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.”