Before the revelations of institutional abuse in more recent years, abuse was often only ever associated with the female gender. However, it has been found that 1 in 6 men have been targets of rape or sexual abuse.
Myth #1: Boys Can’t Be Victims Of Abuse
The male gender is often seen as one of independence, resilience, action and protection. As a result, the myth that boys can’t be victims has been long-standing and despite more recent movements in gender equality, still has a long way to go.
A recent study found that gender expectations are still very much prevalent within schools and from a very young age. The study was carried out by the University of Stavanger and showed that staff either consciously or unconsciously maintained traditional gender patterns.
Boys were expected to be more physical and active and were often told that they were ‘big and strong’. With these expectations still very much a part of society’s expectation, abuse can become an incredibly confusing experience for boys. On the one hand, they are told they are strong and independent and on the other hand, abuse may leave them feeling anything but.
In reality, both boys and girls can be sexually abused and in fact, statistically boys are at a greater risk of being abused by a stranger.
Myth #2: Men Abused As Boys Become Abusers
Boys and men who have been abused are frightened by the myth that those who have been abused may become abusers later in life. However, a study carried out in 2003 suggested that paedophiles who had been abused as children themselves also suffered a family history of violence, maternal neglect and a lack of supervision. Even taking these elements into account, it only made those who had experienced elevated violence, more at risk of becoming abusers.
Statistics also reveal that whereas 95% of convicted abusers were abused in childhood, only 5% of those abused go on to become abusers. The fear caused by the myth create symptoms of distress in men who have been abused, and contribute to their psychological harm.
Myth #3: Boys Who Are Abused Must Have Participated To Some Extent
It can be extremely troubling for boys to be abused because, particularly during their teen years, they are easily aroused during this period of time. During puberty, boys have little control over the hormones going through their bodies. If they are stimulated by any part of their experience, it can make them feel as if they participated in some way.
It is understood that abusers and rapists are aware of how erection and ejaculation can confuse a victim of sexual abuse and this has been known to motivate them into manipulating their victims and ultimately gaining control over them so that they do not report the abuse.
Myth #4 Boys Who Are Abused Are Usually Gay
Sexuality makes no difference as to whether you are more or less likely to be abused and it also has nothing to do with future sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, it is common for men who have been sexually abused by another person to have questions about their sexuality and can sometime cause anxieties concerning sexual identity.
According to Survivors UK, many men ask if sexual abuse that occurred in their childhood could have determined their sexuality as an adult.
They go on to say, “In our experience, the majority of men sexually abused by other men in childhood identify as heterosexual in adult life. What research there is, points to sexual abuse having no significant effect on adult sexual orientation.”
Myth #5: The Law Treats Male Abuse Differently
Whilst reactions to abuse may differ between sexes, the law deals with child sexual abuse equally for both males and females. The law states that the age of consent in the UK is 16 and this is the same for both genders.
It is sometimes thought that females are more likely to be abused than males. However, the Office for National Statistics (2007) say that at any given time, 11% of boys under the age of 16 are victims of some form of sexual abuse.
It is also true that there are female abusers. In fact, research has suggested that up to 25% of sexual abusers of all children are female and that women are responsible for about 40% of sexual abuse of boys.
Safeline offer a team of specialist staff who have had specific training in working with men and boys who have been sexually abused. They state that it is common for men to experience a range of mental and physical issues having experienced sexual abuse.
Men can experience:
Whatever your experiences during and after sexual abuse, it is important to remember that there is always help available in order to help recovery.
What Help Is Available To Male Survivors Of Abuse?
As already mentioned, Safeline has a staff of specially trained advisors and counsellors who you can turn to. You can contact their helpline on 0808 800 5005.
Survivors UK offer help to males who have experienced rape and sexual abuse. They provide individual counselling, group counselling and a helpline for anyone affected by male sexual violation. They are also challenging perceptions through raising awareness of this often misunderstood topic.
Mankind is based in Sussex and they help boys and men from all over the country who have been affected by unwanted sexual experiences. They offer male specific programmes of recovery, in a safe and confidential environment.
Survivors Manchester specialise in helping male victims of abuse. They are a survivor led organisation that aims to create a safe space for men who have been victims of sexual abuse and rape.
“The damage caused to the male survivor of abuse is often hidden by the male macho image. It is much less acceptable for men to admit they were abused, particularly if they were abused in childhood by another male who was in a position of trust.”
“It’s the silence around male sexual abuse that is so worrying. We have to encourage those who have suffered to have a voice and come forward with their stories.”
“The road to recovery can be a long one but the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do it alone. There is help available and there are people listening.”
If you are a male victim of abuse, you can call our specialist abuse team in confidence on 0800 260 5002 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org