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.
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.
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.
an unwanted sexual act performed by any person of any
gender. Victims of sexual trauma can be either children or
majority of sexual abuse is by males on females, any person
can be a victim of sexual trauma.
that between 20% and 30% of all male children are sexually
abused before the age of eighteen.
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
If you would
like more information on trauma counselling or our other
services, including victim support, call The Men’s Trauma
or visit our
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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