Sexual Abuse is greatly misunderstood – generally it is believed to involve an overt act, an unwilling party, and to be carried out by a male against a female. Although all of this is often true, it is only part of the picture.
In order to recognize the reality of sexual abuse and to address the trauma experienced by survivors (and the impact on society) it is important to have a broader definition of sexual abuse and a more global view of who the offenders and survivors are.
Sexuality Abuse is any behaviour which undermines an individual’s sexual identity or sexual safety. Sexuality abuse includes not only criminal acts, but also covert sexual acts (that are not often recognized either by the courts or by the general population). Examples are: derogatory comments of a sexual nature, leering looks, age-inappropriate exposure to sexual information or imagery, or the lack of appropriate information. Although these and other examples may not result in criminal charges, nor be intentional, they may nevertheless result in long-term disturbance for the victim.
Victims and Offenders are increasingly seen as including a broader range of individuals. While it was once believed that a larger percentage of survivors are female than are male, recent studies indicate that the numbers are not as disparate as previously assumed, and sexual abuse of males of all ages is not rare.
Statistics may be misleading if taken at face value: statements such as “…the majority of victims are female…” minimize the extent of victimization of males, or “…offenders are predominately male…” may result in one overlooking female offenders. Statistics have their place, but what is important is that innocent people are being abused, traumatized, & need healing.
Misconceptions about what it means to be a man often stand in the way of sexual(ity) abuse of males being recognized, acknowledged, & treated. One of these is that males are always in control of their sexual experiences: this is most obviously not true for young boys, but it may also not be true for an adult male. Men can, and have been, victims of rape.
Another misconception is that men do not experience the degree of emotional pain associated with sexually abused women – if a man has emotional pain he is able to handle it alone. Alcohol and drug abuse, family violence, suicide, and social dysfunction are a few of the possible results of sexual(ity) abuse of males when it is not acknowledged and treated.