The Silent Victim : Male Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is defined as unwanted sexual activity in which offenders use force, make threats, or take advantage of victims who are unable to give consent. It is commonly portrayed as a gender-based issue involving a female victim and a male perpetrator.

Although the sexual abuse of women has received a great deal of attention, very few studies have looked into the sexual abuse of men. Historically, male sexual assault has been cloaked in secrecy and disgrace. There is a powerful myth: guys are never sexually abused or controlled in ways that make them feel weak or overwhelmed.

Male sexual assault has gained increased attention in recent years, both in the scholarly literature and among the general public. It appears to be becoming more recognised as a severe problem with possibly multiple negative repercussions.

Males can be sexually assaulted, and it has nothing to do with their masculinity!

One in Six Men have experienced sexual abuse or assault,

whether in childhood or as adults

(Source: 1in6.org)

How do stereotypes along with expectations of culture and society impact the survivors?

In our culture, invulnerability and pain denial are regarded as fundamental traits of "manliness." Our society expects men to be capable of protecting themselves. Successful men are portrayed as never being physically or emotionally weak. Guys are just not permitted to acknowledge being sexually attacked and mistreated. For fear of being seen as weak, patriarchy drives a male abuse survivor to remain silent even as an adult.

One of the most difficult obstacles for male survivors is society's expectation that males should be able to tolerate and survive adversity. Males are taught from childhood to try to be manly, i.e. robust, self-sufficient, dominating in sexual relationships, and capable of defending themselves as well as others who rely on them for safety. All of these assumptions are violated by rape or sexual abuse. Essentially, it makes the survivor feel "less than a man."

Because males are typically expected to be the aggressors in sexual relationships and to always be ready for sex, it may be difficult for a guy to inform others that he has been sexually assaulted. Furthermore, some people believe that male survivors, particularly those who were molested as children, will go on to become perpetrators themselves. This stigma may have a detrimental influence on a male survivor's social experiences, as well as contribute to male survivors avoiding disclosure.

Most men who have been sexually assaulted prefer not to disclose their experiences, even to individuals they know and trust. They are afraid of being dismissed, mocked, embarrassed, accused of weakness, ignored, or, in the case of heterosexual males, regarded as gay. To make matters worse, male survivors are afraid of being blamed for their own attacks because they are not "manly" or "macho" enough to protect themselves. For all of these reasons, many men who have been sexually abused or assaulted suffer their horrific experiences in silence and alone.

What do male victims of sexual abuse go through?

Rape and sexual abuse are traumatic experiences for everyone who has been through them, regardless of sex, sexual identity, or gender, and they confront many of the same problems and barriers. Shame, shame, and trauma are inevitably tossed into the mix as well.

Rape affects males in many ways that it affects women. Anxiety, rage, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, self-blame, suicide thoughts, shame, denial guilt, and embarrassment are all frequent emotions among both male and female survivors.

Men, on the other hand, react differently to sexual assault in certain respects. Immediately following an assault, males may exhibit greater anger and violence rather than tears and terror. They may also begin to question their sexual identity, engage in sexually aggressive behaviour, and even minimise the consequences of the attack.

Men, like women, who have been sexually assaulted, may have depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health difficulties. However, because men often have different life experiences than women, their emotional symptoms may differ. A male victim of sexual abuse may develop psychological issues, trauma, depression, suicidal thoughts, substance addiction, and a proclivity for aggression.

Failure to treat male victims' suffering has far-reaching implications for the survivor, his family, and his community.

Supporting a Male Victim of Sexual Abuse

  • Many people in crisis believe that no one understands them or takes them seriously. Show them how much you value them by giving them your entire attention. Many survivors find it difficult to reveal assault or abuse, especially if they are afraid of not being believed due to masculine norms.

  • Validate their feelings

  • Let them know you care about them. You can use statements like "I care about you" or "I'm here for you."

  • Even if you are inquisitive about what happened and want to completely comprehend it, avoid asking for specifics about how the assault occurred. If a survivor decides to share such facts with you, try to listen in a sympathetic, understanding and non-judgmental manner.

  • Help them find appropriate help and support such as therapy and support groups.

Conclusion

Our culture dismisses the significance of male sexual abuse and assault. When people report an attack or abuse, they are frequently accused of lying or informed that the act is in some way their fault. People are more likely to blame a male victim than the abuser. Male survivors may experience negative reactions, particularly if they choose to report the crime, and they may lack the support of their family and friends for doing so.

According to global research, laws in many nations barely address sexual abuse of males, warning of a lack of assistance for young male survivors. The majority of the countries do not even have laws against male sexual abuse and there is hardly any research and statistics around it.

Rape and sexual abuse of males remains a complicated topic and is not discussed much. That is unlikely to change until we are ready to embrace this tough debate in public and dispel some of the misconceptions that surround these crimes.

It is high time now that society and the law accept male sexual abuse, support those individuals and help them get justice.

As compared to female sexual abuse victims, male victims, however, have less support and face a larger stigma. Many individuals do not take male sexual abuse seriously. This is one of the reasons why males have a tough time reporting what happened and why male sexual assault rates are considered to be considerably underreported.

Any man, regardless of his sexual orientation, size, strength, looks, career, race, or culture, can be a victim of sexual abuse. It occurs at home, at work, in locker rooms, and in automobiles — pretty much everywhere a perpetrator believes he can get away with it. Few, if any, men have ever contemplated the prospect of such an event occurring, and as a result, they are completely unprepared.

Abusers can be of any gender identity, sexual orientation, or age, and can be related to the victim in any way. They, like other offenders, may use physical force as well as psychological and emotional coercive techniques.

About one in four male victims of completed or attempted rape first experienced it between the ages of 11 and 17.

Over half (52.4%) of male victims report being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger. (NSVRC)

 

Males, especially boys, are easier targets for abusers since they are not as well monitored or safeguarded as females. Male abuse carries a great deal of shame and stigma, since men are expected to be strong in a patriarchal society. In such a culture, the boy kid is discouraged from seeking assistance; he is left to cope with his problems on his own.

Image by Jackson Simmer
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Stuti Mehta is a junior contributor and research assistant at dR CLB Lab

She is a  psychology undergraduate and wishes to pursue Clinical Psychology and is interested in psychological testing and assessment, psychometrics and research.Her experience at college and various internships have given a strong background in academics as well as practical exposure in the field of psychology.

She enjoys reading, dancing, adventures, and exploring and trying new things. She is dedicated and motivated and passionate about what she does. She is keen on learning and gaining experience