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Our Turn: Men are Victims of Sexual Assault Too

The reality is, sexual victimization of anyone, regardless of gender, can leave the person feeling vulnerable, ashamed, guilty and fearful with the abuse often going unreported for those very reasons.

Boys and men can be sexually abused by straight or gay men or by women who take advantage of vulnerability. Because society views males as protectors, the myth persists that males can’t be victims/survivors. Regardless of our individual definitions of masculinity, boys and men are vulnerable to those who use greater size, strength, knowledge and authority to coerce or force them into unwanted sexual experiences and then to remain silent.

A common myth is that sexual abuse of a boy may contribute to his sexual orientation later in life. However, studies show that a man’s own sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse. By focusing on the abusive nature of the interaction rather than the sexual aspects, it becomes easier to understand that sexual abuse has nothing to do with a victim/survivor’s own sexual orientation.

Studies indicate that male survivors of unwanted sexual experience often feel an intense anger and a fear of losing control of that anger; they may feel confused about their maleness, betrayed by those who violated their trust and ultimately abandoned and unsafe. Unacknowledged, they can or could feel helpless, and may be unable to trust others and therefore to make deep connections. And, they are often unable to set boundaries. With no one to talk to, these feelings can intensify, leading to a profound sense of alienation and the loss of childhood or a whole chapter of one’s life. Some may be driven by a need to always prove their manhood through playing super-aggressive sports, having a number of sexual conquests, picking fights, reckless driving, daredevil stunts — protecting themselves from further attack, and precluding any challenge to their manliness by being tough.

Sexual abuse is no less harmful to boys and men than it is to women. And, the harm increases if adults who could help them are reluctant or refuse to acknowledge what happened. This leads many survivors to believe they are at fault and on their own, and they stay silent and suffer shame for years instead of being able to get help and heal.

As a community, we must continue to do much better for boys and men of all ages. Sexual abuse is never the fault of the survivor, and we can start by never assuming blame because of gender. Here at TPN, we continue our work of remaining a safe space for male survivors as well as continue to raise awareness in the community through prevention education.

If you are male and have experienced sexual assault, we are here to listen and support you, as well as help with resources to help you heal. Our advocates are available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and ready to help. To learn more, call 1-800-639-3130 or visit our website, www.turningpointsnetwork.org

OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound supports for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move from the darkness of abuse toward the light of respect, healing and hope.

For information contact 1.800.639.3130 or www.turninqpointsnetwork.org or find us on Facebook and Instagram.

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