Is there a difference in the effect of sexual abuse on a man vs. a woman?
oth women and men must contend with socially-imposed, internalized messages that create barriers to getting help to heal from sexual assault, abuse or domestic violence. Common responses for anyone experiencing abuse or violence, like feelings of self-blame, fear of not being believed, and the form of an individual’s effort to reclaim safety and control over their lives are inevitably deeply influenced by gendered social norms.
Efforts to identify and most effectively address the needs of females who have been victimized have improved over many years and continue to evolve, but in recent years, it has become clear that there may be great value in deepening our understanding of how men emotionally respond to and heal from sexual abuse or interpersonal violence using tools and strategies that may be different from our standard assumptions about providing support.
Any man who wants help to heal must first overcome widely-accepted standards of masculinity that discourage men from acknowledging any vulnerability or experiences of victimization, or from showing weakness. As outlined above, listening, believing and respecting whatever steps he’s ready to take are crucial elements of supporting a man who has experienced abuse.
Additionally, a man may benefit from assurance that asking for help is in fact a courageous act. Men deserve support to heal from trauma.
Normalizing the fact that 1 in 6 men has experienced childhood sexual abuse and that 1 in every 5 men experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetimes can help counter some of the most damaging aspects of those norms and help a man feel less isolated and alone.
Tip (via 1 in 6)
A man may particularly benefit from the knowledge that whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, a boy’s or man’s sexual orientation is neither the cause nor the result of sexual abuse. This knowledge can help dispel some key fears men often have about being misunderstood or stereotyped based on homophobic attitudes. By focusing on the abusive nature of sexual abuse rather than the sexual aspects of the interaction, it becomes easier to understand that sexual abuse has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
And it’s important to know that the vast majority of boys who are sexually abused will never sexually abuse or assault anyone else.