RALEIGH — Sexual abuse can leave mental scars on victims for years. Many adults are still dealing with the trauma they endured as young victims, because help was not available.
Experts estimate that as many as one in eight boys are molested by an adult. Today, there's a huge effort to make kids aware of the issue.
But, that was not the case 15 or 20 years ago. As a result, there are thousands of survivors of child sex abuse trying to cope with the shame and the pain.
Jeff Tatum's painting is a form of healing.
"It has helped me to come to terms with a lot of things that have been difficult in my life," said Tatum.
The most difficult thing in Tatum's life has been the sexual abuse he says he suffered. He was a teenager. His abuser was an adult and a family friend.
"I had complete faith and trust in this person, and that faith was shattered," said Tatum.
At 28 years old, Tatum went to theRaleigh Police, but prosecutors decided the case was too old to try.
"It instilled in me a very deep sense of responsibility to do something to help these children that may not want to come forward or be able to come forward," said Tatum.
"It's all inside. It's this deep, dark, sinking, heavy secret that they carry with them," said psychologist Matthew Mendel.
Mendel wrote "The Male Survivor." He says many men blame themselves for the abuse and feel like they are alone.
"I found more and more as I've worked with male survivors that I do more educating and normalizing, basically letting them know that this is not as rare and uncommon as they thought," said Mendel.
Tatum says he wants to share his determination to survive.
"I consider it kind of a miracle that I survived, I also believe that there's a purpose as well," Tatum explained.
The alleged molester has never been charged. But, he is still out there, and Tatum worries that other boys may have been his victims, too.
That is why it is important for anyone who has been hurt to talk about it with someone they can trust.