Recent research has shown that male survivors of sexual abuse are often left to grapple with a variety of psychological effects, including self-blame, depression, and persistent shame. Patriarchal societies particularly have an adverse effect on these individuals as they can be seen as weak or embarrassed if they share their stories; many choose to suffer alone instead due to social and cultural pressures.
The truth is that no man should feel ashamed for what happened to him. Victim blaming must be eradicated in order for broken boys to become healed men. - Robert Marshall
As someone who does life with a survivor(s), It's imperative that we intentionally take steps toward creating safe environments where men can come forward without fear of stigma, judgment, or questioning.
As a result, these men may struggle with deep shame, which can contribute significantly to depression and other mental health issues. As well as this, research indicates that shame can also cause men to develop patterns of negative thinking that lead them to blame themselves for their abuse and accept it as ‘normal’ behavior. This internalized guilt can cause profound psychological damage on top of the physical trauma experienced at the time of the abuse.
Furthermore, there is evidence that this deep-rooted shame caused by abuse can lead to difficulty trusting others and forming strong relationships later in life. This is also true in some cases for survivors towards themselves. Shame is a tricky thing because it's often caused by a pang of guilt due to feelings of "nastiness" or "discontent" within themselves or their experiences which can quickly form into debilitating self-hatred that's fueled by the guilt of their trauma that doesn't belong to them.
This causes men to hide. Hide their pain, feelings, scars, and their tears. As they cry internally, they secretly hope that someone will see the broken and hurting parts of them and, like a little boy who falls off of his bike, run to their rescue and, with tenderness, compassion, and grace, tend to their wounds and encourage them to get back up and try again. But because these men are no longer little boys, they are met with criticism, guilt trips, rejection, and in some cases, violence because they have been force-fed that "big boys don't cry," which is often interpreted as "You're Not A Man If Show Your Hurt" and even further "You're Not Allowed To Be Human."
"What male survivors need more than anything are people who can see them at their worst but can love them into their best. For the male victims, Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, they cannot become survivors.” -Robert Marshall.
Men who have experienced sexually traumatic experiences are more likely to struggle with intimacy than those who haven’t had such experiences, making it hard for them to build meaningful connections with others. This can add an extra layer of isolation onto the already painful feelings arising from their experiences.
It is essential that we recognize the impact of shame on male survivors, as this is an issue that impacts countless men around the world every day. It is essential that we create safe spaces for male survivors in order for them to be able to talk openly about their experiences without judgment - only then will they be able to start healing from their trauma and move forward with their lives free from the internal damage caused by shame and guilt.