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Sexual Abuse Happens to Guys, Too

By , 17, Contributor Originally Published: April 5, 1998 Revised: March 13, 2015

David always thought it was his fault.

John, his father’s friend, seemed like his friend, too taking him to the zoo, buying him stuff and just hanging out. So when the sexual abuse started, David figured something must be wrong with him.

“I felt like it was my fault, like it must have been the way I was acting and dressing that would make him do this,” David, 19, remembers. “And I thought people would get mad at me.”

That’s why he didn’t tell.

The abuse started when David was nine. He was spending the night at John’s house.

“When I woke up, his hands were in my pants,” David remembers. “I told him to stop because I didn’t like that, but he told me to get dressed and not to tell.”

Eventually, John raped David.

For a long time, David thought he was the only boy who ever had this happen to him. Now, he knows better.

Power And Control

Rape and sexual abuse happen to boys a lot more than most people think, said Mike Persad, director of the nationally recognized Juvenile Intervention Program, one of the few programs in the country that helps boys who have been both sexually abused and who have abused or tried to abuse others.

Boys are a lot less likely than girls to tell someone when they get rapedor abused, Persad says. And, they’re more likely than girls to hurt others, kind of as a way of getting rid of their own abuse, explains Persad, whose program is located in Trenton, NJ and is part of Catholic Charities.

“The act of sexual abuse is about power and control,” Persad explains. “It has nothing to do with sexual desire. Boys often repeat the act with other kids to somehow establish their identity as macho. They have to prove they aren’t gay.”

Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to deal with rape or sexual abuse by taking it out on themselves. They get suicidal, they drink, use drugs, have sex with lots of guys or they run away.

Boys are usually raped by older men or older women. A lot of people think that guys can’t be raped by a woman because they need an erection to have sex. And boys only get erections if they want sex, right? Wrong. A guy’s body can respond, even if his mind is saying, no, Persad explains.

Boys feel just as violated as girls, he adds. But they don’t want to admit they didn’t like it because it’s not the manly thing. He’s always supposed to want sex. And a boy is supposed to be strong. He’s supposed to protect himself and protect the girl.

Of course, there’s no way a young boy or a teen guy can protect himself against someone who’s older and using threats, bribes and other tricks to control the younger person, which is how most abusers operate, said Linda Pangalos, a therapist at the Juvenile Intervention Program.

Scared To Tell

Even though David hated what John was doing, he was still scared about telling and sending John to jail. And since his parents got divorced, David felt lonely sometimes and needed a friend. John was always there. But David knew it wasn’t right.

“Sometimes I would just sit in my room for hours and scream or write poems to let out all my anger,” said David. “I was angry at him and at myself for allowing it to happen.”

Three years after the abuse started, David finally told his father. His father went to the police, who found out that John had abused other boys, too. Eventually, John was sent to prison for 53 years.

David is now 19 years old, and with help from the Juvenile Intervention Program and his mother, he is slowly getting better. He’s finishing high school and working part-time. He likes to write, go on dates and play football. And he still spends time talking to his counselors.

“I found out that if you tell someone, they’re not going to be mad at you. They’re going to help you,” David says. “I also learned that it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. It’s not the kid’s fault for getting hurt. The adult has the problem.”

If you are being, or have been sexually abused, get help! Call the toll-free National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or RAINN’s hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673). It operates 24 hours a day. Trained professionals will tell you how to get help close to home.

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