Monday, September 19, 2011

Giving male victims a chance to acknowledge their pain

I'm talking about child sex abuse. Tread carefully.

As most people may have noticed when it comes to male victims of sexual assault the path is not easy. No I'm not saying that the path for female victims is easy but I am saying for male victims it can be especially difficult just by virtue of their gender. There is a new support group forming that may help those male victims.

Program coordinator Donna Foster comments:
"It's not like individual counselling because they'll have the opportunity to listen to other men tell their stories, and there's a whole normalization process that occurs within the group format.

They hear other men talk about their issues, and they realize that they're not alone."
You see one part of the script of being a man is that in the event that we are in pain (or in the event that we acknowledge that we are in pain) we must close ourselves off to others or face the possibility of having out manhood questioned. As a result we effective become an island. Countless men out there all trapped on our own little islands thinking we are alone in our pain. Although sometimes I wonder if its a matter of not thinking it happens to anyone else or a matter of thinking that as a man there is no one for us to turn to for help because "men don't need help". You may wonder why I'm talking about men when the article is about abused suffered as a child. That's because gender policing starts at an early age or did you think it only happened to women/girls? (Bear this in mind as you read the rest of this.)

Foster also explains another reason for why men may not be speaking up about it. First being that don't recognize it as abuse:
"We define sexual abuse as when there is an age and power difference between the two people who are in the relationship," Forster said, "so for men, they often don't realize they were sexually abused until someone starts telling them what that dynamic looks like."
I'm not fully sure what she meant here. It seems like she is saying that men do not see the age and power difference between their younger selves and their abusers, maybe. Or maybe that men see it but ignore it.

Not sure but as far as defining sexual abuse I think another thing that needs to be brought up is the belief that (at least with heterosexual abuse, as in by female abusers) men cannot be victims on a count of being male means we want sex all the time (and if the abuser is male then its just believed that deserved it since he was "too weak" to protect himself). In other words how can you sexually abuse a willing person and since they're guys they are always willing partners. When it comes to sex (heterosexual sex at least) boys/men are pretty much raised under the notion that we simply do not say no to sex for fear of having that all important sense of traditional manhood questioned. If you don't believe me think about the questions that follow when a guy says he's not interested in sex with a woman. Usually something to the effect of "what kind of man are?" or "you're gay aren't you?"

In addition to it not being seen as abuse there is also the matter of men not wanting to discuss it:
"The stereotype for men is that they're strong, able to protect themselves and that men aren't vulnerable,"
This feeds back into what I was talking about above about how men feel alone when it comes to child sex abuse.

Again men are raised to be strong and independent, invulnerable and tough. There is a very strong belief that such a man cannot be victimized. And in the event that a man victimized in such a way its not just a violation but a stripping of that manly facade that we are led to believe is so vital to our existence. Left with no way to properly cope with the trauma many men withdraw into themselves.

From there there could be attempts at self medication (addiction to drugs/alcohol), self esteem/confidence issues (thinking that since they were abused and thus not a "real man" they must deserve to be mistreated by the men and women in their lives), or even the chance of lashing out in the form of the abused becoming the abuser (either an attempt and regaining power and control or a belief that since no one cared about them then who is going to care about their victims), or other sorts of behaviors to get over a past pain that was never properly healed.

There's a lot of men out there that could use this programs help. I hope it takes off and does some serious good.

Fro tip to Toy Soldier.


Clarissa said...

'when it comes to male victims of sexual assault the path is not easy"

-This is so so true. :-( The problem is that men are so often socialized into the model where "a real man is able to perform whenever with whomever." More often than not, in terms of the very first experience, it translates into a man being bullied into sex by an older, more experienced female partner who was never an object of the man's desire.

Danny said...

Thanks from dropping in Clarissa.

And what you say at the end (" it translates into a man being bullied into sex by an older, more experienced female partner who was never an object of the man's desire.") its a vicious cycle. Very true.