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The statistics are alarming. One out of every four women in the United States has been sexually abuse as a child. We’ve heard about this horrible reality and perhaps have even assumed that girls are particularly vulnerable. Yet another statistic should alarm us just as much: one out of every six men has been sexually abused a child. How can this be true? Yet it is true and the results are devastating.
This is not the venue for a close examination of sexual abuse of children. The statistics speak for themselves. Perpetrators of sexual abuse may be male or female, known the victim or a complete stranger, close relative or distant neighbor. All are sick. All are criminal. The result of sexual abuse of children is always the same: the victims are changed forever. Their ability to grow into mature adults with appropriate boundaries and healthy adult relationships with themselves, with others, with their higher power and with social and religious institutions can be seriously compromised.
Boys who are abused have a particularly difficult time in our culture even to admit it to themselves and others. The natural physiological response and feelings of pleasure that are unique to boys when sensually provoked may cause them to feel somehow responsible for the unwanted attention. In our culture, boys are often told that they ought to have control over their emotions. Crying, tenderness, sensitivity, and other stereotypical “female” emotions are still being denied many boys due to dysfunction in their families or communities. Sometimes even religions reinforce male stereotypes that ultimately are damaging to the healthy development of both straight and gay men.
Thus it is no wonder that a boy who is sexually molested, and is helpless in resisting the sexual feelings that can accompany it, is seriously compromised. Eventually, like many female victims of sexual abuse, they may feel responsible for bringing on the acts of the perpetrator and/or guilty for not having prevented it or stopped it once it started.
Coaching those who have experienced sexual abuse as children, teens or adults is a specialty that requires a great deal of sensitivity. Good coaching under these circumstances would also require that the coach and client be actively engaged with a competent therapist who specializes in child sexual abuse. The victim needs to know that those supporting him are not questioning his veracity, are not defending the perpetrator, are giving the victim plenty of latitude in coming to terms with his feelings, and are willing to accept him where he is in his ability to relate to love and trust in his life.