Sun, Apr 22, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Some male sexual assault victims feel left behind by #MeToo

One in six boys are abused and rape is rampant in prison and the military, but even in publicized cases, it is the perpetrators who are at the center of attention, not their victims

By David Crary  /  AP

Illustration: Constance Chou

For some male victims of sexual assault and abuse, #MeToo can feel more like #WhatAboutMe? They admire the women speaking out about traumatic experiences as assault and harassment victims, while wondering whether men with similar scars will ever receive a comparable level of public empathy and understanding.

“Because the movement happened to get its start with women only, in a way it furthers my loneliness as a past victim,” University of Minnesota music professor Chris Brown said.

He was among several men who in December last year accused renowned conductor James Levine of abusing them as teenagers several decades ago, leading to Levine’s firing by the New York Metropolitan Opera.

“Men are historically considered the bad guys,” Brown said. “If some men abuse women, then we all are abusers ourselves ... so therefore when it comes to our being abused, we deserve it.”

Brown’s sense of distance from the #MeToo movement is shared by other abused men — some of whom have been using a #MenToo hashtag on Twitter.

“We’re never necessarily welcome to the parade,” said Andrew Schmutzer, a professor of biblical studies at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago who has written about being abused as a teen.

“As a male survivor you’re always an adjunct,” he said. “You’re never the leading subject of a conversation.”

Schmutzer is among a group of victims and therapists forming the leadership of MaleSurvivor, which since its incorporation in 1995 has sought to provide support and resources to men who suffered sexual abuse as children or adults.

It says its Web site has been visited by hundreds of thousands of men worldwide.

Psychologists and therapists who work with MaleSurvivor have endorsed the findings of multiple studies concluding that about one in six men in the US have experienced childhood sexual abuse, compared with one in four women.

Many adult men are also sexually abused: Rape in prison is frequent and the latest US Department of Defense survey found that 6,300 men in the military said they were victims of sexual assault or other unwanted sexual contact in 2016.

Despite such data, experts say that many men, because of social stigma and feelings of shame, are reluctant to speak up about the abuse they experienced or to seek professional help.

Yale School of Medicine associate professor of psychiatry Joan Cook has been treating sexually abused men for more than 20 years.

“Many of them still espouse this John Wayne mentality,” she said. “If something bad happens to you, just wall it off and don’t acknowledge it to yourself or others.”

Some of her patients fear that they will be perceived as weak if they go public about their abuse, while others worry that people will view them as more likely to be abusers themselves because of what they suffered as children, she said.

According to MaleSurvivor, a significant portion of perpetrators report having been victimized by abuse, but most victims do not go on to commit abuse against others.

MaleSurvivor cofounder Richard Gartner, a psychoanalyst, said that there is increased public awareness of the childhood sexual abuse of men as a result of the extensive publicity given to scandals within the Roman Catholic Church and at Penn State University, where Jerry Sandusky was an assistant football coach before in 2012 being convicted of sexual abuse of 10 boys.

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