Nov 11

Sexual Abuse of Boys and Men: Recovery

1in6, an organization whose mission is “to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives,” lists on their site eight facts that counter common myths about the sexual abuse of boys and men:

  • 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 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.
  • Boys can be sexually abused by both straight men and gay men. It’s about taking advantage of a child’s vulnerability, not the sexual orientation of the abusive person.
  • Whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, a boy’s sexual orientation is neither the cause or the result of sexual abuse.
  • Girls and women can sexually abuse boys.
  • Most boys who are sexually abused will not go on to sexually abuse others.
  • Not understanding these facts is understandable, but harmful, and needs to be overcome.

The following pertinent quotes are from therapists/writers who are experts on the effects of the sexual abuse of boys and men.

Jim Hopper, PhD:

Many men fear their masculinity has been robbed or destroyed, that they’ll be exposed as a ‘fake’ – even if no one has a clue about what happened or thinks twice about their masculinity.

...(L)earning to experience and express vulnerable emotions (at times and places of your own choosing), means becoming more masculine in many positive ways. 

         Richard Gartner, PhD, Psychology Today (author of Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life           After Boyhood Sexual Abuse):

Boys who grow up without coming to terms with their childhood abuse often struggle as men with addictions, anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide as well as the inability to develop or maintain relationships.

Confusing affection with abuse, desire with tenderness, sexually abused boys often become men who have difficulty distinguishing among sex, love, nurturance, affection, and abuse. They may experience friendly interpersonal approaches as seductive and manipulative. On the other hand, they may not notice when exploitative demands are made on them – they’ve learned to see these as normal and acceptable.

        Mike Lew, M.Ed., Victims No Longer: Men Recovering from Incest and Other Sexual Child Abuse:

Another question I am frequently asked is, “What do you mean by recovery?” It has taken me a while to answer that one. I had been depending on other people’s definitions of recovery until I developed one that worked for me (just as you must come to one that makes sense for you.) Mine is simple. For me, it is about freedom.
Recovery is the freedom to make choices in your life that aren’t determined by the abuse.
The specific choices will be different for each of you; the freedom to choose is your birthright.  

Lists of various resources are available to male survivors at 1in6 as well as on the websites of Jim Hopper and Next Step Counseling (co-directed by therapists Mike Lew and Thom Harrigan), and Dr. Kelli Palfy (author of Men Too: Unspoken Truths About Male Sexual Abuse), among others.