It Happens to Boys too


One in four boys will be sexually abused this year and
they won’t tell a soul. Instead, they will repress their
feelings, try to forget the abuse ever happened and
simply move on.

But these boys won’t really move on. Emotionally they
will stay frozen in the space of the abuse while going
through the motions of an ordinary life. They may
physically grow, excel in certain areas and even do a
good job at feigning normality but eventually their
lives will start to exhibit the inevitable signs of the unresolved
abuse brought about through conscious and
subconscious triggers. The cost to our society is staggering,
repressed feelings in men often are released
as rage, either internal in the form of self-harm, drugs
and alcohol, anxiety, cutting, suicide or external; road
rage, domestic violence, abusive behaviors, gambling,
and risky sexual behavior.” Hurt people, hurt people”
This may manifest as problems with intimate relationships,
an inability to follow through, lowered self-esteem,
self-medication through addictions to drugs and
alcohol, reliance on porn and other deviant measures
for arousal, self destructive tendencies and severe
depression. Depression is the most common long-term
symptoms among survivors.

Our society in general needs to be educated on the
extra burdens men carry when they are victims of
abuse. Their whole lives they are encouraged by our
society to “be strong”, “buck up”,” don’t cry”, “don’t be
a sissy” or “act like a girl”. How can these men then feel
comfortable coming forward and admitting they were
violated? When remembering the event, men see it
as they allowed themselves to be violated, some feel
guilty that the touch felt good, that is very confusing
for them and creates more self-blame. However as we
explain to men in our Courageous Healers Group our
bodies are sensual beings and when they are touched
in a sensual way it feels good. However when the brain
starts to register “this is wrong” men then feel shame.
No matter what the circumstances of the abuse, it is
never the child’s fault. The fault and the shame belong
to the perpetrator not the victim.

When shame comes up men have three choices of how
to handle it: run away, hide their face and freeze, or
fight back (make that person who shamed them hurt)
Why don’t boys tell? Society as a whole hasn’t done a
very good job at making the male sex feel comfortable
with sharing their feelings in general let alone the ones
that make them feel raw, exposed and scared. Boys
are told from a very early age to be “manly”, “strong”,
not “wimpy” or “girl-like” and unfortunately learn that
showing emotions and pain coincide with the latter.
When abused by a woman, some boys are afraid to tell
because they think other boys will make fun of them
for not liking it. Or they are afraid other boys will mock
them for complaining about it. Alternatively, if boys
are abused by men, they fear their peers will now think
they are gay. If the abused boy is gay, he will dread
being told by others that he indeed wanted it or asked
for it. Even though this type of abuse is about gaining
power over someone else and not sexual identity, the
shame and embarrassment that often ensues around
sexuality in young people also causes them to remain
tightlipped. In all of these cases, it’s an unfortunate
truth that boys prefer to keep the abuse inside and
pretend it never occurred.

The long term effects of sexual abuse are now explained
in the ACE (adverse childhood experiences) test
created by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC it is now filling
in the “missing links” between Adverse Childhood
Experiences and mood disorders, addictions, eating
disorders, PTSD, relationship problems and learning
disabilities.

It is our job as professionals in the healing fields to
destroy theses myths and create new dialogues where
boys can feel safe not only to share but also to participate
in their own healing. We need to educate our
teachers and parents about this epidemic and arm
them with the tools on not only teaching boys early
that manhood contains both strong masculinity and
authentic vulnerability but that it’s okay and essential
to talk about these things that happen to them without
feeling ashamed. We need to create dialogues that
support this new direction in schools and communities
So that we can reach these boys while they are still
young not merely waiting to address the problems that
come out later in life when they’ve already become
accustomed to the jails and rehab centers. Let’s teach
them how to start up the hill from the bottom rather
than waiting until they fall off and hit rock bottom.
What is the answer? As my group, It Happens to Boys,
goes out to speak at various recovery centers, conferences,
schools, etc. we are constantly encouraging men
to speak up, share their feelings, a real man acknowledges
his feelings and expresses them appropriately.

“Share your story with others”. Since the statistics are
so high every room we speak to has several survivors
attending and only after they here our stories do they
too come forward and say “This happened to me too”
Once a survivor speaks up in a group and finds they
are not alone, the healing begins. Twelve steps, sponsors,
men’s survivor groups, personal therapy, yoga,
EMDR, DBT, Inner Family Dialogue, and EFT are all ways
that are being proven to be successful in treatment of
survivors.