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08 Apr 2015


Time and again we all keep hearing of female rapes, be it adult female rape or child abuse of a small girl! But what about males, is there anything called MALE SEXUAL ABUSE?

We often encounter people talking about how unsafe it is to leave a female child alone with the domestic help or let her go anywhere alone with the driver, etc. For instance, Ahaana, a mother of one 3 year old girl, living in Gurgaon said “I wish I had boys, if not for anything else, atleast I wouldn’t have to worry about their safety. With one little girl in the house, my husband and I always make sure either one of us is always present with her.”


Unfortunately, it’s not just Ahaana’s mindset which says that, most parents now and decades back believed in the same notion, that girls are to be protected since they are more vulnerable to sexual abuse. But, the question here arises what happens to the young boys? Are they safe? Can they not be abused?

Abuse on Men is not very heard of, not because it doesn’t exist but because Rapes on males are underreported by a very large margin as compared to sexual assaults on females.

MALE SEXUAL ABUSE! A phenomenon that most of us must be unaware of, exists sadly much more than one can even imagine! According to the stats, one in every six boys below the age of 18 is abused (RAINN, 2013).

While one can’t say that x boy is more vulnerable, than his friend y, there are certain factors which make boys more vulnerable to abuse than their peers, such as boys living with neither or only one parent; those whose parents are separated, divorced, and/or remarried; those whose parents abuse alcohol or are involved in criminal behavior; and those who are disabled are more prone to sexual abuse than others of the same age


Research on male sexual abuse also suggests that 50-75% of boys are abused by males, however it is difficult to estimate the extent of abuse by females, since abuse by women is often covert. Also, when a woman initiates sex with a boy he is likely to consider it a "sexual initiation" and deny that it was abusive, even though he may suffer significant trauma from the experience.

Just as sexual abuse leaves an impact on girls, it is also very traumatic for boys. Some of the Common symptoms for sexually abused men include:

Psychological Problems

  • Sense of self and concept of "reality" are disrupted.
  • Profound anxiety, depression, fearfulness.
  • Concern about sexual orientation.
  • Development of phobias related to the assault setting.
  • Fear of the worst happening and having a sense of a shortened future.
  • Withdrawal from interpersonal contact and a heightened sense of alienation.
  • Stress-induced reactions (problems sleeping, increased startle response, being unable to relax).
  • Psychological outcomes can be severe for men because men are socialized to believe that they are immune to sexual assault and because societal reactions to these assaults can be more isolating.
  • Compulsive behavior like alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, overeating, overspending, and sexual obsession or compulsion


Sexual: Problems related to 'being a man'

Unfortunately, men who have experienced child sexual abuse or sexual assault not only have to deal with some of the above problems, but a set of difficulties specifically created by our society's limited gender expectations. Below is a list of problems that men who have been subjected to sexual violence often confront and relate to the gender expectations of what a man 'should do or be' in our community. Child sexual abuse or sexual assault can lead to:

  • Pressure to "prove" his manhood:
  • Physically – by becoming bigger, stronger and meaner, by engaging in dangerous or violent behavior
  • Sexually – by having multiple female sexual partners, by always appearing 'up for it' and sexually in control
  • Confusion over gender and sexual identity
  • Sense of being inadequate as a man
  • Sense of lost power, control, and confidence in relation to manhood
  • Problems with closeness and intimacy
  • Sexual problems


  Relationships / Intimacy

  • Relationships may be disrupted by the assault.
  • Relationships may be disrupted by others’ reactions to the assault, such as a lack of belief/support.
  • Relationships may be disrupted by the survivor’s reaction to or coping with the assault.



  • Anger about the assault, leading to outward- and inward-focused hostility.
  • Avoidance of emotions or emotional situations, stemming from the overwhelming feelings that come with surviving a sexual assault.


Male survivors can experience a wide array of emotions following a sexual assault including powerlessness, depression, anxiety, shame, and fear. They may also feel that they are "less of a man" and no longer have control over their own body. Male survivors may feel a particular sense of disturbance from the notion that they could not protect themselves from an attack and were somehow conquered, even if the attack consisted of numerous rapists. This can lead male victims to question their ability to be what they perceive as a "man" and question their masculinity as a whole. 


An interesting fact about male sexual abuse is that the vast majority (over 80%) of sexually abused boys never become adult perpetrators, however a majority of perpetrators (up to 80%) were themselves abused. Hence, abuse does not only impact them but also indirectly may lead to an increase in the number of perpetrators in the future!


Sexual assaults on men may involve touching, penetration, genital-to-genital contact, or even a physical attack that is sexualized in some form or another. These attacks may be performed by more than one perpetrator and can result in severe injuries and physical pain for the victim.


While most people experience the above symptoms, they may or may not experience all of the above. The extent to which one experiences the above symptoms depend on the following factors

  1. The age at which the abuse began – earlier onset is linked to greater impact
  2. The duration and frequency of the abuse – the longer it goes on for and more often it occurs the greater the impact
  3. The type of activities which constituted the abuse – if there is penetration, use of violence and emotional manipulation the greater the impact
  4. The nature of the relationship with the person perpetrating the abuse – if the person is a close family member or someone who was previously trusted the greater the impact
  5. The number of persons involved in the abuse
  6. The manner in which disclosure of the abuse occurred and how it was responded to – if a man is confronted with disbelief and lack of support, it can create further difficulties 

Abhishek was 11 years old till he use to sleep with his paternal uncle. He said that his parents use to make him sleep with his uncle since they thought he would be safe with him. However, Abhishek reported “while everyone in my huge joint family thought it was good to sleep with my unmarried uncle, no one ever asked me how I felt! He use to play with my penis every night and sometimes even put it in his mouth. I was too young when it all started around 4 or 5, and didn’t even know what he was doing was right or wrong”. Today, Abhishek is 30 and still clearly remembers most instances of abuse. He finds it tough to be in a heterosexual relationship and often questions himself about being homosexual. He sometimes even likes dressing up like a girl! On a physical examination of his hormones, the reports suggested that his hormones and organs imitated that of a normal heterosexual male, however Abhishek thought differently!


Abhishek is one of the thousands of men who have been abused. As in Abhishek’s case, most of the times abuse leaves a long lasting impact on the victim and has psychological, emotional, sexual and relational implications.

Hence, it is essential to always keep your eyes and ears open for any signs or symptoms your child or anyone around you must be exhibiting. Just as it is important to teach a young girl about sexual organs and good and bad touch, it is equally important to explain the same to boys as well. Imagine, if Abhishek knew what was happening to him was not correct, maybe he wouldn’t have reached where he is today, and may be the assault could have stopped long back even before it could impact him.

Thus, if you feel that any boy around you may be exhibiting some symptoms of abuse, don’t wait seek help!

With identification of the problem and dealing with the hurt the impact of abuse, can certainly be reduced be it on males or females. 

Tags: #male #sexual #abuse #boy #pain #trauma