Please note: This entry may trigger due to talk of sexual abuse. When reading this, also consider that our point in the healing journey is still firmly in the intellectual, and it is one of our more unemotional ones writing this.
About a year ago, Matthew (our American friend) asked us if we considered that it was different for males to be sexually abused. My immediate reaction was to say “of course”. I said this purely from what male survivors have told me about the reactions of those they have made disclosures to. The ex-husband was told that he should count himself lucky that he learned about it early, or that he was lucky he “got some” regularly. To put this into context, he was sexually abused by his sister and her friend from the ages of 7-13. Matthew has been accused of being homosexual because his abusers included males – his abuse started at the age of 3.
I know that women are also subjected to this sort of minimisation, denial and warped thinking. But because of the perception of gender roles, many societies do not look at male sexual abuse victims in the same way as female victims. This inequity can be seen in the stoning of a female rape victim in Somalia and the need for articles about the problems male rape survivors experience in America (e.g. Male disclosure of sexual abuse and rape). This also makes sense within my culture – I crave secrecy about my abuse because I am an educated middle class woman of European descent, and “they” aren’t victims. In New Zealand men are expected to play sport, hunt and do all things masculine, they are not expected to be victims. Victims are that group of people whom no one ever sees, hears or knows. The perpetrators are unknown “creepy” men in long overcoats whom drive slowly past schools. Yes, stereotypes are alive and well around the world.
Maybe Rambo-Ronai (1995) and Blair (2002) were right when they compared society … to an abusive patriarch who demands the silence of his children. The groundbreaking work of the feminist movement did much to decode the complexities of violence and abuse, and new service delivery models for trauma have emerged (Goodwin, 2005); however, despite their titles, many agencies that identify themselves as sexual assault centers only serve women. This preclusion of male victimization is no doubt due to the primary mission to address the impact of male perpetration. However, through its inadvertent sole-gender mandate, these centers deny the reality of sexual victimization of men. Thus, male victims are provided with no avenue of reporting or addressing sexual abuse. What occurs is that social stereotypes are indirectly reinforced, and male survivors of sexual abuse remain social enigmas (Goodwin, 2005; Pelka, 1997).
(Lemelin, 2006, pp. 345-346)
We live in New Zealand where as a female survivor of abuse, we can access woman’s support programmes and specialised domestic violence courses for female survivors. If I was a male survivor, my options for accessing those free programmes would be limited. Many of the programmes receive funding on the proviso that the programme be targeted to a particular population (predominantly females, youth or a cultural minority). I can see how this may assist the participants, but I can also see how this may create a barrier as well. I’m not advocating for the gender specific programmes be disbanded, but rather there be a balance.
It has been interesting writing this entry. There has been much angst about it internally due to the fear of offending any readers. I apologise if I have caused offense by what I have written – especially to the male readers of this blog whom I know B and Sophie care about. I also realise that this may offend woman readers, but I hope you can see that I’m not trying to minimise the woman’s experiences, but rather draw attention to a perceived inequity regarding an access to services and an attitude towards male survivors.
Lemelin, R. (2006). Running to stand still: The story of a victim, a survivor, a wounded healer, a narrative of male sexual abuse from the inside. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 11(4), 337-350. Retrieved June 9, 2009, doi:10.1080/15325020600663128
Unfortunately, the article is only available through subscription or purchase.