First I would like to address cross-gender
issues. Granted it is beneficial in many cases if a boy has been abused by a female
that the therapist is male. However with the specific cases I have dealt with
regarding sexual abuse of boys, there has been an extenuating circumstance or
circumstances that made the referral appropriate.
In several of the cases, I was
involved with the boy via a school setting, and we had a prior working relationship.
In all cases, the client was offered the option of seeking help from a male therapist.
If that request was made, the termination and transfer process was initiated immediately.
this track, we will examine isolation, as well as the "Power Figure" and guided visualization exercises.
#1 Enforced Societal
In today's culture, it is generally believed that sexual abuse
occurs significantly more with men and women rather than men and men. This arises
from the conception that men, and in this case even young boys, can defend themselves
more readily than girls. Also, as commonly thought, most people believe the term
"sexual predators" literally, in the idea that the abuser is looking
for sexual gratification. In fact, in the case of sexual abuse, the gender of
the victim is most of the time inconsequential, as you probably are aware.
to a study conducted at the Children's Hospital Medical Center of Cincinnati,
11.2 boys per 1,000 children were abused compared to 12.8 girls per 1,000 children.
As you can see, there is only a slight difference between the number of cases
of boy sexual abuse and girl sexual abuse.
One such client
of mine, Andrew, age 13, had a similar preconception about sexual abuse. Andrew
had been abused by his uncle at the age of 7. Andrew immediately told his single
father about the abuse, but his father was unwilling to acknowledge it. For four
years, Andrew felt isolated and was told to keep the secret "in the family".
Andrew told me, "My dad made me believe that only gay guys do that to boys
and that my uncle was not gay. He said that only girls get abused." I told
Andrew that what his uncle did to him was a means of making Andrew feel weak and
Technique: Power Figure
To help Andrew
with his feelings of isolation and disempowerment, I found the "Power Figure"
exercise beneficial. I asked Andrew to think of people such as movie characters,
real life heroes, or even family members that he deems are powerful. I then asked
him to write down why he thought these people were powerful. To help Andrew, I
gave a simple definition of power, here's the definition of power I gave Andrew,
"Power refers to the ability to influence or control things or people. A
person can have influence with another because of his role or position or because
of his relationship with another."
Here's the definition of control I gave
Andrew, "Control refers to the ability to govern, regulate, or manage something
or someone. It also refers to exercising power over or dominating another person."
I also emphasized to Andrew that power in the sense that it is used in therapy
refers to power over oneself and not over another person.
Andrew chose the historical figure of Gandhi, who he had studied in class, and
who he says had power over the British. I asked Andrew how Gandhi achieved this
power and he said, "By standing up to the bad guys and driving them out.
But he never hurt anybody." Andrew emulated the figure of Gandhi because
he had used a nonviolent means of controlling his surroundings.
many clients do not have the healthy view of power that Andrew had. Sometimes,
this exercise reveals boys beliefs that power equals sex and anger. As you know,
these types of responses give an important clue regarding which clients will need
extra help in developing a sense of empowerment. We will discuss this more completely
on the next track.
#2 Client Self-Isolation
external isolation through other people in the case of Andrew. Now let's discuss
the way young male clients isolate themselves. Often this results from a male
client's confusion and guilt over what had occurred. Anxiety and anger often accompany
isolation. Without interaction with other people about the abuse, the negative
emotions will fester.
I find that group therapy is most beneficial for boy clients
that have isolated themselves for several years. It helps them realize that there
are other males of his age that are experiencing the same problems and overwhelming
emotions and facilitates their recovery. One such extreme case involved Ryan,
age 17, who was abused at the age of 5. For over 11 years, Ryan refused to tell
anyone about the abuse, thinking he could repress what had happened.
as he went through adolescence, Ryan found that he was much more irritable and
anxious than his friends. While they became increasingly interested in girls,
Ryan found that any kind of sexual thoughts led to extreme anger and fear.
As you know, extreme anxiety and anger and feelings of isolation
can be detrimental to an individual in a group therapy session. To quell these
feelings, I found the "Guided Imagery" technique helpful. I asked the boys
to go find a small spot on the floor or against the wall and either lie down or
sit against something, whichever made them most comfortable. I then asked them
to choose a scene in nature that best incited feelings of security and comfort.
Next, I utilized a guided-imagery exercise as follows:
you to sit back in a comfortable position and close your eyes if you can. Take
a deep breath and let it out slowly. Take another deep breath and let it out even
more slowly. Pay attention to your arms. Shake them a little bit and then let
them rest at your side. Notice your legs. Are they in the most comfortable position?
Get as comfortable as you can. See if there is any part of your body that is hurting or feels tight. Taking deep breaths may help that part relax. Feel comfortable
Now I want you to imagine you are walking down a long path, surrounded by trees. It is cool and very quiet. You hear only the wind in the
trees and some birds chirping. Smell the fresh air as you walk, taking deep breaths
as you go. Your body feels strong and peaceful. The path takes you to a large
green meadow. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the meadow is filled with
lush green grass.
As you walk across the meadow, you see a clear blue pond ahead
of you. Sit down next to the pond and look into the water. Reflected in the water
you see a rainbow. As you look at each color, your body feels more and more relaxed.
Your mind becomes calmer and more peaceful with each color. First you are seeing
red, now orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, violet.
Take another deep breath
and let it out slowly. Bring your imagination back to this room. You're with your
friends, and you feel relaxed and calm. When you are ready, go ahead and open
Some clients fidget and are restless during this
exercise. I ask these restless clients to verbalize what they are feeling and
explore the sensation for feelings of anxiety or fear. Older boys downplay the
importance of relaxation or guided imagery, but they usually welcome guidance
in learning a new skill.
On this track, we discussed the various
forms of isolation that male survivors of sexual abuse experience: isolation by
others and isolation of themselves.
On the next track, we will
examine the idea of empowerment as the foundation for healing and how to build
it: through building a sense of responsibility and accountability; through developing
his understanding of his power and its limitations; and through equipping the
client with knowledge and empowering skills.
What is an explanation for the idea that in today's culture, it is generally
believed sexual abuse occurs significantly more with females rather than males?
To select and enter your answer go to .