Are you playing hurt in life?
Coming from Duane Hughes, that’s no rhetorical question. In fact, it represents the name and core theme of his new series of workshops and keynotes designed for survivors and advocates of survivors of sexual abuse as children.
His initiative is abbreviated as R U PHIL?, which stands for “Are you playing hurt in life?”
Hughes’ mission is to combat child sexual abuse and its potentially devastating effects into adulthood. The 47-year-old Oak Park father of five was “playing hurt” for more than 20 years after he was sexually abused by his stepfather.
The journey from silent sufferer to public speaker has been a gradual and sometimes painful process for Hughes.
As a youngster growing up in Tennessee, Washington, Texas and Oregon, Hughes found refuge in sports, developing his self-esteem and becoming an all-state high school athlete. He later earned a Division I scholarship to play football at Oregon State University.
The name of Hughes’ organization refers to a longstanding truth in football and, for him, in life: playing hurt is as much a part of the game of life as throwing passes and making tackles in football.
While he persevered through typical assorted football injuries at Oregon State, on the inside Hughes was in the early stages of silently struggling with an invisible injury: starting when he was 9 and until he was 15 years old, his stepfather sexually abused him.
First secretive, and then private about the abuse, Hughes developed a growing resolve to speak out about childhood sexual abuse.
“This issue kept coming back to me in some way, either through my own personal trials or someone else in my family having difficulty, or through a friend revealing to me that he or she had a similar experience,” says Hughes. “More and more, I felt, ‘Maybe I need to be talking to more people about this. Maybe my experience can help them in some way.”
Hughes and his wife of the past 10 years, Allison, have resided with their family in Oak Park since 2004. Allison fully supports his efforts.
Earlier this year, he addressed graduate psychology students at Benedictine University in Lisle. Hughes vividly told his story of being sexually abused at the hands of his stepfather and the abuse’s lingering impact in his life.
Described by one student as “brutally open and honest,” Hughes’ talk prompted another to state, “I gained a vast amount of insight I can now use to assist others in coping with sexual abuse.”
Through workshops, keynotes and mentoring, Hughes seeks to combat the isolation so common among those who have been sexually abused and to help others on their path to healing.
“You can still claim the life you were supposed to have,” Hughes says. “I wasn’t alone, even though I felt like I was alone.”
“The lack of communication is what allowed this to happen in my family and in other families and in organizations,” he adds. “In those instances, there were a number of adults who ignored what was happening or didn’t get involved.”
Hughes’ keynotes, workshops and mentoring programs are based on the “Playing Hurt in Life Playbook,” which consists of principles that Hughes followed to help him express himself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In turn, the “playbook” helps the survivor define his or her voice and express that voice to the world.
The workshops also stress the importance of the advocate’s role in detecting, reporting, mentoring and healing for the survivor, while also helping eradicate abuse in families.
“There’s this massive group of people out there who are carrying around this emotional weight that they don’t have to carry,” Hughes concludes. “I’m willing to step out and talk about it. By doing so, I am confident that I will help others step forward and talk about it.”
To learn more about R U PHIL?, visit www.ruphil.com or contact Hughes at 708-851-1427.