Although society may perceive men as incapable of being victims of sexual trauma simply because they have a penis, the last 17 years coaching abused men shows me the opposite. Today, we finished a phase 5 workshop retreat for men who were sexually traumatized during early childhood, adolescence or adulthood. Everyone commented on the transformation, healing, and reclamation observed in each participant over the past couple of years. Perhaps the greatest awareness comes from the reality that at least 1 out of 10 men in USA suffers as a result sexual trauma. Whereas 1in6.org reports 1 out of 6 men have experience sexual abuse. The traumatization follows the abuse. When a perpetrator adult or child intentionally or inadvertently harms another by means of sexual activity it’s considered sexual abuse. Often times we make distinctions label it as abuse due to age. If the sexual activity occurs between adult and child, we quickly label it as sexual abuse. However, if the activity occurs between two children close in age we find difficulty in naming it sexual abuse, especially if they are the same gender. When it occurs between male and female we are quicker to then call it abuse or fault the boy. From my experience coaching male survivors, whether the perpetrator involved an adult or another child, the aftermath seems to be just as devastating and traumatic. Also it’s important to realize especially when involving minors that sexual abuse does no need to include physical penetration, or contact. For example, some forms of child sexual abuse might include:
Voyeurism or exposing oneself to a minor
Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate
Child pornography possession
Sex of any kind with a minor, vaginal, oral, or anal
Any sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.
Trauma reflects a type of stress derived from exposure to horrific terrible events that are often outside the realm of daily human experience. These events are usually intense, disturbing and distressing, emotionally painful and can be experienced directly or witnessed. Although the DSMD provides specific criteria, I have experienced individual repeatedly exposed to the extreme details of horrific or adverse events traumatized. Long term psychological ramification can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) where the individual continually re-experiences the trauma. This sometimes manifests in symptoms of avoidance or related cues, overcompensation or hypervigilance, mood alterations, negative limiting beliefs about yourself in general.
Trauma responses varies across individuals. The incessant experiencing of trauma often continues if the victims do not seek assistant or find ways to effectively process the events. I have encountered men experiencing intense trauma episodes 10 or 20 years after the initial abuse simply because they prolong these effects by not finding help. I also want to stress it’s important for men not to downplay impact of trauma that might occur when the assailant is female. Often society and professionals do not give much consideration to sexual traumatization perpetrated by women. Yet some report that such early sexual experiences with a female perpetrator is not a badge of honor or award of sexual prowess, but presents even more issues. Although certainly not an exhaustive list, sexually traumatized men symptoms might include:
Drug & alcohol abuse
Risky delinquent behaviors
Anger management issues
Fear of sex (avoid, obligated, feeling sexless)
Negative feelings of disgust, anger when touched
Feeling distant or not connective during sex
Inability to maintain relationships (work, romantic, friendships)
Stressed about holding kids, changing diaper, etc
These are simply scratching the surface as men who attend the workshops list unique symptoms to their experienced trauma. If you are experiencing such symptoms following your sexual assault, abuse or unwanted sexual experience realize this is common. Your feelings are entirely valid and understandable. This type of abuse is a deep penetrating betrayal of human trust, love and affection. It’s an attack on the essence of who you are a person and human being. No matter the symptom or reaction it’s important to realize they are all ways in processing what happened to you. It is vitally important for men to press forward in working through the sexual abuse and find caring nonjudgmental, unbiased support via a safe friend, clinician, coach, therapist, respected help that is knowledgeable about sexual assault and men.