Virtual Voices

Men suffering in silence

Issues

A few years ago, a major study on sexual abuse reported that one in six adult men reported being sexually molested as children, and, surprisingly, nearly 40 percent of the perpetrators were female. In America's gynocentric practice of Christianity, men suffer in silence as they are often overlooked as victims of sexual abuse. In many evangelical churches men are usually steered into "accountability groups" while women are provided support groups and healing opportunities for past pain. Perpetrators are men, victims are women. That's the dominant paradigm with good rationale, statistically speaking. But every church in America is populated with scores of male victims of sexual abuse in need of help.

I offer this in no way to discount or dismiss the horrible suffering of the high percentage of women who were sexually abused. Thankfully, there are many, many resources for women to get help. But boys and men do not have as many, if any, opportunities within the church to openly process and receive help with abuse. Shame and silence about this issue prevail. Thankfully there are some groups beginning to alert parents about, for example, the overlooked problem of predatory female teachers and others who target boys.

Organizations like 1in6.org focus on men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences. Although this is not a Christian organization, most Christian male victims of sexual abuse may want to start there because I am unaware of any Christian platforms like this that offer such help. I have only attended one church that has ever openly put men in the category of "sexual abuse victim." Men's ministries, which tend to focus on Bible and theology knowledge, fellowship, entertainment, and keeping men "accountable," are usually not a safe place for the one man out of the six to get help. As I asked a couple of years ago, "Do men hurt?" or are men just seen as the problems that need to be constrained and rebuked?

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At 1in6.org you'll learn of Aaron Gilmore, who from age 11 to 17 was abused by a woman who was a family friend. By his early 20s, Gilmore was a key figure in the passage of a landmark law in New Zealand that recognizes that women can sexually abuse and rape boys, which created provisions for prosecution. You'll also learn of Theoren Fleury, who developed a substance abuse problem, which ultimately forced him out of the National Hockey League in 2003, driven by his struggles with the pain and agony unleashed by a hockey coach's sexual abuse in his teenage years. There are many other courageous stories on the website as well.

Every Sunday, pastors stand in front of an audience of abused men and rarely mention it. Do not expect to see this as a topic at a men's conference anytime soon. Because of the pain and shame, many men do not even share these stories with their spouses or friends. I'm glad for organizations like 1in6.org that provide resources for male victims and those who want to help them. Hopefully, one day, more churches will openly recognize this as a reality so males in need of help and restoration (Luke 4, Isaiah 61) can receive the holistic healing that comes because of the active work of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. May the silent suffering end.

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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