For decades, Wade Younger lived with a painful secret, one that caused inner turmoil and ultimately broke up his marriage. He was the victim of sexual abuse, beginning at age four and through age 13.
Now that secret is out – in a big way. Younger, who lives in University City, is a guest on “The Dr. Phil Show.” He's part of a weekly segment called “The Get Real Retreat.” It airs each Thursday at 10 a.m. (WSOC-TV, Channel 9).
Younger is one of 14 guests participating. All have had, or are experiencing, traumatic events. One guy is a severe alcoholic who consumes dozens of beers throughout the day.
A woman fears African American men because one raped her. During one show, she wouldn't look at Younger because of that fear.
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When Younger announced on the show that at age 9 he was raped by a white man, she, along with other guests, gasped in disbelief.
“I never talked about that in public until the Dr. Phil show,” said Younger, 45.
Younger describes the childhood incident as a moment that changed his life in the worst possible way.
The man, a neighbor, convinced Younger to help him look for the person who broke his garage window. They drove to a dead-end street where the man sexually abused Younger, then drove away, leaving him standing in the street.
“After that, I was never the same,” he said. “I was actually waiting for someone to come get me, but no one did. So I walked home, went inside my bedroom closet and cried until I fell asleep.”
It wasn't the first time Younger had been abused, or the last. Predators included strangers, friends, and other family members. There were nine in all.
Though shocking, Younger's experience isn't all that uncommon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most sexual violence victims were raped before age 18.
Younger's abuse had a profound impact on his life. He had a violent temper, was promiscuous during his adolescent and late teen years, and trusted no one. He carried some of those traits into his marriage, which ended in 2006 after 22 years.
The end of his marriage signaled the beginning of recovery. He underwent counseling, seeking help from several therapists. But it wasn't until earlier this year when he sent a letter to Dr. Phil explaining his experience that his recovery took a dramatic turn.
Younger describes Dr. Phil's tough-love approach as “therapy on steroids.”
Younger has also written about his experience in a book, “Moon Cussers – My Life Story of Healing from Sexual Child Abuse.”
A writer and conference speaker, Younger also launched The Butterfly Gateway foundation, which helps victims overcome their abuse though awareness and recovery tools and resources. It includes a series of books to help kids and their parents educate themselves about sexual abuse.
“I didn't just want to tell my story. I wanted to help people because there are a lot of damaged individuals that have had this happen to them. They don't talk about it. But they walk around with shame, doubt and regret, and they don't have to, because there's healing for those bad situations.