When Men are Mishandled

Article by Prateek

*Warning*: Some Explicit Language

 

According to the Bible, on the 6th day of creation, Genesis God made man in his own image to have dominance over all the fish in the water, birds in the sky and all other creatures on the Earth. But what happens to the man, the protector of others, when he himself gets betrayed and abused as a child or adolescent by someone close to him whether from family, a friend or any near, dear loved one whom he trusts?

 

The question largely remains unanswered due to the fact that such things are generally hidden or only spoken of in hushed voices in our society. People may fear that addressing male sex abuse might tarnish the glorified image of men, but by not listening to such voices, we are fueling the acts of molestation because abusers know they are not likely to be charged, thus giving him or her more power.

 

Though child abuse is quite prevalent in society and many celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, who have been victims themselves, have come out in support of other victims, there is still a great lack of awareness and conversation especially regarding male child abuse.

Child abuse Photo Credit: Alexas_Fotos
Child abuse Photo Credit: Alexas_Fotos

 

Cases where young girls are molested by men continue to take center stage in the discussion about child abuse, but you may be surprised to learn that one out of every six men are victims of child abuse and that 90% of the abusers are not strangers but are generally people the victim knows. A child molester can be anybody, a male, a female, a friend, a neighbor, a relative, or even a parent.

 

When a young girl is sexually abused it is generally described as rape, but when a boy is molested by an older female the boy is said to have gotten lucky by being initiated so early. However, any type of unwanted sexual activity is rape.

 

I must say, thankfully, that when female child abuse comes to surface that people demand justice, but what happens to the cases where a boy gets betrayed by someone he trusts? Does the society in which we live have any answer for the lost childhood of that boy? Instead of asking for justice and sympathizing with the victim, people shush such rising voices due to the sexist belief that men, even as children, are invulnerable to sexual victimization. This notion stops many people from believing male survivors of sexual abuse or from taking the abuse seriously.

 

Homophobia is at the root of the widespread view of male-to-male sexual abuse as consensual sex, and the victim as a “faggot.”

 

Both of these oppressive belief systems are routinely communicated to children. They leave male sexual abuse survivors confused and ashamed about the abuse, their gender, and sexuality. These belief systems silence abused boys, and stop them from being believed. Even psychotherapists can overlook the possibility of sexual abuse and incest in male clients, reserving that possibility only for female clients.

Crying Child Photo Credit: Binu Kumar
A Crying Child Photo Credit: Binu Kumar

 

There are several factors that are the basis for creating an atmosphere that allows child abuse to happen, like seeing children as a property, teaching children that they are helpless and not to question authority, the sexual entitlement given to the adults that they can do anything to satiate their carnal desires and ultimately the shroud of secrecy around sex education for children, as many people think that if we teach children about the mechanics of sex we are telling them to have sex. Though, this information is considered dangerous, and in a sense it is, it destroys myths, it allows people to make choices, and permits them to grow up and act as adults rather than keeping them as shameful children around sex and sensuality.

 

Talking about boyhood sexual abuse and its aftermath for men can be difficult, even painful. But such talk is absolutely essential. The things that happen in our past definitely shape our future. The past is a mirror through which our future gets reflected. Victims may start confusing affection with abuse, desire with tenderness. Sexually abused boys often become men who have difficulty distinguishing among sex, love, nurturance, affection, and abuse. According to livewell.org, a website dedicated to raising awareness and giving support to male child abuse victims, some of the common areas of life that may be impacted by child abuse are:

  • Confusion about sexual orientation
  • Difficulties with sexual functioning
  • Difficulties with intimacy
  • Dependency or misuse of drugs, alcohol
  • Self harm and harm of others
  • Flashbacks, anxiety, nightmares, anger, shame and guilt

Such effects leave the victim in a deep dark ditch of hopelessness. 

 

There are many myths related to male child sexual abuse. 1in6, another organization that helps male child abuse victims, offers facts to dispel these myths on their website:

  • Boys and men can be sexually used or abused, and it has nothing to do with how masculine they are.
  • If a boy liked the attention he was getting or got sexually aroused during the abuse, or even sometimes wanted the attention or sexual contact, this does not mean he wanted or liked being manipulated or abused, or that any part of what happened, in any way, was his responsibility or fault.
  • Sexual abuse harms boys and girls in ways that are similar and different, but equally harmful.
  • The sexual abuse of boys has nothing to do with an abuser’s sexual orientation.
  • A boy abused by a male is not necessarily gay, nor was he abused because he’s not gay, nor can the abuse make him gay.
  • Girls and women can sexually abuse boys. The boys are not “lucky,” but exploited and harmed.
  • Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.

 

It is important that we confront the myths of male child abuse so that we can better understand and help the victims.

This photograph was done for a story on child abuse. It is one of three photographs in a series and was taken with the intention off showing the fear and pain a child might experience at the hands of an abusive adult. Photo Credit: James D. Mossman
A child experiencing fear, pain, and anxiety at the hands of an abusive adult. Photo Credit: James D. Mossman

 

Treatment and recovery is possible for victims of sexual abuse.The earlier that treatment begins, the better. It is never too late to heal. Recovering from sexual abuse is not fast, nor is it particularly easy. The goal is to recover your childhood, reclaim your body, and heal your self-identity.

 

Find a competent therapist, preferably one who has experience working with male victims of sexual abuse. Just because a therapist works with women who were sexually abused does not mean he is experienced or competent working with male victims of sexual abuse. While there is a lot of overlap in treatment, there are substantial differences as well. Individual psychotherapy is the best place to start. Group therapy in addition to individual therapy is very healing, but group work alone is not enough.


Life partners of such victims have to be very loving and caring.

 

Whether a girl or a boy has been abused sexually, the effects are hazardous for both. The society has made men the ones who are raised to deny and mask their emotions. They are expected to be strong, productive, physically active, and concerned with making money. There is little room for them to feel scared, vulnerable, or sad. Anger is often the only outlet offered to men. Abused men who act out of their anger often end up in the criminal justice system. Other men numb themselves to the pain of their abuse, telling themselves that it wasn’t so bad, or hoping it will just go away. They may end up in psychiatric institutions, or in drug and alcohol treatment programs. Either way, they are invisible as sexual abuse and incest survivors, leaving them alone, depressed, angry, and without appropriate support and treatment. While there’s a stereotype that ‘men don’t cry’, the life of a man is equal to that of a woman and the inability to vent out apprehensions can make his life all the more challenging.

 

I would like to wind down now by saying that, though it is a male driven society and we generally hear about injustice done to the fairer group of society, there are areas where males are also being manhandled and such cases are meant to be dealt with utter sensitivity and care and lastly we need to speak as “ Silence perpetuates silence and Speaking creates Awareness”.

 

Feature Image Credit: Rob Blake

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