Preston McDaniel Hill, Survivor, Theologian, Ph.D. Student at The Logos Institute, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews
Preston grew up in rural North Carolina, USA. At age 16, he began attending a local Pentecostal church and felt a keen call to vocational ministry. He then moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute, where he acquired a B.A. in Theology and was deeply formed by the influence of certain Bible and theology professors. During this time, with a Bible professor, he co-founded a support group for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and became interested in research at the interplay of theology and trauma. After marrying his wife (Chesney), and applying to St. Mary’s College of Divinity, the young couple moved to St. Andrews.
Preston and Chesney both love studying and discussing reformed theology and liturgical practice. They also love to weep with those who weep. They feel a call together to minister to Christ’s church and the world both in the academy and the church. For his doctorate, Preston is researching John Calvin’s doctrine of Christ’s descent into hell. As a male survivor and advocate, Preston is passionate about relating the significance of Christ’s own suffering and terrors in his descent into hell to the hells that we experience here and now, especially for survivors of severe trauma.
Cecil Murphey’s request -Here’s something I’d like some of you readers to respond to: Tell us your experience in telling about yourself. When was the first public admission? What brought it about? How did you feel?
As you do so, think about the newer readers of this blog. Think how you could help them by sharing your experience.
Preston Hill Responds
I have treasured your blog posts for a long time now. I have been feeling prompted, in my own healing, to reach out. Your post “Naming Myself” is, perhaps, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Identification is a powerful healing step, one I have been feeling my own heart inviting me into. My first public admission was with one of my professors in Bible college. I later started a support group with this safe sojourner for other fellow survivors. This group brought more self-disclosure, more safe solidarity, and therefore, the more disruptive naming of pain that was necessary for healing to occur.
We used to always say in the group, “You cannot heal from what you have not named.” In many ways, my journey of healing has been a process of learning my name and naming myself. Who am I? I am a survivor. To be sure, I am much more than this. I am more than the sum of my wounds. But I am definitely not less. I, Preston Hill, am a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). It is painfully important to name that fact.
I remember the first time I named this fact: the public admission with my Bible college professor. I chose to reach out to him because I knew that he was also a male survivor of CSA. He is now an advocate and speaks openly and regularly on the subject. He is a passionate and tender man. I knew he would be safe to open up to.
I searched online and found the phone number to his office in the college. I dialed. The phone rang. I was caught off guard when the ringing stopped, and he said, “Hello?” The ringing stopped and so did my heart.
I stumbled and scrambled for words. “So…I know that you are a survivor…and you work with people who…I mean, I was just wondering if you could maybe help me…We’ve never met, but I know that you help people who have similar struggles.”
He simply responded, “Preston, are you a survivor of sexual abuse?”
Salt in the wound. What do I say? My whole body went numb and I staggered, barely able to stand. I remember feeling dizzy and nauseous. My breath was short and quick, and I felt like all my clothes had been ripped off and I had been exposed to the scrutiny of the entire universe. All I could mutter was, “I…”
“Do you need to take a minute and call me back?” my professor said kindly. His tone bore incredible strength and firm attention, and yet gentleness and generosity.
“Yes,” I said.
As we ended that call, I remember him telling me that, whatever I did, to be kind to myself. I knew what he meant. Don’t look at porn. Don’t binge on food or technology. Self-soothe in a healthy way, because this is a sacred moment. Be kind to yourself.
In between hanging up and calling him back, I crouched down with my face to the carpet of my little bedroom in a fetal position. My arms wrapped around my stomach as a flood of emotional energy unleashed from my eyes and mouth. It was the first time in my life I remember truly wailing. It was beyond ugly crying: I was mourning from somewhere deep within my soul that had been locked away for safekeeping. It was painful and yet purging. I had named myself.
Naming ourselves is a necessary part of the healing process. For some, this means a very public admission. For others, it means disclosing to that safe friend, spouse, pastor, or relative that you know is safe. At one level, you need to make sure you are ready. Don’t rush yourself, or else it won’t be real. You also need to make desperately sure that you choose to disclose to safe people, people who are worthy of your story. Often, survivors have a pretty good radar for safe people. Sometimes too good, to an unhealthy point of shutting everyone away because no one is ever safe enough. But that’s simply not true: there are safe people out there who are worthy of my story and are desperate to hear it because they love me. You know who those people are.
At another level, however, I don’t think we will ever be completely ready. Ripping off a band-aid always hurts. To clean a wound that has been festering requires that you tear away the old, bad skin, not for its own sake, but so that new skin can grow.
Ultimately, naming ourselves is our own process. It’s scary, its complex. It’s uniquely suited to each person and their own story. But at the end of the day, each survivor’s story is their own story to tell. Taking the agency to name ourselves where we are in our journey of healing from abuse can be a powerful step to stand up tall and learn to be unashamed in the face of the evil that would seek to keep us down.
My name is Preston Hill. I am a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am proud of myself for saying that. I love my story and the way I choose to tell it.
Printed with permission from Preston Hill. He expanded on the original response which comes from Shattering the Silence by Cecil Murphey.
Preston thank you, for sharing your story with us and may God continue to shine a light on the path you are to walk so that you do not lose your way.