Men’s Trauma Centre -About Trauma


About Trauma

Trauma is an

emotional wound that creates substantial, lasting damage to

the psychological development of a person. Trauma can

include experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

Physical Trauma

includes, but is not limited to, being involved in a serious

motor vehicle, industrial or recreational accident, being

gay-bashed, mugged or abducted, or experiencing any kind of

physical harm that involves helplessness, degradation or the

fear of death.



can often

result from experiencing physical or sexual trauma, but it

may be completely unrelated to these. Harassment, stalking,

being verbally abused, witnessing violence, or experiencing

a potentially life-threatening �close-call are all examples

of emotional trauma.

Sexual Trauma


an unwanted sexual act performed by any person of any

gender. Victims of sexual trauma can be either children or


While the

majority of sexual abuse is by males on females, any person

can be a victim of sexual trauma.

Research suggests

that between 20% and 30% of all male children are sexually

abused before the age of eighteen.

Finding help

can be particularly difficult for male survivors of trauma

as there are far fewer agencies dedicated to helping men who

have experienced sexual trauma. Furthermore, in our society

men are generally conditioned to be tough and to not have

feelings. In our view, asking for help with a problem is not

a sign of weakness but of strength; it takes courage to face

and work through the impact of trauma. Like women, men who

are sexually abused often experience intense feelings of

shame, anger and helplessness. Talking about these feelings

with a professional therapist may help victims better

understand their experience and allow them to begin living a

normal life that is not controlled by the emotional impact

of trauma.

If you would

like more information on trauma counselling or our other

services, including victim support, call The Men’s Trauma

Centre at

381-MENS (6367)

or visit our

contact page.


Myths About

Male Sexual Victimization

Adapted from a presentation at the 5th

International Conference on Incest and Related Problems,

Biel, Switzerland, August 14, 1991.


#1 – Boys and men can’t be victims.

This myth, instilled through masculine gender socialization

and sometimes referred to as the “macho image,” declares

that males, even young boys, are not supposed to be victims

or even vulnerable.

We learn very early that males should be able to protect


In truth, boys are children – weaker and more vulnerable than

their perpetrators – who cannot really fight back.

Why? The perpetrator has greater size, strength, and


This power is exercised from a position of authority, using

resources such as money or other bribes, or outright threats

– whatever advantage can be taken to use a child for sexual



Myth #2 –

Most sexual abuse of boys is perpetrated by homosexual


Pedophiles who molest boys are not expressing a homosexual

orientation any more than pedophiles who molest girls are

practicing heterosexual behaviors.

While many child molesters have gender and/or age

preferences, of those who seek out boys, the vast majority

are not homosexual.  They are pedophiles.


Myth #3 –

If a boy experiences sexual arousal or orgasm from abuse,

this means he was a willing participant or enjoyed it.

In reality, males can respond physically to stimulation (get

an erection) even in traumatic or painful sexual situations.

Therapists who work with sexual offenders know that one way a

perpetrator can maintain secrecy is to label the child’s

sexual response as an indication of his willingness to


“You liked it, you wanted it,” they’ll say.

Many survivors feel guilt and shame because they experienced

physical arousal while being abused. Physical (and visual or

auditory) stimulation is likely to happen in a sexual


It does not mean that the child wanted the experience or

understood what it meant at the time.


Myth #4 –

Boys are less traumatized by the abuse experience than


While some studies have found males to be less negatively

affected, more studies show that long term effects are quite

damaging for either sex.

Males may be more damaged by society’s refusal or reluctance

to accept their victimization, and by their resultant belief

that they must “tough it out” in silence.


Myth #5 –

Boys abused by males are or will become homosexual.

While there are different theories about how sexual

orientation develops, experts in the human sexuality field

do not believe that premature sexual experiences play a

significant role in late adolescent or adult sexual

orientation.   It is unlikely that someone can make another

person a homosexual or heterosexual.

Sexual orientation is a complex issue and there is no single

answer or theory that explains why someone identifies

himself as homosexual, heterosexual or bi-sexual.

Whether perpetrated by older males or females, boys’ or

girls’ premature sexual experiences are damaging in many

ways, including confusion about one’s sexual identity and


Many boys who have been abused by males erroneously believe

that something about them sexually attracts males, and that

this may mean they are homosexual or effeminate.

Again, not true. Pedophiles who are attracted to boys will

admit that the lack of body hair and adult sexual features

turns them on.   The pedophile’s inability to develop and

maintain a healthy adult sexual relationship is the problem

– not the physical features of a sexually immature boy.


Myth #6 –

The “Vampire Syndrome”�that is, boys who are sexually

abused, like the victims of Count Dracula, go on to “bite”

or sexually abuse others.

This myth is especially dangerous because it can create a

terrible stigma for the child, that he is destined to become

an offender.  Boys might be treated as potential

perpetrators rather than victims who need help.

 While it is true that most perpetrators have histories of

sexual abuse, it is NOT true that most victims go on to

become perpetrators.

Research by Jane Gilgun, Judith Becker and John Hunter found

a primary difference between perpetrators who were sexually

abused and sexually abused males who never perpetrated:

non-perpetrators told about the abuse, and were believed and

supported by significant people in their lives.

Again, the majority of victims do not go on to become

adolescent or adult perpetrators; and those who perpetrate

in adolescence usually don’t perpetrate as adults if they

get help when they are young.


Myth #7 –

If the perpetrator is female, the boy or adolescent should

consider himself fortunate to have been initiated into

heterosexual activity.

In reality, premature or coerced sex, whether by a mother,

aunt, older sister, baby-sitter or other female in a

position of power over a boy, causes confusion at best, and

rage, depression or other problems in more negative


To be used as a sexual object by a more powerful person, male

or female, is always abusive and often damaging.

Believing these myths is dangerous and damaging.

So long as

society believes these myths, and teaches them to children

from their earliest years, sexually abused males will be

unlikely to get the recognition and help they need.

So long as

society believes these myths, sexually abused males will be

more likely join the minority of survivors who perpetuate

this suffering by abusing others.

So long as

boys or men who have been sexually abused believe these

myths, they will feel ashamed and angry.

And so long

as sexually abused males believe these myths they reinforce

the power of another devastating myth that all abused

children struggle with: that it was their fault.

It is never

the fault of the child in a sexual situation – though

perpetrators can be quite skilled at getting their victims

to believe these myths and take on responsibility that is

always and only their own.

For any

male who has been sexually abused, becoming free of these

myths is an essential part of the recovery process.

Misconceptions of Manhood

Misconceptions about what it means to be a man often stand

in the way of sexuality abuse of males being recognized,

acknowledged and treated.

One such

misconception is that males are always in control of their

sexual experiences; this is most obviously not true for

young boys, but may also not be true for an adult male.

Men can and

have been the victims of rape.


misconception is that men do not experience the same degree

of emotional pain associated with sexual abuse as do women,

and that if a man experiences emotional pain, he should be

able to handle it alone.

Alcohol and

drug abuse, family violence, sexual offending, suicide, and

social dysfunction are a few of possible results of

sexuality abuse of males when it is not acknowledged and



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