“It is important for men who have been sexually assaulted to understand the connection between
sexual assault and hyper-masculine, aggressive, and self-destructive behavior. Through therapy,
men often learn to resist myths about what a “real man” is and adopt a more realistic model for
safe and rewarding living.”
–“Men and Sexual Trauma” from the National Center for PTSD
Since slowly revealing my sexual trauma to friends, I have some of those friends inform me of them either being sexually abused or knowing someone who has. A few of those friends were actually male. Of course, I am not going to go into detail about what was shared with me, but I will say this: like me, these men were violated by someone whom they thought was worth trusting. My male friends were manipulated into believing that they were somehow at fault for what happened to them. I know one who may have developed a sexual addiction in order to come to terms with his abuse. Hell, I even know someone who hates gay men because he was sexually harassed by a gay man while staying at his home (don’t get it twisted, Dear Readers. The majority of perpetrators are middle-aged heterosexual men with families of their own).
These friends are few of the many males who have been sexually abused or sexually assaulted. According to the National Center for PTSD, “at least 10% of men in our country have suffered from trauma as a result of sexual abuse” (United States Department of Veteran Affairs, 2011, n.p). That percentage only includes the men who actually reported the crime. Sex crimes inflicted upon men and young boys usually go unreported due to the shame brought on by the crime itself. Unlike women and young girls, male survivors have to deal with the societal stipulations that come with being male: you have be Army strong–brimming with aggression and dripping with the sexual prowlness that would make Ron Jeremy quit his job with jealousy.
“Men are NOT supposed to cry, god dammit,” snaps their Dark Passenger. “When Life happens, men DO NOT fall to pieces, but hold it together with a straight face. No one controls men–YOU control the world. YOUR world and everyone in it. Which means YOU don’t get raped or beat up. If you do, you must’ve deserved it because you’re fuckin’ weak. Especially if a girl did it to you.”
Like every survivor, male survivors have a Dark Passenger whispering in their ear and poisoning their minds about what a “real man” should be like. The media makes it 12 kinds of worse when they plaster men displaying sexuality and false machismo through music videos, movies and shows like How I Met Your Mother and The Game. It’s even worse for male survivors of color, who have this idea that–because of the color of their skin–they are somehow supposed to “know better” enough to know how to protect themselves. In No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Heal from Sexual Abuse, Dr. Robin Stone (2004) states that many African-American boys and young men stay silent about their trauma due to homophobia and broken pride. Like many male survivors, this particular demographic is inflicted with the belief that they may “turn gay” if their perpetrator was a man. The pride piece comes in due to feeling they should have been strong enough to overpower their perpetrator, especially if the latter was a woman.
In any case, the survivor begins to question their sexuality as well as their own manhood, fearing that they do not live up to what or how a man should be. This often leads to the crime inflicted upon them to go unreported and thrown under the house like a rock. Then the male is usually so ashamed that he doesn’t tell anyone about it and that shame and fear morphs into afflictions such as PTSD, violence towards others, drug and alcohol addiction, self-hatred, homophobia, fear of intimacy, sexual addiction. In most cases, the male survivor becomes a perpetrator themselves. When they do tell, some unfortunately face stigmatization from family, the law enforcement, and the judicial system–particularly when the decide to come forward later on in life.
So why the hell am I telling you this, Readers/Gang members? Because I’m tired of sexual abuse being labeled as a “girl problem” by both men and women. When I was attending Brockport, I was a Women and Gender Studies minor. Many of the Women and Gender Studies courses I took tended to focus on female oppression and sexual assault. Not once have I read any essay, article or book chapter pertaining to sexual abuse towards men and young boys. Also around that time was the controversy hanging over Take Back The Night like a storm cloud because men who wanted to participate in the event were asked to walk a few feet behind the women (thank Creator male and female participants marched side by side during the event)! As a Feminist who believes that all oppression needs to be annihilated, I deemed this a slap in the face to male survivors. There are very little resources for them anyway and not addressing the issue will only make it worse. With that being said, we all need to acknowledge that women and young girls are NOT the sole victims of sexual violence!
Secondly, sexual abuse and assault towards boys and men need to be brought to light. One of the reasons why male survivors don’t report the crime is because of the myth that they are the only ones that went through this. There isn’t very much information about male survivors but infinite material focusing on their female counterparts. This needs to stop effective immediately! There should be just as much information about male survivors as there is on females. By not focusing on both equally, researchers and professionals are only adding to the sexism and stigmatization compounded with the silence surrounding sexual abuse and assault towards males.
So, male survivors, this is for you: don’t let your Dark Passenger and the greater society tell you what a man should be. They’re bullshitting you. Only YOU can determine what type of human being you want to be and then be it. And don’t you dare live in isolation and silence. You are not alone and there are other men and young boys who have been through Purgatory and Hell simultaneously. So find them through support groups (there’s some resources and links listed on the blog) And lastly, SPEAK UP AND SPEAK OUT!! The Dark Passenger and the perpetrator thrives on silence, so don’t even give them any more of your personal power. Besides using your mouth, use your creativity, your mind, your heart and your counselor to express everything that happened to you. If you have friends you can trust, tell them. As a victim, you were not able to do anything, but as a survivor you can.
I wanted to write those words–all of these words–for the longest of time. I hope they help someone, especially the male survivor.
Stone, R. D. (2004). No Secrets, No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal from Sexual Abuse. New York, NY: Random House,Inc.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs (2011). National Center for PTSD: Men and Sexual Trauma. Retrieved from http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/men-sexual-trauma.asp