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Abuse: A Male View


You'd think that at age twenty four I would have it all together. The truth is I haven't. I'm one of the countless men around New Zealand trying to rebuild my life after a haunting childhood of sexual abuse.

More often than not male survivors are an overlooked percentage of statistical analysis. The truth is men like myself are no longer afraid to come out of their lonely, socially phobic closets and speak for themselves. We are a part of that multitude of people, of abuse survivors coming forth with honesty in our personal relationships, our family circles, to say, "Hey, I've been abused. I know all about manipulation, coercion and forced control."

For a long time society has catered for the needs of women in an established network of support in the area of sexual abuse groups and workshops. Now our time has come: workshops, drop-in centres and abuse groups are available for men. Until now we tended to keep our secrets in a closed vault. Men like myself tried to speak out about the sufferings we encountered through traumatic childhood's and in the then-ignorant society we were laughed at. Our mates thought that we were less than men for having our say, or, worse, after disclosing our shameful secrets so-called friends didn't want to know us.

As women have a fair say on the way they have been treated now we too link up to that network of mutual support. We try to build up our self-esteem. We remind ourselves that we were only children, that the abuse wasn't our fault, and sadly, like most abuse survivors we still blame ourselves for the power games uncle played on us when we were walking in the footsteps of infancy.

Most people don't believe that there are children out there undergoing some forms of horrible physical atrocities. Abuse in sexual form is often believed to be a light physical touching by some people in society. What about the varied types of physical torture that occur in abuse? Some victims are put through emotional assault, mind games and death threats. It would be a shock to the general population if it were made public knowledge exactly how many forms of physical torture were inflicted upon children. Who wants to be concerned about the rage of a survivor who was forced to lie down with an animal during the abuse? Or to urinate onto the private parts of the offender?

There are three forms of abuse: sexual, emotional and physical. Emotional abuse leaves terrible scarring in the mind of the young, impressionable child. Some male survivors can recall the feeling of complete shame to be put down during abuse with often demeaning, angry comments sometimes followed up by the death threat 'not to tell'. Fear is something men in society don't like to admit they have at some stage during the course of their life. Abuse survivors can feel embarrassed, afraid of being labeled a 'whimp' when they recall the fear of being abused. The recollection of fear is the actual fear itself felt as a child who was being abused. Society has encouraged men to repress fear and rush out into the street ready to fight lions. These surviving men need to know that their fear relates to actual memories of the abusive events. Places where men go to discuss the effects of their abuse are becoming available so men need not feel alone in the journey of survival and healing.

Statistics have not yet proven that men abused as children will become offenders themselves later on in life. This is a myth. A small percentage of pedophiles were abused themselves as children. Generally sexual offenders have not yet grown up in the emotional sense. Because they can't relate to adults on a sexually compatible level, offenders prefer to abuse children in the form of power, of control. Abuse does not necessarily cause abuse as the media tends to speculate. Most male survivors I have known are well-adjusted people carrying a load of internal scarring rather than problems with sexual deviance.

Male abuse survivors have to deal with the reality of anger about what happened with their bodies in what should have been a secure childhood. Not often do angry survivors go about the town bashing people up. Therapy teaches the abuse survivor that anger is a healthy emotion to feel and encourages the safe expression of pent-up feelings and anxieties. Society has pushed the issue that men are too violent, crime is on the rise. Anger can't be suppressed. Without an outlet anger only builds up to explosion point. The same situation applies that no survivor raped as a child is going to walk round the town in adulthood raping women. Rape of boys and men is possible - rather that it carries the offensive title of 'forced sodomy'. It is devastating for a women to be penetrated sexually. For a man or child to be sodomized is a major violation. Imagine the shame of being penetrated as a boy? The scarring of one's emotional life after this awful trauma is sufficient enough to even cause frigidity in some men.

Men are becoming liberated again. The horrors of an abusive childhood will always haunt the survivor but, in time, memories do fade. After the memories cease to cause an imbalance in the survivor's emotional life come the good times. Counseling is a worthwhile process and it takes a great deal of courage to heal. My life may not be running smooth all of the time but I'm reaching goals I set before entering therapy. I may have spent a great deal of time in psychiatric institutions but as an abuse survivor I can make it in the colourful world. I still value childhood. Maybe that's why I'm a writer of children's stories.