Originally posted om January 31, 2008
I found this article linked on a male abuse forum:
For many boys, lies such as those above are a steady diet from a trusted adult who is abusing them. Often the abuse goes on for years because the child and the other adults in the child’s life trust the abuser. Not only can these lies cause the child to suffer through years of being abused, it can also lead to years of isolation in adulthood. Reality, for the victim, has become that you cannot get too close to people because you are ultimately bad and will cause them to do things that will hurt you. You can never deal with the pain in your life; because if you tell, no one will believe you or they will be angry with you.
Belief in these lies can push men to lead lives that keep them carefully “protected” from friendship and being known. There is a feeling that “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.” So survivors will cautiously stay on the sidelines of life feeling that they really don’t or can’t fit in anywhere. They don’t know anyone else who has been through the abuse they have endured. So they think they are the only one and keep the abuse a secret. They pretend it doesn’t affect them and keep pushing the pain down.
The lies mentioned at the beginning are:
“If you tell your parents about this, they won’t love you any more.”
“You are such a bad boy; I don’t know why you make me do these things. I really shouldn’t, but you are so cute I can’t stop.”
“Don’t tell your dad. This is our special time and he won’t understand. This is just between us. If you tell him what you and Mommy do, he will be mad.”
“You are such a stud, I can’t stay away. I know you are too young for me, but I love you so much it makes it right. Don’t tell any one about this, because they won’t understand. You have really swept me off my feet.”
In my experience dealing with sexual abuse groups these comments would be considered wrong if the victim were female, but if the victim were male many working in that field might not reach the same conclusion. Male victims face society’s dismissal of their experiences alongside facing a support community that essentially rolls their eyes at male victims. That callous attitude plays itself out in a myriad ways. As discussed in the article:
Some outlets may be socially acceptable and others are not. There are the over-achievers that keep pushing to prove to themselves that they really aren’t the horrible people that made all those bad things happen to them. The rescuers who are always finding people who need to be saved, as they wish someone would have done for them. There are also those who become addicted to drugs, alcohol, work or sex as a way of numbing the pain. Finally, there are those who become so desperate that they are willing to face what they see as painful consequences and seek help to deal with the pain.
One of the key elements to why males do not come forward is because of the false perception by each male victim that he is the only one it happened to. Unfortunately, this perception gets reinforced on a social level not only by society’s push for males to handle their problems on their own, but also because of the false framing by support groups of sexual abuse as a women’s issue. Those with biased political motivation take that idea and present it under false premises such as “If I’m a [male] teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are so low as to be negligible,” which unfortunately (and likely not unintentionally) implies to male victims “You’re the only one and you’re complaining about nothing.” That negative (and some may argue a quasi endorsement of male rape*) sentiment has a trickle down effect that bleeds into the rest of society and ultimately it strengthens the preexisting negative stereotypes and attitudes about male victims.
Worse yet, it reinforces the pain male victims experience, acting as validation for the lies mentioned above. Those kind of ideas perpetuate the lie that somehow males deserve what happened to them or that they are overreacting to their abuse. As those feelings continue to build, they further silence male victims who may then feel that speaking about their abuse is somehow abusive towards others. In the end, that leads to many male victims thinking that they simply will not be believed. In that way the above sentiments become self-fulfilling.
For many male victims it is a long, hard battle to come to the following realization:
• I am not the only one this has ever happened to.
• Other men struggle with the same issues I face.
• My perpetrator lied to me about many things.
• Believing those lies continued to cause me pain in my life, long after the abuse had ended.
• It is possible to be a survivor and have a happy and healthy life.
Perhaps the best part of the article is that it offers some suggestions for what can be done by existing support groups to aid male victims in coming forward and seeking help for their abuse. In my experience, many of the support groups have been hesitant, if willing at all, to make any changes to include males. Most state that the inclusion of males will frighten away female victims or that the males are really abusers themselves trying to get to new female victims. However, neither of those notions tend to be true, and honestly speaking the existing support groups do a poor job of filtering out sexually abusive women. The changes that could be made to include male victims would not be all that difficult beyond bringing in male volunteers for the male victims who would feel more comfortable speaking with someone of their own gender. As the article lines out:
What can others do to help men and boys recover from the sexual abuse?
• Rape Crisis centers should be sure their volunteers are trained in working with male survivors.
• Rape Crisis centers should have male survivor groups available. Although most victims have not themselves been perpetrators, it should be clear that the survivor groups are for men or boys who have not abused others themselves. These groups should not mix adult and child survivors.
• Be aware of using only female pronouns when referring to victims and only male pronouns when referring to perpetrators.
• Include male survivors in sexual assault awareness activities.
These are very basic and simple solutions that could go a long way in aiding male victims. Whether support groups will detach themselves from the politically biased sentiments that were described above remains to be seen. However, if they do then male victims would not have to suffer in silence nor would they be forced to believe that their abuse was deserved or “negligible.”
* It is not a direct endorsement of male rape, but the dismissive attitude is such that it implies that male victims who do come forward are either lying (because they would violate the assumed virtually non-existence of male victims) or are simply whining about nothing (because their gender renders them somehow less affected by or oblivious to sexual abuse).