Male victims of sexual abuse feel better after speaking out
Articles / Blog
06-15-16 Category: Advocacy, Coping, Trauma

Male victims of sexual abuse

Adam and Keith share their stories in a powerful video series that illustrates the deep emotional impact rape has on victims. This survivor series was funded by a Getty Images Creative Grant as part of a recent awareness campaign by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network to show that rape can happen to anyone at any age.

Adam was just 14 years old when his relative started raping him. This went on for four years because his attacker told him he would kill his grandfather if he told. Ten years later, after his grandfather’s death, he finally started talking about it with his friends. Adam said in a separate interview that his only regret was that he “didn’t speak up sooner.”

Keith was also raped when he was 14, except he was abducted one day by a stranger. Keith waited 35 years before speaking out, but he relates that doing so helped him truly understand that the rape was not his fault and that he was a survivor.

Child rape rings are “woven, covertly, into the fabric of our society,” said Home Secretary Theresa May of the U.K., and people still do not appreciate the “true scale of that abuse.” The U.K. is not unique in that sense. Boys and young men are not immune to sexual abuse in the U.S. In fact, they are often the targets.

At least 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before age 18 and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. In addition, many men reported having been forced to penetrate someone against their will in the recent National Crime Victimization Survey. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does define such accounts as sexual violence, they are not considered to be rape.

Male sexual abuse victims frequently don’t report the crimes for heartbreaking reasons. Some reasons for the silence include the following:

1.) The perpetrator threatened to harm them or their loved one(s)
2.) Fear no one will believe them
3.) Fear they will be blamed
4.) Fear of ridicule
5.) Complex emotional reactions that lead to self-condemnation

Raymond M. Douglas, Ph.D., a history professor at Colgate University, tells how he was raped by a priest once when he was 18 in his new book, “On Being Raped.” In a recent interview about the book, he related that those who have support from others fare better than those who encounter “denial, impatience, dismissal, contempt” in the aftermath of rape. He recommends developing ways to make boys and men feel more comfortable reporting rape.

As more victims of male rape and sexual abuse speak out, some common themes have emerged in all of their stories. The strongest message that comes across is to tell someone. Disclosing what happened may also facilitate justice and prevention of further attacks. Silence apparently prolongs victimization and allows the perpetrator to continue unabated.

Speaking out to supportive others puts false fears to rest and provides validation that the victim was not at fault. Speaking out also helps victims build a strong, collective voice. After all, there is safety in numbers.

Another clear message male rape survivors convey is that there is plenty of support available from plenty of other men who have been through similar experiences. Peer groups and support forums are available. Speaking to a therapist may also help victims cope.

Rape survivors are at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, sleep problems and substance use disorders. Symptoms may impair daily function or become completely disabling. For those contemplating suicide, crisis support is available. Others may want to take advantage of the recent advances made in the field of neuropsychiatry and enter a specialized treatment program.

Sovereign Health of California uses trauma-informed approaches to help care for our clients who have endured sexual violence, abuse and rape. We are a leader in the treatment of individuals struggling with mental illness, substance use disorders and dual diagnosis. Comprehensive treatment includes novel, neurocognitive, and holistic therapies tailored for each individual. Our ongoing continuing care program provides the support needed to recover from trauma and all of its consequences. To find out more about specialized programs at Sovereign Health, please call us at our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. The Sovereign Health Group is a health information resource and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at news@sovhealth.com.

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