Successfully Facing Mental Health Challenges for Male Survivors of Sexual Victimization

 

Successfully Facing Mental Health Challenges for Male Survivors of Sexual Victimization

Male survivors face special challenges to achieve mental health, and the good news is it is possible and achievable to overcome these challenges.  Since it is mental illness awareness week (Oct 7-13), it is an important time to help educate the public, especially male survivors and allies, about the possibilities for finding hope, healing and support.

 

One in 6 men has been sexually victimized by the age of 16, according to social science research (www.jimhopper.com) One in 8 rape victims is a man.  These statistics represent an epidemic of silence that has the potential to severely damage the lives of boys and men who do not get help.

 

Typically, male survivors face many mental health challenges, including depression and suicidality, anxiety disorders, damaged self esteem, impaired ability to embrace masculinity, difficulty with trust and forming intimate relationships, and engaging in addictive behaviors including alcoholism, substance abuse, sex addiction and gambling.  Many of these illnesses are rooted in the deep shame that male survivors bury deep inside their souls, fearful for anyone to know the truth of what was done to them. 

 

Treatment is now readily available in many communities thanks to the training efforts of MaleSurvivor.org and 1in6.org.  Both organizations, and a number of others, host extensive websites that offer chatrooms, bulletin boards, articles, bookstores, and access to support groups and psychotherapists who can all provide help.  It is important to find a therapist who knows about male sexual victimization, as there are important differences between men and women healing.

 

Men are especially vulnerable to male socialization which teaches many destructive messages that must be unlearned in order to heal.  The most significant of these messages are: Men must be strong and tough; men who ask for help are weak; men should always be in control and if they are abused, it is a sign of their weakness.

 

I believe that healing is a process of learning to be disloyal to dysfunction and loyal to functionality.  Each of these damaging dysfunctional messages must be challenged, not just intellectually, but emotionally and physically as well.   Men can be helped to be loyal to functional messages such as:  it is a sign of strength for a man to courageously face the truth of his abuse; men who ask for help will become stronger and more effective and more loving; men can recognize they have zero responsibility for the abuse done to them and that the shame of these actions belongs to the perpetrator who hurt them.  Too often, survivors feel loyal to the perpetrator, and hold on their shame instead of finding ways to release it.

 

If you are a male survivor and feeling alone and hopeless, reach out for help.  End your deadening isolation now and find the hope and help you deserve. 

 

Howard Fradkin, Ph.D., LICDC has counseled over 1000 male survivors in individual, couples, group psychotherapy and weekend workshops over the course of his 30-year career as a Psychologist. As Co-Chairperson of the MaleSurvivor Weekends of Recovery, (www.malesurvivor.org) he has co-directed 40 Weekends of Recovery since 2001 for over 850 men. Dr. Fradkin has also trained hundreds of professional colleagues. Dr. Fradkin’s first book, Joining Forces: Empowering Male Survivors to Thrive, will be published by Hay House in November, 2012.