Do you think things are slowly getting better for male victims?

by Andrew Richards
(Sydney, Australia)

I recently wrote my own story on here, and in some ways I think I made the ending seem more rosy than it really is-but I also think part of it is me realising that there is a mile of difference between the tide of the war turning and the war itself being won.

But there's another problem that I'm aware of-men who are or were abused have it so much worse than women in terms of society's attitudes, in my honest opinion. Men have to deal with the fact that society is convinced that men want sex whenever an opportunity arises, which under that sick and twisted logic, makes rape and sexual abuse impossible. If a guy is sexually assaulted by another guy, then society generally assumes that he must be gay (I've been on the receiving end of whispers to that effect, so I know it happens).

If a man is/was physically abused, then society views him as just being weak and an object of ridicule as a result.

Then there's the one that really gets it-emotional abuse is the real doosy. It's bad enough that it's not really recognised, but when you're a man, in my case, suffering the after-effects of around 2 decades of child emotional abuse that really only came to a head a few months ago, so often you get people telling you that you just need to toughen up. I feel like most women out there are significantly less than sympathetic to it as well.

Even on the site here you see it. Women survivors publishing their stories get comments from other survivors and visitors alike, but I've noticed the male stories of abuse generally get ignored (Darlene, you of course have always been highly supportive of all victims regardless of age, abuse type or gender). Now I don't buy into the idea of female victims/survivors having issues with men to the point where they can't say anything, because the fact is that we all have issues with the opposite sex.

It just seems that when you're a male victim/survivor, you're just supposed to be this sexistly stereotypical visage of machismo and somehow be able to just shrug off a childhood of living hell-the moment you're not, other guys tend to view you as a loser and women avoid you in droves because they see you as weak and pathetic.

Because of my last relationship, I only ever attended one ASCA support meeting; and because of how useless I've found most counsellors (I've tried several, believe me), I've had to wade through a lot of stuff on my own. I feel like I've overcome and survived a lot; and that it's something I should be proud of. Yet I feel like with society's sexist attitudes, I'm just some pathetic loser because I'm playing catch-up on the self-image front.

I honestly worry that I'm seen as highly undesirable as I am, or that when I do finally get there and have the level of self-confidence and self-esteem, that one day I'll open up about what happened in depth and they'll never understand just how tough my journey was or that I'm pathetic et al.

Do you think that maybe I've just had some bad experiences and that society really is changing, or do you think that abuse sufferers like me will always be forced to wear a "scarlet letter" in terms of how we're viewed?

Reply from Darlene: Andrew, your post here brings up a multitude of points, as well as core issues. I have attempted to address several of them. However, the word limit on comments has forced me to provide you with an answer in 4 parts. Other than what I have written below, I will not be able to provide additional support. As you read through my reply, I trust you will understand the difficult position I am in.

The remainder of my answer to this Ask Darlene question "Do you think things are slowly getting better for male victims?" can be found at Comments below this submission. Depending on system activity, there are sometimes delays in comments going live on my site; but rest assured, they do eventually appear. So if you don't yet see them, I hope you will return later to read what I, and possibly others, have written. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

Email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses AND website/blog URLs in visitor comments are STRICTLY prohibited, and could result in being banned from making further comments on this site.

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Aug 12, 2008
Part 1: Societal biases...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Andrew, there is no question that there are cultural and societal biases when it comes to boys being abused. As it relates to sexual abuse, I have identified these biases on my male victims of sexual abuse page. Some of that list applies to any type of abuse. You've touched on a few of these biases in your post above. I would be remiss if I didn't also point out that there are societal biases for female victims as well.

It is also interesting to note the discrepancies by percentage—in some cases large discrepancies—in the similarities in the circumstances between male and female victims of sexual abuse. Check out the table halfway down the page at sexual abuse victims on this site. Although the information provided is 20 years old, it still applies today. While physical forced used (by offenders) is more or less neck and neck between male and female victims, males are twice as likely to be abused by juveniles. We can extrapolate all sorts of information from studies such as these, but they are too numerous to go into within the confines of this space. I bring them up only because I feel you might find the information of interest.

Your point about males not receiving comments, either at all or in numbers equal to that of females is well taken. This has been an ongoing challenge for me since the inception of the visitor contribution/ability to comment system I was able to adopt a year ago.

Part 2: Partly due to programming issues... follows below.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Aug 12, 2008
Part 2: Partly due to programming issues...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Andrew, the submissions system has only basic programming. Please bear with me on this; I do have a point in addressing it.

When the company who hosts my site first introduced this system, no one had any idea it could be utilized in such a diverse number of ways. I personally operate the system as a support forum of sorts on my site, as you know; but the techs who have done the programming never dreamed it could be used for such a purpose.

The way the links for each of the visitor submissions shows up on the page that houses the form (such as with my child abuse stories page) is directly tied into the comments. If there are no comments attached to a particular submission, that story is relegated to the bottom of the link pile. That means that any new visitors to my site (75% of which are new every day) will not actually see that submission link unless s/he scrolls down to the bottom of the page. New visitors tend to click onto only the first few entries. Right now you're probably saying, "Oh no no no, Darlene; I'm talking about the regular commenters who are being automatically notified." I'll address this later.

Furthermore, even though I have opted to NOT have submissions ranked (an option which was not available when the system was first brought online) the programming still, albeit blindly, assigns a ranking value of 5 stars (the highest available) to each comment. The more comments posted on a thread, the higher the ranking; and thus, the higher up the link heap that submission will appear. There are limits to this which I won't go into here; but in order to ensure that all my visitor contributions find their way to the top of that link heap, I must personally leave a comment when I first approve the submission. If I don't, the exposure isn't there for my contributor. This has been one the most time consuming elements of operating my site, particularly when there are multiple submissions by one contributor.

Part 3: My own comments and how they impact other comments... follows below.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Aug 12, 2008
Part 3: My own comments and how they impact other comments...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

I have made it a practice to comment on just about each and every submission, mostly because I want to offer validation and support to those who have contributed and so courageously shared of themselves. But when a contributor posts more than one installment, the comments I can offer are limited. Sometimes I don't comment on each installment.

At any given time, I generally have anywhere from 6 to 16 submissions in queue. The delay in posting submissions is getting longer and longer as my site gets more and more popular. When I personally don't comment on a story, that fact might be viewed by some visitors as a reason not to comment themselves. When I leave a comment that is more of a thank you or brief acknowledgment, that may also affect whether or not others leave comments. This is becoming such a challenge for me that I must now seriously consider—at least temporarily—suspending certain submission type pages; more than likely, this Ask Darlene page and my Child Abuse Commentary page. The "stories" pages will always remain.

Even worse, Andrew, over the past couple of months, it is with a very heavy heart that I have had to come right out and tell some of my more regular submitters that I cannot be an ongoing support for them. In short, I'm snowed under; and that fact may well have something to do with a lack of comments being left for contributors.

Having said all this, I'll address the issue of Part 4: What compels someone to leave a comment...? below.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Aug 12, 2008
Part 4: What compels someone to leave a comment...?
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Some are moved by the story itself. Some feel a kinship with the story writer because they have either suffered the same type of abuse or are of the same age. Some are emotionally driven to offer guidance, especially when the story writer is in the throes of despair. In all cases, something has to resonate with the reader of the story before they will put their fingers to the keyboard.

The majority of commenters are female. And while cultural biases do explain to some degree why females are more apt to comment on other females' stories, there are other factors at play. Nowadays, society as a whole is more accepting that boys can be and are victims of abuse, but we are still lacking in providing the necessary support to them. As for women, over the course of time and out of necessity, when there were no resources available, women had to support other women. As a result, women are still far more likely to help another woman than they are a man. The differences in the way males and females communicate with each other is another factor.

Andrew, the underlying tone of the story can often have an impact on whether or not others offer comments. If a contributor either implies or in some way comes off as not needing help or support, then it is unlikely s/he will get any in the form of comments. I've seen this over and over again on my site, for both males and females. Adolescent contributors by far get the most comments, especially those who disclose continuing abuse or self-harming tendencies. That is to be expected. As human beings we are far more protective of those who are either incapable of or too young to protect themselves; a biological necessity if we are to continue with our species.

Another point...males tend to write from a "tell it" standpoint; whereas females tend to write from a more "emotional" place. Human beings respond more to emotion than "just the facts."

Andrew, what a visitor writes can have every bit as much of an impact regarding others leaving comments as how s/he writes. I must be honest with you here: When a contributor uses a word such as "bitchy" in their submissions, it makes a woman bristle. It's women who are doing most of the commenting on this site; therefore, it is not in the best interest of the person writing the story to use such a term. Even when that term is not a direct affront to any particular woman or group of women, the word is interpreted by women as a slight against women.

I contend there are still biases with regard to male victims, but that alone does not necessarily explain the lack of comments on any particular story on this site. I sincerely hope you take the comments I've offered here in the spirit in which they are offered, Andrew. I am sorry that you are not finding the support you seek on my site.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Aug 15, 2008
A theory
by: JWC

Andrew, I have a possible statistical reason for the lack of comments to your post. A Canadian study of sexual assaults against children and youth under 18 shows that females are approximately four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than males. Firstly I must point out the study was compiled from crime data reported by police services representing 71% of the population of Canada in 2005. It does not take into account the numerous cases that go unreported. It shows a total of 9877 sexual assault victims, 7852 females and 2025 males.
OK, so what have these numbers got to do with the lack of response to your post? Here is my theory, because you are male and males are sexually assault approximately four times less than females that means four times less male victims who can relate to and comment on your story.
Darlene, on other pages on this site, has pointed out the difficulty Male victims have simply because they are male.
Keep up the good fight and I for one recognize and commend you for the numerous supporting posts you have made to others on this site regardless of gender.

Aug 16, 2008
response to your reply part 1
by: Andrew Richards

Darlene, first off, my question about the differencs support was not meant as a commentry on your actions- all of us who have contributed realise the time constraints you are under and that you give all the support you possibly can here. My question was not meant as a criticism of you in any way and if it came across that way, I apologise.

As to the other points: I agree that there are societal biases against women who've been abused, but the difference is that society at least has acknowledged to a large extent that those biases against women are wrong. In my experience, if women were in the same position as men, they'd be labelled with derogatory terms used for women who are highly promiscuous where they'd been sexually assaulted, and women who were beaten would be viewed as deserving it because they were weak, and society would think that was completely ok.

In every single relationship I've been in, where women haven't used or abused me, they've run a mile. One recently even said "I can't deal with all your psychological problems!". It'd be one thing if these were isolated incidents, but it seems to be uniform across society.

Imagine if men as a society were unilaterally doing something as abhorrent as branding female child sexual assault victims as "undateable sluts"? Now I put it in that context to prove a point.

I have no doubt that women reading this will be absolutely disgusted by my throwing out that hypothetical- but here's the thing. That abhorrent hypothetical which I know does happen in some places to this day, but THAT KIND OF DISGUSTING INSENSITIVITY IS A GUARANTEED REALITY FOR MALE CHILD ABUSE SUFFERERS ALMOST EVERYWHERE!

So if the hypothetical I posted what I said there makes the blood boil of anyone reading this, I'd challenge them to imagine what it must be like for men who are forced to live that reality every single day.

Aug 16, 2008
response to your reply part 2
by: Andrew Richards

You say that women had to help each other because they had noone when noone wanted to know and so they're less likely to help men, but then doesn't that make them just as guilty of those who refused to help them as well as facilitating the very stereotypes which allow male child abuse to flourish?

Also you mentioned the "just telling the facts" as opposed to being emotional. The fact is that men being emotional is frowned down on by society. You're expected to not be emotional, to be in control and to be on top of things- meaning you don't need help.

When a man posts in a "just the facts" kind of way and makes out he's on top of it, it's the same as the female sufferers and survivors who come on here and blame themselves or question if something is really abuse. The fact is that posting your abuse out there is scary. As I wrote my story, I was crying all the way through writing it, and I was scared of the fallout so much deep down, but I couldn't say that because if the whole thing blew up in my face, then the humiliation would only be worse.

Yet imagine if people thought that not posting comments didn't post because a woman was blaming themselves for their abuse or wasn't sure if something really was abuse. What's more, I've seen both sides of the ok and not ok on here with guys and it seems to make absolutely no difference!

You say that people don't know how to give support for male abuse victims- well I'll give you the short version. Make guys feel like it's ok to feel, ok to be hurt, ok to want to cry for hours on end, that there is nothing wrong with being a helpless child who was unable to defend themselves, that true bravery, strength and power comes not from suppressing your emotions, but by embracing and facing them. Validate them, make then feel like it's ok to fall apart at the seems and that noone with think less of them for doing so. MOST OF ALL TAKE A STAND WITH MALE VICTIMS AND SAY THAT MAN OR WOMAN- CHILD ABUSE IS NOT ON, & THERE'S NOTHING LESSER ABOUT A MAN FOR BEING A CHILD ABUSE VICTIM!

At the end of the day, men and women really aren't that different in terms of what they need. And for the record, I've been crying as I've typed every single word of this response.

As for the use of the term bitchily in my story, here in Australia, bitchily tends to have a meaning of something being nasty, caustic and biting and can just as easily apply to men as to women. That said, I'm more than happy to have where I said "bitchily" altered to "nastily and insidiously" if it's causing something to become lost in translation.

I hope this helps clarify things I'd initially said.

Aug 16, 2008
re: a theory part 1
by: Andrew Richards

Thankyou for your comments JWC, they were greatly appreciated.

As for your theory, in a way I agree, but in a way I don't. Sure the specific details of each case, noone can ever 10% relate to and there are some core issues there with each gender that relate only to that gender.

However letting that be a barrier in my opinion only propagates and facilitates those social biases. To take an example, you focused on sexual assault there, yet my case was almost entirely emotional abuse which was actually far worse than the sexual assault I experienced, as bad as that was. This is a classic example of how society has framed our notions of child abuse and what we automatically think of as abuse- it was because of this that I never really knew I was abused until my 20s because of said contextual framing, because according to said framing, emotional abuse has only recently been recognised, and not at all in a mainstream way within society.

In short I honestly think that your theory only holds true if you look at PERCEPTIONS rather than reality. Just as society once had no problem with child beatings and pedophilia, we now still have the same problems in terms of perceptions of abuse.

Darlene talked about women having no support and having to figure things out themselves, but what I'd point out there is that society likes to look at women as more victim than perpetrator, so the social biases, while being cold toward women obviously, in some ways allowed them the freedom to do that. The very same machismo however trapped men from even being allowed to show the slightest sign of abuse and to run from their emotions, let alone look for ways to support one another and deal with it.

This is the key to it all. I had an interesting conversation with a girl I nearly got involved with who was heavily sexually and emotinally abused and when I talked with her about how she felt, we both felt the exact same feelings, and the fact that she knew she wasn't alone made a huge difference to her.

Aug 16, 2008
re: a theory part 2
by: Andrew Richards

Here's the thing: EVERYONE here who has been abused has suffered a loss of their core self, everyone wonders thinga long the lines of how they'll go on living, if they killed themselves tomorrow would it matter, if there's a point or a purpose, like they're worthless or less than nothing. Sure we all present different symptoms- that's natural, all our experiences are unique.

But as hard as it is for a woman to be able to let on that they're a mess, it's 100x harder for a man in society to do so. Ultimately what we all need to know, what we all need in common, is that it's ok for us to have been helpless, that none of us are to blame, that none of us are weak, pathetic & loserish, whorish, etc for what happened to us or what it made us today. That's something we can - and should - all do, regardless of gender.

Most of all we all need to know that we're not alone. We can never know exactly what it's like for the other person in terms of their specific, but we all share the same kind of pain, we all feel the same isolation- and that's why we sufferers and survivors above all others, can't let the very social attitudes which allowed our abuse to occur turn into facilitators of social attitudes which allow abuse to continue to occur within the next generation.

However this can only happen when victims and their supporters decide that collectively, the breaking of this vicious cycle of child abuse attitudes, begins with them, and doing so by taking a firm stand.

Aug 16, 2008
a point od clarification in my response to you darlene
by: Andrew Richards

I just realised reading my response, that some of the more impassioned and emotional sections of my reply might come across as biting or an attack on you as they're intermingled with parts of responses where I directly address your points. You were not my intended target with those sections, but rather visitors to the site reading it in order to try and give people who might have said nothing on those very grounds you mentioned, a badly needed and long overdue wake up call.

Just thought I'd preempt that one when I spotted it.

Aug 17, 2008
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Andrew, thank you for the clarification. I will be honest...there was a point where I wondered if the answer I had spent so much time preparing had been for naught.

Oh, and just to clear things up a bit myself, at no time have I ever believed that your question was somehow a commentary on my actions. When I replied to your query, I felt you and my other visitors should understand that sometimes the system and the lack of available options can also have an impact on whether or not comments are received (as I already identified). I wasn't blaming myself at all; I was informing you and others of the limitations of the system I operate within, as well as the limits on my own personal time. My decision to cover this in part is because as of late, I've received many scathing comments and emails about replies and comments I've made, and the fact that I haven't commented enough (in the eyes of some visitors; not all, of course). I made the decision to cover the factors I did, because they were related to your query about comments, even though on the surface, it might not have appeared to be that way.

You said "Darlene, first off, my question about the differencs support was not meant as a commentry on your actions- all of us who have contributed realise the time constraints you are under and that you give all the support you possibly can here. My question was not meant as a criticism of you in any way and if it came across that way, I apologise." As I stated already, at no time did I believe you were making a commentary on my actions; so no apology necessary. It was very considerate of you to address those concerns in your foremost statement. Rest assured, I harbour no ill feelings whatsoever.

My newsletter awaits my attention, and I only have but a couple of hours of computer time as I am away from home right now. This will have to be the last time I communicate on this issue with you, Andrew.

I do wish you all the best. The fact that you continue to leave thoughtful comments for others makes not receiving them in kind that much more of an emotional challenge. Although you are not receiving comments from others, I do hope you are gaining some insight—at the very least, some personal satisfaction—by leaving comments for others. You are such a caring and giving soul.

Just one last thing...the comment you left on your Part 3 comment thread, the one I haven't yet allowed to go live since it was a duplicate on the issue covered on this page...I plan to delete it since I answered the question here. Unless you want me to publish it??? But from a personal perspective, I'd suggest we leave things exactly as they are today.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

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