Research shows that 1 in 6 men in the US have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18. If this is you, then you are not alone. In fact, some studies show that this is a low estimate. Childhood sexual abuse of boys is not commonly talked about or even discussed. But it is happens more frequently than our society is willing to admit or address. The long term effects of abuse to boys can be seen many years later after the abuse is over. It can affect men’s physical health, emotional well being and impair their closest relationships. Men can and should receive treatment and support for their abuse. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is designed to treat PTSD and other symptoms caused by childhood sexual abuse.
Under reporting of sexual abuse from males is related to social stigmas as well as studies show that men are less likely to consider themselves to have been sexually abused compared to women. Men need and deserve help just as much as women do in recovering from these painful childhood experiences. Listed below are different ways that men are affected from abuse as children and why it is important for them to receive help and healing. The three issues discussed in this blog include physical, emotional and relational effects.
There are many major health effects that can be linked to survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Research shows that men with histories of childhood sexual abuse are more than 4 times more likely to develop heart disease, the leading cause of death among men. Also, childhood sexual abuse of boys is a major issue especially because there are just as many men who experienced sexual abuse as children as there are who develop prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men and one of the leading causes of cancer death for men.
Men who were sexually abused as children may also experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression suicidal thoughts/attempts and substance abuse. These symptoms can begin during the time of abuse and continue into adulthood. Some men may experience high levels of depression and are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts. These men may have also had these thoughts or attempted suicide when younger. Sometimes these emotional responses can show up the teen years as “risky behaviors” such as; daring stunts, driving too fast, or using drugs/alcohol.
Men who have been sexually assaulted as children have a high incidence of alcohol and drug use. Studies show that men who were abused as children are 80% more likely to have problems with alcohol in adulthood compared to 11% of non- sexually abused men. Due to the high level of stress to the body such as pain and emotions such as fear, men can feel disconnected from their bodies during the abuse. The dissociation that protected them when they were little both physically and emotionally can continue into adulthood making it hard to relate to others, be present in the moment or to feel connected to themselves.
Men who have been sexually abused as children tend to struggle in their intimate relationships with their significant others. Physical touch or close proximity to others can trigger memories or body flashbacks. Men may experience great shame and guilt for the abuse as perpetrators often make their victims feel to blame for what happened to them. Sometimes men may re-enact this trauma by selecting partners who are abusive, overly critical or demeaning to them. They may also act out in relationships by showing a lot of anger, or by being controlling or overpowering to their partners. Men often find it helpful to include their spouses or partners in therapy sessions so that they can understand the treatment process and to be supportive of their healing journey.
EMDR trauma treatment is the gold standard therapy for PTSD and trauma. It is effective and works quickly. EMDR is particularly helpful to address trauma memories that are hard to think about and let alone talk about. Although there is some talk therapy involved in the process much of the processing of the traumatic memories is done without a lot of dialogue. This is helpful for trauma survivors and often for men who do not want to “talk about it”. EMDR has a specific protocol that has been heavily research with outstanding results. The protocol involves eye movements to discharge the traumatic memories as well as body sensations, negative thoughts, and feelings that are associated with the traumatic event. As men begin to heal from the past they are better able to learn to trust themselves and others and to share their emotions.
Men who were sexually abused in childhood feel stigmatized, embarrassed and ashamed. Many are in denial about what happened to them and may feel guilt. Men need a safe place and a non judgmental person who is skilled at working with survivors of sexual abuse. Asking for help is act of kindness that you can give yourself. EMDR therapy can help you!