The Secret “Me Too” Society

Male Sexual Abuse

With the onset of the “Me Too” movement in 2017, the extent of sexual abuse and harassment was brought onto the public stage. As notable celebrities and other high-profile people began to openly share their stories, it provided a forum for “everyday” people to also open up about their experiences of abuse. Being able to recognize they had the support of so many others created a greater sense of safety in talking about this far-too-common type of trauma that adversely affects millions and millions of people.

Most of those who spoke about surviving sexual abuse were women. In fact, 1 out of every 3 women in the U.S. will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives. Although these statistics are staggering, what many people don’t know is that 1 in every 4 men will be subjected to sexual violence at some point in his life, with 1 out of every 6 boys being sexually assaulted before age 18. These men often suffer in silence due to feelings of shame or the stigma attached to such abuse.

The Prevalence of Male Sexual Abuse

According to a report from the Division of Violence Prevention at the CDC, 25% of males targeted by sexual predators during childhood were raped before the age of 10, and another 25% between the ages of 11 and 17. Many more are molested. And, though people are often under the impression that sexual abuse is largely perpetrated by strangers, 90% of those who commit these heinous crimes are known to the child (or the family). Children are often groomed by those who target them, which among others, can be a coach, teacher, clergy member, neighbor, relative, or those who have befriended them through social media or gaming platforms.

Men Often Don’t Disclose Their Sexual Abuse

It can be very difficult for men who were sexually abused as children—or even as adults—to talk about what happened to them. In a culture that promotes masculinity as being tough and resilient, it can be very uncomfortable for men to not only express the painful emotions and vulnerability related to sexual trauma, but also to see themselves as victims. What further complicates some of these terrible experiences—and can be psychologically confusing—is the automatic physiological sexual response that can occur, despite the trauma of the assault.

It is often difficult for men who were sexually abused as children—or even as adults—to talk about the trauma of what happened to them. Click To Tweet

Quite often, boys and men who are sexually abused do not report the crimes against them. Feelings of shame and/or a sense of self-blame can make it very difficult for them to say anything to anyone. And some might try to talk about it but end up feeling invalidated if people they trust do not believe them or cannot understand how a male could be raped or forced to do something against his will. Because of this, boys and men might compartmentalize the experience and bury the painful memories of it.

Coping Can Be a Challenge with Unprocessed Trauma

It’s not unusual for sexual trauma to lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, and/or difficulty controlling anger—especially when memories get triggered or they feel otherwise threatened.

While not every survivor of unprocessed sexual trauma will struggle in life, many guys develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to help them manage the anguish and emotions about what happened to them. In addition to addiction mentioned above, these compulsive behaviors might include:

Some men may also struggle with relationships. They might find it hard to trust another person or be emotionally or sexually available to their partner. Some may have an abnormal need for control in relationships as a way to protect themselves. For others, it may be difficult to stay with someone when things feel too close.

Men Don’t Have to Suffer in Silence

If you’re a survivor of sexual trauma and have been keeping the painful memories to yourself, it’s important to know that there are experienced psychotherapists who can provide a safe environment for you to talk about what happened—a place where you will not be judged, but rather listened to and validated. Some therapists incorporate EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, and is a method that can be very effective when working through trauma.

There are also peer support groups for male survivors of sexual assault which can be very helpful. Groups like these help you to understand that you are not alone, and because they don’t have a hierarchy it can alleviate any concerns about a power differential when talking about your experience(s).

After years of carrying the secret of their trauma, men often find that having a trusted person to help them work through their sexual abuse feels like a huge burden has been lifted from them. Recently, author and podcast host Lewis Howes talked with Dr. Daniel Amen about how life-changing it was for him when, 25 years after he was raped at age 5, he worked with a psychotherapist to process his trauma.

Many men find that the more they are able to talk about what happened to them, the less control the memories have over them—and the more they are able to find healthy ways to cope as they move forward in their lives.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

10 Comments

  1. I was forced to perform oral sex on my older brother at age 5. It wasn’t being ashamed that kept me from saying anything, it was the threat that he would kill me if I said anything. The abuse went on until about 5 th grade when he left for college. It certainly messed up my thoughts about male friends, thinking they all wanted sex. Then being Catholic, I was sure I was headed to hell. Lots of guilt but even more fear if I shared that. I drank alot. Couldn’t form good relationships. Felt a victim for awhile but then realized bad things happen to a lot of people. Was I going to let my past affect the rest of my life? I for gave myself for my behavior as a victim. I for gave him because of his apparent mal adjustment and moved on to improve my life. It wasn’t easy but I was not going to let what happened ruin the rest of my life.

    Comment by Bill — August 9, 2021 @ 4:46 AM

  2. Thank you for your article regarding male survivors of sexual assault/abuse. Please be aware of an important resource for all male-identified survivors–menhealing.org–provides many layers of support from online services to “days/weekends of recovery ” where survivors can heal in community. Please note our “Healing Stories” videos. We appreciate your clinic’s attention to this important issue.

    Comment by Lisa Jameson — August 9, 2021 @ 8:15 AM

  3. Thank you so much for this article to address male survivors. Just want to alert readers that MenHealing is a national organization that provides healing resources for male survivors. We conduct three-day Weekends of Recovery and single Day of Recovery healing retreats. We also have a variety of resources at our website, including a library of videos that feature male survivors sharing stories of their healing and recovery as well as a video about “Reframing Trauma.”

    Comment by Jim Struve — August 9, 2021 @ 8:24 AM

  4. Thank you, Dr. Amen, for raising the subject in your Blog. We cannot be healed, our mental health restored, unless those secrets are brought up in candid conversations with the right people, a parent, a spouse, a doctor, a priest or pastor, a counselor, or a health coach. We all need someone else’s hand to lift us and bring us out of the darkness and into the light. YOU, Dr. Amen, are one of those beacons of light.

    Comment by Paula Schmitz — August 9, 2021 @ 9:31 AM

  5. Sexually abused by relative when 8, now 65 and have just tried to keep it in back of mind. Now I suffer with anxiety, ? bipolar 2 d/t constant depression. I can’t seem to be able to talk to anyone about this.(my issue) I feel I will carry this burden to my grave and then God will set things right. I encourage anyone to seek help, don’t try and go it alone as it doesn’t work no matter how hard you try to ignore the issue. Been there- ignoring does not work.

    Comment by Hank Savoy — August 9, 2021 @ 11:08 AM

  6. I didn’t realize Dr. Amen was advocating for male survivors. I am as well. I am a retired police lady (worked in the Integrated Child Sexual Exploitation Unit) turned Psychologist. I researched WHY boys and men are not commonly disclosing their abuse, then wrote, Men Too: Unspoken Truths About Male Sexual Abuse. Id be happy to send a copy to Dr. Amen if he is interested. My full dissertation is also easily found online.

    Comment by Dr. Kelli Palfy — August 9, 2021 @ 11:49 AM

  7. It could be that some children are traumatized more by the reactions of people around them to the sexual abuse rather than the ‘abuse’ itself. An over reactive father or mother or other relatives can generate feelings of guilt and fear in a child who otherwise would have just gone on to other things. Therefore it is important that once the ‘abuse’ of a child is recognized, actions be taken to stop it and that the child be reassured and comforted that they did nothing wrong.

    Comment by Amos — August 9, 2021 @ 12:11 PM

  8. The abuse of men is from the legal system’s ineffective / dereliction of duty. The detectives are so overwhelmed by the number of cases reported that they cannot give just cause to any case with any due diligence. Thereby, if there is a questionable cause they side on the probability of the child / woman as being truthfully. When the evidence proves nothing happened to the child / women the excuses rise. Nobody presses for more evidence to substantiate the claims because all that is needed in building the case is enough to convict on probability of the circumstances. I have studied the problem first hand and been through the legal system thereby witnessing the problems within. I know myself to be innocent, and I know that my ex-wife used the same scheme on her first husband to obtain all martial assets and custody of the children, But the police / prosecutor did not look at her nor the fact she had a record for being deceptive. What is more important to the politician is the voters view of them prosecuting criminals and their 92% conviction rate. Nobody gets cured and the problem never gets solved if the bar association is afraid to represent individuals because of the political consequences of get a person off of the condemning charges. Why? because the jurors do not want it known they acquitted someone charged with a sex charge. The property owners that serve as jurors do not want to be sued for false arrest and the prosecutor whose immunity of all charges makes him God of the court in deciding whom to release and whom to hold. The governor also has a political ploy to crime and the political aspects is weighed by the storm of opposition. You never hear of those with sex involved in the case being released. That is the sacrifice of the human for political gain. Hearsay evidence outsources all other causes because the legal system can not and will not cure the cause of the problem. THEM that profess to be that which they claim to be and can not prove it nor cure it must be the problem. Never trust a lawyer that is worried more about himself / herself than the person he / she represents. When all subjects are considered guilty and nobody is released because of the crusade that never finds a cure, heals and/or solves a problem than your system is not justice. It is tyranny. And more will suffer the abuse of it until it is realized from them that exercise it because the people will not stop it and cannot stop it because the lawyers have the power, influence and the capital to make their view point stand on their oratory. Respectfully, Bruce R. Kuzma

    Comment by Bruce Kuzma — August 9, 2021 @ 2:44 PM

  9. For boys:
    Angel Ranch Ministry is in the early stages of opening a safe home for sexually abused and sex trafficked boys.

    For men:
    Breaking the Silence is a unique men’s biblical support group or one on one that focuses on men who were sexually abused or sex trafficked as children. These men have been silent, hurting and feeling that they are alone with no relief in sight.

    Comment by Jim Liporace — August 9, 2021 @ 8:26 PM

  10. I am a female. I’m almost 50 and I’m dealing with trauma from a sexual assault that occurred from a girlfriend’s father when I spent the night at her house when I was 15. I thought I had moved on. I forgave finally and moved on ….I thought. Recently he has gone to court for getting arrested for molesting his granddaughters. The prosecution had me testify as well. I was not prepared for the pain, anxiety, anger, depression that I am experiencing. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I’ve come to determine I’m pissed at society & the justice system. I reported my crime. 3 years after the fact, but I reported it. The cops never believed me & traumatized me in a different way. They never did a report, they never did anything. I’m angry at society. Society doesn’t want to deal with these people until they’ve already committed the acts. Any person that would confess they are having these thoughts and people would immediately tell them “you’re sick….you’re disgusting… you’re a monster….you’re evil…” etc. And this is wrong. Had my offender had someplace to turn when he was only having thoughts, would I his granddaughters ever had become a victim? Would I have ever been raped? If the cops had done their job or had been properly trained for this, would this man’s grandkids ever suffered? With this said, I’m grateful to the previous posters sharing about the Men Healing website as well. I am encouraged to see society stepping up to the plate….finally…to help men suffering who I’m sure feel like they have no place to go for their issues. Thank you Dr Amen & staff for your articles on trauma & healing. And fyi…for the first time in my life, I’m in therapy that I actually look forward to with a case worker specifically trained in sexual assault victims, sexual assault perpetrators & people who ate neither but are having thoughts about it.

    Comment by LJ — August 16, 2021 @ 4:44 AM

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