Slowly but surely, the common myth held that sexual abuse/rape happens to women only is fading, but when a man is sexually assaulted or raped, and grows up believing that myth, he feels even more isolated and alone. This page tackles some of the issues that are rarely talked about, yet have a huge impact on almost all male survivors, and if left unsaid and sorted out, can stop them from recovering fully, leaving a residue of bad feelings and fears behind. Some of the things that can trigger you off and leave you feeling as if you're back at the point of being abused are as follows.
The smell of others, especially aftershave or other body smells, can cause you to flashback and trigger bad memories Many male survivors state that when having sex with a partner, that they feel dirty, and unclean once they have reached ejaculation, and this is connected to the sight, feel and sensation of seeing their semen, which reminds them of being abused, and that alone can ruin any sexual relationships they may have.
You may also feel wrong, bad and dirty, so will need to bathe often, usually after having sex with partners, and if masturbating, will only do so as a function, not for pleasure, because the sensation and good feelings have been taken away and you're left feeling dirty and 'wrong' again. There's also the fact that you can get obsessed with masturbation , not just once a day, but several times a day, which can increase when you feel stressed, lonely, screwed up, etc.
Many male survivors hide behind the fact that they remain non sexual, and in doing so, are not seen as being sexual beings, Others eat, drink, misuse drugs to stop people getting too close to them. By taking on the work that’s needed, you can remove the ghosts of the past and can regain control of your life
Male Survivors share many of the same feelings of female sexual assault survivors. Common feelings such as;
BODY IMAGE* Do you feel at home in your body?* Do you feel comfortable expressing yourself sexually with another?* Do you feel that you are a part of your body or does your body feel like a separate entity?* Have you ever intentionally and physically hurt yourself?* Do you find it difficult to listen to your body?
EMOTIONS * Do you feel out of control of your feelings?* Do you feel you sometimes don't understand all the feelings you are experiencing?* Are you overwhelmed by the wide range of feelings you have?
RELATIONSHIPS * What's your expectations of your partner in a relationship?* Find it too easy to trust others?* Find it too hard to trust anyone?* Find it difficult in making commitments?* Still feel alone, even though in a relationship?* Is it hard for you to allow others to get close to you?* Are you in a relationship with some-one who reminds you of the abuse, or who is no good for you?
SELF-CONFIDENCE * Do you find it difficult to love yourself?* Do you have a hard time accepting yourself?* Are you ashamed of yourself?* Do you have expectations of yourself that aren't realistic?
SEXUALITY * Do you enjoy sex, really enjoy it?* Do you find it difficult to express yourself sexually?* Do you find yourself using sex to get close to someone?* End up having sex because it's expected of you?* Does sex make you feel dirty?* Are you "present" during sex?
MAJOR SEXUAL SYMPTOMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
1. Difficulties in becoming aroused and feeling sensations
2. Sex feels like an obligation
3. Sexual thoughts and images that are disturbing
4. Inappropriate sexual behaviors or sexual compulsivity
5. Inability to achieve orgasm or other orgasmic difficulties
6. Erection problems or ejaculatory difficulty
7. Feeling dissociated while having sex
8. Detachment or emotional distance while having sex
9. Being afraid of sex or avoiding sex
10. Guilt, fear, anger, disgust or other negative feelings when being touched
EXISTING EFFECTS ON MALE SURVIVORS.
Listed below are some of the current effects that sexual abuse, and after-effects it has upon a male Survivor.
Nightmares, (Intense, violent, sexual) - A real fear that everyone is a potential attacker. Intense shame. - Intense anger. - Intense guilt. - Fear in expressing anger/difficulties in being angry. A need to be in control. - A need to pretend they are not in control. A fear of being seen/fear of exposure.- Running away from people/situations. A fear of intimacy. - "Avoidism". - Memories of physical pain. - Intense sexual flashbacks. Intruding thoughts. - Sexual dysfunction. - Asexual feelings. - Feeling unreal. - Self doubt. - Jealousy. - Envy. Sexual acting out. - Fear of men. - Fear of women. - Fear of speaking out. - Inability to relax. Disconnection with feelings. - Feeling alone. - Poor choice of partners. - "Out of body" experiences. Linking abuse to love. - Keeping secrets. - Forgetting childhood experiences. - Detached from reality. Inability to comfort their children. - Feeling inadequate. - Unable to accept compliments. - Low self esteem. Isolation. - Addictions/crime. - No emotions. - Fear of others motives. - Inability to say no. - Fear of rules.
COMMON REACTIONS TO SEXUAL ABUSE/RAPE
Emotional Shock: Feeling numb. Being able to stay so calm? Unable to cry.
Disbelief and/or Denial: Did it really happen? Why me? Maybe I just imagined it. It wasn't really abusive.
Embarrassment: What will people think? I can't tell my family or friends.
Shame or Guilt: Feeling as if it's your fault, or you should've been able to stop it. If only you had...
Depression: How are you going to get through the day. Feeling so tired! It feels so hopeless.
Powerlessness: Will you ever feel in control again?
Disorientation: You don't even know what day it is. You keep forgetting things.
Flashbacks: Re-living the assault! Keep seeing and feeling like it's happening again.
Fear: Scared of everything. Can't sleep, Having nightmares. Afraid to go out. Afraid to be alone.
Anxiety: Panic attacks. Can't breathe! Can't stop shaking. Feeling overwhelmed.
Anger: Feel like hurting the person who attacked you!
Physical Stress: Stomach (or head or back) aches all the time. Feeling jittery and don't feel like eating.
UNIQUE ISSUES FACED BY MALE SURVIVORS
There is great denial of the fact that men are sexually abused. Other than in prisons, most of us don't ever hear about the topic of male sexual abuse. The need to deny is often deeply rooted in the mistaken belief that men are immune to being victimised, that they should be able to fight off any attacker if they are truly a "real man." Another related 'belief' is that men can't be forced into sex. These mistaken beliefs allow many men to feel safe and invulnerable, and to think of sexual abuse as something that only happens to women. Unfortunately, these beliefs also increase the pain that is felt by a male survivor of sexual abuse. These 'beliefs' leave the male survivor feeling isolated and ashamed. Below are some of the unique problems and concerns that male survivors do experience: For most men the idea of being a victim is extremely hard to handle. Boys are raised to believe that they should be able to defend themselves against all odds, or that he should be willing to risk his life or severe injury to protect his pride and self-respect. How many movies or TV shows depict the hero prepared to fight a group of huge guys over an insult or name-calling? Surely then, men are supposed to fight to the death over something like unwanted sexual advances...right? These beliefs about "manliness" and "masculinity" are deeply ingrained in many men and lead to intense feelings of guilt, shame and inadequacy for the male survivor of sexual abuse. Some male survivors even question whether they deserved to be sexually abused because, as they think that they failed to defend themselves. Male survivors see their assault as a loss of manhood and feel disgusted with themselves for not "fighting back." These feelings are normal but the thoughts attached to them are not true. Remind yourself that you did what seemed best at the time to survive--there's nothing un-masculine about that." As a result of guilt, shame or anger some men may punish themselves by exhibiting self-destructive behaviour after being sexually abused. For some men, this means increased alcohol or drug use. For others, it means increased aggressiveness, like arguing with friends or co-workers or even picking fights with strangers. Some men pull back from relationships and wind up feeling more and more isolated. Male survivors may also develop sexual difficulties after being sexually abused. It may be difficult to resume sexual relationships or start new ones because sexual contact may trigger flashbacks, memories of the abuse, or just plain bad feelings. It can take time, so don't pressure yourself to be sexual before you're ready. For heterosexual men, sexual abuse almost always causes some confusion or questioning about their sexuality. Since many believe that only gay men are sexually abused, a heterosexual survivor may believe that he must be gay or that he will become gay. Furthermore, abusers often accuse their victims of enjoying the sexual abuse, leading some survivors to question their own experiences. Being sexually abused has nothing to do with sexual orientation, past, present or future. People do not "become gay" as a result of being sexually abused. However, there are certain issues that are different for men:
Concerns about sexuality and/or masculinity
Reporting crime to law enforcement agencies
FINDING RESOURCES AND SUPPORT No matter what is said or done, no one "asks for" or deserves to be assaulted. Sexual abuse/rape is nothing to do with someone's present or future sexual orientation. Sexual abuse comes from violence and power, nothing less. Unfortunately, the health profession are reluctant to recognise that men can be sexually assaulted. This also includes the Police Forces, though that is slowly improving at last This attitude, combined with ignorance affects the way they treat men who have been raped/sexually abused, often using a stereotyped view of masculinity, rather than focus on the physical assault, the crime becomes the focus of the medical exam or police investigation.
WHAT YOU CAN DORecognise that men and boys can and are sexually assaulted.
Be aware of the biases and myths concerning sexual abuse.
Recognise that stereotypes create narrow definitions of masculinity, and make it even harder for male survivors to disclose their rape/abuse.
As individuals and as a community, that we work harder to combat and challenge those attitudes.
It is important that male rape survivors have support, and are allowed to make their own decisions about what course of action to take. All too often, they feel forced to make statements or act against their abusers, without having had the time and space to think it through. I never advocate they prosecute their abusers, I suggest they perhaps begin their personal journey to recover from the traumas they are left with.
NOTHING JUSTIFIES SEXUAL ABUSE!It doesn't have to be this way though, you can overcome the issues listed and can recover. Just in case you need a reminder;
Men of all ages, and backgrounds are subjected to sexual assaults and rape.
Offenders are heterosexual in 98% of the cases.
Both heterosexual and homosexual men get raped.
Rape occurs in all parts of society.
Men are less likely to report being raped.
A PERSONAL VIEW.The belief that the male population is the stronger sex, especially when it comes to sex, is deeply ingrained, believed, and supported within our culture, but not all men and boys are physically or emotionally strong, which explains why there are male "victims" of sexual abuse/rape. Male child sexual abuse is perpetrated by both men and women, of any sexual persuasion, with no regard towards the "victims" sexuality or safety. It holds scant regard for who we are, and is about gaining power and control over the "victim".As children, we are placed in the care of our parents/guardians, family, family friends, schools, and more often than not, sometimes strangers. The 'Danger Stranger' campaign focused on the danger of strangers, with the intent of scaring children into not trusting strangers, but plainly ignored the fact that parents, siblings, family members, and those other "nice people" especially those people known as the "Pillars of Society", are much more likely to sexual abuse children. As a result of our sexual abuse, we grow up with many mistaken beliefs, and many Survivors have fallen into a myriad of roles that include alcoholism, crime, depression, self harming, people pleasing, hardworking, etc. But, far from being powerless, we have drawn upon considerable reserves of inner strength to deal with, adjust and cope with the invasion of our bodies and minds.
Our previous actions in dealing with life may not have been what we wanted to do, and may have caused more pain on the way, but surely we have arrived at a time when we all need to face our past, forgive OUR actions, and move away from the guilt, shame and fear that has haunted us for so long. This possibly took many forms, but is something that we all need to forgive ourselves for, as long we don’t intend to ‘return there’. Some thoughts to have plagued male survivors have been “Perhaps I was to blame” “I should have told someone” “I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time” “I deserved it” “Maybe I gave out the wrong signals” “Maybe I’m gay”………,What we don’t want to hear is pity, or told “how awful” “so sad”, “poor little boy” as that concept is dis-empowering and perpetuates pity for the ‘victim’ and we are then seen as “not quite right”.
We are OK, we are capable of living our lives, and we are more than capable of overcoming the traumas that our abuser(s) left behind. I subscribe to the belief that in order to heal fully you have to face your abusive past, however difficult that may be, but in doing so, you can move on emotionally, forgive your actions, find inner peace, and be the person you want to be, not who 'they' wanted you to be. Please break the silence and demand the right to be recognised! If you want to join, we will support you in your struggle, be 'here' for you when you need us, and help you understand who you are, and what you want to be. The next step is from victim, to SURVIVOR, which is possible. It's not easy, and involves you telling someone else all those deep hidden secrets, but once started,DON’T STOP!
Thanks once more to Steve Bevan at Male Survivors Trust