Saturday, 21 January 2012

Male Survivors - Myths and their consequences


There are various stereotypes and myths that surround the adult male survivors' ability to face the sexual abuse or rape. These include:-


•Males don't feel emotions as readily as women so are less likely to be hurt by the abuse.
•Males are supposed to be big and strong therefore able to deal with and fight off abuse.
•Males cannot be raped by women.
•Males enjoy all sex, so they must have enjoyed the abuse or rape.
•Males should not cry or express their pain.
•Male victims are more likely to become abusers or rapists.

These common misconceptions and myths frequently lead to the following:-

•Loss of self-asteem and self worth.
•Doubts over their masculinity
•Self-blame and guilt
•Feelings of shame, disgust, anger, loss,
•Feelings of powerlessness, apprehension, withdrawal, and embarrassment
•Fears that they won't be able to protect and support their families
•Sexual difficulties and insecurities
•Self harming (drinking, drug use, aggression, attempted suicide)
•Intimacy issues
•Questioning of sexual identity
•Fear of losing friends or family
•Fear that they will be judged, not helped.


Myth #1 - Boys and men can't be victims.

This myth, instilled through masculine gender socialization and sometimes referred to as the "macho image," declares that males, even young boys, are not supposed to be victims or even vulnerable. We learn very early that males should be able to protect themselves. In truth, boys are children - weaker and more vulnerable than their perpetrators - who cannot really fight back. Why? The perpetrator has greater size, strength, and knowledge. This power is exercised from a position of authority, using resources such as money or other bribes, or outright threats - whatever advantage can be taken to use a child for sexual purposes.

Myth #2 - Most sexual abuse of boys is perpetrated by homosexual males.

Pedophiles who molest boys are not expressing a homosexual orientation any more than pedophiles who molest girls are practicing heterosexual behaviors. While many child molesters have gender and/or age preferences, of those who seek out boys, the vast majority are not homosexual. They are pedophiles.

Myth #3 - If a boy experiences sexual arousal or orgasm from abuse, this means he was a willing participant or enjoyed it

In reality, males can respond physically to stimulation (get an erection) even in traumatic or painful sexual situations. Therapists who work with sexual offenders know that one way a perpetrator can maintain secrecy is to label the child's sexual response as an indication of his willingness to participate. "You liked it, you wanted it," they'll say. Many survivors feel guilt and shame because they experienced physical arousal while being abused. Physical (and visual or auditory) stimulation is likely to happen in a sexual situation. It does not mean that the child wanted the experience or understood what it meant at the time.

Myth #4 - Boys are less traumatized by the abuse experience than girls.

While some studies have found males to be less negatively affected, more studies show that long term effects are quite damaging for either sex. Males may be more damaged by society's refusal or reluctance to accept their victimization, and by their resultant belief that they must "tough it out" in silence.

Myth #5 - Boys abused by males are or will become homosexual.

While there are different theories about how the sexual orientation develops, experts in the human sexuality field do not believe that premature sexual experiences play a significant role in late adolescent or adult sexual orientation. It is unlikely that someone can make another person a homosexual or heterosexual. Sexual orientation is a complex issue and there is no single answer or theory that explains why someone identifies himself as homosexual, heterosexual or bi-sexual. Whether perpetrated by older males or females, boys' or girls' premature sexual experiences are damaging in many ways, including confusion about one's sexual identity and orientation.Many boys who have been abused by males erroneously believe that something about them sexually attracts males, and that this may mean they are homosexual or effeminate. Again, not true. Pedophiles who are attracted to boys will admit that the lack of body hair and adult sexual features turns them on. The pedophile's inability to develop and maintain a healthy adult sexual relationship is the problem - not the physical features of a sexually immature boy.

Myth #6 - The "Vampire Syndrome" that is, boys who are sexually abused, like the victims of Count Dracula, go on to "bite" or sexually abuse others.

This myth is especially dangerous because it can create a terrible stigma for the child, that he is destined to become an offender. Boys might be treated as potential perpetrators rather than victims who need help. While it is true that most perpetrators have histories of sexual abuse, it is NOT true that most victims go on to become perpetrators. Research by Jane Gilgun, Judith Becker and John Hunter found a primary difference between perpetrators who were sexually abused and sexually abused males who never perpetrated: non-perpetrators told about the abuse, and were believed and supported by significant people in their lives. Again, the majority of victims do not go on to become adolescent or adult perpetrators; and those who do perpetrate in adolescence usually don't perpetrate as adults if they get help when they are young.

Myth #7 - If the perpetrator is female, the boy or adolescent should consider himself fortunate to have been initiated into heterosexual activity.

In reality, premature or coerced sex, whether by a mother, aunt, older sister, baby-sitter or other female in a position of power over a boy, causes confusion at best, and rage,depression or other problems in more negative circumstances. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is always abusive and often damaging supposed to be the strong ones, it often means that they do not accept, cover up or "forget" what happened to them. If they do recall they are more likely NOT to seek help and therapy. Men are supposed to be able to cope with anything.


8 comments:

Jessica Prescott said...

Thank you for sharing these stereotypes. They are all unfair and cause damage every day.

jeffssong said...

I think we fit all those classic stereotypes - was even a Marine, so there. (Marines don't cry . . . do they?). And would we be Bi without what happened? Don't know. And the social stigma thing . . . gee. There's more than what's on your list: inability to raise children (doubting your parenting skills, knowing you have no real reference for a "right" childhood) ... inappropriate responses - the list goes on . . .

And there is no help for male survivors. Not really; none that I've found. Yeah; a bit down and depressed (and dare I say it: suicidal?) - today. NOT a problem . . . just "feel" it inside of me. A part wants to die again...(sigh). Forgot to add "DID" to the above list. (or is it just 'mental illness' - another thing a 'man' is not supposed to have, not a REAL one, anyway . . .)

Child abuse: the gift that just keeps on giving . . . for a lifetime.

Patricia Singleton said...

This is an important list. I shared on Twitter and on Facebook. The idea that boys can't be hurt by sexual abuse has to change and you are helping to do that. Giving people awareness of childhood sexual abuse and its consequences is important.

celesteka said...

I have seen the devastating evidence of sexual abuse in several male family members.

They still suffer and exhibit the signs you have listed.

Thank you, Jan for being a courageous hero to many !

Louise Sorensen said...

Thank you for sharing. Abuse of any kind keeps going and going with the recipient and will change their lives. I hope that you can get some help. You didn't deserve what happened and you don't deserve to be suffering. I wish I could offer you more than a cyber hugg. I've never really bought into the idea that men were much different emotionally than women. I hope you can find peace and happiness. I'm rooting for you.

JM said...

As a child I wanted to KILL my father. And as I grew up I layed this feeling to sleep, repressed it. But that made me just weaker and selfdestructive. Now I sometimes think, I should have killed him, I should have killed him.

celesteka said...

I felt this way throughout my childhood. When I remembered later in life what he did to me in detail, I raged, screamed, cursed him, threw plates, cut up hotdogs and beat my knuckles to a pulp on a punching bag. I still have anger that is misdirected at times; have released much of the hatred over time now. My heart suffers with you.

Bill Buster said...

Really great work. Thanks for being a voice. It is amazing,in light of recent news about Sandusky, that there is still so much to learn. Society loves to bury this issue, because it touches on themes of male vulnerability, since all human beings are subject to the same forces as women. We need to blow the myth of male disposability and lack of emotion out of the water.

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