Male sexual abuse is seldom discussed; you’d almost think it didn’t exist. It’s one thing when a perpetrator gets busted with porn or running a sex ring, but the systematic abuse that happens on a daily basis to people like me is not only rarely discussed, it’s seldom admitted to by the victim. Although the media have broken a few stories of late, they’ve tended to focus on the headline grabbers – “Coach Molests Team-members”, or “Priest Caught Molesting Young Boys”. Much online research turned up the same, or similar results; mostly large-scale abuse by authority figures. It’s obvious why these stories are in the headlines, and they should be.
However, I would like to start a new conversation, one that delves into the issue of family and neighborhood level abuse. I want to see the media pay attention when boys are singled out by a perpetrator, that was both close to the family and known in the community and town. There are potentially thousands of men out there, who’ve had these experiences, and had their lives wrecked…and it’s time to give them a voice.
Various studies show that as many as one in five men have experienced childhood sexual abuse. That’s a staggering statistic, and one I believe is low! It’s a discussion that’s still taboo in many circles in this country. I believe there are many reasons this topic isn’t as mainstream as the abuse of women. Many men feel the need to be tough, and this image is perpetuated as we grow up. Many also feel the potential stigma of being labeled as gay or feminine because of abuse by a male perpetrator and that the abuse may have somehow been their fault. Many others are taught to have an attitude of “everything is OK” or “don’t talk about your problems” and this keeps us from revealing our trauma, until it reveals itself…as it always does. There is a definite post-traumatic stress element that goes along with being sexually abused. Many, many men who experience addiction and other mental and emotional issues were abused as children.
What I believe, more than anything, is that it’s time to talk about it. It’s time for men to feel comfortable discussing the pain and shame associated with having your childhood ripped from you by a sick person. We need to teach men that they can talk about these things without being shamed or made to feel at fault. We didn’t do anything wrong, and by keeping these secrets we’re possibly destroying our own lives and the lives of our families. We need to have these discussions with our boys and let our boys see us having these discussions with others. We need to let them know it’s OK to talk about. We need to keep our eyes open as parents, and ask the hard questions if we see something that looks even the slightest bit suspicious. If a boy is spending an inordinate amount of time with a male who’s not in his age group, be suspicious! Ask questions!
Don’t be afraid to question your neighbor, teacher, coach, clergy, or even family member, if you suspect they are trying to engage your child in an inappropriate relationship. It’s embarrassing, uncomfortable, and downright scary to have these conversations. But even the questioning may cause the perpetrator to avoid trying to contact your child. And if you believe the contact has already happened, talk to your boy. Ask the hard questions, and make damn sure his answers make sense. The perpetrator will usually condition your child with answers that seem to make sense on the surface. But ask yourself again, and again…”does this make sense?” If you believe your son has been or is being sexually abused by someone, contact the appropriate authorities. Don’t wait! Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable or embarrassed, it may save your son’s childhood, and someday his life.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for engaging with me. Just the fact that you read this post makes my journey worthwhile. If you think you know someone who would benefit from my words…please pass this article on to them.