Sexual Child Abuse Knows No Gender

Male Sexual Abuse Survivors face the same emotional, mental, physical and spiritual trauma women survivors face with two exceptions–they judge themselves more harshly, and they have difficulty recognizing/believing they have been abused.

David Finkelhor and J. Bziuba-Leatherman’s studies reveal 31% of boys are sexually abused by age 18. Finkelhor, David and J. Dziuba-Leatherman. “Victimization of Children.” American Psychologist Vol. 49:3 (1992): 173-183.

Men’s indoctrination since childhood dictates that they are to prove their sexual prowess. Sexual activity, for boys as young as 12, is seldom considered inappropriate. More often than not, sexual activity is considered an early introduction to manhood. Therefore, if an older girl initiates sex with a younger boy, he considers it an introduction to sex, proving his manliness. Additionally, men are indoctrinated to defend themselves against all odds–to fight to the death to protect their manliness. They are expected to risk their life or sustain severe injury to protect their pride and self-respect. These distorted beliefs about manliness and masculinity are deeply ingrained and can lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy for the male survivor.
Both male and female survivors generally question whether they deserved or somehow wanted to be sexually abused; they believe if they failed to defend themselves, they must have wanted it.

Although, both female and male survivors frequently view their abuse as a loss of manhood or femininity and are disgusted with themselves for not fighting back, men judge themselves more harshly. As a result of their guilt, shame and anger, both men and women punish themselves by engaging in self-destructive behavior such as self-injury, acting out rage, etc., as well as alcohol or drug use, prostitution, rape and numerous other criminal behaviors.

For some men self-destructive behavior means engaging in aggressiveness, such as road rage, arguing with friends or co-workers, or picking fights with strangers, as well as domestic violence as a way to regain their honor. Both men and women pull back from intimacy and end up feeling more and more isolated.

Society’s most devastating myth about child sexual abuse is that boys can’t be sexually abused. The perpetuation of this myth leaves boys more vulnerable to being abused.

Fact: Masculine gender socialization instills in boys the belief they are to be strong; they should learn to protect themselves. In truth, boys are children and are as vulnerable as girls. They cannot really fight back against the sex offender. A sex offender generally has greater size, strength, knowledge, or a position of authority, using such resources as money or other bribes, or outright threats–whatever advantage the sex offender can take to get what they want.

The following publications attest to the prevalence of male sexual child abuse.

o Crime of rape knows no gender lines, Jennifer Hong, Columbia Missourian, June 11, 1995.

o For the Man Who is Sexually Assaulted from the Orange County Rape Crisis Center (North Carolina).

o For Men Only: For Male Survivors of Sexual Assault, Counseling & Mental Health Center, University of Texas at Austin.

o Male Rape from the National Victim Center cites a few statistics, provides a good and sensitive overview of the subject and includes references and a bibliography, but no links to other resources on the Web.

o Male Rape – The hidden trauma is a review by LIAM O COILEAIN of a television program of the same name that was aired in Ireland on February 29, 1996. It mentions the Dublin Rape Crisis Center listed above under hotlines.

o Male Rape Victims Subject to Ridicule by Jeremy Seabrook for the (British?) New Statesman & Society (April 27, 1990)

o “Male Sexual Assault” is a public education brochure available from the New York City Gay & Lesbian Anti-Violence Project (AVP) (1999.09.23: Found new URL, restored link)

o Male sexual assault not uncommon, Reuters Health, March 26, 1999. According to a report published in the British Medical Journal 1999;318:846-850, 2,500 British men were surveyed. 3% reported they had been sexually assaulted as an adult, and nearly half of them were assaulted by women.

o Male Survivors of Sexual Assaults from RPEP, the Rape Prevention Education Program of the University of California at Davis, maintained by Alexander Orland.

o Memories of Rape is a chilling and courageous first-person account of ongoing rape, assault and abuse in prison by David Pittman, hosted by Stop Prisoner Rape.

o Men don’t get raped!, Ernest Woollett, Survivors, PO Box 2470, London W2 INN

o Men Raped: Supporting the Male Survivor of Sexual Assault on the College Campus, Lester J. Manzano, no date available.

o Men and sexual assault, Linda Oakleaf

o More male veterans reporting that they were sexually assaulted, Philadelphia Inquirer, September 27, 1997 (1998.10.02: no Web link available)

o Myths and Facts About Sexual Violence from the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) includes a section headed “MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT MALE RAPE.”

o No Safe Place: A male survivor of sexual abuse confronts his past in a Monterey California support group, Mary Barker, Herald Staff Writer, March 21, 1997, Monterey, CA

o Rape of Males by the late Stephen Donaldson of Stop Prisoner Rape, from Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, Wayne R. Dynes, ed., 1990, NY: Garland Publications.
Alternate: Rape of Males, mirrored by Ellen Spertus.

o Rape’s Unnoticed Victim by Susan Wachob (1999.09.11: Updated URL)

o Sexual abuse of men and boys by Dez Wildwood, who identifies as a man who has been sexually assaulted in this article written for XY magazine in Australia

o Sexual Assault, Chapter 14 in the US Department of Justice’s online National Victim Assistance Academy, is a general resource that is largely gender-neutral, addresses issues and needs of male survivors (“victims”) as well as female, and examines changing role of gender in defining rape and sexual assault.

o Silent Victims: Bringing Male Rape Victims Out of the Closet by Sue Rochman, originally published in The Advocate, Issue 582, July 30, 1991, p40.

o Survivors are ashamed by the taboo, the Rape Network

o To a Man Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted from Coordinated Community Response for Sexual Assault of Dane County, Wisconsin, attributed to “a man who had been sexually assaulted and counseled at St. Vincent’s Rape Crisis Program” [New York City, listed under Hotlines].

o When the survivor is male by Linda Oakleaf, Rape Victim Advocates, Illinois

The after effects of sexual abuse are no less devastating for men than woman and the healing process is essentially the same. Talk therapy is inadequate to uncover the emotional pain, and heal the trauma trapped in muscles and tissue. To fully appreciate the depth of this pain, I will quote one of my male clients, “Even my blood hurts.” A multifaceted healing process specifically focused on sexual abuse recovery and diligent work is the most effective; wherein the survivor can replenish their emotional and spiritual identity and empowerment.

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