What is Different about Abuse for Male Survivors?

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What is different for male survivors of abuse? Dr. Andrew Schmutzer, a Professor of Biblical Studies at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, was eager to share some thoughts on this oft-overlooked topic.

Schmutzer explained to me that culture and history have not socialized men to talk about traumatic events or to share deep emotions. As a result, many male survivors of abuse suffer decades in silence. “Too many stereotypes and myths—including myths in the church—have isolated men and twisted views of their suffering,” Schmutzer says. He goes on to explain that “for such reasons, men typically don’t have access to the care they need, the social support system, and frighteningly, may act-out using other stereotypes of male aggression."

Schmutzer urges churches to consider whether they make support groups available for men’s needs as well as women’s. He asks, “Does your church even have a support group for male survivors?”

Schmutzer points to the many recent reports of boys abused by church leaders around the world. “Clearly males are abused in large numbers,” Schmutzer says, “So why is delayed admission (around early 30s) such a serious problem for men?” Schmutzer identifies that following reasons for this delayed admission:

  • The church largely views men as the responsible party and society often views them as the aggressor,
  • Men’s guilt and shame is amplified by religious and social stigmas (e.g. skewed views of forgiveness, offending or same-sex attraction),
  • Men’s support groups for abuse victims are practically non-existent,
  • The abuse literature still largely states that the victim is “she” and victimizer is “he.”
  • Men are conditioned to view their sexual abuse as just an “odd experience” or initiation,
  • Men are told by society that it might be a “right-of-passage” if they were physically aroused,
  • Men feel responsible for the abuse and want to protect the family and/or abuser,
  • Men are worried they will not be believed by society or church, and possibly vilified.

Schmutzer adds that if men do admit their abuse, it is approximately 12 years later than their female counterparts. He says, “By this point, much more damage or acting out might have occurred.”

“My experience as a support group leader, speaker, and professor confirms that male survivors struggle more with anger issues and with finding resources, sensitive medical professionals, and pastoral empathy,” says Schmutzer. “If abuse is mentioned at all, it’s not going to be about male victims—theirs is a disenfranchised grief. It is not socially acknowledged, publically mourned, or homiletically addressed.” 

Posted in: Safe Church; Blog Photo courtesy Horia Varlan - http://www.flickr.com/photos/horiavarlan/4553306981/ Image: See Credit

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I would like to hear from: (1) male survivors as well as (2) female spouses of male survivors...what do you (and your  husbands) need for better healing and recovery? And, what have you found to be the more 'toxic myths' that have hurt you?

Rachel, thanks for being a strong Christiain voice for advocacy and care within a faith communitiy. Blessings, Andrew J. Schmutzer <aschmutz@moody.edu>

The Office of Safe Church Ministry has a copy of Dr. Schmutzer's book The Long Journey Home in our lending library.

I attempted to fix the link.

Because I've mentioned that survivors often have the added challenge of facing-down some toxic myths, I thought I would pass along a link that explains a few of those myths that live on in the church. I wrote this a while back.

http://www.efcatoday.org/site/article/shepherding-survivors-of-sexual-abuse

One area of male sexual abuse that's in dire need of address--I know, next to the whole issue--is male rape by other males. Male SA tends to be more gruesome. Regardless, what people need to realize is that "power rape" from arrogant males doesn't traumatize just  one gender. Many male victims will struggle to trust men for the rest of their lives. When they are not believed and the systems punish them for speaking out, the self-sabotage can be devastating.

Consider this story: 

http://www.kellyclarkattorney.com/another-sad-case-of-child-sex-abuse/?u...

Any care to discuss this?

My heart pains for all victims of abuse, because of the permanent damage that it does to their psyche.  There is absolutely no justification for the gratification of desire or power by the perpetrator that is inflicted on their vulnerable victims.  It is my sincere hope that we as Christians will always be open and supportive and "safe persons" for all victims of abuse to share their deepest thoughts and feelings about their abuse.  It is extremely important that we communicate that we believe them, regardless of how unlikely the perpetrator is alleged to be (the incidence of suicide is higher than the general population because they feel damaged, shame or that nobody believes them).  Let's all be God's heart and hands to all victim of abuse, including males.

Elly,

Thanks for your sensitivity and insight in this issue. I can tell you have more than a casual knowledge of SA. What we're really talking about here is changing the culture to accept the reality of male sexual abuse and then normalizing that discussion in the church.

But when the latest books still state that offenders are 'he' and victims 'she,' when national organizations struggle to even mention abuse of boys, when feminist groups only use proportionality arguments, and when churches offer no support groups for male victims, then it's very disingenuous to toss around all things 'patriarchy' while doing so little for male victims in their youth. Is the church really committed to facing this complex issue?

Recent events (like Penn State) reveal that numbers for abused boys are now closer to 1 in 5 (girls 1 in 4), but will this have any real effect in policy and church address. So I couldn't agree more--let's be his hands and feet to all image bearers broken by SA, not  just those of a certain gender or we will create another layer of problems for the next generation.

Blessings.

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