There are no distinctive signs that all survivors exhibit – no diagnostic checklist that will tell you if someone has been, or is being, sexually abused.
Sexual abuse affects everyone differently. The signs of male sexual abuse are internal and deeply personal – they influence a man’s relationship with himself and with others.
While there is no checklist of the things a survivor will go through, you may find it helpful to read more about the common effects and feelings that survivors experience.
Psychological defences like repression and denial can make it even more difficult for survivors to understand, comprehend or even acknowledge what happened to them.
Survivors should not be pushed to talk about their experiences. Being pressed into doing something might be experienced as being a repeat of the abuse.
It is vital that we talk about painful past experiences, whatever they are, in our own time.
Among survivors there are common themes of addictive and self-harming behaviours, as well as issues with intimacy and relationships. However, these are not specific to sexual abuse and may manifest for a number of reasons.
Men who have been sexually abused might separate sex and intimacy – considering it too dangerous to have an emotionally interdependent relationship.
Before the reality of sexual abuse can be acknowledged and a healing process started, a survivor may need to address any destructive behaviours coping and coping mechanisms first.
Some secondary problems that survivors may exhibit:
- Issues around the use of alcohol and/or drugs
- Sexual addiction or compulsion
- Struggles and difficulties in relationships
- Rage and anger problems
- Behaviours that resemble post traumatic stress
This list is by no means exhaustive. As mentioned above, sexual abuse affects every survivor differently.
It may help to dispel some of the common misconceptions survivors encounter – read out page on the myths and realities of male sexual abuse.