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Childhood Sexual Abuse

Males Sexually Abused as Children
It is estimated that one out of every six males has been sexually abused as a child. However, very few males who have been sexually abused ever tell their story, and even fewer seek the help of a counselor or a support group. If you have been sexually abused as a child, you may have tried to protect yourself from further shame by keeping it a secret. You may have kept your abuse to yourself because you believe you should have somehow stopped it from occurring. You may think that if other people knew, they might think less of you, try to blame you, or make you explain how it could have happened. Or you may think that no one else could understand what you went through or how confusing it was and still may be. However, males who have been sexually abused are often amazed to discover that the problems they encounter and the feelings they struggle with are often typical outcomes that occur to many other males who have been abused. Some of these may include:

    • unsuccessful attempts to forget the abuse
    • dreams or vivid recollections of the abuse, including physical sensations, emotions, tastes, or smells
    • feeling responsible for the abuse or making excuses for the abuser
    • feeling intense rushes of confusing emotions
    • an unexplained need to suddenly run, become violent, or cry
    • difficulties expressing or identifying how you feel
    • an inability to express certain emotions or having only a few emotions
    • feeling as if you are wearing a mask or that people don't know the real you
    • feeling as if there is a part of you who is still at the age of the abuse
    • a strong need to protect other children or intense fears of becoming an abuser
    • feeling intense anger, but being unable to express it in a safe manner
    • feelings of worthlessness or of being irreparably damaged
    • difficulties initiating or maintaining close relationships with others
    • a tendency to be overly responsible and self-sacrificing towards others
    • difficulties with sexuality and/or connecting sex with love
    • feeling isolated, alienated, and detached from others

Many times male victims of sexual abuse have difficulties seeing themselves as a victim, yet feel that their abusive situation left them feeling out of control, helpless, and powerless. You may make desperate attempts to feel in control of your actions, your thoughts, and especially your emotions. Because memories of the abuse often trigger strong emotional reactions, it is very common for males who have been abused to try to stop feeling most of their emotions.

The predominant emotion many male survivors of sexual abuse feel is intense anger which may be difficult to control. Survivors often report difficulties controlling anger, a tendency to feel angry about little things that wouldn't normally appear bothersome, or difficulty understanding why their anger is so intense. You may feel afraid of becoming violent or dangerous if these feelings were to ever be expressed.

One of the most painful results of sexual abuse may be a difficulty initiating and/or maintaining satisfying, close relationships. Although it may be difficult for you to identify your own emotions, it is often even more difficult to share these with another person in a close relationship. You may have a mysterious sense that you are somehow different than most people which makes it difficult to believe that someone could understand you. You may have learned at an early age that it is not safe to trust people who supposedly love you or care about you. This feeling that others are not safe to trust may have remained or intensified through the years and resulted in even more difficulties developing close relationships. You may have difficulties talking to, being touched by, or being friends with people who are the same gender as your abuser. Furthermore, intense feelings of anger often lead male survivors to avoid getting too close to people.

Most importantly, you may be feeling that you will always experience these difficulties and that you must learn to live with them. There are ways to work through the emotions tied to the memories. It is important to realize that the coping mechanisms you may be using were effective in helping you deal with a very confusing and traumatic situation. The coping mechanisms which were useful to protect you as a child may be preventing you from living a fulfilled and happy life as an adult.

The first step, talking with someone, is often the most difficult. Although getting up enough courage to trust someone again appears like a monstrous task, it is the first step towards building close relationships again. It may be extremely difficult to trust a total stranger, but talking to a counselor at the Counseling Center in Lucina Hall is also a first step. Several counselors are well-trained and experienced in helping male survivors understand the struggles and difficulties they may be experiencing. This may be a difficult subject to bring up, and you may have many fears. It is all right to discuss these fears with your counselor. Your counselor will not push you to talk about the details of your abuse until you are ready to do so.