Oprah Winfrey dared speak the truth of her sexual abuse many years ago, giving millions of women permission to acknowledge their abuse. Today (Nov. 5) and next Friday (Nov. 12), Oprah has chosen to join forces with Tyler Perry to open doors for another huge group who need understanding and healing for the sexual abuse they’ve suffered: men. I honor the bravery and genius of Oprah and Tyler, who both dared to dream that they could help men heal by creating a safe enough place to tell their stories.
The sheer numbers of male survivors are staggering; according to most researchers, one in six men has been sexually abused by age 18. The estimates go up to one in four when you add in victims of covert non-contact abuse. Our culture teaches men to keep their abuse secret for many complex reasons. They learn that they aren’t supposed to be vulnerable; they learn they should be in control, so it’s impossible to be a victim; they might wrongly blame themselves for leading someone on; many mistakenly fear their abuse makes them gay or less masculine.
I wasn’t able to watch Friday’s episode, but I want to promote the next one. This is an incredibly important issue. Men face their own set of challenges when it comes to being abused, particularly sexually. Women have learned to become more vocal, but men are still encouraged to say nothing.
This comment over on the OP made me shake my head:
Travis B. [link]
I don’t understand the assumption that it will be better for men to go *public* with stories of their abuse. Telling a therapist, sure — the benefits to that are pretty obvious. Telling an intimate partner also could be a good idea.
But telling the world? Why is this *assumed* to be a good idea?
Thankfully, someone gave an excellent response:
Because the cultural silence and shame about this topic is a major contributing factor to the prevalence of sexual abuse and assault. We don’t know how widespread a problem it is because we are conditioned that these things shouldn’t be spoken of publicly. Which leaves each survivor to believe we are alone in the experience.
I believe that molestation is one of those things you can’t truly understand unless it has happened to you. You can sympathize, but you cannot know. People like Travis prove this.
Movements like Take Back the Night have long understood the importance of breaking the silence. I attended my college’s first-ever TBTN event, a march around the neighborhood followed by an open mic, where anyone could come up to speak. It was one of the most intense, shattering experiences of my life. People I knew, strangers, stepping forward to share their experiences. You could see how it helped them. And it helped me to better understand what they go through. It helped me to recognize signs of abuse that I have allowed to slip by me.
I hope the upcoming Oprah show gets record ratings.