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Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 9 of 9)

“Some victimized children later initiate sexual abuse,” an article said, “so they can predict when it’s coming.” Those words from a well-known psychologist shocked me.

Some of us may have initiated abuse—after we became victimized. I question the reason was because we’d know what was coming. For me, I see it as habitual, learned behavior. We weren’t mature enough to know the difference between our need for love and the perp’s lust.

We help ourselves by remembering and focusing on our youth and innocence. Someone older groomed us and exploited us. Even if we sensed there was something wrong with what was happening, we had been carefully chosen and were easily convinced of the other’s love for us.

The analogy that comes to mind was my aversion to many vegetables when I was first married. My wife got me to eat a few Brussels sprouts. I didn’t like them. Over a period of weeks, she put one or two on my plate. Over time, I learned to enjoy them as well as cauliflower and other members of the cabbage family. Now they’re among my favorites.

Because we felt wanted and loved in our loneliness, why wouldn’t we sometimes initiate the abuse?

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I started this series by asking if sexual harassment was different for men. My answer: The emotional results are much the same—lack of trust, doubting our self-work, afraid to speak, and the list goes on.

Perhaps we can form our own #MeToo movement to encourage more victimized males to speak up.

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 8 of 9)

“It was my fault.”

That’s one of the most insidious lies of all. Too many of us believed we did something to arouse our perpetrators. Many women live with guilt over that same issue.

Years ago, I was part of a weekly group of adult males who had been sexually assaulted. In one of our early meetings, Al said, “If I hadn’t been so good looking, he wouldn’t have molested me.”

“No! That’s not true,” George yelled out. “He wasn’t looking at your face when he came on to you. You could have been the ugliest kid in town, and he would have done the same thing.”

Hank turned to Al. “I’ll bet your perp said that you were so handsome or cute he couldn’t resist you. Didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“It’s like the bungling bank robber declaring, ‘The money was there, or I wouldn’t have tried to take it.’ That’s an example of the guilty blaming the innocent.”

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men (Part 7 of 9)

Another argument used to silence women who claim to have been sexually harassed is, “She didn’t fight back.”

Yet when people are robbed or mugged, no one asks them, “Why didn’t you resist?” That argument assumes that any person who didn’t want to be fondled would struggle and try to overcome the advances. I smile (ruefully) when I read such arguments. Occasionally, I’ve heard male survivors blame themselves.

“If I were a real man, I wouldn’t have let it happen.” Or they say, “I must have wanted it,” and then blame themselves for the sexual assault. As with women, we were physically overpowered by someone bigger and stronger when we were boys. Most of those women who kept silent did it out of fear—fear of losing their jobs, fear of being laughed at, fear of not being believed.

With us, it means that, as adult males, we look back and assume our younger selves to have been strong enough to fight. What could we have done? Cried out? Screamed? Kicked? Perhaps, but there’s something else with us. Our perps targeted us. They knew we were vulnerable. They waited until they had won our trust.

We were the ignored, unloved, unwanted boys. All anyone had to do was show us love and affection. We were too immature to reason out that they were only satisfying themselves and not truly caring for us.

Research used to refer to the fight-or-flight response to danger. A better way to put it today is to refer to fight, flight, or freeze. Victims become paralyzed as their body's protective response. Too often we punish ourselves, believing we know how we should have reacted.

Instead, we need to be kind and loving to ourselves. We did the best we knew how.

And we survived.

Did you blame yourself for not fighting back?

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 6 of 9)

Another cruel argument against the women who claim to have been sexually harassed are these five words: her story doesn’t add up.

Because of a few inconsistencies in reporting, does that make the molestation invalid? It’s normal, especially when we finally speak up. Time has lapsed and the memories have abated, even though the pain lies dormant inside.

For many of us, the agony is too severe to recall every step in the sexual rape we endured. When I reflect on the abuse by a female, I can’t give details. Two things stand out in my memory. First, the smell of the powder she wore, and second, her breath as she put her face next to mine.

What people often don’t understand is that when we tell an experience, we don’t tell it the same way twice. With each telling, we add details or omit something. That’s human nature. One therapist said that when he hears a traumatic story and the person tells it exactly the same way each time, that causes him to doubt them. “If they’ve memorized the details, that often points to false accusation.”

Some truly harassed adults or molested kids don’t get heard properly because of those inconsistencies. It’s easier to disbelieve than to be open to the victimization of the speaker. It takes courage to speak up.

I hope authorities will recognize that, listen, and truly hear our painful tales.

Do you struggle/have you struggled with trying to remember every detail?

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 5 of 9)

Here is one of the irrational arguments used about women who are now speaking up after years of silence: “She didn’t come forward immediately.”

Isn’t this also typical of us male survivors of sexual assault? We were kids. Perhaps it didn’t occur to us to tell anyone. I wouldn’t have known whom to tell. I didn’t think anyone cared enough. In fact, if I had been shown the love and attention I needed, I probably wouldn’t have been victimized. My perps chose me because I was lonely, felt unloved, and craved attention.

This argument about not speaking up immediately after the incident is just another backhanded way at blaming the victim rather than the perpetrator. Instead of authority figures accepting the information and investigating, they slam the door in the face of the already hurting survivor.

One of my male survivor friends said, “It’s like being abused twice—first by the perp and then by those who should be able to help but don’t.”

Have you felt blamed for the abuse?

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 4 of 9)

One of the charges leveled against the women who claimed to be groped or raped is that they stayed friendly with their abuser. Their critics can’t seem to realize that those victims were afraid of losing their jobs or not being believed. They wanted to put the trauma behind them, so they played the role of being friendly.

And they silently suffered.

Many of us know that feeling well, but our reasons for silence may be different. Although I knew it was wrong when an older man groomed me and assaulted me, I felt a deep love for him. As strange as that may seem to my adult self, I truly thought he loved me. No one else listened to me or seemed to care about my feelings. Even though it was deception on his part, it was real to me.

Recently, I spoke with a man in his sixties who was assaulted in his early teens and stayed in a relationship with an older man until he was 20 years old. “I thought he loved me,” the survivor said, “until he said I was too old for him.”

Did any of you stay friendly or loving toward your perpetrator?

Is Sexual Harassment Different for Men? (Part 3 of 9)

Too often, law enforcers and others assume they need a response of crying to believe the victims. Again, it’s the stereotypical acceptance as one standard of behavior. Reports of the celebrity abuses say that some of those women reacted by self-medicating—drugs, alcohol, engaging in high-risk sexual behavior, or withdrawing from friends.

I can’t say this often enough: there is no such thing as one response to being molested. We survivors behave in a wide variety of ways. When we talk about it, some of us appear calm, even detached. Others become angry or shout. Some go mute. Some of us cry.

One of the things I’ve read too often that’s taken to be true for all of us childhood survivors bothers me. They say their kids were doing well in school, never troubled, and then their grades began to fall. After that, they had trouble getting along with others and became belligerent. That’s one response—and it may be common—but it certainly doesn’t fit all of us.

For me, it was the opposite. In school, I did extremely well. Once I was inside the building, my mood shifted. I focused on learning and mixed well with other students. Until ninth grade, I wasn’t absent for a single day. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, school became my emotional sanctuary.

How did you respond to the molestation when you were a child?