MALE EXPERIENCE OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE
Dube and colleagues (2005) [LINK] conducted a study, using retrospective data, examined the long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse by gender of victim. Contact Childhood Sex Abuse (CSA) was reported by 16% of males and 25% of females. Men reported female perpetration of CSA nearly 40% of the time, and women reported female perpetration of CSA 6% of the time. CSA significantly increased the risk of the outcomes. The magnitude of the increase was similar for men and women. For example, compared to reporting no sexual abuse, a history of suicide attempt was more than twice as likely among both men and women who experienced CSA (p<0.05). Compared with those who did not report CSA, men and women exposed to CSA were at a 40% increased risk of marrying an alcoholic, and a 40% to 50% increased risk of reporting current problems with their marriage (p<0.05).
In a brief video segment -- [LINK] -- counsellor and familly therapist Esther Perel discusses the importance of sexuality to processes involving self-identity and self-esteem; experiences of mastery, competence, and achievement; experience of vulnerability, and trust in intimate relationships; loving, giving and receiving more generally in relationships; and the experience of safety, connection and sexual connection in relationships with loved ones and with others more generally. Naturally all of these are crucial to personal, interpersonal and social functioning and all can be tragically, and sometimes permanently, damaged and disabled as a result of childhood abuse, trauma and neglect.
In the full video -- [LINK] -- Esther discusses truths about male sexual and relational attitudes. Discussed are three ideas about male sexuality that are myths and how to help men connect with and share their sexual attitudes and values
Dealing with the Impact of Sexual Abuse - Help from Peers
I discuss elsewhere on this site -- [link] -- more general guidelines for how to deal with the impact of trauma on personal functioning, but here I'd again like to stress some of the benefits of peer support, and I'd like to plug the availability of groups specifically for men that are available in Dunedin, and elsewhere in New Zealand, through the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust -- [LINK].
When survivors talk with others about their problems, something helpful often results. It is important not to isolate yourself. Instead, make efforts to be with others. Of course, you must choose your support people with care. You must also ask them clearly for what you need. With support from others, you may feel less alone and more understood. You may also get concrete help with a problem you have. Participating in a men's group, gaining the insight and support of men like yourself, can also help you benefit from other types of therapy -- such as Couples Therapy -- [LINK].
Given the broad range of influences sexuality has on every aspect of our identities, it's hardly surprising that the impact of sexual abuse, sexual trauma, can have on our lives.
Finkelhor and Browne (1985) -- [link] -- and Browne and Finkelhor (1986) reviewed studies -- [link] have tried to empirically confirm the subjective effects of child sexual abuse cited in the clinical literature. In regard to initial effects, empirical studies have indicated reactions -- in at least some portion of the victim population -— of shame, fear, anxiety, depression, anger and hostility, aggression, and sexually inappropriate behavior. Frequently reported long-term effects include depression and self-destructive behavior, anxiety, feelings of isolation and stigma, poor self-esteem, difficulty in trusting others, a tendency toward re-victimization, substance abuse, and sexual maladjustment. The kinds of abuse that appear to be most damaging are experiences involving father figures, genital contact, and force. A general overview of sexual crimes againt children is provided here -- [link] -- from Finkelhor's research data centre.
Problems related to 'being a man' -- nfortunately, men who have experienced child sexual abuse or sexual assault not only have to deal with some of the above problems, but a set of difficulties specifically created by our society's limited gender expectations. Below is a list of problems that men who have been subjected to sexual violence often confront and relate to the gender expectations of what a man 'should do or be' in our community. Child sexual abuse or sexual assault can lead to:
- Pressure to "prove" his manhood:
Physically - by becoming bigger, stronger and meaner, by engaging in dangerous or violent behaviour
Sexually – by having multiple female sexual partners, by always appearing 'up for it' and sexually in control
- Confusion over gender and sexual identity
- Sense of being inadequate as a man
- Sense of lost power, control, and confidence in relation to manhood
- Problems with closeness and intimacy
- Sexual problems
Fear that the sexual abuse has caused or will cause him to become 'homosexual' or 'gay'
- Homophobia - fear or intolerance of any form of 'homosexuality.'
As is apparent from the above list, some problems are specifically related to gender expectations and the social world in which a man lives. In sorting out any of these difficulties, it is important therefore to acknowledge the social and relational aspects of any identified problems and not to over-problematise the man himself.
A myth that male victims of sexual assault often confront, either individually or even as a product of being involved with a male support group is the assumption that they will become abusers themselves. However, meta-analyses of availability research show there is no truth in this -- it is true that a minority of male victims of childhood sexual abuse are more likely than other males to commit sexual offences, however, being a victim of childhood abuse of any kind is a greater predictor of later offending than sexual abuse alone -- [link]
The National Centre for PTSD in the United States concludes and recommends: "There is a bias in our culture against viewing the sexual assault of boys and men as prevalent and abusive. Because of this bias, there is a belief that boys and men do not experience abuse and do not suffer from the same negative impact that girls and women do. However, research shows that at least 10% of boys and men are sexually assaulted and that boys and men can suffer profoundly from the experience. Because so few people have information about male sexual assault, men often suffer from a sense of being different, which can make it more difficult for men to seek help. If you are a man who has been assaulted and you suffer from any of these difficulties, please seek help from a mental-health professional who has expertise working with men who have been sexually assaulted." -- [link]. A more reliable, but still conservative estimate of childhood experience of sexual abuse in males is available from the meta-analysis of Stoltenborgh -- [link] -- however, clinical experience suggests that even this may be an undestimate -- the best practice seems to be to accept this as a minimum figure and not further victimise males by denying or dismissing male reports of being victimised, just as we would be wrong to dismiss femalee reports of being victimised.
Significant differences may exist between how men and women respond, or experience, childhood sexual abuse. In a study by Carlozzi and Long (2008) -- [link] -- female child sexual abuse survivors (CSAS) reported higher overall PostTraumatic Stress Symptoms than male CSAS when controlling for abuse severity and comorbid negative life event frequency, but only when Feelings of Fear, Horror and Hopelessness (FHH) was excluded in the definition of a potentially traumatic event. Trauma operationalization did not influence findings for PTSS expression; men and women did not differ on reexperiencing, hyperarousal, or avoidance PTSS.
Ongoing difficulties being comfortable enjoying sexual relationships, even when one is married to a loving, supportive partner -- [link}
Thus, there's a great need to feel "validated" when one begins telling the story of one's experience of sexual abuse. Often, this is possible in a good therapeutic relationship, but also often in a same-sex peer support group, given the differences in how men and women may respond, and the different social roles they occupy. Often, however, being in a healthy, adult relationship with a loved one can overcome even the great difficulties listed above.
Further information for male survivors, therapists and caregivers: MaleSurvivor.org [LINK]
Mike Lew'S website -- [LINK]
All male survivors of childhood sexual abuse owe a great debt to Mike for his first book "Victims No Longer" -- Amazon details -- [LINK]. Those unfamiliar with this work, whether they be victims, caregivers of those who have suffered sexual abuse, or therapists can benefit from at least acquainting themselves with this work, and Mike's recent work on his website.
NEW ZEALAND SERVICES
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust --
Services in Auckland and Wakato operate independently of MSSAT Christchurch, thankfully.
Living Well -- [LINK]
LivingWell is an Australian resource which offers a range of services specifically designed to assist men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, their partners, friends and family and service providers. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse as a child, or adult, please know that you are not alone. Support and assistance is available. Has links to other services in Australia for men.
Living Well -- a Guide for Men (PDF) -- [LINK]
This 56 page book has been written to provide men with some practical information and support about dealing with the effects of sexual abuse. Most of all it offers some useful ideas about taking care of yourself.