More articles by

Dr D Narayana Reddy
Dr D Narayana Reddy


Just like girls


Boys, too, are at risk of sexual abuse

According to the medical volunteers tending to Syrian refugees outside the French town of Calais, many teenage boys are being raped. That only girls are at risk of sexual abuse is a common misconception. In reality, both boys and girls are equally at risk.

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter what your age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Besides experiencing the feelings and reactions that any sexually abused individual may have, men and boys face the additional challenge of social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity. Men who were sexually abused in childhood or teenage may respond differently from men who were sexually assaulted as an adult.

Perpetrators can be of any gender, sexual orientation, or age, and might use physical force or psychological and emotional coercion tactics. Another misconception is that assault will affect sexual orientation.

Sexual assault is in no way related to the sexual orientation of the perpetrator or the survivor. Some men and boys have questions about their sexuality after surviving abuse. This can be especially true if one experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault. Physiological responses like an erection are involuntary.

Sometimes perpetrators use these physiological responses to ensure secrecy by saying, “You know you liked it.” If you have been sexually abused or assaulted, it is not your fault. In no way does an erection invite unwanted sexual activity, and ejaculation in no way condones an assault.

According to the organisations that deal with this type of sexual abuse:

*Up to one in six men report unwanted direct sexual contact with an older person by age 16. If non-contact sexual behaviour is included, such as exposing themselves to a child, one in four men report boyhood sexual victimisation.

*On an average, boys first experience sexual abuse at age 10.

*Boys at greatest risk for sexual abuse are those living with neither or only one parent; those whose parents are separated, divorced, and/or remarried; those whose parents abuse alcohol or are involved in criminal behaviour; and those who are disabled.

*Boys are most commonly abused by men. However, it is difficult to estimate the extent of abuse by females, since such abuse is often covert. Also, when a woman initiates sex with a boy he is likely to consider it 'sexual initiation' and deny that it was abusive, even though the experience is traumatic.

*Fewer boys than girls report the abuse to authorities.

*Sexually abused men commonly experience guilt, anxiety, depression, interpersonal isolation, shame, low self-esteem, self-destructive behaviour, post-traumatic stress reactions, poor body imagery, sleep disturbance, nightmares, anorexia or bulimia, relational and/or sexual dysfunction, compulsive behaviour like alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, overeating, overspending, and sexual obsession or compulsion.

*There is no compelling evidence that sexual abuse fundamentally changes a boy's sexual orientation, but it may lead to confusion about sexual identity.

*Boys often feel physical sexual arousal during abuse even if they are repulsed by what is happening.

*Perpetrators tend to be males who consider themselves heterosexual and are most likely to be known but unrelated to the victims.

Some men who have survived sexual assault as adults feel shame or self-doubt, believing that they should have been “strong enough” to fight off the perpetrator. Many men who experienced an erection or ejaculation during the assault may wonder what this means. These normal physiological responses do not in any way imply that you wanted or enjoyed the assault. If you were sexually assaulted, it was not your fault.

Talking about surviving sexual assault or sexual abuse can be difficult.

Find support.

If something has happened to you, know that you are not alone.

Seek the help of support groups.

Consider therapy. Some therapists specialise in issues you may be facing as a result of the abuse or assault.

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The Week

Topics : #health | #Sex

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