Sexual abuse of boys is a hidden trauma that is often avoided because of our societal stereotypes and stigmas.
All abused children carry their abusers’ shame and are scared to tell anyone for fear that others will see it as their shame. Anyone who abuses children transfers their own shame onto their victim. This is a hard concept to understand especially for children who don’t have the cognitive ability to grasp it, much less for us as adults.
Offenders/abusers are most likely to be victims themselves and are carrying the shame of their abuser as well. The shame gets passed down from generation to generation in families and communities (churches, schools). If we don’t deal with our own abuse we can pass our shame, fear and anger onto others throughout our lives.
Abusers often say things to their victims that creates an illusion that they are either colluding in the abuse or the cause of it. They brainwash their victims in order to keep them quiet and compliant. Most victims walk around feeling responsible in some way or as if there is something wrong with them, they are now damaged.
Boys have a different kind of difficulty when being sexually abused. Boys are taught from early on that being sexual and aggressive and unemotional are favored characteristics for men. To tell someone they have been molested by a man brings into question their sexuality and many victims spend their lifetimes wondering or worrying about who they really are and whether or not they have any worth as a human being, as a man. To tell someone they have been molested by a woman may bring responses of “What’s wrong with that? It’s every boy’s fantasy!” The reporting itself can leave them feeling ridiculed and belittled. After all, why couldn’t they protect themselves? (weakness) Why didn’t they stop it? (they must have wanted it, weakness) And even, why didn’t they enjoy it? (be a man, men always like sex) See article.
Men carry around the shame and feel damaged after abuse and may suffer the rest of their lives in secret, never feeling good about themselves and struggling to have healthy relationships with partners. See video.
If they get the opportunity to confront their abuser and get help and maybe even a financial settlement from a church, school or abuser, they can be blamed, shamed and belittled by the public at large, moreso than the abuser. If they don’t confront or report they are left with the torment of knowing their abuser probably has gone on to abuse someone else and they don’t know how to stop them. Once abuse is reported and gets into the news, other victims come out in droves. Rarely is sexual abuse a single case occurrence. But survivors often think it just happened to them and sit in shame.
After the confrontation or arrest of an abuser, the abuse is over and they may feel vindicated but then the real work of recovery begins. Memories of the abuse and trying to make sense of how it happened, acknowledging the impact it has had on emotions and relationships and self esteem, feeling the anger and how powerless they were takes time.
How can we help? Listen. Don’t judge. Find a place inside of yourself where you can understand how it would have felt. Have empathy. Encourage. Educate yourself.
If you have your own abuse to deal with go talk to someone. Find a good therapist who has worked with recovery from trauma. Find a support group where you can talk to others who understand what you’ve been through. Consider EMDR to reduce the trauma reactions that get triggered.