I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I’m also a man. I’ve worked to support survivors –male and female – for years.
Today, I’m mad as hell. As I write this, a dozen women have come forward in the week since tape of Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women to Billy Bush came out (Claims that – for the record were not made in a “locker room” but rather in a workplace). That’s more that one woman each day since the tapes were made public.
And as each survivor comes forward, I hear the same denials, dismissals, and attacks that we hear whenever a courageous survivor comes out to assert they were victimized by a powerful, wealthy, and/or famous person:
“Why didn’t they come forward sooner?”
“They are in this for fame/money/etc.”
“Thousands of people never saw him/her act inappropriately.”
We heard the same accusations when dozens of women came forward to say Bill Cosby abused them . We heard the same accusations when Matthew Sandusky and dozens of survivors came forward to claim Jerry Sandusky abused them.
What we don’t hear is how triggering and painful these kinds of responses are to the millions of survivors of sexual abuse who are all around us.
Even though it seems we don’t go a month without hearing about a sexual abuse scandal, there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the dynamics of sexual abuse.
Here are 5 important things about sexual abuse you should know:
1. The CDC estimates that one quarter of boys and men and as many as two thirds of girls and women have or will experience some form of sexual victimization in their lives.
2. Survivors delay disclosure for many reasons. These include fear, confusion, intimidation, and wanting to make it all go away. It is not uncommon for survivors to wait years, and sometimes decades to come forward.
3. Serial offenders take advantage of opportunity; they are not motivated solely by desire or attraction.
4. Survivors don’t come forward in order to “get attention.” The attention that survivors receive for speaking up – whether they are male or female – is rarely positive or supportive.
5. Offenders often hide behind a well-cultivated persona. It is very, very common for an offender to craft a powerful personality to mask their intentions, shield them from suspicion, and create an air plausible deniability.
There are ethical, and appropriate responses you can give to a survivor who discloses that they have been abused. You can say “Thank you,” or “I’m glad you told me,” or “I believe you.”
If you want more information about sexual abuse, or if you are a survivor and looking for support here are some resources that may help.
Photo Credit: CNN/screengrab