular, who are already afraid to talk about it because they don't want to be seen as gay or weak or that sort of thing."
After years of unsuccessful secular therapy Dale discovered Healing Broken Men.
"You get together with [Thomas] and other guys that are experiencing the same type of thing that you are, that have the same kind of issues that you do. It just creates this atmosphere of understanding. You're able to talk about it and you all go in with the agreement and understanding, right from the start, that there's no judgment. For men there's always that constant sense of, 'What will people think about my masculinity if I share these types of things?' If you go into it and you remove that right from the start, it's amazing the things that come out and the healing that can happen from that. For me, I heard other men telling my story, almost word for word."
The CDC estimates that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Yet, when Thomas was scheduled to hold a seminar at a local church, his talk was canceled after he'd already arrived by a pastor who said:
"We think it's probably not the right topic for our congregation at this time."
Yet a churchgoer planning to attend contacted him after, to get help for her son. Dale says, as opposed to a therapist, Dale knows what he's been through, he's shared his own story and he genuinely cares about helping people.
"It's changed everything. It's changed my relationship with my family, my mom and my dad. It's saved my marriage, made me a better husband, a better father. It's renewed my faith in Christ. It's changed everything about me. I don't want to say that Thomas did all that. But Thomas pointed me in the direction I needed to go and he helped me process the things that were standing in my way."
If someone wants to attend a seminar and can't afford it, Thomas will pay for them out of his own pocket, so in the end he makes nothing for his services. If you'd like to make a donation, to sponsor a retreat for someone who needs it, click here.
His next retreat is May 22-25, in the Seattle area, and he still has open spots.