It turns out that 16% of American boys have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18. “It is very difficult to determine how many men have been sexually abused because men are much more reluctant to disclose that they were abused. For that reason, we strongly suspect that all of our estimates are actually under-estimates,” said David Lisak a founding board member of 1in6.org, a site dedicated to helping men, family, friends, and partners cope with this difficult issue.
“Don’t be silent about it, don’t think that you’re alone, find resources to help – there are many,” said Dr. Richard Gartner, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in New York City. Dr. Gartner’s expertise lies in treating men with histories of sexual abuse. He is also a two-time author whose books relate to males being sexually abused, including Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life after Boyhood Sexual Abuse.
One of the most common myths is that men who sexually abuse other males are homosexual, yet this is usually not the case. According to MaleSurvivors.org, a place where men can come to in need of assistance, the men are just categorized as pedophiles.
Another misconception some people believe is the so-called “Vampire Syndrome”. This is when a boy who was sexually abused feels like he will one day become just like his predator. “Actually, only a small minority of boys who are sexually abused will go on to perpetrate sexual abuse themselves,” said Lisak, “Because of the pervasiveness of this myth, however, many men who were sexually abused as children live with the fear that they are somehow ‘time bombs’ and will become abusers. It is simply not true.”
Nowadays, males of all ages can find safe havens thanks to caring souls, understanding licensed professionals, and multiple resources both on and offline. “There are online resources that are very good, there’s malesurvivor.org, there’s 1in6.org, and of course there are therapists and if he was underage when the abuse occurred and the statute of limitations have not run out, there are also legal remedies,” said Dr. Gartner.
Lisak noted that 1in6.org will soon be piloting another service that will provide web-based, individual counseling for men with individual therapists. At first, this will be available only to men in the Los Angeles area, but they are hoping to expand it.
The main message is clear: no matter what – if it feels wrong if a male is left with confused thoughts following a sexually abusive experience, and feels caged in, ashamed, or like they will always be the target – there is help out there. Taking the first steps to recovery can be difficult.
For some, this may be seeing a counselor; for others, using an online site for support may make them feel more secure. The priority for boys and men alike is to get it out so that it doesn’t stay trapped inside forever, eating away at their emotions.