With the advent of the #MeToo movement, the public has been forced to examine the horrific tragedy of women suffering at the hands of sexual predators. We have learned through marches and very public testimony of the damage women receive when their boundaries and dignity as human beings is violated.
However, there is another group of people who, because of societal restraints, suffer the same fate, only in silence. That group consists of men.
In a study published by Muenzenmaier, et.al.1, men were interviewed to see what types of child abuse they had experienced and found:
- 9% experienced physical abuse
- 9% experienced sexual abuse
- 4% witnessed sexual abuse
- 35% witnessed physical abuse
Men are not stoic stones that do not waver and cannot be harmed. If someone like this family member states he gets suicidal when going to work due to his trauma history, he should receive the same consideration and care as a woman would.
As one can see, men are not invulnerable.
In this series of articles, we shall examine together male victims of sexual violence, how complex post-traumatic stress disorder affects men, and how society conspires against men getting help and healing. The information about to be presented is statistic heavy, but it helps to see the scope of the problem and how desperately we need to remedy it.
What is Child Abuse?
Many people, especially men, have a tough time understanding what child abuse is and how it has affected their lives. Child abuse takes many forms including:
- Watching the child undress or bathe
- Talking to a child in a sexual manner
- Making a child watch pornographic movies or look at porn magazines
- Photographing a child inappropriately
- An older person than the child making the child feel powerless
- Using extreme punishment
- Spankings or hitting that bruises or breaks bones
- Calling the child names
- Constantly yelling or belittling the child
- Criticizing or making fun of the child
- Touching the child sexually or forcing the child to touch themselves or someone else
- Threatening to kill someone or something the child loves
Although the above list is long, it only begins to cover incidents of child abuse as there are as many ways to harm a child as the human imagination can conjure.
It is vital to remember that perpetrators are not only male. Yes, 96% of people who harm children are male, but the remaining 4% are female. This estimate may be incorrect because our culture refuses to believe in female abusers and most rapes and other abuses done by women are never reported. This is extremely true if the victim was male.
The Prevalence of the Problem
Just because society doesn’t acknowledge or talk about male sexual trauma certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In fact, the statistics below should bring a tear to your eye.
- 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted before they turn eighteen.
- 34% of people who are sexually assaulted as a child were done so by a family member
- 8% of men were age 10 or younger at the time of their first victimization
- The average age for boys to become victims of prostitution is ages 11-12
- Approximately 1 in 45 men have been forced to penetrate an intimate partner
After reading those statistics, I would imagine you are wondering why you haven’t heard any of this before, and the classic question, how can a man be forced to penetrate someone?
Let’s examine each of these thoughts in the next few paragraphs.
The Hurt Little Boy Who Was Never Heard
It saddens me that I can go to a therapist, sit down, retell my story of sexual assault and have her empathize while a man might be met with incredulous belief. I’ve witnessed a man that I am related to suffering because all a therapist wishes to impress upon him is how he must work if he wants to feel better.
Instead, what they meet is a brick wall of people who don’t care to see the hurt little boy sitting before them in their office. They became in their childhood, and still are, unheard.
Adult Men Who are Forced to Penetrate
Male rape is something no one wants to talk about, but it is very real. When men are forced to penetrate women repeatedly by a female or male perpetrator, it leaves them feeling bad about themselves and suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a study conducted by Dr. Siobhan Weare2 in the United Kingdom found that men are forced to penetrate intimate partners in a myriad of ways and below are only a few of them:
- The partner uses force by holding the man down, pinning him down, or using a weapon to threaten him.
- Forcing the man to penetrate when they are asleep or unconscious from using alcohol
- By showing displeasure or criticizing the man’s sexuality or attractiveness
- Using physical force to beat or otherwise harm the man until he complies
- Threatening to end the relationship and spread rumors
- Constantly verbally pressuring the man to penetrate
Don’t fool yourself. Although male rape is not illegal or even recognized in most places around the world, it is a crime. Men can and are raped.
Why Haven’t We Heard About Male Survivors
The biggest thing perpetrators of sexual violence have going for them is silence. Male children and adult victims are made to feel ashamed and told vicious lies to hold them back from telling anyone about their experiences.
In our society today, we have forced men to fill a role no one should be too, the role of a he-man who cannot be hurt and should never show emotion. We’ve painted men into a corner and left them in despair and fear of seeking help.
Our movies, television programs, sporting events, and just about any other form of entertainment you can think of to instruct our men from childhood that they mustn’t feel or show someone other than your spouse any form of physical affection beyond a casual handshake.
The Physical Toll Childhood Trauma Takes in Men
The trauma of male children takes an enormous emotional and physical toll on our men. One can multiply this by a factor of ten if you add in the repetition of the trauma these men faced as little boys.
Just look at the following findings of a study focusing on men who were traumatized as children.
- 8 times as likely to smoke
- 9 times as likely to be obese
- 4 times as likely to experience ongoing anxiety
- 5 times as likely to have panic reactions
- 6 times as likely to be depressed
- 6 times as likely to be promiscuous
- 6 times as likely to engage in early-life sexual intercourse
- 2 times as likely to become alcoholic
There is an undeniable link between men experiencing childhood trauma and many chronic symptoms and disorders that make them vulnerable to mental health issues and early death.
Our Men are Suffering
In 2017 in the United States alone, 47,173 people died by suicide with 77.97% of them being men above the age of eighteen. I got my calculator out. Those stats mean that 36,781 men in the United States of America died by suicide in just one year.
What is even sadder is it is predicted that the stats to be higher for 2018.
Our culture is ignorant of male childhood trauma, and we hide well from even the mention of them experiencing sexual abuse. However, it is all too horribly real. Facts are facts, and they say that must be invulnerable and not feel any emotional pain. Men are to be macho, in control, and never weep.
However, if we ignore the hidden emotions of men we are responsible as a nation for the untimely and unnecessary deaths of thousands.
Men are every bit as vulnerable to the strong emotional scars they carry into adulthood as women but not being able to express their pain leaves them feeling alone and hopeless.
The Treatment for Male Survivors of Childhood Trauma
Male childhood trauma is, much to the shame of us all, only now receiving the recognition it deserves. Trauma-informed therapists are receiving the training they need to respond appropriately to this previously unheard tragedy in our society.
For this reason, men who have experienced childhood trauma have are more likely to find a therapist who can help them to conquer over their pasts.
To find a therapist who has experience treating male childhood trauma, one should consult online find-a-therapist pages available online. You will find below links to these important resources.
The bottom line, and what I hope anyone reading this piece will discover, is that I and many others recognize your pain and will support you on your journey.
“In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
- Muenzenmaier, K., Spei, E., & Gross, D. R. (2010). Complex posttraumatic stress disorder in men with serious mental illness: a reconceptualization. American journal of psychotherapy, 64(3), 257-268.
- Weare, S. F. (2017). Forced-to-penetrate cases: Lived experiences of men-Baseline Research Findings.
- Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Bremner, J. D., Walker, J. D., Whitfield, C. H., Perry, B. D., … & Giles, W. H. (2006). The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood. European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, 256(3), 174-186.