Healing from Within
Healing from Within is a program to assist men to heal from Sexual Abuse.
In order to recognize the reality of sexual abuse and to address the trauma experienced by survivors (and the impact on society) it is important to have a broad definition of sexual abuse and a more comprehensive view of who the offenders and survivors are.
Sexual Abuse is any behavior which undermines an individual’s sexual identity or sexual safety. Sexual abuse includes not only criminal acts, but also concealed sexual acts (that are not often recognized either by the courts or by the general population). Examples are: derogatory comments of a sexual nature, leering looks, age-inappropriate exposure to sexual information or imagery, or the lack of appropriate information. Although these and other examples may not result in criminal charges, nor be intentional, they may nevertheless result in long-term disturbances for the victim.
Victims and Offenders are increasingly seen as including a broader range of individuals. While it was once believed that a larger percentage of survivors are female than are male, recent studies indicate that the numbers are not as different as previously assumed, and sexual abuse of males of all ages is not rare.
Statistics may be misleading if taken at face value: statements such as “…the majority of victims are female…” minimize the extent of victimization of males, or “…offenders are predominately male…” may result in one overlooking female offenders. Statistics have their place, but what is important is that innocent people are being abused, traumatized, & need healing.
Myths about Male Sexual Abuse
Boys and men can’t be victims. This myth, instilled through masculine gender socialization and sometimes referred to as the “macho image,” declares that males, even young boys, are not supposed to be victims or even vulnerable. We learn very early that males should be able to protect themselves. In truth, boys are children – weaker and more vulnerable than their perpetrators – who cannot really fight back. Why? The perpetrator has greater size, strength, and knowledge. This power is exercised from a position of authority, using resources such as money or other bribes, or outright threats – whatever advantage can be taken to use a child for sexual purposes.
Most sexual abuse of boys is perpetrated by homosexual males. Pedophiles who molest boys are not expressing a homosexual orientation any more than pedophiles who molest girls are practicing heterosexual behaviors. While many child molesters have gender and/or age preferences, of those who seek out boys, the vast majority are not homosexual. They are pedophiles.
Boys are less traumatized by the abuse experience than girls. While some studies have found males to be less negatively affected, more studies show that long term effects are quite damaging for either sex. Males may be more damaged by society’s refusal or reluctance to accept their victimization, and by their resultant belief that they must “tough it out” in silence.
If the perpetrator is female, the boy or adolescent should consider himself fortunate to have been initiated into heterosexual activity. In reality, premature or coerced sex, whether by a mother, aunt, older sister, baby-sitter or other female in a position of power over a boy, causes confusion at best, and rage, depression or other problems in more negative circumstances. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is always abusive and often damaging.
BELIEVING THESE MYTHS IS DANGEROUS AND DAMAGING.
So long as society believes these myths, and teaches them to children from their earliest years, sexually abused males will be unlikely to get the recognition and help they need.
So long as society believes these myths, sexually abused males will be more likely join the minority of survivors who perpetuate this suffering by abusing others.
So long as boys or men who have been sexually abused believe these myths, they will feel ashamed and angry.
And so long as sexually abused males believe these myths they reinforce the power of another devastating myth that all abused children struggle with: that it was their fault. It is never the fault of the child in a sexual situation – though perpetrators can be quite skilled at getting their victims to believe these myths and take on responsibility that is always and only their own.
For any male who has been sexually abused, becoming free of these myths is an essential part of the recovery process.
“Approximately one in six boys is sexually abused before the age of 16.” Lynne MacDonnel-OPP Abuse Awareness
Help is Available
It is clear that there are potentially significant long term physical and mental health consequences to childhood sexual abuse. The individual who is a child sexual abuse victim will access health services more frequently than their non-abused counter parts, they will demonstrate varying levels of depression and anxiety and they will have difficulty in maintaining relationships. All of these problems are exacerbated if there is not an appropriate level of support when they choose to self-disclose. The severity of the consequences is in part directly related to the amount of support available. Given that it may be even more difficult for men to disclose than it is for women, that level of support available may even be more critical.
For More Information
Contact the John Howard Society:
t: (705) 743-8331