Men who were sexually abused when they were children or teens often face an additional set of challenges on their path to survivorship. These challenges can make it more difficult for them to disclose the abuse or seek treatment and support, but understanding what male survivors face can be an important first step for these men and the people who care about them.
• Fighting society’s bias about what it means to be a man. Especially in American culture, men are supposed to be in control of the situation at all times. But in cases of abuse, the abuser has all the power. That seeming contradiction makes it more difficult for some men to understand that the abuse they suffered was not their fault. In addition, if the abuser was a woman, some parts of American culture try to cast the experience as a positive one. Think of comedies where a male teen is coerced into a sexual relationship with a “hot” teacher and all his friends tell him what a lucky guy he is. That can misrepresentation of the experience can be confusing for male survivors.
• Dealing with confusion about sexual orientation. A boy or teen who is abused by a man may face confusion about his sexual identity and orientation as he gets older. Abusers frequently reinforce this confusion by telling victims that their physical response to the abuse is proof that they enjoyed the experience. This coercion is designed to keep the boy from disclosing the abuse and help the abuser maintain power over his victim so that he can continue the abuse.
• Believing that past abuse means you’re weak. Some survivors believe that they should have been able to avoid their abusers or fight back. They think they’re weak because they were abused. Society tells him he should be tough and just forget it ever happened. But, like any victim of sexual abuse, forgetting or ignoring the abuse will not make the situation better. When survivors don’t seek support and treatment to help them manage the effects of abuse, they can get caught in negative behaviors like self-medicating with alcohol or drugs or experience serious depression and anxiety.
• Thinking that you’re the only one. The bulk of information online or in the press tends to focus on female sexual abuse survivors. That can give male survivors a skewed picture of their situation and cause them to believe that they’re one of very few men who’ve been abused. In fact, one in seven boys are abused before their 18th birthday. Thinking they’re alone can be a barrier to disclosing the abuse and seeking treatment, so it’s important for male survivors to understand that they are absolutely not the only ones in this situation.
If you or someone you know is a male survivor of sexual abuse, it’s helpful to know that there are resources available to help on the path to survivorship. There are several organizations that provide male sexual abuse victims with support, a community they can share their experiences with, and resources to help them work to overcome the effects of their abuse, including MaleSurvivor and 1in6. You can also contact local mental health organizations to find support groups and mental health professionals who are experienced working with male survivors of child sexual abuse.
Join RAACE by becoming a RAACE Fan on Facebook and/or subscribing to our monthly newsletter and inviting those within your child's circle of trust to join in the fight against and prevention of child sexual abuse! Visit RAACE.org today or call 1.800.755.KIDS.