Male Victims of Rape, Sexual Abuse and Depression: Breaking the Silence on International Men’s Day - Comment - Voices - the Inde
Lee spent his entire childhood in care. He was sexually abused by his foster father until he was 14. As a teenager he began to drink heavily and committing serious, violent crimes. Between the ages of 17 and 21 he spent all but 15 months in prison.
During his final 18 months in custody, he persuaded the prison and probation service to pay for one-to-one counselling. It turned his life around. What made the difference?
“I stopped blaming myself, it wasn’t my fault. I started to understand why I felt the way I did, why I reacted the way I did and most importantly that my reaction was normal.”
Lee’s story is included in a remarkable little book produced by the charity Survivors Manchester, called Break the Silence, which recounts the diverse stories of male victims of rape and sexual abuse, written by the men themselves in their own words. Lee’s account of his early life is the kind of story that made me want to take an active part in today’s International Men’s Day.
Perhaps the one detail on which Lee’s story is not typical is that he did in the end actively seek help and, eventually, disclosed his experiences to a counsellor. A vast body of research has consistently shown that men are less likely to tell anyone when they are the victims of rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault or domestic violence. When boys are bullied in school, they are twice as likely to tell nobody. Men are also significantly less likely to seek help with depression and other mental health problems, and significantly less likely to see a doctor about physical health problems. Men have fewer friends and are much less likely to turn to those they have for emotional support in times of crisis.