The Legacy of Unresolved Trauma for Men
Given WHO statistics that 1 in 4 women have been sexually abused and 1 in 6 men that means a huge number of people in each community are survivors of sexual abuse.
It is a shameful secretive crime held in place by silence, children are threatened, told they won’t be believed and will be responsible for the breakup of the family if they do tell. They often feel they are to blame, for some it is the only way they get attention and love and they are unaware, it is wrong. It is very confusing for a child and that leads to them keeping the secret, that silence cements the abuse in place.
But in reality, survivor’s symptoms and behaviours are communicating that something is wrong. From early on in their lives boys may well be identified as troubled or difficult and judged for that. They may have problems concentrating at school, play truant and be excluded (which puts them at further risk). Young men find it very hard to disclose they have been abused because as men they aren’t supposed to be victims, to admit vulnerability and hurt is not socially acceptable, so it comes out as anger, violence and rage. How often do we hear of youths and men being put on anger management courses? When this is about hurt, and pain held in the body. They may have very low self-esteem, mental health problems, clinical diagnosis of schizophrenia and psychosis and suicidal ideation, addictions and self-harm. Many of them end up in borstal and prison. They may have difficulty in relationships, fear intimacy because of the betrayal in childhood and lead chaotic lives, leaving them isolated Many are confused as to their sexuality wondering if they are gay.
Research has shown that Woman survivors are very vulnerable during pregnancy and childbirth as they can become triggered and have flashbacks to the abuse, many becoming post natally depressed. There has been far less focus on Men and post-natal depression and the possibility of there being a link to early childhood trauma. We know that male survivors can be afraid to bathe or change their children and avoid intimate contact, choosing to go out with mates rather than talk about how they feel. Drink numbing the pain and memories from their own childhoods but often resulting in stress and breakdown of their relationship. Some parents experience certain challenges and anxieties when bringing up their children. For example, we know they fear identifying themselves to professionals as survivors fearing that their children will be taken off them. They can also be over protective and triggered when the child reaches the age they were abused.
At Safe to Say we are raising awareness of what male survivors face in what seems a hostile world. Our documentary films highlight their experiences of positive and negative responses when they told their stories. There can be no doubt that this has a huge impact on their mental health.
We want staff to respond with curiosity and acceptance when they are faced with a client, patient, or service user who appears angry, aggressive, withdrawn and anxious We want to say that many symptoms are in fact post traumatic stress disorder. We want them to think beyond the behaviour to what might have happened in this person’s life and not to judge.
We also want to demystify working with childhood sexual abuse. Survivors when they first disclose want someone who is warm approachable, genuine and honest, someone they can trust and feel safe with.
We urge authorities to look beyond the symptoms, dig deeper to the cause of the trauma of this costly public health issue. There needs to be more awareness and links made to male trauma. And we look forward to working with Fathers Reach Out to highlight the link.
We want men to feel able to come forward and speak the “unspoken” and be met with sensitive and confident responses because recovery and healing is about remembering, not forgetting and men deserve that.
Director Safe to Say
Tel; 07890473944 www.safetosay.co.uk twitter; @safeT0say
Below are links to male survivors’ documentary films:
https://vimeo.com/83842022 No password needed
https://vimeo.com/185778349 No password needed