While much of the population is aware and in support of sexual abuse towards women, there is still a huge stigma and unawareness of the abuse that lies quietly in many men’s lives. Did you know 1 in 6 boys experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 15 in North America? – and this may be considered a very conservative number, given the unlikelihood of men choosing to disclose.
When understanding the impact of sexual abuse, or any kind of abuse experienced at an early age, it is important to firstly understand how a child’s world view can shift significantly:
• A child’s developing capacities for trust is harmed
• How a child relates to themselves and others may become challenged
• Their world can often become unsafe and unpredictable
• Their self perception is viewed as bad and powerless (Hermann, 1992)
• A debilitating loss of control can be experienced
Following these developmental disturbances from the experience of abuse, the potential short and long-term effects in efforts to cope with ones distrusted world and self view can result in the following:
2. Anger and aggression
3. Anxiety and isolation
5. Disturbances in relationship
6. Fear and helplessness
8. Loss of control and confidence in manhood
9. Low self esteem
10. Self blame shame
Therapy for men can be extremely effective in the the healing process. However, seeking treatment can be complicated by male socialization, a concept that forces men to deny and minimize their experiences of victimization as well as their pain and suffering. Why is this so? Well, sexual abuse contradicts the cultural ideal of what it means to be a man. Gender socialization is constructed at a very early age and influences how men behave and interact with others. It can limit the range of culturally acceptable forms of emotional experience for men and may leave men unable to express and identify feelings. Gender socialization contributes to oppression and secrecy, draws attention to the isolation and self-blame that survivors internalize, and creates and maintains problematic identity positions.
Such stereotypical gender norms may include the following:
• Powerful and dominating
• Achievement and status oriented
• Preoccupied with sex
It is so important to deconstruct and challenge gender myths to allow one to take control of his own sexual and gender identity. When working with make surviors of abuse, sexual or otherwise, it is imperative to understand that what a male survivor deems masculine will vary from individual to individual and that exploring and redefining his own masculine identity may be an empowering and new experience.
So what makes effective therapy for male survivors of abuse?
• A therapist must be knowledgeable and sensitive to gender norms, be understanding of heighten shame and compassionate to the real fear of judgement maybe as a powerless victim, a potential offender or their own sexual identity.
• A therapist must take steps to deconstruct notion of an isolated hero and help the client be vulnerable in the service of authenticity
• A therapist may help reconstruct reparative connections to others, reaffirm the development of trust and recreate a healthy self-identity
• The power the client and therapist relationship may wok together to re-author a revised narrative that both contains and resists masculine norms.
They is more to do with sexual abuse that the single construct discussed here of endear socialization. Please visit our blog at www.livekaruna.com or contact us for more information on male survivors of abuse firstname.lastname@example.org
A great resource to learn more about stories of gender socialization and a discussion of how to raise a healthier generation of men can be viewed through a great Netflix documentary “The Mask We Live In”