By Stephen L. Braveman, LMFT, DST
Special to The Herald
July 11, 1999
Every Tuesday afternoon Mike (not his real name) drives two hours from San Francisco to Monterey just to spend two hours, then turn around and go home. Rick drives north one hour from his home in Big Sur for the same event. What is it that brings them, and other men like them, to Monterey week after week just for a couple of hours? They come to attend the Men’s Group for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
This group, which I lead, is unusual — the only one of its kind for at least a hundred miles. According to the National Organization on Male Sexual Abuse, there are only about 15 to 20 groups of this kind nationwide.
Do men suffer the effects of sexual abuse? According to a report in the July 1998 American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin, called “A Meta-Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College’s Samples,” the effects of sexual abuse “were neither pervasive nor typically intense, and that men reacted much less negatively than women.”
Men not affected by sexual abuse? Ask the men from San Francisco to Big Sur if they are negatively affected by childhood sexual abuse. Is it the lack of negative effects that drives them to make a weekly trip to Monterey?
Yes, it’s true, males are molested, too. In fact, one out of six boys nationwide is molested by the time he is 18. An estimated 50 percent of all such incidents are never reported. However, only 10 percent of molested boys ever make such reports.
Why don’t boys report when they are sexually abused? Boys, like girls, are frequently threatened by the perpetrator that speaking up will lead to further violence for themselves and/or others. There are fears of not being believed and that reporting the incident may tear the family apart.
In addition to these, and many other reasons that boys share with girls, boys face challenges to speaking up unique to their gender. Many falsely believe that if they were molested by another male, then they are now, or will become, homosexuals. Society tells boys that they should be “tough” and solve their problems on their own; that if they have early sexual experiences with an older woman they are “lucky” and that it is “unmanly” to seek help and “share their feelings.”
But some men do speak up — and loudly. Some of those who seek help, such as participants in the Monterey Rape Crisis Center’s Men’s Group, find healing by reporting the crime, even though it may be many years after the incident. Sharing their feelings with other men who carry similar pain helps them break through the shame and loneliness that frequently come with the silence of holding such terrible secrets inside. With support, many go on to confront their perpetrators with positive outcomes. Some counteract the pain of silence by publicly sharing their healing with other men who need the support.
Men, just as women, benefit from group support in their healing from childhood molestation. However, they need to know help is available. You can assist in breaking the silence by speaking up and spreading the word. Let people know groups such as the one at the Monterey Rape Crisis Center exist. Offer your support. Speak up loudly.