200 Men: Standing Together to Lift the Veil of Shame

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 ShowTyler 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.

Kathleen Young, Psy.D.

This entry was posted in Abuse, Activism, Childhood Abuse, Health, Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Men, Mental Health, Psychologist, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Orientation, Trauma and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to 200 Men: Standing Together to Lift the Veil of Shame

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 200 Men: Standing Together to Lift the Veil of Shame | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago -- Topsy.com

  2. IAmEchad says:

    For a moment I could picture myself standing in a group holding a picture of me as a child and have it connect. It only lasted a moment but for me that’s progress.

    Thanks Kathleen for posting this & I’ll see you around Twitter


  3. castorgirl says:

    I had mixed reactions to the show. On one hand, to see the men standing there was amazing. Any one of them could have been someone you know…

    On the other hand, it was a television show that was only an hour long. The men they interviewed had experienced horrific abuse, but it seemed to concentrate on the abuse and the resulting dysfuntion (e.g. addiction issues); so there wasn’t much room for hope amongst the stories. They did a show of hands about those who had experienced abuse from more than one abuser, why not a show of hands to see who had gotten help in the form of counselling or other support? Wouldn’t that have help break some of the stigma and shame associated with seeking help?

    The other thing that struck me, was the constant referral to the abusers seeking out vulnerable children. I’m not sure how the men in the audience felt about it, but it made me feel weak and very much a victim. I know it’s semantics, but in a show designed to remove shame, it seemed an odd way to phrase it.

    I fully accept that I’m struggling at the moment, so my perception of the show may be skewed. I suppose my fear, is that the follow-up show will be an hour long discussion of how badly the abuse has affected every aspect of the men’s lives, and again miss out on hope. Please let there be some hope there…

  4. Hi Castorgirl!

    I really want to hear more about therapy too! I had really hoped part two would be about that, not just the impact on relationships. We shall see.

    I also found myself really hoping the participants had a place to process the impact of being on the show!

    I heard the focus on how abusers target victims as an attempt to convey the message that it is not the child’s fault but maybe it needed to be made more explicit that children are not to blame for being vulnerable, for not having adults around to better protect them. I get how it meant something different to you!

    I appreciate your comments!

  5. Pingback: Male Sexual Victimization Myths and Facts | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago

  6. meredith says:

    While I know that you were not in charge of the production of this airing, I am truly disappointed that you, as a therapist, did not work more to deflect the sensationalism of this topic.

    • Hi meredith-

      I appreciate you letting me know that. Truly.

      You know what? I think I could have done a better job with this post! See my latest post for more thoughts I’ve had on the subject.

      I think my initial reaction was all about feeling incredibly moved by the simple sight of all the men together, holding their childhood pictures. For me, it demonstrated their humanity and I imagined others unfamiliar with this topic would watch and feel compassion and empathy.

      As I reflect further (and read the insights of others) I am more aware of what did not happen; how there was so little focus on healing, so little to inspire hope. And how the focus on the pain and aftermath can indeed come across as sensationalism.

      What do you think would help to deflect that, as we discuss this after the fact?

  7. meredith says:

    I think it is important to include the remarkable skills trauma survivors develop to offset the horror. The trauma survivors I connect with on a regular basis consistently demonstrate extraordinary intellectual ABILITY, as well as challenge.

    Many of my acquaintances are accomplished writers, actors, parents, artists, and comedians. Yes, the awareness of depression and other crippling side effects is a part of life, but so is the desire to develop productive coping skills. This seems to be ignored again, and again. We cheer the courage and tenacity of cancer survivors as part of the their whole experience. I think the same should apply to sexual abuse warriors.

    Tyler Perry is obviously an excellent example of using creative genius to manage the trauma. However, this was not celebrated and affirmed as effectively as was deserved; what a lost opportunity.

    CREATIVE MINDS. CREATIVE MINDS. NOT JUST TRAUMATIZED MINDS. Let’s get that message out, as well. I believe that this is the first step in validating the strength and power of people who face adversity.

    When are we, as a culture, going to admire tenacity in keeping tragedy from being all-consuming?


    • This is beautifully said, Meredith.

      I agree with all you have written. This is certainly my experience of many survivors as well. It takes tremendous courage, tenacity and drive to even live beyond a childhood of abuse. The survivors I have known and worked with inspire me in that regard regularly.

      That is the message I intend to convey over all in my blogging. If that did not come across to you (or anyone) here, again I am glad that you let me know.

  8. Pingback: Trauma Survivor Strengths | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago

  9. MFF says:

    I can go with it is better than has been done before and may lead to something.

    • MFF-

      thanks for your comment.

      better than before is something.

      I am hoping it leads to more understanding and conversation about male survivors. I have yet to watch part two; I have to gear up for it!

  10. ivory says:

    As with all things made public about sexual abuse, everyone always focuses on “what happened”. Anyone with a brain can imagine that. While the show was impressive to have 200 men in the same room admitting it, I got the feeling most of the answered questions were rehearsed ad the men gave the same careful answers of, “I drink,” “I do drugs,” “I get angry,” – that is something else we all know about. But seriously? Oprah focused on the physical part, the part everyone already knows.

  11. Pingback: 200 Men Part 2: Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago

  12. Pingback: First Steps for a Man Who’s Ready to Talk About His Abuse | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma

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