8 Unique Difficulties Faced by Male Survivors
Being an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse is hard. Really F*@#ing hard! Men who were sexually abused as young men or boys struggle with the same challenges that women struggle with. Unfortunately, male survivors of CSA struggle with a number of additional issues that are unique to being a male victim of sexual abuse. This week I want to discuss 8 primary ways that being a survivor of CSA is different for men.
Although I have listed these 8 issues as being exclusively experienced by men, I understand that some of these issues may be experienced by some female victims of childhood sexual abuse. I also understand that gender is not just always simply male or female. Within society these 8 additional difficulties are primarily experienced by individuals who are identified by society as being male.
All people who struggle with past sexual abuse can have difficulty owning or remembering their abuse. Many people with CSA struggle with anger, shame, guilt, fear, loss, relationship difficulties, isolation, pessimism, internalized self-hate/blame, sexual intimacy difficulties, unhealthy or destructive coping mechanisms, and worse or chronic physical/mental health issues. And as if all of that were not enough, male survivors face additional issues and difficulties.
8 Unique Difficulties faced by male survivors of CSA
- Forced Perpetration: Sexual abuse can include being made to perform sexual acts onto other victims. It is possible for a victim of sexual abuse to become aroused, have an erection, and to orgasm during sexual abuse. It is a common misconception that these bodily responses somehow negate the abuse; having your body respond as it was built to respond does not make the assault consensual nor does it make it less harmful (but it can make it much more confusing). Being forced to have sex with another unwilling victim can add additional layers of guilt, shame and self-loathing.
- Expectation of Future Perpetration: It is not uncommon for perpetrators to claim to have been victims themselves when they were children. This has contributed to the mistaken belief that all male victims will become perpetrators later in life. Research has shown that although some victims do become perpetrators as adults, the majority do not. Unfortunately, this mistaken belief continues to keep many male victims silent.
- Fragile Masculinity: Masculinity is defined by characteristics such as: Strength, domination, power, leadership etc. Modern day masculinity doesn’t leave room for having been a victim. This can mean that men who were childhood victims of sexual abuse can struggle to feel sufficiently or confidently masculine. These internal doubts can be expressed through hyper masculinity – feeling the constant need to prove one’s manliness.
- Vulnerability Taboo: It is not acceptable in our society for men to be vulnerable, feel emotions or share their pain. This makes the process of healing from CSA additionally difficult. They must struggle to find a way to be masculine and process through intensely difficult and painful experiences.
- Sexual Confusion: Being a victim of CSA can leave adult men confused about their own sexuality. It is not uncommon for the sexual acts of childhood abuse to become part of an adult’s erotic fantasies. This in its self is confusing because the experience was/is upsetting and painful and at the same time has become a part of what turns them on as adults. This can then be compounded when the perpetrator was a male.
- A heterosexual male can feel insecure in his sexuality because society tells them that once touched that way by another man they can never truly be heterosexual.
- A homosexual or bisexual male can feel insecure in his sexuality because there is the wonder if what happened to them “made them that way”
- Increased Homophobia: Men who were victimized as children (particularly those victimized by men) can be less tolerant of other men’s homosexuality. This can be related to the above mentioned internalized sexual confusion that can then be fueled by unresolved anger and fear.
- Additional Barriers to Reporting/Accepting: Even when a man had decided to report or share childhood abuse they can find there are additional barriers or simply a lack of support. Although some steps have been made to make women feel less at fault when they report childhood sexual abuse, the same understanding is frequently lacking for male victims of childhood sexual abuse. Similarly, society is less receptive to men sharing their trauma histories. Most recently men have not always had supportive responses when they have shared their #MeToo story.
- Societal lack of Support: Men who do come out as adult survivors are not only faced with a society that is uncomfortable with their presence they face a decided lack of support resources. Support groups for adult survivors of CSA are often only open to women. Websites aimed at CSA are often clearly written for a female reader (or at least make no attempt to make men feel included), and there are few specifically aimed at male adult survivors. Therapists who specialize in helping adults heal CSA are not always prepared for the additional intricacies faced by men healing CSA.
Healing childhood sexual abuse is scary, difficult and challenging for anyone facing that journey. Men with histories of childhood sexual abuse face a number of additional hurtles in their healing process. This does not mean they can not heal from their childhood abuse. It means that their healing process will present different challenges than those necessarily faced by women.
To learn more about men healing Childhood Sexual Abuse check out these websites:
I am a therapist in Austin Texas. I specialize in helping adults heal from difficult childhoods, childhood trauma, CSA (Childhood Sexual Abuse), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and cPTSD (complex PTSD). Call today to schedule your free 30-minute, in person, consultation to discuss how I can help you heal your childhood sexual abuse.