Content Warning: This post and videos contains details of sexual assault that may be disturbing to viewers.
April is Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Awareness Month which recognizes that boyhood sexual abuse is often overlooked, neglected, and poorly understood.
A lack of understanding and support can lead to additional trauma for male survivors and a lack of adequate resources.
Two survivors, Michael and Frank agreed offered to share their stories. Watch the videos below to hear more about their experiences, why they share and how to help other male survivors going through a similar journey.
Thank you, Michael and Frank, for your courage.
“The exact age that I recall it happening’s hard to pinpoint. But as hard as I can remember I can say I was about 10 or 11 years old… I had a friend whom I’d routinely stay at his house. I remember going to his house and being told that I’d be sleeping in *D’s bed. It didn’t cross my mind that anything odd would be happening…”
Video Summary of Michael’s Survivor Story
Michael shares how it took a long time for him to reach out to get help. In the meantime, he struggled with anxiety, depression and anger. Looking back, he can see how it was affecting his relationships due to a fear of intimacy.
Michael now recognizes his poor self image, anger and outbursts were linked to the abuse. “I was looked at a kid with an anger problem rather than a kid who was hurt.”
He shares that he didn’t feel emotionally safe in his home which prevented him from telling his parents. In later conversations with his mother, she recognizes that she was worried about the possibility of sexual abuse with his sisters but hadn’t considered the possibility that her son could be at risk.
He had resentment towards his parents for not feeling seen and feeling emotionally abandoned. It led to him thinking he wasn’t loved.
He encourages parents to be aware that happens to boys, and let their children know that they will be believed. “I don’t want other families to go through this.”
He eventually decided to report the assault and shared that the police officer he spoke to treated him “with respect, with dignity, how he heard my story, how he made me feel heard and seen.”
The first step of reporting took a weight off his shoulders and he was then connected with Victims Assistance, who referred him to an organization for male survivors. He underwent two years of intensive counselling, which included helping Michael identify his emotions.
Two years later, he now has a son of his own. He wants to give back to the community that supported him. “Helping raise awareness and giving back in this way, it’s the least I can do in hoping that this message will be a voice for change.”
“It wasn’t until I was 48 that I really even considered or even thought about the fact that I might have suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse. I just assumed that everybody went through things. And a lot of the stuff that I suffered, I actually don’t remember. It was my sister, that would say, ‘Don’t you remember that…?”
Video Summary of Frank’s Survivor Story
“Big chunks of my childhood are blocked out. It wasn’t until I was 48 that I kind of started on that journey. It was pretty scary initially coming to grips with the fact that I had suffered those things.”
He started researching and looking at stories from other survivors. Frank recognized that the stories were “his life story” and that he “fit right in there.”
It was a slow process as he struggled to process the emotions. After two to three years, he realized he couldn’t do it on his own. He called a help centre where he received advice, direction and suggested resources for when he was ready for the next step.
It took a while to find a therapist he was comfortable with and didn’t have a waiting list. When he found the right person, he said that “the journey was amazing.” Frank highly recommends a trusted therapist and doesn’t think it’s possible to do it on your own.
He also joined support groups. “Everyone’s story is different but the end results are very similar as to how people’s lives are lived out as a result of the abuse.”
In the last few years, he’s been helping other men realize they’re not the only one. He reminds people the importance of just listening to survivors and empathizing rather than offering advice.
He shares that as survivors tell their story it gets easier and that it’s a huge part of the healing journey, which also helps people realize they’re not alone.
Realizing that his experiences and scars gave him credibility to help others was a life-changing moment. “I went from being a victim to realizing I had qualifications to help others.”
Supporting Men at Abby Dads
Reg Unrau, a father support worker and supervisor of Abby Dads shares how sexual abuse can impact men’s lives in a variety of way and how they “provide an open culture for conversation.”
Quotes from the Video
“I believe that there is a lot of impact that hasn’t been resolved in men’s lives. We work with guys with relationship issues, with anger issues , with issues with domestic violence, not understanding what they’re experiencing emotionally.”
“We want to provide an open culture for conversation. I think that healing on the topic of male sexual abuse is one of the major unspoken issues that we have with the men we work with, and with men in general in the community.”
Reg shares that dealing with past trauma can help men “be fully alive, and to really experience joy and to have a healthier perspective on life.”
We’ve seen an amazing change in the we work with. We’ve seen men grow, we’ve seen them flourish and come out from underneath things that they couldn’t overcome.”
Resources for Male Survivors
If you or someone you know has been affected by male sexual abuse, please reach out to:
- Crime Victims Assistance Program (CVAP)
- The Archway Special Victims Assistance Program can help with filling out the forms to receive CVAP funding.
- B.C. Society for Survivors of Sexual Abuse
- Archway Sexual Abuse Intervention Program – Counseling for youth and children, ages 3 – 18 in Abbotsford, who have been impacted by sexual abuse.
- 1in6 offers a variety of resources including a 24/7 helpline chat, weekly support groups, and survivor stories
- Archway Abby Dads supports dads moving toward healthier relationships with their families but does not have trained counselors on staff
- MCC Home improvement supports men moving toward healthier relationships with their families but does not have trained counselors on staff
- New Directions supports men moving toward healthy relationships, emotional management, communication skills, conflict resolution, intimacy, and relationship repair
Unfortunately, funding opportunities for counseling for male survivors are limited and can be a barrier to getting help. Archway continues to advocate for increased government funding to address this issue.