Have you seen Oprah’s special about male survivors of sexual abuse? What were your reactions? Please be mindful of the potential for triggering as you read further, or especially if you choose to watch the video I am linking to below. Check in with yourself before, during and after viewing.
Here is a summary from Oprah’s website:
Shattering the stigma of abuse, 200 men are stepping forward and speaking out—some for the first time—about the trauma of their own childhood sexual abuse in a special two-part episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. Tyler Perry returns for a groundbreaking discussion on Friday, November 5, and Friday, November 12, as fathers, husbands, sons and brothers open up like never before about the pain of being molested, their anguish about hiding their pain and the many ways in which their abuse has affected their lives and their relationships.
My title, Standing Together to Lift the Veil of Shame, is a direct quote from the program that I feel sums up the impact of this presentation. The visual of 200 men, standing together, is incredibly powerful. And heart breaking. We know that shame is reinforced in silence and secrecy. I was incredibly moved by the courage of these men and reminded that there is strength in numbers, support in community.
I was also really impacted by each man holding a picture of himself at the age his abuse first began. It is a good reminder that this abuse happens to children, vulnerable, blameless children. So often trauma survivors are disconnected from the child they were, or ascribe adult responsibility and coping skills to themselves in the past. Reconnecting with the child you were may be a step towards realizing you were not to blame or able to control what happened to you. Even recognizing this about other survivors may be a step in your healing process.
Male survivors of sexual abuse continue to experience stigma that makes it difficult to seek the help they need. Of course this is true for all abuse survivors! In addition, cultural stereotypes about men and masculinity compound the situation for boys and men. Although it is estimated that as many as 1 in 6 men have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 16, many people still in denial that boys can be sexually abuse. Or they minimize the impact. This show powerfully dispels both myths.
The following are some points that really resonated for me. I wanted to highlight them to share with you:
- 90 percent of abusers target children they know
- many survivors have been abused by more than one perpetrator
- boys who are abused by male perpetrators may struggle with questions about their sexual orientation.
- men may feels especially ashamed, blame themselves because of physical responses during abuse
The first episode can be viewed in full here: Full Episode: 200 Adult Men Who Were Molested Come Forward. The second is scheduled to air on November 12 and will address the impact of sexual abuse on relationships.
Dr. Howard Fradkin, a psychologist who specializes in working with male survivors of sexual abuse and assault and board member of the very important website MaleSurvivor participates in the program and provides valuable information.
For more information and resources for male survivors of sexual abuse you may want to check out these sites:
With an emphasis on men finding their own pace, 1in6 helps men educate themselves about sexual abuse, reflect on their situations, find answers to their questions and explore their options in complete privacy.
MaleSurvivor is dedicated to preventing, healing and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through online support, Weekends of Recovery, education, advocacy and activism.