Sexual Abuse: Are girls the only victims?

The boy who discloses sexual abuse is often not believed because his family and friends reject the fact that even though a boy was a willing participant and experienced arousal from the activity it was still abuse.

Male sexual victimization is rarely talked about, and many myths about male rape and sexual assault contribute to the silence. Many people think that rape and sexual assault is something that only happens to girls and fail to even recognize male sexual abuse as a crime. Many experts believe that boys are victimized at least as often if not more than girls but reported less often.

One myth is that “males can’t be victimized.” Boys can and do respond physically to stimulation even in traumatic or painful sexual situations. These normal physiological responses to stimulation are not an indication of consent or desire. However, the child victim may feel like that he “caused it to happen,” or “it is proof” that he enjoyed it. Many male sexual abuse victims suffer the feelings of guilt and shame because they experienced physical arousal while being abused. This does not mean that the boy is any less masculine or that he is in any way responsible for his own abuse.  Depending on his age, he may have had trouble understanding what was happening to him at the time of the abuse.

Another myth implies that boys should be tough and be able to “fight back.” Boys are taught at a very young age that young men are strong and must protect themselves. This places an incredible burden on boys which often leaves them feeling guilty, ashamed, and depressed. The truth is that just like girls, boys cannot always fight back. The perpetrator exercised his or her position of authority and frequently uses resources such as gifts, money, or threats to gain control over the child.

Many boys who have been abused by women live in fear, shame, and silence because often society does not view the incident as harmful. If a female offender initiates sex with a boy, it is often viewed as an encounter other boys and men would envy. This can cause the victims to remain silent out of fear of humiliation and ridicule.

The male victim of a female abuser often feels deeply ashamed of himself, believes something is wrong with him, and that he is weak for not being able to fight off the offender. Many of these victims with coping mechanisms including abusing by alcohol, abusing drugs, and they may suffer from depression, anxiety, and problems with sexuality. Like all child sexual abuse, sexual assault on a boy by a male or female offender is about abuse of power, controlling the victim and not about sex at all.

Another myth is that sexual abuse only happens to homosexual boys or if abused by a male perpetrator, the victim automatically becomes homosexual. The very nature of sexual abuse and incest, and its associated stigma causes feelings of degradation, confusion, self-blame, fear, and secrecy for survivors. It can be much worse for the male-male assault victim. Since male-to-male sexual abuse is assumed to be the equivalent of gay sex, the victim is also believed to be gay. This attaches strong homosexual stigma to a boy being sexually assaulted by a male.

In many cases, male victims are only likely to report abuse if there are severe injuries requiring immediate medical attention. The young male may feel that he can prove that he did his part in fighting off the attacker and feel less ashamed if there was a physical injury.

Common feelings experienced by young male victims include guilt, anger, depression, shame, and fear of humiliation. This type of abuse often leaves the victim with a confusion regarding sexual identity and such severe depression that may result in suicide.

Male sexual assault victims may also suffer physical problems after an assault. They may contract a sexually transmitted disease or infection, or suffer anal and rectal ruptures, and other bodily injuries.