- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As a clinical psychologist who has worked for years in various settings with men who have histories of sexual abuse, I commend every survivor who comes forward and all who speak on their behalf (“Child abuse shames and silences victims,” Web, April 8).

The Penn State case has highlighted the often-overlooked male victims of sexual abuse. Media exposure of such events hopefully will provide courage and resources to those who have remained silent.

The article raises key issues. Each survivor maintains his secrecy for different reasons. They may include, as the article mentions, “being branded gay,” shame, guilt and the victim’s experience of sexual pleasure. In addition, and often underlying these factors, is our culture’s inability to see men as victims. Our cultural tendency to view men as perpetrators, not victims, keeps men silent about such experiences.

While some men with histories of sexual victimization do engage in sexual predatory behaviors later in life, others engage in nonsexual predatory behaviors - nonsexual assault or substance abuse/possession - and end up in the corrections system. Some may understand these behaviors as responses to years of silence about the trauma of sexual abuse.

While working in the corrections system, I created a group for sexually abused incarcerated men. I witnessed first-hand the shame, guilt and inconsistent self-perception they expressed. Some recognized an underlying need for an ultramasculine exterior to compensate for years of silence about victimization. In this group, the men learned to understand their histories and develop adaptive coping skills to begin to confront residual challenges and interpersonal struggles. They also learned they were not alone with these experiences.

I hope more men speak up about these painful experiences and seek help (peer or professional) to assist in their ultimate recovery and growth, demonstrating their resiliency in the face of their trauma.

DALIT R. GROSS

Brooklyn, N.Y.

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