200 Men Part 2: Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

I finally caught up with part two of Oprah’s special about male survivors of sexual abuse. In the comment section of my post about part one, 200 Men: Standing Together to Lift the Veil of Shame, we had a conversation about hoping for more focus on healing, less sensationalism. Paul at Mind Parts has already written an overview worth checking out. I thought I’d share some thoughts I had while viewing, both things that I liked and aspects I found troubling.

Perhaps as a result of the prior post and conversations,  I felt even more aware of and troubled by some aspects of Oprah’s coverage today. Chalk it up to the format (talk show entertainment vs. therapy) and the way the show was edited, but some intense sharing seemed to just hang there unaddressed. I was touched to see glimpses of men reaching out to support one another. There were a few times when someone shared in a very raw way and I was bothered by Oprah’s response. Or lack there of. Sometimes she just does not seem to “get it” and I was left wondering how participants felt about the interaction. It highlighted for me that while it could possibly be a valuable experience for some, of course a show like this is not therapy and not even necessarily therapeutic.

I felt especially frustrated at Oprah’s need to discuss sexual abuse of boys in contrast to that of girls. I think there are specific issues that can be highlighted, but abuse and how one copes with it can also be very individualized. I believe at one point she even talked about sexual abuse as being more devastating for men, because of how it makes them question their manhood. Sexual abuse is devastating for children. Period. Did it sound that way to anyone else? I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt because I just find that sort of comparison of survivor groups so distasteful!

I think it can be important to shed light on myths and cultural stereotypes that often make it challenging for male survivors to reach out for help. One thing I thought about during this episode was vulnerability. All children are vulnerable, it is their nature. From an early age boys are taught to split off that vulnerability and most emotions (other than anger). This can make it difficult to seek help and  to express the full range of feelings about the abuse. It has and understandable impact on relationships. It is hard to be intimate (and I mean that in the broad sense, not just sexually) when you cannot share of yourself fully with another. Several of the men on the show had kept silent about their abuse even with their spouse, some for decades!

I liked the point Dr. Fradkin made, about the importance of acknowledging the truth about abuse, not just to yourself but to another person. I was so glad he clarified that it needs to be a person who is capable of understanding! (This got me thinking more about another post I have been contemplating, on different approaches to sharing one’s abuse story). I wondered what it was like for the men who had this incredibly public experience be their first experience of telling anyone! Or the impact on some, like John, who have not had any therapy prior to this experience. I wondered about what comes next for these men.

Overall, I felt Dr. Fradkin said a lot that was valuable and encouraging about healing. I especially liked how he encouraged and validated crying, stating that he tells survivors that tears are about valuing yourself and communicating to the wounded boy within that his pain matters to the adult you. Good stuff!

I did not like how he made therapists and good therapy sound like a scarcity! That is not my experience and not a useful message to send, given how much the show seemed to be geared towards survivors who have yet to seek help. There are plenty of great therapists with the ability to help sexual abuse survivors heal! It certainly is not always easy to find one that is the right fit for you. I list some useful resources on my sidebar. If you are not sure where to start looking for a good therapist, email me and I will provide further resources.

You can also check out these resources (and others) listed on Oprah’s website:

1in6
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
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.

MenThriving
MenThriving is a peer-support resource offered to men who survived sexual abuse in their childhood or adulthood.

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17 Responses to 200 Men Part 2: Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention 200 Men Part 2: Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse | Dr. Kathleen Young: Treating Trauma in Chicago -- Topsy.com

  2. Jeanette says:

    Hi Dr. Young,

    I’m going to jump right in here, as I have since that Oprah episode, become acquainted with some male survivors. I, too, felt as though there was a disproportionate emphasis on the differences between the survivor groups, as if we don’t share the same tragedy, or the same obstacles to healing. I do understand there are some differences in the way male and female survivors open up about their abuse, but even in this, there are female survivors who go a great portion of their adult lives without telling a soul, suffering alone and in silence. I believe it is more the nature of the abuse, not the nature of the gender who endured it.

    I am still a little unsure as to whether that kind of approach was harmful at the end of things, in the way male survivors will be able to reach outside of their male survivor groups, since the differences were emphasized, as if the females in their lives may not possibly be able to empathize with what they feel and what they need to heal. It may have furthered the divide instead of closing it.

    One positive thing that happened with the episode was that the very topic of sexual abuse among the male population was de-stigmatized. Brought out of the shadows and into the awareness of the non-survivor population. And it is about time for this to have happened, giving other survivors hope that they may be able to find courage to address these issues in their own lives. I still wish, like you, they had not done this in such a way that made the male experience of sexual abuse seem so much different than the female experience, in the way it traumatizes the child who has no control, no matter their gender.

    You weren’t the only one who came away from Oprah’s episode feeling something wasn’t quite right about the way it was handled. As a female survivor, I felt as if I had been somehow, disregarded, as a legitimate survivor. I’m sure it wasn’t the intention, but it left that aftertaste for me. I hope that there will be more follow up of this issue in the public forum, but ones that seek to bridge the gap and give all survivors that solidarity with each other.

    And I hope that the men who did ‘come out’ for the first time on that show, are able to find the help they are going to need to continue their healing. That would be a very cruel end, to have had the courage to stand there with those other men, but then be left without guidance and support afterward to see it through to wholeness.

  3. Edward Schline says:

    Many of us who were there reconected on Facebook Oprah’s Echo a peer to peer site for men and women to share with each other.I was given validation by going and I tend to ping at certain things about the show but am exteremely gratefull for the medium to address the men.A long time ago I called a rape crisis center and was told we only help women. I have been involved with Oprah’s Echo as an Admin and am starting a peer to peer group in my home town. I did not trust men untill standing among them at Oprah. Fell free to contact me on facebook or E-mail with any questions.

    • Hi Edward-

      It is great to hear from someone who was there! I am glad the experiencing was validating for you. I am especially glad to hear that the positive connections and healing are carrying forward.

  4. Thank you for posting your thoughts. I am glad you were able to watch it.

    It’s interesting, because I didn’t watch this second show so critically. I saw many of the same flaws as you did, but focused on the ways in which I felt validated and connected to what was being said. So, for me, I found that valuable.

    I do want to comment on the boys versus girls (or male versus female) issue. On my blog post I wrote about how I don’t think much about these differences. Yes, I see that many men end up in jail, etc. And I understand a show focused on male survivors would want to address this (though, as you said about many other areas, they addressed it awkwardly and inadequately). But, for me, I have always seen abuse as abuse. Children as children. Survivors as survivors. For me, there are so many areas in which we can validate each other, and to parse out what makes us different coming from different genders I think may take away from that a bit.

    • Hi Paul-

      I think it is fantastic that you (or any survivors viewing) felt validated. I agree, that is the value in a program like this!

      Sounds like we are on the same page, seeing abuse as abuse. I know historically male survivors were overlooked or thought not to exist, so raising awareness matters.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, and for the opportunity to view!🙂

  5. Hazel Eyes says:

    I didn’t get the impression that Oprah was comparing victim groups–obviously a young girl who was abused, will be hurt as much as a young boy–but rather the emphasis was on the social stigma men face when acknowledging they were abused…it seems women get more sympathy, support, etc while men face teasing (and sometimes ridicule):

    As an example, one of the first things I heard when I told another man (not a relative) I’d been molested was “So, are you attracted to men now?” As a straight man, this kind of comment is downright hurtful…yet it seems to be common, not necessarily in the sense of it happens, but rather because the fear of what *might* be said (or thought) becomes a barrier to revealing. (And then there’s the idea that a woman who rapes a pre-teen boy is doing him a favor! All too common…)

  6. Lexie says:

    Can someone please guide me to a full episode of part 2? I just watched the first part and am in tears. Wanting to finish and hear what spouses and family have to say. Any help is appreciated.

  7. John Chapman says:

    Hi Dr. Young,

    ” I wondered what it was like for the men who had this incredibly public experience be their first experience of telling anyone! Or the impact on some, like John, who have not had any therapy prior to this experience. I wondered about what comes next for these men.”

    I’m John the man who appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, “Two Hundred Men” with my wife Susan, the same “John” who you refer to in your above statement. I would like to address “what comes next”?

    Thanks to Oprah and the other 199 men who came forward during those two shows, I was able to validate what I have been feeling and surpressing for 30 plus years. The show has forced me to “face my demons”. 30 plus years is a long time to carry so many secrets, secrets I promised my abusiver and myself, “I would never tell”. But thanks to Oprah and those 199 men, I have found the courage to talk more about my abusive past.

    The night before the show aired, most of us men were in the hotel’s restaurant meeting and greeting each other. For the first time in my life, I let my secrets go, I was finally able to tell someone what I have been feeling and they understood.

    As for therapy, I was police officer / detective for several years and in the police department, there was a stigma attached to officers going to see a therapist. It was sign you were weak. If any of your co-workers found out you were seeing a therapist, they would second guess if you were able to handle the job. So I never thought about seeing a therapist until after I left the police department. But talking to all those other men that night, they really encouraged me to seek counsling and after returning from the show I started to see a counsler on a regualr basis. I have to admit, theraphy is working wonders. My therapist is able to tear down walls that I have built for years. I have always felt, “unless you have walked in my shoes, how can you tell me how I should be feeling or how I can let the shame go free”.

    As for my marriage with my wife Susan, we are still dealing with the same problems that were discussed on the show. Susan will be attending therapy with me in the near future and hopefully I will be able to tell her all the things that happened to me as a child. She already knows I was physically abused by my father, but does not know the details about my sexual abuse in the hands of my “adult friend”.

    So that is where I am now. I hope this answers your question.

    Thanks for listening,

    John

    • John-

      I very much appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to this post. I am so glad to hear that this experience was healing for you and that it prompted you to seek ongoing therapy. Best wishes to you in that process!

  8. TruckerMark says:

    “I felt especially frustrated at Oprah’s need to discuss sexual abuse of boys in contrast to that of girls”.

    C’mon Dr Young:

    Whereas women and girls who have been sexually victimized have had both social services and a tremendous amount of public support to turn to for many years, until the last few years there were a paucity of highly experienced therapists and victim support services for male victims to turn to, and male victims were often ostracized by their peers when they went public too. Just about every county in the US and Canada has female victim recovery services, while almost all of the male victims services are provided by privately-funded organizations. Not only that, but Oprah has already had several shows that focused on female victims too, and these two shows (filmed the same day) were her first attempt at focusing on the recovery needs and struggle that male victims face. So I find your criticism completely unfounded.

    There was a tremendous amount of support provided when Oprah put us all up in a couple of adjacent 5-star hotels and bought us all dinner which you did not get to see too. If you would like to witness that type of sharing and trust-building live might I suggest that you attend the next Male Survivor International Conference, which will not occur until March of 2014 in NYC. Info about it will be posted on the Male Survivor.org website too. In years past it has been held at John Jay College of Law, on the corner of 10th Avenue and 58th St on Manhattan Island. I have attended it too, in March of 2010.

    I found your blog searching for a link to Oprah’s 2nd show, during which I got a good 30 seconds of TV exposure and I also fell asleep too, after soaking-up a little too much much-needed support the night before our 6:00 AM curtain call. Here is a link to a post that I wrote today on MSNBC Newsvine detailing a large number of male victim support websites, as well as two, (the Wings Foundation in Denver, CO and the Gatehouse Project in Toronto, Canada that also provide female victim support services too):

    My post is #3.3, and I post on MSNBC Newsvine as Old Timer 88224
    http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/11/12164972-attorney-says-sex-abuse-accusers-have-financial-stake-in-case-against-sandusky?threadId=3439789&commentId=66974525#c66974525

    Mark Richardson
    Denver, CO

    • Hi Mark-

      Thanks for your comments. I think you misunderstood what I was getting at with the statement you quoted. I completely agree with you that male survivors have not gotten much attention or the needed services. I have written about that before, including in my post about part one of Oprah’s series. I in no way was criticizing the choice to focus on the sexual abuse of boys.

      What I was addressing was some tendency to need to create a dichotomy, abuse of boys vs. abuse of girls, in a way that sounded like rating which was worse. All abuse is bad was my point. Do male victims need more services and attention to their existence? Indeed!

      I am glad you had a good experience. That is my deepest wish for all survivors: healing connections and experiences. I am very aware of Male Survivor and think they do tremendous work.

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

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