Statisitcs are pretty consistent that one out of every three women and one out of every six men will have suffered some sort of sexual molestation by the time they are 18. I, of course, find these numbers absolutely appalling. The numbers make it pretty clear that, male or female, we are at risk simply because we exist.
Today the focus is on the men. Is it different for them than for women? Do they struggle with the same fears? Are they fundamentally changed by the experience, or are they able to let it go?
One of the first questions raised by sexual abuse of boys is whether or not they can actually be abused in the same way that women can. Well, of course not–they are anatomically different. However, they certainly can be–and are–victims of abuse that can be just as degrading, humiliating, painful and frightening as it is for women.
It’s always interesting to me that we tend not to see boys and men as victims as easily as we see women in that role. After all, our society used to (and to some degree still does) want boys to be tough, strong, defenders of all that is good. Boys are to grow into men who will defend their families and their country against all comers. Personally, I like that view. I think we’ve done boys a huge disservice in expecting them to “be in touch with their feminine side” when study after study has shown that left to their own choice, boys usually choose traditionally masculine toys and behaviors. Put a truck and a doll in front of a boy and show no preference of your own, and he will usually choose the truck.
I emphasize this point because it is important to understand that boys are not molested because they aren’t manly, masculine, or strong. Abuse crosses all lines and all stereotypes. Abusers aren’t out there looking for feminized boys. They’re just looking for vulnerable ones. Truth: Any boy, alone, smaller than his abuser, and kept quiet by shame, is vulnerable.
One of the most hurtful burdens a man or boy carries, after sexual assault, is that he was unable to “be a MAN” and step up to protect himself or prevent the abuse. That sense of vulnerability and weakness can certainly change the course of a boy’s life.
And I can already see that this is going to be a more-than-one-week kind of topic. Since most of the victims I work with personally are female, I’m doing a lot of study and research on the issues a male victim carries. Some are pretty much the same as for women, but all are touched by the sense that a boy/man should somehow have been able to prevent it.
More next week.