Why should you listen to what I have to say about male sexual abuse survivors? That’s an excellent question, and I’m glad you asked.
I am a sexual abuse and assault survivor who interacts with other survivors. My involvement with sexual abuse support groups has helped me understand what men and women have in common and crucial differences.
I am extremely well-read on the topic. Someday soon, I will include my extensive reading list as a resource.
I have attended several seminars, webinars, and workshops to educate myself.
Today, we will look at the similarities and differences between male and female abuse survivors and specific implications for ministry to male sexual abuse survivors.
First, let’s look at what female and male sexual abuse survivors have in common.
Female and Male Sexual Abuse Survivors have much in common.
Both male and female survivors come in all shapes, sizes, ages, economic, ethnic, and social backgrounds. They can come from safe and unsafe home environments. They may have been groomed by their attacker or been targets of opportunity.
They may feel damaged and lifelong shame for what they experienced.
They may hate their bodies for responding while being victimized. They may experience varying levels of sexual dysfunction as an adult.
They may experience PTSD, including intrusive thoughts and unwanted flashbacks that impact their function at home and in the workplace.
They may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms of drugs, sex, alcohol, overeating, compulsive behaviors, and destructive relationships.
They may experience physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wounds that last a lifetime.
For all of their similarities, there are some striking differences in male and female victims of abuse.
Female And Male Sexual Abuse Survivors have seven interesting differences.
I realize that there is no way to list every possible difference between male and female survivors accurately. So instead, I’ve focused on seven of the most significant differences between female and male sexual abuse survivors.
1. In how others view their decision to disclose the abuse.
Typically, women are seen as formidable when they report abuse, while men are often labeled weak. Because men value self-reliance, they do not want to be seen as powerless or as passive victims. In addition, they may fear that sharing their experience may result in a loss of social status or power.
2. In their reliance on, or lack of dependence on, a support system.
Men often suffer in solitary silence, while women are more likely to seek out community. As a result, men are typically unaware that a significant portion of the male population has been affected and that they are not alone.
When I finally determined to share my experience with some friends, I was startled to discover how many had similar experiences. For many, it was their first time to acknowledge it as well.
3. In the time that men and women typically wait to disclose their abuse to others.
Men can delay disclosure for a long time. For example, research confirms that male sexual abuse survivors typically do not disclose their sexual abuse and assault histories for 20 to 25 years.
4. In their responses to the labels victim and survivor.
Men and Women abuse survivors will respond differently to the terms victim and survivor.
Typically, a woman will identify more readily with the term victim than a man at the onset of trauma.
Men will often decline to self-identify as victims even though their experiences meet the legal and medical definitions of abuse and assault.
According to a recent study, a substantial number of men admit to having had experiences that meet the legal and behavioral categories of child sexual abuse and rape.
However, these same men frequently do not label their experiences as Child Sexual Abuse or rape, nor consider themselves victims or survivors.
5. In whether they will question their gender identity after abuse or assault.
A woman may or may not question their gender identity after an assault. But men certainly will.
According to many experts, masculine stereotypes impact how men experience, understand, and respond to sexual abuse and its effects.
6. In the continuing stereotype where men are seen as potential abusers. Others, including the survivor, may fear they are a danger to others, despite overwhelming evidence showing a victim abusing another is unlikely.
“The research doesn’t support that abused people are highly likely to go on to abuse other people. Often it’s such a harmful narrative, and it intensifies the sense of shame and guilt.” Dr. Bryony Farrant, Chief Psychologist to the state-sponsored Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, in an interview on the BBC 25 May 2018.
Women, on the other hand, are seen as victims who have limited potential to abuse others.
7. In the amount of research and data concerning sexual abuse of females and males.
There is significant data on female abuse victims, decades of work, and a large sampling size. However, significantly fewer studies and data are available on male victims, and much of the research is relatively recent.
What Are The Implications We Can Draw From The Similarities And Differences In Sexual Abuse Survivors?
Men and women can both benefit from the same kinds of treatment.
The issue is getting men to understand what constitutes sexual abuse, helping them take an honest assessment and inventory of their sexual experiences, and then convincing them of the benefit of disclosing the abuse in a safe community.
Helping male sexual abuse survivors might take the form of a men’s group meeting at a local church. In addition, a medical or law enforcement official could provide the necessary educational component.
In addition, the participants could complete a personal self-evaluation form. Men would have the opportunity to follow up for further information to benefit themselves or other men in their lives. Those looking for the community could form small groups for further discussions. The church could assist with professional referrals and additional resources.
Call To Action
I am grateful for a loving and tender wife who has walked with me every step of the way. And for a church that regularly addresses shame, abuse, and mental illness. But my heart aches because I fear that not every man will receive that kind of support.
Can you help educate other men as to what constitutes male sexual abuse? Can you stop and assess your sexual history and consider the negative impact it has had on your life? Can you reach out to create a safe community for men to discuss these issues?
Would you consider sharing this article with your local pastor or discussing it with friends?
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on November 27, 2019, and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.