RCASA Therapy Thursday: Male Victims of Abuse

In Sexual Assault Awareness on August 4, 2011 at 7:00 am

So, when are we as a nation going to wake up, realize and accept that men are victims of sexual violence.   Many are recent survivors and many more are adult survivors of sexual violence.  It is a fact, the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can get down to business to help. 

Jim Hopper, Ph.D spoke at a SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator) Conference in 2006 and shared some critical information about male victims and military service.  Over the course of a few weeks, I would like to share that information with you.  Let me first provide some information on what a SARC is.  According to Quantico Marine Base website,  (http://www.quantico.usmc.mil/activities/display.aspx?PID=2762&Section=SAPR )  “The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) is considered the center of gravity when it comes to ensuring that victims of sexual assault receive appropriate and responsive care.  They serve as the single point of contact to coordinate sexual assault victim care.   The term Sexual Assault Response Coordinator is a standardized term utilized throughout DoD and the Services to facilitate communication and transparency regarding sexual assault response capability.” 

I think that there is an awareness, across the nation, that sexual assault against women and against men, is a problem.  More individuals are becoming aware that for too long failure to accept that men are also victims, has actually caused more problems than it has solved.  Boys are often told to “suck it up” and “get over it”, fearful and embarrassed parents would rather assault against their boys just go away, so they take the position, “if we just ignore it, it will go away.”  Sadly that is not the case.  Jim Hopper’s presentation is a great eye opener as to the importance of addressing  the effects of abuse on males.

Today I will briefly highlight his research in terms of gender socialization and conditioning.  The research indicates that in relationship to gender socialization of emotion, from infancy to adulthood, males and females are conditioned to experience and respond to emotions very differently.  By the middle of grade school boys are less aware of their emotions, less expressive of their emotions and less empathic towards others and themselves.  Get in mind this is not a result any trauma.  This is how we as a society have traditional behaved around gender socialization.  Moral values and gender identity become connect so gender is moral and fundamental to identity.   Male identity is impacted behaviors, thoughts and experiences.    The conditioning of what it means to be a man, while often unconscious, tells boys/men they are not to experience vulnerable emotions but ignore them, not to express vulnerable emotions but suppress them, not to empathize with vulnerable emotions but fear and have contempt for them and to skip vulnerable fells and move straight to anger.  Essentially thoughts and beliefs are important but not at the core.  The conditioning wires and re-wires the brain to experience less emotional awareness, expressiveness and empathy.

He goes on to say that when conditioning is most effective three things are present. First, a state of high arousal (intense positive of negative emotions, threat to life of physical integrity, threat to moral identity, or brain chemicals that modulate leaning and memory); second, deep needs (safety, respect and acceptance, relationships and trust, relationship with God/that is seen as transcendent) and finally a repetition with clear rewards and punishments.

Finally, he explores how assault becomes a form of emotional conditioning:

  • Massive arousal: Memory (fragments) and emotions are “burned into the brain”
  • Basic needs: safety (impacted), respect, relationships and trust (are challenged)
  • Vulnerability: fear, helplessness, humiliation, etc (as a result of the assault)

Please look to for more information on this presentation on September 1!

Information from 2006 SARC Conference by Jim Hopper, Ph.D. Mclean Hospital/Harvard Medical School


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