Male Sexual Abuse
About one in five males are sexually abused in childhood. No one is really sure how many adult males experience sexual violence - more than is reported. The following Q&A is based on information supplied by Survivors UK.
What is male sexual abuse?
Male sexual assault is when you have been forced to take part in any sexual act with another man or woman which you did not willingly consent to. Even if you did not resist or fight back at the time of the attack, it is still assault.
It could have happened to you whilst you were a child or a teenager, or as an adult. It is not a 'gay crime' - it happens to more straight men than gay men. It could be done b y a man or a woman.
More men are abused from within the family than outside, and more men are raped by people they knew rather than strangers.
How common is it?
It's much more common than most people think. According to a study published in the BMJ, almost 3% of men reported a non-consensual sexual experience as adults and over 5% of men reported sexual abuse as a child. Thousands of men contact Survivors UK every year.
Is it illegal?
Changes to the 1956 Sexual Offences act in 1994 made the rape of a man an equal crime to rape of a woman. Further updates to the Sexual Offences act in 2004 mean that the different types of sexual assault that men can experiences have been defined. The Survivors UK National Helpline can help you in considering whether you want to report what happened to you to the police and put you in touch with legal specialists.
How does it affect you?
Few people even realise that male rape exists. So a man who is trying to come to terms with sexual assault can feel like there is nowhere to turn. But secondly, society itself places certain expectations on men - they are supposed to be 'strong' and 'able to take care of themselves'. This only heightens the sense of confusion and self-doubt felt by survivors of male rape and sexual abuse; many of them end up blaming themselves.
He will often be as desperate to keep it a secret as his attacker is. As well as the trauma and feelings of shame, many of our clients face the difficulties of people's attitudes to male rape and abuse.
Many male sexual abuse survivors experience feelings of isolation, depression, anger, anxiety, issues about sexuality and gender, substance abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, negative body image, fears about abusing, hyperconsciousness of body and appearance, and even split or multiple personalities.
It can also lead to real problems with relationships. So anyone who shares his life, be it partner, friend or family, can be affected. We often receive calls from these people, who are looking for help in dealing with the effects of male rape or sexual assault on the man in their life.
Is most sexual abuse of boys by homosexual males?
It's nothing to do with homosexuality or heterosexuality. Pedophiles who molest boys are not expressing a homosexual orientation any more than pedophiles who molest girls are practicing heterosexual behaviors. While many child molesters have gender and/or age preferences, of those who seek out boys, the vast majority are not homosexual. They are pedophiles.
You can't call it abuse when a heterosexual boy is coaxed into sex by an older woman. He's lucky to have been initiated into sex.
No, it is abuse. To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male or female, is always abusive and often damaging.
But if a boy experiences sexual arousal or orgasm doesn't that prove he enjoyed it?
Not at all. In reality, males can get an erection even in traumatic or painful sexual situations. It does not mean that the child wanted the experience or understood what it meant at the time.
Surely, boys are less traumatized by the abuse experience than girls.
No. While some studies have found males to be less negatively affected, more studies show that long term effects are quite damaging for both sex.
Will boys who are abused by males become homosexual?
No. It is unlikely that someone can make another person a homosexual or heterosexual. Sexual orientation is a complex issue and there is no single answer or theory that explains why someone identifies himself as homosexual, heterosexual or bi-sexual.
Boys who are sexually abused go on to sexually abuse others.
That's not true either. This myth is especially dangerous because it can create a terrible stigma for the child, that he is destined to become an offender. Boys might be treated as potential perpetrators rather than victims who need help.
While it is true that most perpetrators have histories of sexual abuse, it is NOT true that most victims go on to become perpetrators.
Getting help is key. Research suggests that talking about being a victim of abuse being believed and understood reduces the liklihood of becoming a perpetrator of it.
The majority of victims do not go on to become adolescent or adult perpetrators; and those who do perpetrate in adolescence usually don't perpetrate as adults if they get help when they are young.
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Page created on June 30th, 2009
Page updated on December 1st, 2009