These Silent Victims Of Abuse Are Often Overlooked

Tens of thousands of children are sexually abused each year in the U.S., and only about a third of cases are reported.

Whether the abuse is committed by a friend, family member, or stranger, the trauma lasts a lifetime.

But there is a group of silent victims that are afraid to come forward, and the reason is shocking.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that one in six boys under the age of 18 are sexually abused each year.

Yet the majority of them never speak about it, even after reaching adulthood.

Like abuse cases involving young girls, the majority of boys who are sexually abused know their perpetrator, with a little over half of them being acquaintances.

But even though only a third of child sexual abuse cases are actually reported, they mostly involve girls because of societal stereotypes that prevent boys from coming forward.

Boys are often raised with the idea that they aren’t supposed to cry or show emotion, that they are supposed to be strong and tough, and that they are supposed to be “in charge” sexually.

In some cases, young boys will have the courage to tell a family member about the abuse – usually a male role model – but often that male will reinforce the stereotype and not file a report.

They may instill a sense of embarrassment in the child for being a boy who “allowed” himself to be abused, or they may be embarrassed of the impact on themselves and their family due to the same false stereotypes.

The “tough guy” stereotype is so prevalent in our society that there are actually fewer resources available for boys who are sexually abused, and they face a stigma that young girls do not.

Boys are thought to be protectors, not victims, and this mentality actually causes more trauma — because of lack of support — to male abuse victims than to female ones.

And in cases of child sexual abuse, men are nearly always the perpetrators.  This adds another level of embarrassment and trauma to male victims.

U.S. News and World Report released statistics from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) that shows some devastating consequences when sexually abused boys do not receive help.

Ten percent of rape survivors are male, with over a quarter of them being sexually abused before the age of ten.

Fifty percent of children involved in sex trafficking in the U.S. are male, with the average age of boys entering prostitution between the ages of 11 and 13.

Many boys who are arrested as juveniles, as well as many men currently in prison, were sexually abused as children.

While female abuse victims can suffer lasting consequences such as anxiety, depression, and problems with intimacy, boys are even more likely to internalize feelings of “failure” and lack of self-esteem.

This manifests itself in men significantly more than women as substance abuse and alcoholism, anger and aggression, and even becoming abusive in their own relationships.

Just like with any other problem our children may experience, open communication and unconditional support are key to helping boys report and overcome sexual abuse.

We can teach boys to be strong and protective, but also show them it’s normal for boys to have emotions and show them.  It’s okay for them to feel scared and helpless, and it doesn’t make them any less of a male.

Young victims of sexual abuse will often have a very clear shift in character that is picked up by those they are closest to, especially their parents.

They may become secretive and isolated, staying away from friends and the activities they love.

Their appearance may be changing as they turn to food, drugs, or alcohol to cope – or they may not have an appetite at all.  They may even self-harm by cutting or otherwise physically hurting themselves.

Any change in the way they dress – baggy clothes, long sleeves – may be a sign they are hiding themselves physically to avoid detection.

Most importantly, any signs of depression or suicidal thoughts, or discomfort around a family member or friend, may signal that abuse is taking place.

U.S. News and World Report states that, “We need to break the taboo that keeps many boys from coming forward to disclose they’ve been sexually abused, and begin to train, conduct research and increase awareness, so male survivors can heal, not remain silent.”

We owe it to our boys to let them know that we love and protect them.  That we will do everything in our power to keep them safe.  That they are worthy, and they are not to blame.

And, above all, that they are no less strong or worthy as men because they were victimized.

Both male and female victims suffer extreme trauma from sexual abuse, especially when it occurs in childhood.

But many boys are hesitant to discuss their feelings and reach out for help, leading to unresolved issues when they enter adulthood.

The stigma and stereotypes must end so that all victims of abuse can receive the support and resources they need to heal.

What are some other reasons that you think boys are so hesitant to talk about sexual abuse?  Leave us your comments.




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