Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=220719
Story Retrieval Date: 3/11/2014 6:41:30 PM CST
A California man who, as a child, was sexually molested by his mother, said the trauma he endured has stayed with him well into his adult life and affected his ability to comprehend his emotions and be intimate with women.
The 50-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, said he only came to the realization that his mother’s behavior was inappropriate with him as a boy, within the last few years.
“I still battle with a voice that says I’m a baby,” he said, adding that coping is a continuous struggle. “A voice in me that says I’m making it up and I’m throwing my mother under the bus.”
This man is among the 10 percent of males of all sexual assault victims in the United States working toward recovery, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Howard Fradkin, who has a Ph.D in sexology and practices in Columbus, Ohio, is also a survivor of sexual assault. He recently published the book Joining Forces: Empowering Male Survivors to Thrive, where he cited that in the United States, six boys are sexually victimized before age 16 and one in eight adult rape survivors are men.
“As high as 80 percent of sexual assaulters are known by the victim or the victim’s family,” said Fradkin, who has counseled more than 1,000 male survivors. “The problem is most people abusing victims are known to them and not strangers at all.”
In Chicago, within the last two years, the 14 hospitals that are contracted with the Rape Victims Advocates have reported an increase in males coming forward about being sexually assaulted and requesting follow-up services such as counseling.
“A couple of years ago, it used to be every one or two months a man in these hospitals would report getting sexually assaulted,” said Stephen Adler, a prevention education specialist for the Rape Victims Advocates. “Now three or five men report it every month.”
This increase in men reporting sexual assault is related to an increased awareness about the issue as a whole, which involves the dismantling of stereotypes about men and sexual assault, Adler said.
“Male survivors are recognizing they aren’t alone.," he said. "Our society is slowly but surely building awareness that sexual violence affects everyone.”
One of the most common misconceptions about males who have been sexually assaulted is that they enjoyed it and shouldn’t consider it a crime, said Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist and author in Beverly Hills, Calif., who has treated men who have been sexually assaulted.
Fradkin said the most detrimental stereotype of all is that males, specifically men, can’t even be victims at all.
Still, as with all sexual assault victims, immense feelings of anguish and guilt often consume males, both boys and men, who have been sexually assaulted, Fradkin said.
“Many males who have been abused think it’s their fault,” Fradkin said. “They think they didn’t protect themselves enough or they weren’t strong enough. Men especially lose a sense of masculinity and control.
"One of the reasons boys, in particular, are victimized is because no one believes they can be, just look at Jerry Sandusky,” he said, referring to former assistant football coach at Penn State convicted in 2012 of child sexual abuse.
As far as helping males who have been sexually assaulted, Fradkin explained the importance of being aware of males acting out for seemingly no reason.
“Ask more questions and pay more attention,” Fradkin said. “Parent’s need to let kids know they need to be vocal anytime they feel uncomfortable with an adult’s touch.”
Lieberman also said parental education, particularly for boys, is key in terms of prevention.
“Parents need to teach young boys about how to protect their ‘private parts,’ ” Lieberman said. “They need to explain that there are predators of both genders who they need to protect themselves from."
In terms of recovery for male survivors, the process is often arduous, but not impossible, Fradkin said.
“Survivors need to be reminded that recovery is achievable.” Fradkin said, “They feel very low hope and have much depression, but there is plenty of support out there. You are not alone.”
“I understand as well as anyone the inclination to blame yourself over the person who assaulted you,” the anonymous source said. “Men and women aren’t that different emotionally. It upsets me that sexually abused males are a forgotten segment of society.”