Male survivors of sexual abuse
For decades, male sexual abuse has remained hidden and taboo with many men living in silence, but over recent years it has entered the mainstream consciousness through weekly news reports of cases of abuse. In my work with men who’ve experienced sexual abuse, I’ve noted the impact of such reports in helping many realise they are not alone, leading many to take the courageous step in seeking help to heal from the experiences of their past.
If you’re a survivor of sexual abuse, you may have tried through your life to keep the abuse hidden, and found ways to forget what happened. You may have used alcohol, drugs, excessive work, isolation, or some other way to avoid the difficult feelings you may be living with.
Common feelings you may experience:
If you were sexually abused as a child, you may feel like you chose to take part in the abuse, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, and shame. It’s quite common to feel a sense of responsibility for the abuse. It’s possible that you experienced pleasure during the abuse, which can be very confusing and hard to reconcile. You may find as some men feel, uncertain about your sexual orientation if abused by another man, and may question how the abuse shaped your sexual orientation. It can be difficult to trust your own feelings and sense of being a man. All these feelings can be very conflicting and complex.
Long term impact:
Living with such stressful experiences can also impact other areas of life. Some may become isolated and find it hard to build healthy relationships as trusting others may feel frightening. This may in turn exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness. Performance and enjoyment of sex can also be impacted. You may experience intrusive thoughts, memories, and images, making you feel as if you are reliving the abuse. The impact of living with the trauma of sexual abuse can for some develop into mental health difficulties presenting further challenges to deal with. Some men may engage in self-harming behaviour or even experience suicidal ideation.
At some point the hope of gaining a greater sense of control in your life may lead you to begin to face the trauma of the abuse. This will take time and courage, and may feel quite frightening. By talking through your experiences you can begin to untangle the confusion you may be living with, begin to understand what happened, and what it all means to you.
Therapy helps by providing a safe and confidential space where you can talk in safety and at your own pace. Going through this process allows the way you feel to slowly change. Whilst the memories of your experiences cannot be erased, you may find that over time you feel freer, and able to let go of the difficult feelings you have, opening up the possibility for you to live life without feeling burdened by the past.
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