Keith's Story

Keith Addison Tyler is a creative writer and music director, a survivor of sadistic childhood sexual abuse, and an advocate for male survivors.

Keith and his sister were abused by their father and their father’s friend. Over the past decade, Keith has served the survivor community as a moderator to a male survivor Internet forum and a co-facilitator of a peer-led survivor support group for men. He is also a member of the RAINN Speakers Bureau.

The support group experience prompted Keith to begin speaking publicly. He hoped to encourage fellow survivors and those who try to love them. Keith also wanted to reach beyond the survivor community to educate the general public about the challenges male survivors face. He decided to employ comedy to make the topic more palatable for audiences, allowing them to laugh along with him about how complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) has affected him. Keith finds no humor in the abuse itself, but time has freed him to look back and laugh at some comical predicaments his CPTSD and panic attacks created.

Keith first publicly disclosed his abuse at a stand-up comedy class. He was apprehensive about exposing his secret of which he was quite embarrassed and ashamed. Keith shared what the experience was like.

“I was trembling. The homework assignment was to share your reason for taking the class. These people paid for a comedy class to laugh, not to be brought down by me. I nearly ditched out of class at break time to avoid upsetting the class. I quietly spoke with the instructor during the break and he firmly persuaded me to stay put. My name was called and I went to the mic. Expecting my classmates to turn on me and ask the instructor to drop me from the class, I held my breath and blurted it out. It felt like I had leaped off a cliff and was free-falling. I braced myself for a crash landing. Instead, these near-strangers opened their hearts and broke my fall. They rallied to become my devoted support squad. Beginning that night, the majority of my classmates began coming to me in private to share their personal stories. Many had families dealing with sexual abuse and some of them had never disclosed their own story to anyone. Several classmates looked me up on social media to connect and help me develop my act. The class instructor urged me to consider expanding my act into a full-length show. These new friends motivated me all the more to bring this topic to the public.”

Keith shared how disclosure felt freeing.

“At the end of the 10-week course, the class had a showcase at a popular comedy club in Burbank, California. The show sold out and all the guys from my survivor support group showed up to support me. I was a bit concerned that I would be received with disgust or, even worse, pity. I loath sympathy. Nonetheless, I was eager to get to the mic because I felt certain something significant was going to happen. As I took the stage, I felt a tremendous physical weight lift from me. I later realized that the heaviness was that dark secret, the one that had never really been mine to suffer, my perpetrators' secret which I had carried for them all my life. I felt weightless and my skin tingled. For the first time in my life, I experienced the feeling of being fully present in a moment. A part of me I'd never known had come alive.”

While performing his act on the Los Angeles comedy club circuit, audiences and fellow performers were passionately supportive. Theatre directors began approaching Keith, expressing their interest in developing his act into a full stage show.

“I couldn't imagine anyone would invest a full evening of their time just to hear me talk, but when I kept getting approached with offers from directors, I began seriously considering the possibility. I recognized the perfect fit when I met director and fellow survivor Mark Millhone. Our show, ‘Trying to Be Normal is Driving Me CraZy!’ was scheduled to premiere in June 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID pandemic. Developing the show was quite challenging because my father was still being abusive in new ways, two of my siblings were acting out in response to the childhood abuse they had suffered, and all three died during that time. Sexual abuse within a family is not something one can simply leave in the past. Family perpetrators are narcissistic and find many ways to subjugate their victims throughout their lifetime. The survival tools I acquired during my years of therapy really paid off.”

 

Keith advises fellow survivors who are considering disclosing that “it's important to have a support group or other in-person resource in place, especially if you've had a situation similar to mine with a religious community that shames and silences victims, enables and protects perpetrators, and intensifies the situation with layers of additional trauma. It's most beneficial to find a qualified therapist who is a good match for you, and to connect with a reliable organization like RAINN that includes a healthy balance of licensed therapists, professional leaders, and efficient survivor community peers at its helm.”

Keith shared what has been most helpful to him in moving toward healing.

“My greatest turning point was when I fully accepted the reality of my situation. I had to explore and find help beyond the places one should find support but is denied it. My family was hurtful and my church community was harmful. I've been served all the old clichés heaped upon survivors, that being abused made me stronger, that this was God's purpose for my life, that I hadn't prayed hard enough with the right words, that there must be some dark reason inside me that explains why God didn't spare me from abuse. Each cliché has a dismissive premise and a numbing end goal, “it's all your fault, be ashamed, and shut up.”

“The reality of my situation is that, as several specialists have diagnosed, I will be managing my symptoms the remainder of my life. Many survivors fully recover but, for some of us, it's complicated. I was intensely abused throughout my developmental and formative years and too many years passed before I began treatment. Prayer did not change things and years of therapy and treatment did not completely heal me. I had to do the work to bring change for myself. I did my therapy homework and wrestled against my nature to be invisible and guarded. When I finally faced reality I began moving swiftly toward a place of healing. I still manage many symptoms but they cannot outweigh my joy to have survived and to know the strength found in genuine gratefulness for help that came from the most unexpected places.”

Keith's overriding message to fellow survivors? “Never stop trying.”

Es difícil saber qué hacer, qué sentir y cuáles son sus opciones después de un abuso sexual.

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