“…Sexual abuse is no object to age, gender or sexual orientation.”
-Journalist Justina Bakutyte
In the first part of this post, I explored some possible reasons why people who are abused stay in those relationships longer than a person looking on from the outside might think they should.
In this part, it’s my intent to explore that subject further but with one difference. This post will focus on a lesser discussed topic; males who are abused.
National statistics for victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse suggest that the number of female victims are far greater than male victims. It’s estimated that while one in every four women are abused, the number for males is only one in every nine males. That’s a staggering difference until you realize one thing; those statistics only take into account the number of abuse cases that are reported.
In a survey conducted by Time Magazine in 2008, it was found that the number of cases of abuse that went unreported, the largest were those of child abuse and abuse on male victims.
So why don’t more males who were abused come forward? Are the reasons the same as for the women who remains silent?
Yes and no. In some cases, the reasons explored in my previous post are very relevant to males as well. The context, however, is not always the same. The fear of speaking up may exist just like it does in a female victim but the reason for that fear can often be entirely different.
The following statements and accounts are all real but all names have been changed to protect privacy.
“I am and always have been a proud redneck from Victoria, Texas,” said thirty-seven year old Michael Smith. “I can’t imagine what how much humiliation I would have faced if I let out that my wife was abusing me.”
Smith said that the abuse started early in their marriage but he never gave it much thought in the beginning. “Before we got married, my wife would hit me but it was always in a playful manner. It was fun, even enjoyable on some level. It was like having a pillow fight.”
Smith said slowly those playful slaps on the shoulder become real slaps to the face. Smith said, “The irony was, when we found out a female family member was going through something similar, a bunch of us went and roughed up her husband to teach him a lesson. The thought that she and I were in the same situation never even occurred to me.”
When asked why not Smith replied, “I don’t know. Somehow it seemed more acceptable if a woman slapped a man than the other way around. A man can take it. Not saying all women are weak but we’re pumped with testosterone and supposed to be the protectors. Just how we were raised.”
Smith’s account exemplifies the first reason why males may not admit to being abused; the stereotypical perception in society of a male. His verbiage alone, like “testosterone” and “protectors” is a prime example of how certain attributes are drilled into a male’s head of what he’s supposed to be.
A second reason is the fear of doubt due to a lack of awareness that men can indeed be abused.
Twenty-nine year old Martin Jackson said, “You always hear of domestic violence cases involving men abusing women. When I was in an abusive relationship, I really thought I was the only guy in the world being abused. I did consider telling a few people but I was sure they wouldn’t believe me simply because I thought it doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
Jackson’s quotes indicate that perhaps cases of male abuse should be more widely referenced. Perhaps a more overt effort to let men know there are outlets such as hotlines and shelters for them as well as women would prove efficacious.
The quantity of more outlets for females is certainly justified as per the quantity of cases of abuse. However, that shouldn’t equate to completely nullifying outlets for males.
I can somewhat relate to Jackson’s case because I’ve been there.
About twelve years ago, I was harassed by a girl I thought was my friend. I was a reporter for my college newspaper and had gotten quite friendly with a girl who was running for student body president.
Weeks into the election, she asked me one evening if she could talk to me. It was quite late as it wasn’t unusual for the newspaper staff to stay on campus until night, writing and editing stories in order to meet deadlines.
We went off somewhere behind the newsroom. She told me in a roundabout way that if I publicly endorsed her (which against our newspaper policy anyway), she would “make it worth my while.” As she talked, her hand, which was on my shoulder, kept going more and more down till she touched my privates.
I didn’t even say anything for a minute as I was too shocked. I then calmly told her that it would be a good idea if she didn’t touch me there. I still remember her exact response was, “Why? Don’t you like me?”
When I reiterated a second time that this was a bad idea, she let go and started to leave but turned around and made sure to remind me of her “offer” before leaving. I stood there for about five minutes afterwards by myself and kept asking myself if I had just imagined the whole thing or did it really happen.
After realizing that it did indeed happen, my very first thought was, I was a brown-skinned male and she was a Caucasian female. Nobody in the world would believe what just happened. And I never spoke about it to anyone afterwards. In fact, this is the first time ever that I’m letting it out. And just writing about that incident is bringing forth a process of catharsis that I thought I would never feel.
Though I never spoke about it, I did spend time thinking about what the ramifications would have been had the genders been reversed. What led me to automatically assume nobody would believe me?
My story as well as Smith’s and Jackson’s stories really highlight one pivotal point; lack of awareness. Lack of awareness that males can indeed be victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. Lack of awareness that there are resources out there for males as well. There are hotlines and even shelters for men.
But if and until those facts are emphasized more definitively, change will be very difficult to inculcate even at the rudimentary levels.
Male or female, if you’re a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse, please speak up. The National Domestic Violence is 1-800-799-7233.
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673.
Also, the advice page for this website, run by Samantha and me, is also up and running where this topic as well as several other topics are included.
Have you known males that have been abused before? If so, did they speak about it? Did they take any actions? What did you think needed to be done? Share your thoughts or experiences by commenting below.