Posted by: joshjasper | February 23, 2010

Boys To Men

Tomorrow I leave for San Diego to give a presentation about male survivors of sexual abuse.  Surprisingly to many, Riverview Center serves a great deal of boys and men that have been sexually abused.  More specifically, nearly 50% of the children we serve are young boys.  Knowing that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, this should surprise no one. 

I’ve given this presentation before, but as I review my notes it really strikes me how truly underserved this population truly is.  Much of this has to do with the countless myths that exist.  For example:

1.  Men and boys can’t be victims.  This myth is reinforced through masculine gender socialization, or in other words, teaching men to be tough, strong, and macho.  Men learn early on that they must protect themselves.  Sadly, this myth erases most hope that boys and men will report being victimized and seek out the needed services for themselves.

2.  Most sexual abuse of boys is perpetrated by homosexual males.  Pedophiles who molest boys are not expressing a homosexual orientation any more than pedophiles who molest girls are practicing heterosexual orientation. 

3.  Boys that have been sexually abuse go onto become perpetrators themselves.  This myth is especially dangerous because it can create a terrible stigma for the child, that he is destined to become an offender. Boys might be treated as potential perpetrators rather than victims who need help. While it is true that most perpetrators have histories of sexual abuse, it is NOT true that most victims go on to become perpetrators.  Research has actually found a primary difference between perpetrators who were sexually abused and sexually abused males who never perpetrated: non-perpetrators told about the abuse, and were believed and supported by significant people in their lives.

Often times I talk about the importance of redefining masculinity in order to prevent future violence perpetrated by men.  Another critical reason we must examine the socialization of men has to do with the importance of empowering boys and men to report being victimized.

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