LR Coalition: Sexual violence happens to males

EP-17-lr-coalition-logoWith growing awareness that domestic and sexual violence does happen to males, more boys and men are disclosing.

To put this in perspective, let’s look at the one in six men who have experienced sexual abuse as younger children or adolescents. That means that there are just as many men who experienced sexual abuse as children as there are men who develop prostate cancer, the most common cancer and the second leading cause of death among men.

Or, put another way, it means that there are 19 million men with histories of child sexual abuse, which is four times the number of men with heart disease, the leading cause of death among men.

So, why does this epidemic continue? In spite of revelations for years of clergy abuse, and on-going disclosures by males who have been victimized by parents, relatives, babysitters, school staff, coaches and activity leaders, boys have remained at high risk of sexual victimization. Athletic teams, fraternities and the Armed Forces continue to try and label sexual assault under the guise of hazing.

When males do find the courage to speak about their abuse, they are often less believed and less supported than female victims and survivors. Males are less encouraged to express their feelings, especially when hurt. Feelings of shame, depression, anxiety and self-blame may be covered by substance abuse, aggressiveness or suicidal thoughts and actions.

If abused by an adult female, adolescent males may be expected by others to enjoy the experience, especially by those who do not differentiate between mutual sexual contact and sexual abuse. In other situations, males may be judged as weak if they couldn’t protect themselves. They may question their manhood, or worry that others may question it.

Male survivors may question their sexual orientation if sexually assaulted by someone of the same gender. Sexual violence is not about sexuality or sexual orientation. Sexual and domestic violence is about power and control, and often involves the use of threats, force or other forms of coercion, manipulation or intimidation. Sexual assault is non-consensual, and includes individuals who can not consent due to age, a mental disability, being asleep or unconscious, are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or are involved with certain authority figures.

Sexual or domestic abuse, whether to males or females, may have long-term negative effects that interfere with all aspects of one’s life — self-esteem, relationships, parenting and work. Factors that can greatly enhance recovery are being believed from the start, not being blamed or judged, being allowed to make one’s own choices and being supported by others.

Domestic violence and sexual assault programs offer support and resources to male, as well as female, victims and survivors. It is estimated that 15% of domestic violence situations involve males who are victimized. Family Crisis Services, the domestic violence program serving Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties, can be contacted by their Hotline at 1-866-834-4357.

R.E.A.C.H., the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services for Oxford County, and the towns of Bridgton and Harrison, can be contacted by their Helpline at 800-871-7741 (during office hours at 743-9777) or an online resource for males at www.1in6.org

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