A difficult topic to discuss by any stretch of the imagination but a discussion which takes place regularly in the office, while I work with young men and not so young men who have carried a stressful, shameful secret for years, in some cases decades.
As clinicians, many of us are trained in working with women and children victims of abuse but my experience has made it apparent that a different approach is necessary when addressing these issues in men. There are a number of factors for this including the way we socialize boys and men (big boys don't cry), the feelings of great shame that I wasn't able to defend myself, (I'm a loser and weak), the sexual identity confusion if the abuser was male (am I now gay?) along with the physiological sense that my own body betrayed me due to the sensation being pleasurable and was accompanied by an erection. These factors and many others play into the complications of healing male sexual abuse and its devastating effects.
Unfortunately, there are more and more cases coming to light, with many of them stemming from sexual abuse by religious leaders which compounds the issue even further. That's because in the mind of a religiously-oriented child, it's not only abuse at the hands of a religious male or female authority figure but the abuse may be, in some perverted way, sanctioned by God himself.
Consequently, we are now faced with a myriad of symptoms which plague these survivors
These symptoms include:
1. Having difficulty with sexual intimacy, not wanting to be touched or hypersexuality.
2. Dissociation (zoning out frequently).
3. Numerous PTSD symptoms including anxiety and depression.
4. Addictions (alcohol, drugs, rage, sex, pornography etc.)
5. Having a shame-based view of self.
6. Multiple physiological symptoms, GI disturbances, migraines, unexplained pains.
7. Sexual identity confusion.
8. Religious identity confusion.
10. Self-sabotage and self-destructive behavior.
And to complicate matters even further, some survivors, especially in the early stages of treatment often wonder if they've simply made it all up, that somehow what they're dealing with is all in their imagination. Yet with the help of a skillful therapist, survivors can gradually recognize that they are, indeed, true survivors and can start the healing process of re-claiming their lives.
Having support as you go through this therapeutic process is vital as so often these children who are now men have spent their entire lives carrying this shameful secret alone, living in a hazy, chaotic world of emotion or on the other extreme, living a life of numbness and emptiness as it's not really something most people discuss openly, not even with partners or close friends.
The following list of facts comes from a wonderful website about male sexual abuse called www.malesurvivor.org...
1. Boys and men can be victims of sexual abuse and rape.
2. Most sexual abuse of boys is NOT perpetrated by homosexuals.
3. A boy or adult man can experience an erection, sexual arousal and even orgasm from abusive
contact without being a willing participant or enjoying it.
4. Boys can be significantly traumatized by sexual abuse.
5. Sexual abuse does not determine sexual identity/orientation.
6. Male survivors are NOT more likely to become sexual abusers.
7. Females can and do perpetrate sexual abuse.
8. Male survivors of child sexual abuse delay disclosure for 20 years on average.
9. The John Jay College and the Center for Court Innovation study, The Commercial Exploitation of Children in New York City in 2008 estimated that as high as 50% of the commercially
exploited children in the US are boys.
10. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey reports that approximately 1 in 6 males report
being sexually abused in childhood.
Which brings us to another helpful website, www.1in6, which is certainly worth checking out.
So if you feel you are the victim of male sexual abuse, even though it was decades ago, NOW is the time to get the help you need! Resolve the trauma and reclaim your life from those who tried to steal it from you...