Some people believe that boys are not as hurt by sexual assault as girls are. This is a slap to both male and female victims. The inference is that, since girls are weaker and more helpless, they suffer more. The assumption about boys is that they can shrug it off better, and so they don’t suffer as much.
Both ways of thinking are nonsense.
Most studies show that the harm caused by sexual abuse doesn’t really depend so much on the gender of the victim. Rather, it depends on other factors such as the abuser’s identity, the duration of the abuse, whether the child told anyone at the time, and if so, whether the child was believed and helped. Far more harm is caused to either a boy or a girl when they tell someone who they believe will help them, and no help is forthcoming. The person either disbelieves them or downplays what happened. Worse, that person refuses to acknowledge the trauma that always accompanies abuse, and refuses to even listen to the child’s story.
A non-concerned adult can often make a boy feel he just has to “tough it out,” be man, don’t be such a pansy. When the person or people a boy trusts refuse to offer him help or belief, he is left to figure it out himself, like a “real man.” Even years later, when they are still struggling with the effects of abuse, it is usually harder for a man to seek help than it is for a woman.
I think it is paradoxical that, in our benighted society, we have done our best to feminize men while at the same time we’ve not allowed them to express their deepest fears because that isn’t manly. Above all, a boy or man should never reveal weakness or need emotional help. It’s just not manly.
Men can fail to realize that what happened was harmful, and not connect their PTSD symptoms with the abuse. Or, even if they do understand the roots of their emotional angst, they are too ashamed to seek help. Either way, the pain continues.
Boys learn early not to show emotions that get them labeled as “soft.” The problem is, repressing “bad” emotions also leads to suppressing the good ones. So, even though those emotions don’t go away but just take deeper root all the time, a boy becomes a man who essentially feels nothing. The only strong emotions that are allowed to surface are those of anger and aggression.
“Nobody’s going to make me cry. Nobody’s ever going to call me a girl.”
Those ideas aren’t helpful at all. Eventually, a boy or man will act out on his pain, shame, humiliation, and fear. That can show up in a variety of ways, including becoming a sexual aggressor, falling into deep depression, using food as a palliative, having multiple negative relationships with women, and so on.
It is vitally important for a male victim of sexual assault to find good help. These problems don’t just disappear with time.