THE BLOG

We Must Also Remember Male Victims of Sexual Abuse

19/04/2016 13:53

It's Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States, and this year a campaign by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is highlighting that abuse can happen to men as well as women.

When I published my first book, 'Rescuing the 'Inner Child', in 1990, I included 'Richard's' story. He was abused as a child by his aunt.

There were professionals who questioned me about including 'Richard' because they believed that male victims of abuse were few and far between and that most were abused by men. It was as if they thought I was wasting my time covering such a small group of people.

However, I have always believed that men and women equally deserve information, support and treatment. And figures suggest that 1 in 6 men in the United States have been victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Many of the issues men experience are the same as women - anger, problems with intimacy, shame, self-blame and lack of trust. Anxiety, depression and fearfulness are well-represented and many withdraw from relationships or friendships and experience a sense of isolation.

Men are often more reluctant to come forward for professional help and some wait until they are in a precarious position before reaching out for therapy - drugs, alcohol, anger or relationship issues most commonly create that catalyst.

Both genders experience a sense of shame and self-blame because they were not able to stop the abuse. But for men, these feelings can be exacerbated if the abuser ensured the victim had a pleasure response.

Boys, in particular, can feel as though they no longer have control over their own body because their response is so apparent. One young man I worked with hated his body so much for 'betraying' him that he began to self-harm.

But a physical response doesn't indicate enjoyment; it simply means that their 'plumbing' works.

Older boys can also feel that they should have been able to fight off their abuser, as Adam in RAINN's awareness campaign suggests. "I think there's a stigma attached to it," he says, "that, 'Oh, you're a man, you should have been able to fend him off.'"

It is a common, but understandable, misconception that abuse has an effect on sexual orientation. A victim who was the same gender as the abuser, who later finds that s/he is sexually orientated towards his/her own gender is bound to wonder if the abuse had something to do with it.

Often it is feared that the earlier abuse 'made' them gay or that the abuser recognised they were gay and that's why the abuse happened. Extensive research suggests this is not the case.

Attitudes to male abuse have progressed since I published my book in 1990, but there is still some way to go to encourage men to report abuse and/or seek support to recover from the effects of that abuse. Campaigns like this will undoubtedly help.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS