Men’s stories of sexual abuse and assault.

CNN anchor Don Lemon first spoke publicly about his experience as a survivor of abuse in September 2010.

The thread I put up the other day for women’s tales of harassment and assault has gotten a wonderful response, and I hope we continue to share stories and tell the truth.

But in the meantime, the Penn State story broke, and for the first time since the Catholic Church madness came out, we as a society find ourselves talking about the fact that yes — boys are often victims, too.

The truth is that so are men. Less often, perhaps, but men and boys also face sexual violence, survive rape and molestation, and find their trust in their world or their loved ones shattered.

There are however, crucial differences between the experiences of men and women: On the one hand, men aren’t taught to live with the fear of these things and to shape their days and entire lives accordingly, nor do they (generally) face a regular drip-drip-drip of their very gender being used against them.

On the other hand, we women have a 40-50 year history of talking about these things — the thread I put up the other day was hardly revolutionary — and we have a community in which, and a shared language with which, to discuss our experiences. Men don’t, and moreover, the fact of their abuse flies wildly, viciously in the face of our society’s expectations and demands of masculinity. The shame they are expected to feel is a very different animal, and their isolation with their experience is often hermetic.

And so: This thread. I don’t know how it will go. I don’t if many men (or any men) will want to tell their stories, but if some want to, I want to give them the chance.

IMPORTANT NOTES: 

  1. In case you don’t know: I spent several years as a rape crisis counselor, and was instrumental in setting up a dedicated hotline for male survivors. That’s my background, and the reason I find myself so wrapped up in the Penn State story.
  2. Anonymity is fine. If you want to tell your truth without attaching your name, this is the internet and I am more than happy to facilitate that.
  3. If this is the first time you have commented here, you will automatically go into moderation. I promise to fish people out as quickly as I can.
  4. I WILL ALLOW NO TROLLING. No one will be allowed to say anything demeaning or dismissive or doubtful of your truth. If anything of that nature should sneak through (it hasn’t yet on the women’s thread) I will slap it down with a vengeance. This is a safe space.
  5. A good resource for men on this is 1in6.org. The name kind of says it all.

I would really encourage anyone reading this to also read the women’s thread (click here). I believe that the differences in our experiences make separate threads a good idea — a better way to honor and respect the differences in our realities — but our stories share many elements, and we are wise to not just talk among ourselves, but also to listen to each other.

UPDATE: It occurs to me to provide this information as well – For an online hotline for assault/abuse survivors, click here; telephone hotline here: 1-800-656-4673.

8 Comments

  1. I cannot tell my own tale in this thread, of course, so I’m going to present Don Lemon’s — his honesty and honor in telling his story, in defense of the survivors of Eddie Long’s years of abuse, just overwhelmed me when he came out with it:

    CNN anchor Don Lemon admitted over the weekend that he was a victim of a pedophile as a child.

    Lemon made the startling announcement on live TV while discussing the scandal involving Georgia Bishop Eddie Long, who is accused of sexually abusing male teenage members of his church.

    “I have never admitted this on television,” Lemon said. “I am a victim of a pedophile when I was a kid. Someone who was much older than me.”

    “I have never admitted that on television. I didn’t tell my mom that until I was 30 years old,” he added later.

    “Thank you all for your kind words. I had no idea I’d say that on national tv. It just came out. Sadly, it’s the truth for so many young men,” he tweeted shortly after.

    h/t Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/26/don-lemon-sexual-abuse_n_739827.html

  2. On the sexual assault of men in the military:

    What happened to [Greg Jeloudov] is a part of life in the armed forces that hardly anyone talks about: male-on-male sexual assault. In the staunchly traditional military culture, it’s an ugly secret, kept hidden by layers of personal shame and official denial. Last year nearly 50,000 male veterans screened positive for “military sexual trauma” at the Department of Veterans Affairs, up from just over 30,000 in 2003. For the victims, the experience is a special kind of hell—a soldier can’t just quit his job to get away from his abusers. But now, as the Pentagon has begun to acknowledge the rampant problem of sexual violence for both genders, men are coming forward in unprecedented numbers, telling their stories and hoping that speaking up will help them, and others, put their lives back together. “We don’t like to think that our men can be victims,” says Kathleen Chard, chief of the posttraumatic-stress unit at the Cincinnati VA. “We don’t want to think that it could happen to us. If a man standing in front of me who is my size, my skill level, who has been raped—what does that mean about me? I can be raped, too.”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/04/03/the-military-s-secret-shame.html

  3. Darth Thulhu

     /  November 11, 2011

    I was an eager academic beaver in my youth, and went abroad on scholarship while still a minor the summer after my freshman year of college. Took part in a summer college language course in Spain. Visited family in Paris afterward, travelled on a Eurailpass with friends in the program. Several hotel and hostel proprietors would hang out by the train stations, offering assistance to late travelers getting settled.

    My flight home was from Madrid. I split with friends in Paris, and began transit south. Arriving late at night in Bordeaux, the day before my evening flight from Madrid, I took one of the hostel proprietors up on the offer of overnight accommodations. This was the first, and last, time I would do so alone (without traveling companions) … as a guy, what proceeded came completely out of left field and without context. What were, in retrospect, obvious warning signs, instead went completely over my head.

    The hostel owner molested me. After securing my luggage, he began making advances to which “no” would not be an acceptable answer. He knew I was American far from aid, he knew I absolutely needed to travel early in the morning, he knew I would not make legal trouble, he knew he had my belongings hostage.

    When he learned I had a girlfriend, that didn’t slow him down in the slightest. When he learned I was underage, this enhanced, rather than detracted from, his ardor.

    I negotiated my rape in comically poor French, trading tears and enduring touches to reduce my sentence from penetration to lesser forms of molestation. I wasn’t forced to kiss him, and wasn’t forced to do anything that might argue that I took any kind of pleasure from the proceedings. Eventually, my captor sated, I was able to get my things, flee the location, and spend the remainder of the sleepless night at the train station, awaiting the train to Madrid and the plane home.

    For years, I told no one.

    Girlfriend and my relationship fell apart swiftly under my consequent depression, and she never learned the details. My sibs were too young to tell. My Dad, if told, would tell Mom, and for many reasons my Mom was absolutely out of the question at that point. Eventually I had friends I could confide in, but most people knew nothing other than that I was a stickler fuddy duddy about travel safety, never quietly letting people travel alone and always guarding personal information with strangers in public settings. What could I tell them to explain the concern? Who would want to hear me rant about how uncivilized brutality is always, always on the table, even in the most civilized of places? Who would want me to explain how I knew that fact so intimately?

    And so almost no one knows, outside of a quasi-anonymous Internet pseudonym.

    • I copied and pasted this from the other thread, and am so grateful to Darth for telling his story. It’s so important that people come to understand that they are not alone with their stories.

    • helensprogeny

       /  November 12, 2011

      Darth, thanks so much for coming here and telling your story. I remember it from the TNC thread a few months ago and I’m so glad to see it again here. Please keep telling it. People need to hear it, and I hope the telling of it helps you regain some of the power that was taken from you. Peace.

  4. efgoldman

     /  November 12, 2011

    Today, at halftime of the college football game on CBS, commentator/former player Aaron Taylor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Taylor_%28American_football,_born_1972%29
    said, without drama, and with no preparation whatever, that he had been a victim of sexual abuse at age five.
    National TV!
    A former college and pro player, with all that the football culture entails.
    I thought it was some of the greatest few minutes of TV I ever saw.

    • That is amazing and wonderful — thank you so much for telling me. The more such moments happen, the more healing we’ll see. Off to find the video!