Oprah, Monique, Gabrielle Union, and Queen Latifah are all famous Black women who have shared stories of sexual abuse, and/or rape, with the public. And in each case, the response to their experiences was generally met with compassion and sympathy. They were praised for being courageous enough to speak up and for inspiring other woman to do the same. But why is it that when Lil’ Wayne revealed he was molested and introduced to sex at the age of 11 by a 14-year-old girl on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he was met with laughter rather than shock or sympathy?
It seems there is a double-standard in the way sexual abuse is viewed when it comes to men vs. women. For men, childhood molestation by a female can be viewed as a rite of passage. While women who experience sexual abuse from a male are usually viewed as victims of a serious crime. However, there is a certain aspect of male sexual abuse that comes with a significant level of taboo, hush-hush, shame, scandal and dismay—and that’s male sexual abuse at the hands of another male.
Both male and female victims of sexual abuse can adopt a feeling of shame in regards to their experience, moreover, men who suffer abuse at the hands of a male predator can also feel emasculated; making them less likely to reveal the abuse. Men who come forward run the risk of being ostracized by their peers, having their manhood challenged/questioned, or having society speculate about their sexual orientation.
With all the sexual abuse scandals in the media as of late, I wondered about the prominence of this type of abuse among Black men. There’s a plethora of literature, movies and open discussions dealing with the sexual abuse of women, but one might find it hard to find as much attention granted to male victims—Black men in particular. Even the Catholic priests’ abuse scandals have a White face associated with them, when there were many Black males victimized as well.
If you think you don’t know any men who have experienced this, chances are you do. According to online support system BSAS (Black Sexual Abuse Survivors), 1 in 6 Black males have been molested as children, and 1.9 million African-American men have been sexually abused. The reality is that this type of abuse is taking place every day in prisons, our communities, homes, schools, etc. and has yet to be properly addressed.
Taking this all into account, I considered how I would react if the man I was in a relationship with told me he was a victim of same-sex sexual abuse or rape. I’ve had men tell me (very nonchalantly) that they were taken advantage of sexually at a young age by women much older. However, I’ve never had a man come forward about sexual abuse at the hands of another male. Would I be able to accept my partner if he told me he had been? As a heterosexual woman, would the thought or fear that he may secretly be sexually attracted to men linger in my mind? I’ve asked myself all of these questions, and I believe that the first step I would take would be to have an honest and open dialogue with my significant others. I believe women shouldn’t be scared to ask. You have a right to know, and it will allow you to make an informed decision regarding whether, or how, to move forward in your relationship.
Most importantly, I think it’s important for us as women to have the sensitivity, compassion, and understanding with which we would want to be met were we to reveal that we had been abused—and not to further victimize the victim. Don’t let the constant “Down Low” rhetoric spark paranoia and/or apathy towards male sexual abuse victims. The affects of sexual abuse can manifest in various ways. While it can lead some victims to engage in homosexual behavior, this is certainly not always the case. Depression, promiscuity, low self-esteem, anger, aggressiveness, emotional disconnect, etc., are among an extensive list of potential results. If you’re a women who has experienced sexual abuse, just think of how it has affected you and imagine how it could be eating your man up inside. In a culture that irresponsibly promotes irrational ideas of hyper-masculinity and macho-ism, same-sex molestation and/or rape can leave Black men feeling powerless, emasculated, and alone. Remember, they are the victims, so we should do our best not to further any sense of shame or guilt.
Look into the stories of KEM, Donnie McClurkin, Tyler Perry, Todd Bridges, and other Black men who have publicly shared stories of sexual abuse. Also, BSAS recommends the books: Broken Boys/Mending Men: Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse, by Stephen D. Gruban-Black, and African Americans and Child Sexual Abuse, by Veronica D. Abney, as resources for healing.
As women we’re often the first nurturers and consolers who men have in their lives. If you find out your man was a victim of sexual abuse, with the right approach your womanly intuition and support could be the first step in helping him to heal and seek the best way to move forward.