Frequently Asked Questions About sexual victimization

Q: How Can A Person Claim He Was A Victim When He Kept Spending Time With The Person?
A: One of the most common questions asked about the sexual victimization of children is, “If he was being victimized, then why did he keep spending time with the person that was supposedly abusing him?” For one thing, children are dependent on adults to explain to them how the world works. Adults who sexually victimize children purposely deceive them into believing that sexual contact between children and adults is normal and acceptable. The sexual acts are described as a sign of friendship or love. The acts can also be described as part of hygiene or medically necessary. The child doesn’t grasp that he is being deceived; he believes the victimizer’s description of events. Children naturally seek the attention and approval of adults, and even in abusive situations, the child strives to please the adult.

Then there is the fear of retaliation. The child may rightly fear that if he protests or discloses what is happening he will be punished. It is common for the victimizer to either promise not to harm the child’s loved ones if he goes along with the sexual contact, or to threaten to hurt, even kill, the child’s loved ones if the victimization is disclosed.

Sometimes the child keeps the victimization secret because the child understands that the adult will face serious consequences if the victimization becomes known, and wants to protect the adult. Sadly, in the lives of some boys the person victimizing him is the most important adult in his life; the one that gives him the most attention and spends the most time with him.

Some boys realize that if the victimization becomes known they will lose the benefits that are part of the relationship such as money, travel, gifts, or alcohol and other drugs.

Even when a victimized person comes forward and makes the victimization public other victims are reluctant to speak out because they see how supporters of the victimizer insist that the claims of victimization are lies and the accused is such an outstanding person that it is impossible that victimization could have taken place.

Here is a link to an article written about the boys who defended Michael Jackson when he was accused of sexually victimizing them.

Travelers Season Two, Episode Nine 11:00-13:36 Two boys, both of whom were victimized by the same coach talk with each other about the reasons they didn’t disclose the victimization. Return to top.

Q: Should I Confront My Victimizer?
The prospect of confronting one’s victimizer is complex, particularly if the victimization was perpetrated by a family member or a well-known person in the community. Unfortunately, it is common for people to side with the perpetrator and against the victim.

Persons whose victimizer(s) are no longer living can symbolically confront using role plays or writing “letters”, sometimes to and “from.” One advantage of this is the victimized person is totally in control of the process. Survivors whose victimizer is still alive can also use this symbolic process, prior to, or instead of, directly confronting a victimizer.

The show Travelers contains a scene where a boy who has been sexually victimized d by his coach confronts him. The perpetrator uses several common defenses in order to prevent the victimization from being addressed. First denial, then defiance, and when he realizes the boy isn’t intimidated he becomes afraid, but then he threatens his accuser (Season Two, Episode Nine 36:49-39:32). Return to Top

Q: How Do I Find A Trauma Therapist Near Me?  How Do I Know If They Are Good?
Although the experience of trauma is nothing new, it has been around as long as there have been people, the treatment of trauma is relatively new. One can’t assume that just because a therapist has a graduate degree or years of experience that person can provide effective treatment for someone with a history of sexual victimization.

Fortunately more and more degree programs are including courses on the identification and treatment of sexual victimization and other forms of trauma. Psychotherapists who have already completed their degrees can get training in the issues faced by people with histories of trauma through publications and continuing education training.

As a potential psychotherapy client it is completely acceptable to inquire as to the background of a therapist; including formal training and experience with sexual victimization survivors. If a psychotherapist isn’t willing to disclose his/her background then it is probably a good idea to choose another therapist.

Here are some links to sites that provide ways of finding a therapist.  Find A Good Therapist  RAINN   Understanding PTSD
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Q: What Is The Difference Between Guilt And Shame?
A: People who have been victimized are likely to experience both guilt and shame. For a long time many people thought of shame as merely an extreme level of guilt, but it has become clear that they are two different emotions. One source of guilt and shame for people who have been sexually victimized are the things done, or not done, during and after, the victimization took
place. For example, enjoying the attention provided by the victimizer, or liking the sensations of touch. Feeling guilty for what one did, or didn’t do, when being victimized is sometimes referred to as irrational guilt. Irrational or not, it still has an effect on one’s ability to enjoy life, and ought to be addressed. There is also survivor’s guilt which is what a person experiences when he was able to avoid some aspect of a traumatic event but another person did suffer from it.

Here is a link to an article that describes the difference between guilt and shame.  Return to Top

Q: I Think I Know Someone Who Was Sexually Victimized. What Should I Do?
A: Unfortunately, the sexual victimization of children and adults is so common that probably everyone knows someone who was sexually victimized. Although there is an ever increasing amount of article, books, and videos for males who have been victimized, there is much less available for the significant others of those victimized.

Some people who have experienced sexual victimization want to talk about it, but are afraid to bring it for fear of not being believed, or being rejected. These people may be relieved to have someone else start the conversation. On the other hand, others who have been victimized would experience an inquiry about sexual victimization as intrusive and react with denial, shame, or anger.

One way to initiate a conversation is to describe the behavior the person in question exhibits, but not label it as resulting from sexual victimization. For example, saying, “I notice most times there is a news story on sexual victimization you mute the sound.” This is more easily heard as an invitation to talk about sexual victimization in general, rather than an inquiry as to if the person himself has a history of victimization.

One way many males begin to talk about their sexual victimization is to use the, “I know a guy who,” technique, in which the information being discussed is treated as if it had occurred to someone else. That way the victimized person can see how the listener reacts without being too vulnerable.

Here is a link that addresses the issues involved in talking with a loved one. Return to Top

Q: My Partner Doesn’t Understand What’s Going On With Me.  How Do I Explain To Him/Her?
A: The open discussion of sexual victimization is actually a relatively recent phenomenon, particularly the sexual victimization of boys and men. It has been common for males to have never disclosed their experiences of victimization to anyone-life partners, family members or other significant persons. Even those males who have met with psychotherapists may not have disclosed what happened, despite being asked directly if any victimization was part of their history.

It is important to be cautious about disclosing a history of sexual victimization. Listeners can have all manner of reactions, some helpful, and some harmful. There are many males who disclosed their victimization to someone who reacted negatively, increasing the victim’s sense of shame, and the victim reacted by never again discussing it with anyone.

Telling Someone About What Happened        Talking About Sexual Assault (written for women but the concepts still apply) Return to Top

Q: I Don’t Have Any Money For Therapy.  How Do I Get Help?
A: One way to get help is to find a mutual help group in your area. Some groups have telephone meetings so that even those who don’t live in place where there is a face-to-face meeting someone can get support. Survivors Of Incest Anonymous is a Twelve Step-based program (modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous) for adults who experience childhood sexual victimization.
There are also hot lines that can connect survivors with nearby resources. Return to Top

Q: What Is Dissociation?
A: Common responses to threats are fight, flight, or freeze. In many cases of sexual victimization, particularly when the victim is a child, fighting would only make things worse. If you are a six foot tall man imagine getting into a fist fight with a twelve foot tall man-the odds are stacked against you. That is the situation a child faces when he is being victimized by an adult-someone much bigger and more powerful than he.

A second defense to a threat is to flee, but when a child is dependent on an adult for shelter and food where is the child to flee? This is the situation when the victimization is incest.

The third common response to a threat is to freeze. In some cases this means stopping all physical movement, the body going limp or getting rigid. The mind can also freeze, meaning not taking in what is happen, sometimes by focusing on some non-threatening detail. For example, concentrating on an object in the room rather than paying attention to what is happening to one’s body.

Here is a link to a description of dissociation and some actions a person can take in response. Return to Top

Q: I Never Feel Safe.  Men Aren’t Supposed To Feel That Way.
A: Cultures around the world have differing expectations concerning what types of thought, behaviors, and emotions are considered acceptable for males. Many males are taught that fear is inappropriate. But fear is a natural response to threats. Nobody has to teach a baby, male or female, to be frightened when threatened.

A person who has been exposed to threatening situations (victimization, natural disasters, war) can develop hypervigilance a condition in which he is constantly scanning his surrounds looking for possible danger. Not only is it emotionally exhausting, but often he will decide that factors are actually menacing when they are really neutral.

A useful method of coping with this is to identify one’s own triggers-the external factors that when occurring are reminders of one’s victimization. For example, a time of day or year. A smell, sight or sound that was part of a past abusive experience. In other words, identifying how the past and the present are SIMILAR. Then to identify what choices are possible now that weren’t practical or perhaps even available in the past. In other words, how the past and the present are DIFFERENT. Here is a link that expands on these concepts.
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Q: Why Do I Still Have Nightmares?
A: Nightmares are commonly experienced by those who have survived a traumatic event. Sometimes the nightmares become less frequent over time, but in other cases they continue for years. They can be so disturbing that people are afraid to go to sleep or use alcohol or other drugs prior to going to bed in order to try to prevent the nightmares. However, lack of sleep and over use of drugs creates additional problems and doesn’t usually eliminate the nightmares. Sometimes the nightmares are a replaying of actual events, and other times they can be more symbolic. For example, having the theme of helplessness or being chased.  How Trauma Can Affect Your Dreams      Nightmares After Trauma
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Q: I’m Too Old (Or Some Other Factor) To Change.  There Is No Hope For Me.
A: Although the identification, and open discussion of the sexual victimization of boys and men is relatively new, the existence of victimization no doubt goes back before recorded history. An author of an early book on the sexual victimization of boys was told by dozens of publishers that, “boys don’t get sexually victimized, and even if they did it wouldn’t harm them the way it harms girls.” It was this attitude that made the identification of male survivors, both boys and men, difficult for both treatment providers and for the victims themselves. But once news reports, books, and television programs began to raise the awareness of the problem, more and more males came forward to disclose their histories of victimization. Now that the internet exists males, and their loved ones, can much more easily find information and support.

The bad news is that for many males, the effects of sexual trauma don’t just disappear with age. The good news is that a man is never too old to make meaningful changes. Unlike in the past, for those who are seeking help now there are fortunately many resources available. RAINN
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Q: I Feel Crazy.  Am I Crazy? 
A: Crazy is a word which sometimes means, “having big emotions.” It can also mean, having symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.). * In other words, it is term that is used when the person is experiencing disturbing thoughts and emotions. Many people have heard the term, but think it only applies to those who have experienced combat, a school shooting, or some dramatic natural disaster, but the experience of sexual assault or being molested can also lead to the development of P.T.S.D.  Here is a link that describes the characteristics of P.T.S.D.

It is important to note that a person can experience a traumatic event that doesn’t lead to the development of P.T.S.D., but the person can still be seriously negatively affected by the event. Fortunately there is effective treatment for P.T.S.D. and other conditions caused by trauma. One such treatment is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (E.M.D.R.). Descriptions of it can be found at, and

*Words Matter: Is It Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Or Is There A Better Term?

Some people object to the term Post-traumatic Stress Disorder because they believe the word disorder stigmatizes the person that was affected by the experience; instead of disorder they believe a better word would be injury, or condition. Here is a link to a debate that although isn’t discussing sexual victimization, it still examines the ways three people think about what word is most accurate and useful.  Return to Top

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