Male survivors of sexual abuse are often hampered in their healing by myths that they and society believe about the sexual abuse of males.
The South African Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse team (SAMSOSA) have put together this list of common myths abouts male sexual abuse. We wish the following information to inform you of the facts and increase awareness and a better understanding of sexual abuse against men.
MYTH 1: Boys and men can’t fall victim to sexual abuse.
Truth: If you believed the myth above, you couldn’t have been further from the truth. The reality of the matter is that men and boys CAN and DO fall victim to sexual abuse. The reason for this misconception is that male sexual abuse is unrepresented and under reported in official statistics, leaving this form of abuse unnoticed.
Believing in these myths keeps those male survivors isolated and alone, making it very difficult for them to reach out and find the support they need without being stereotyped and labelled.
MYTH 2: Males who are sexually abused will go on to become abusers themselves.
Truth: Often a case may arise where it is found that the sexual abuser him/herself was abused as a child, yet this is only found in the extreme minority of cases. The majority of boys and men that have been sexually abused will not go on to harm others, ever.
MYTH 3: All perpetrators of sexual abuse are male.
Truth: This is incorrect. Although the vast majority of sexual abusers are male, females can also be sexually abusive and domineering, causing as much, if not more harm than a male sexual abuser.
MYTH 4: Males sexually abused by males are, or will become bisexual or gay.
Truth: To clear up this false belief, an act of sexual abuse and an individual’s sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual) are totally and completely separate and unrelated. In NO way does being the victim of a sexual assault decide ones sexual orientation. A sexual assault can cause confusion about ones sexual orientation due to the traumatic nature of such an event, but it cannot make someone gay or bisexual.
MYTH 5: If you get an erection and/or ejaculate during the sexual abuse, you must have enjoyed it.
Truth: This is one of the most common misconceptions out there. To clarify, it is normal for our bodies to react to physical stimulation. Eg: If someone was tickling you uncontrollably and you were laughing hysterically, this does not make the unwanted tickling fine because you showed pleasure or happiness due to your laughter, all this is, is a response to a physical sensation. Becoming aroused during a sexual assault is NORMAL! Experiencing physical pleasure during a sexual assault does not take away the fact that you were sexually abused and hurt.
MYTH 6: Only adult men in prison are sexually abused.
Truth: Sexual assault can happen to men, women, boys and girls in all segments of society, this abuse is not confined to the inside of prison grounds.
MYTH 7: Only men who are gay or bisexual can be sexually assaulted.
Truth: Regardless of their sexual orientation, gay, bi, trans men and boys are all vulnerable to becoming the victim of sexual abuse, rape and assault.
MYTH 8: If you never said no to the abuse, then it must be your fault.
Truth: The sexual abusers main objective is to overpower and control their victim. These abusers want to make it extremely difficult for their victims to say no to their attempts. Nowhere does it declare that you have to utter the word “no” to make it clear that you do not wish to participate.
MYTH 9: Men should be capable of protecting themselves against sexual abuse
Truth: Sexual offenders usually have the upper hand as they have more power in the situation involving sexual abuse due to possible planning and previous involvement. Size and strength do not necessarily enable you to protect yourself in these situations. These offenders may be in a position of authority or trust; they may occupy a higher social status or be older than the victim; they may also use threats, bribes, force or drugs to ensure that their victims comply.
MYTH 10: If you didn’t clearly remember the sexual abuse, it didn’t really happen.
Truth: Most people cannot seem to remember the details and facts surrounding their experience with sexual violence and abuse. Due to the nature of the traumatic circumstances, survivors often bury the negative emotional events as a way of coping with the pain. Just because some aspects may seem like a blur, doesn’t mean the sexual abuse didn’t happen.